Mapping the local and global networks of universal design

Who are the people that inform your practice, which professional groups do you belong to, what organisations are you connected with, and where in the world do these links transport you? As part of our ongoing research, we invited delegates to contribute to a collaborative and event-based installation at the Universal Design conference 2014. By creatively mapping the ties between people, groups, organisations and nations, the installation illuminated the local and global networks of Universal Design. These ties matter, because they transport the attitudes, information and objects that shape communities of practitioners and mobilise Universal Design around the world today.

mapping 1

The installation emerged over the duration of the conference, and was inspired by a series of computer-generated visualisations or network diagrams. As sociologist Nirmal Purwar writes, “While these diagrams have appeared on the pages of academic texts, they are less likely to be exhibited on the walls and floors of public places. This is a largely untapped potential of research for sociologists to institute public conversations” [1]. We suggest that, while these visualisations illustrate a “politics of association” [2] and are useful in so far as they identify links, relations and clusters, they tell us little about the connections and communities through which Universal Design is shaped on a daily basis. By taking them as a starting point, we aimed to use the installation as a form of research through which new knowledge, patterns and connections are generated.

mapping 2

As such, the installation underwent a series of mutations, as conference delegates engaged in a creative knowledge practice and redrew their own networks onto our materials. Specifically, we invited delegates to contribute their own hand drawn maps, detailing the local and global ties through which their personal Universal Design networks are composed. On the front of our A5 postcards, we invited delegates to draw their network on the world map outlined. On the back, we asked them to tell us something more about the ties that are important to them, and through which their understanding and practice of Universal Design is shaped. Once completed, delegates pinned their postcards to our live installation.

mapping 3

[1]  N. Puwar and S. Sharma, Curating sociology, The Sociological Review 60 (2012), 40-63.
[2]  R. Rogers, Digital Methods, The MIT Press, Cambridge MA, 2013.