Accessibility Project Update: Mapping Narratives of Access

Google Map image showing a birdseye view of the University of Texas at Austin and surrounding areas.

In the DWRL’s ongoing Accessibility project, we’ve kicked off the semester by asking: What makes a story visible or invisible? How does visibility affect accessibility? We considered whether or not popularity, or “trending,” obfuscate access to less normative narrative, and if “fake news” and “alternative facts” operate to distract from, obscure, and ultimately hide “true stories” and “real information.” This led to a broad discussion of search engines and search terms through Google Analytics to gather insight into about things people seek to give language to and whether or not access to common language and common modes of reference shape or change, enable or disable, access to a thing.

To connect this to our project, we asked:

  • What narratives are missing from existing maps of UT?
  • What language is needed for access to these maps?

These questions will help us determine the trajectory of the rest of our project.

Meanwhile, next steps are necessary. By utilizing shareable Google Maps, we have begun dropping content into map-form—observations, narratives, languages, interactions we have noticed and noted in our surveys of this end of campus. Groups from last semester will be including their findings, so we can begin to see relationships cartographically. From here, we hope to narrow down two essential parameters for the rest of our project:

  • What story space are we providing access to?
  • For whom are we enabling access?
  • What language will our map-readers need?

For connections between symbolic discourse and built environment, check out this work from Aimi Hamraie, “Designing Collective Access”

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