Mental mapping the 'creative city'
Cultural researchers are increasingly turning to Geographical Information Systems (GIS) technologies for visualising spatially-oriented qualitative data. This paper discusses one example, where mental maps have been employed in interviews with creative industry workers and the results accumulated in a GIS for visualisation and analysis. This technique extends on participatory and qualitative methods that counteract overtly economic and empiricist techniques regularly employed in creative industry mapping studies. Collating together creative workers' mental maps within a GIS provides a means for exposing 'high traffic' areas - hot spots of creative activity - and other hidden geographies that comprise the 'creative city'. Key spaces, known within creative communities but understood by researchers only anecdotally, can be visualised with a GIS. The methodology was carried out in Darwin, the capital city of Australia's Northern Territory, which has sought to re-imagine itself as a creative city. Results from two mental mapping questions form the focus of this paper: on where 'creative epicentres' and 'spaces of inspiration' exist in Darwin. The former tend to centre on popular suburban sites and inner city spaces while the latter privileges open space and iconic harbourside settings. The differences and similarities between responses to interview questions are best revealed through 3D visualisation. Outputs from this method incorporate vernacular voices into policy-making, and can henceforth inform spatial planning, allowing for the development of more spatially literate creative city policies that reflect creative workers' actual spatial proclivities.