Post 7: Collaboration, controversy and issue mapping

Molly Grover

In the Week 5 tutorial, I teamed up with my classmates Lily and Britt, undertaking collaborative mapping exercises in order to further develop my understanding of the refugee and asylum seeker issue.

Mapping task 1

Revisiting the stakeholder maps we had developed in Week 3, we decided to build and expand upon a select few branches of stakeholders that were shared by all three of our individual maps. Aiming for greater specificity, we delved into identifying exactly who the actors (both human and non-human) were within these networks.

Beginning with the media, we identified the sub-branch of social media, comprised of platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other online forums. We next brainstormed television, newspaper and online sources which possessed particular relevance to the issue, including but not limited to The Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald, The New Matilda, The Bolt Report, The ABC and SBS. We were also able to categorise most of the above media sources as either commercial, independent or government funded.

Using the same method of breakdown, we delved into several more stakeholders, including policy, propaganda, the government, the Australian public, religion, censorship, and international bodies.

Our collaborative map, focusing and expanding upon a select few stakeholders from our individual maps (Copyright 2016 Britt Thiel, Lily Hodgson & Molly Grover).


This processing of revisiting and analysing numerous stakeholders revealed many small, yet incredibly important actors within the network, which we would most probably have never noticed without this kind of collaborative brainstorming. For example, language has a fundamental effect on the public discourse surrounding the refugee issue, however this actor was only reached by dissecting the media, a branch only briefly mentioned in our original individual maps.

Furthermore, connections between such stakeholders became more visible during the process, as smaller nodes revealed relationships which were not seen in the initial maps. For example, dissection of propaganda as a stakeholder branch illuminated the relationship between the government and the media in the dissemination and shaping of public thought. The effect of this on public votes, and in turn the effect of public votes on governmental policy-making, revealed a complex web of inextricably linked actors which constantly shift and re-assemble themselves in relation to each other.

As Latour theorised, such actors can be thought of as heterogeneous nodes, both mediating and mediated by each other in a dynamic state of movement (Rogers, Sánchez-Querubín & Kil 2015).

Mapping Task 2

Still working collaboratively, we next focused on the polemic surrounding the issue of refugees and asylum seekers. Focusing on three different debates, we identified pairs of opposing actors, mapping the emotions and motivations behind the positions taken by each.

Beginning with The Australian Government versus Refugee Activists, we focused on opposing perspectives in the debate surrounding Australia’s refugee intake. We identified fear, safety, security, nationalism, protection, control, economic concerns and votes as the most dominant emotions and concerns motivating the Australian government’s position, whilst refugee activists were conversely mobilized by empathy, compassion, generosity, anger, justice and human rights.

Continuing with this method, we also explored the debates surrounding both Muslim immigration and refugee re-settlement procedures.

Our collaborative map of three different debates, including the emotions and motivations of each opposing actor (Copyright 2016 Britt Thiel, Lily Hodgson & Molly Grover).


In expanding upon the emotions and concerns motivating each actor in each debate, it became clear to us that some emotions expressed were merely concealments for ulterior motives. For example, the Australian government’s strict immigration policies, justified by fear of safety, protection, control and security, could actually be motivated primarily by money and votes.

As espoused by Rogers, Sánchez-Querubín and Kil (2015), this sort of controversy mapping encourages a type of critical examination in which ‘the actors proliferate claims and concerns and (…) the most crucial beliefs are questioned’.

Personally, I felt that the collaborative nature of these mapping exercises was extremely valuable, as the unique experiences and perspectives of my classmates inherently exposed me to multiple ideas that I would not have considered had I been left to my own devices. For example, I had not previously considered the link between the media and propaganda in the mapping of stakeholders, nor had I considered public votes as a key motivator of the Australian government’s policies on refugee immigration.

Such co creation has done much to inform my future approach to the issue, with Lily’s highlighting of propaganda acting to further spark my interest in the opinions and discourse propagated and disseminated by the government, the media and the general public. Initially brought to my attention during the Twitter scraping exercise, I believe this area is rich with potential for an insightful design response.

Providing me new frameworks with which to understand the problem, collaborating between Lily, Britt and myself fostered a high level of quality in the maps, as each of us were able to bounce ideas off one another, critically examining factors and actors from our own unique and different knowledge bases. From this, I have learnt that co creation provides the opportunity for a much more well rounded perspective, which is of great value in both research and design practice.

Opportunities for action

Moving forward, one particular possibility for action and change immediately strikes me. As Latour theorises, the expression, formatting and deployment of facts by actors has a significant impact on issuefication, or the level of attention and concern brought to the issue itself (Rogers, Sánchez-Querubín & Kil 2015).

In light of this, neo-cartographic mapping of pro-refugee discourse and sentiment using digital tools such as Google Earth and Twitter Bots presents itself to me as a possibility for further action and investigation. The targeted deployment of such data to policymakers and government bodies could potentially inspire change in the government’s strict immigration policies.


Rogers, R., Sánchez-Querubín, N. & Kil, A. 2015, Issue Mapping for an Ageing Europe, OAPEN, Amsterdam.

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