Post 7: Issue mapping

By Olivia Tseu-Tjoa

Mapping? Again?

Yes, mapping on those large sheets of butchers paper has become a very familiar task.  Despite that initial sense of repetition, there was something to be learnt by revisiting the previous map from Week 2. This time, I worked with a different partner from my original map in Week 2, offering another person’s perspective and collaborative approach. Ultimately, I found it enriched and reinforced the research found over the past weeks.

Map No. 1: Revisiting the stakeholder map

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Revising the stakeholder map (Mach & Tseu-Tjoa 2016)

Upon revisiting the stakeholder map, we had decided to colour code with different markers indicating the different tiers/hierarchy/levels of the stakeholders involved. As discussed in my third blog post, once again the process involved going from the broad to the specific and refining the terms even more. Sharing our knowledge of the issue with each other.

Map No. 2: The polemics and their emotions

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The polemics (Mach & Tseu-Tjoa 2016)

In this exercise we identified the polemics and controversies surrounding our issue as:

  1. Refugees vs The Government
  2. Left-wing journalism vs Right-wing journalism
  3. ‘Stop The Boats’ vs ‘Let Them Stay’
  4. The Media vs Refugees
  5. Peter Dutton vs The Guardian/ABC

Some of these polemics intersected with each other and others were very broad e.g ‘Refugees vs The Government’. The emotions we identified were somewhat unrestrained and hysterical on both ends of the spectrum, and mainly negative (panic, misery, humiliation). There didn’t really seem to be a gray area or neutral zone. While we didn’t write down each of their motivations, we discussed them.

Map No. 3: Mapping the stakeholders in the polemics

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A few of the stakeholders in our polemics (Mach & Tseu-Tjoa 2016)

We were slightly confused by this exercise. We found it more difficult to pinpoint stakeholders which were specific to our polemics. To some extent, we did have some crossover. After talking with our tutor, actors were identified as both human and non-human, even objects, in terms of their influence. For example, policy is a non-human actor.

Reflection on the readings

It gradually became apparent that issue mapping is designed to ‘aid in identifying and tracing the associations between actors involved with an issue, and to render them both in narrative and visual form so that they are meaningful to one’s fellow issue analysts and their audiences (Rogers, Sánchez-Querubín and Kil)’. These maps are a form of ‘design thinking approach’ and methodology. While a useful tool, they do have their limitations. As objects, they are not apolitical. We as the creators of the map come with our own biases and positions. It doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

Barnett and Schultz’s ‘Cognitive Redirective Mapping: Designing Futures that challenge Anthropocentrism’ talks about how the hand rendered, lo-fi maps, reflects the human, the messiness, literally drawing together patterns and has the potential to start conversations. Just using a pen and paper, this type of mapping is easily accessible to anybody and democratises the process.

Possibilities for action to create change

So, where to from here? At this point I would want to continue my focus on the rhetoric surrounding refugees in Australian media and politics. I still don’t have an idea of how I can enact change or what specific aspect of that focus point I’ll address. I’m open to any of the emergent practices, but I find myself leaning towards service or generative design. It feels daunting because of the gravity and complexity of the asylum seeker issue. Would my proposal be able to influence or impact one of the actors identified in these mapping exercises?