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CULTURE NEAR YOU: THE STORY SO FAR

As part of their Cultural Strategy (2016-2021), Dublin City Council asked Dublin City Council Culture Company to map the city’s cultural assets including its informal networks, groups, stories, traditions and people as well as its buildings, public spaces, facilities, festivals and organisations.

The Council has adopted the broad UNESCO (2001) definition of culture so the project embraces a huge range of assets including arts, heritage, visitor attractions, sports and fitness, recreation, pastimes and play, nature, science, beliefs, language, community support groups and residents associations, education and the cultural and creative industries and more.

Objectives

The goal was to provide comprehensive and relevant information to two distinct user groups: city planners & strategists and city residents & visitors.

Initial research showed that a lot of information is already easily available to residents and visitors: but only if they know what they want. And the way that residents think about where they live doesn’t match the formal geographies used by the planners. So the project’s objectives became:

I. To provide information that gives cultural choices to city residents and visitors who don’t know what they are looking for, answering the questions:
– What can my family and I do in this neighbourhood?
– What’s at the heart of our community?

II. To compile a comprehensive dataset set that meets the needs of planners, strategists and decision makers inside and outside the city council.

Making decisions

Deciding on what should be included or excluded in a cultural map and how it should be classified and represented encourages critical thinking and discussion. The result should be a new perspective on the world derived from collaboration and co-operation. So we gathered a working group from inside and outside Dublin City Council including planners, decision-makers and people working in the cultural sector and in communities.  Their role was to help define what we needed to know, which cultural assets to include and exclude, how to categorise the data and what language to use to describe it.

Geographies

Our organisation had already engaged over 100 community groups in Tea and Chats sessions, hearing about the things that really mattered to their communities. We reviewed this material and a wide range of other formal and informal sources to explore how Dublin people describe where they live, identifying over 80 distinct “villages” or neighbourhoods.  We surveyed individuals, community groups and organisations working in the cultural sector, inviting them to pick the neighbourhoods in which they are active. Based on their responses, we combined some neighbourhoods and added others to end up with the 64 that best reflected this self-defined and lived geography, deliberately not setting hard boundaries between them.

In contrast, planners and strategists need a range of formal geographies: latitude and longitude, City Administrative Areas and Census Small Output Areas which can easily be aggregated to Electoral Divisions, so these were also incorporated.

Developing a “folksonomy”

We needed to help city residents and visitors find their way through the information.

The search structure is simple: “I want to … in …” plus an “I know what I want” free text search.

The “I want to … “ filter consists of 13 user-oriented groups:

…go out and about
…get creative
…get active
…delve into heritage
…discover science and nature
…taste food culture
…pursue a pastime
…learn a new skill
…get involved with your community
…find creative people
…browse cultural shops
…search out schools and colleges
…find out more about the city

We assigned up to three groups to each cultural asset.  An “…explore my options” shows all results from every group in the neighbourhood selected from the “…in…” filter.

The “… in …” filter consists of the list of 64 neighbourhoods plus “Near Me” which shows results within the neighbourhood in which the user is located.

We also assigned one of 101 descriptive categories to each asset which appear in the search results, eg Artisan food producers, Board games, Craft makers, Music: bands, DJs, musicians, songwriters, Sport: clubs and associations, Youth clubs.

Gathering the data

We gathered data from four sources:

– almost 500 responses to a call for submissions from groups, organisations and individuals

– updating information held by Dublin City Council

– harvesting data in the public domain eg sports clubs affiliated to national governing bodies

– curated qualitative assets including video, images, audio, poems, essays and stories all focusing on Dublin as described by Dubliners

At its launch in Summer 2019, the public-facing website – CULTURE NEAR YOU – will have over 3,000 entries relating to the diverse culture of Dublin City.

A living map

This will be a living map and an ongoing work in progress.

We will update content and add to it as the city’s cultural landscape changes and evolves, gathering data through public submissions and research by our Map Moderator. We will work with key Cultural Department colleagues in Dublin City Council to ensure the most recent information is available to planners and partner organisations.  We will invite residents of Dublin to help us keep this map as live as possible.

Dublin City Council Culture Company

Dublin City Council Culture Company

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