Strantz, “Wayfinding in Global Contexts”

Strantz. “Wayfinding in Global Contexts—Mapping localized research practices with Mobile Devices” C&C 38 (’15) (12 pages)

Strantz is interested in how researchers can use mobile devices to build a research agenda within locations and build a better contextual understanding of their research’s connection to others within the location, to the place itself, and to global contexts. Strantz looks particularly at research agendas that have researchers enter into locations with which they are unfamiliar and use mobile devices to track and create meaning from their movement within these spaces.

One of his guiding principles is wayfinding, “a research methodology for studying the impact of location on digital composing practices…Wayfinding focuses on the movement of users in physical spaces and their goals in understanding and using those spaces” (165). Wayfinding describes the way people use various materials—maps, signs, mobile devices, GPS, etc—to create meaningful paths within a location. Wayfinding is a meaning making practice where the traveler creates a meaningful representation of the space in order to support navigation and thus make a researchable/knowable space.

Wayfinding research, then, takes as an assumption that locations are not fixed sites; rather, individuals are constantly reshaping meaning within the location as interactions and encounters are changing on and off as people move across these locations. Moreover, we must also consider how encounters are further staged and movement driven through the design and layout of cities and physical spaces. Further, making maps creates many different kinds of contexts including emerging global contexts—accordingly, we must reconsider what local entails.

Stranzt, then, considers researcher’s personal methods of wayfinding—using mobile devices—a within unfamiliar territory as a powerful inventive tool for invention: “the discovery of research opportunities was tied to exploring the cities and speaking to locals. The unique, individualized maps generated by students then became a way to walk through this process of discovering research opportunities through exploring local space. In essence, students must learn the contextual nature of their new home and these maps serve as a way to show their research a form of contextual knowledge-making” (167).


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