What Is Cultural Mapping?

Our project’s first initiative is a survey to map the sector of comic cons, comic art festivals, and related media fandom events in North America. Specifically, we’re using a method called “cultural mapping” to try to understand where (and when) comic cons and related events happen.

Developed within sustainable community development and cultural planning contexts, cultural mapping is regarded as both “a practical, participatory planning and development tool” and “an emerging mode of research” (Duxbury, Garrett-Petts, and MacLennan 2015, 2). Cultural mapping projects systematically document assets and resources (e.g., facilities, events, and organizations) and how they are distributed geographically. Mapping exercises have become commonplace within policy and planning circles, with Jeannote (2015, 100) going so far as to argue that “the principal users and advocates of cultural mapping in Canada now come from the municipal planning world.” Indeed, one benefit of

Our mapping initiative is starting out by constructing an inventory of convention/festival organizations in North America based on a survey of organizers. This survey has been designed with the input of our non-academic partner organizations. In addition to providing information about the sector in the aggregate, we will also use the survey results to build an interactive digital map. Publicly available online, the map will enable scholars, industry stakeholders, and members of the public to explore the convention/festival sector through dynamic, interactive visualizations of North American comic-cons.

Moreover, as Gibson, Brennan-Horley, and Warren (2010, 333) argue, cultural mapping provides a “means to render otherwise non-numerical information,” such as that generated through observations and from interviews, “’empirical,’ to ‘speak’ to those community members and policy makers otherwise sceptical of cultural research.” This research will empower convention organizations to engage governments and sponsors (private and public) regarding both their needs and their contributions to society in new ways.


Duxbury, Nancy, W. F. Garrett-Petts, and David MacLennan. 2015. “Cultural Mapping as Cultural Inquiry: Introduction to an Emerging Field of Practice.” Pp. 1–42 in Cultural Mapping as Cultural Inquiry, edited by N. Duxbury, W. F. Garrett-Petts, and D. MacLennan. New York: Routledge.

Gibson, Chris, Chris Brennan-Horley, and Andrew Warren. 2010. “Geographic Information Technologies for Cultural Research: Cultural Mapping and the Prospects of Colliding Epistemologies.” Cultural Trends 19(4):325–48.

Jeannotte, M.Sharon. 2015. “Cultural Mapping in Ontario: The Big Picture.” Pp. 99–116 in Cultural Mapping as Cultural Inquiry, edited by N. Duxbury, W. F. Garrett-Petts, and D. MacLennan. New York: Routledge.

Launching the Comic Cons Cultural Mapping Survey

All my favourite books start with a map. There’s some kind of magic in that little sketch of mountains and forests. A map of a fantastic new world like Middle-earth or Westeros always helps to make the familiar feel strange and the strange familiar.

Our project’s first research activity is to create a map of the comic cons, comic art festivals, and related media fandom events that took place in the United States, Canada, and Mexico during 2017. In recent years, cultural planners and policymakers have used mapping as a tool to understand the demand for cultural amenities and to help measure their impacts. Our map will serve as an interactive, public directory that organizers, exhibitors, and attendees can use to explore the sector. But to make it, we need your help.


If you organized a con in North America during 2017, please take our survey. We’ll ask some questions about your organization and about each of the events you ran, including features like size, venue, admission rates, and publicly announced policies. Anyone who is authorized to report on behalf of their organization can complete the survey, including owners or staff members / employees. We’ll use the data to build our map, as well as to calculate some aggregate statistics about the sector as a whole.

The survey will be available at https://cuhealth.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_3rbrHiqmvmkCRE1 until April 30. Please share it with your colleagues and contacts in your networks.

Image credit: “Middle Earth Google Maps,” Mark Carpenter (mbingcrosby), https://m.imgur.com/t/lord_of_the_rings/whKZ7KM.