Where is Here: Small Cities, Deep Mapping and Sustainable Futures is a Mapping Project and Symposium that seizes on the tremendous interest shown in cultural mapping practices by small cities and brings to bear multiple knowledge-domains to move our collective understanding of this practice forward.


Small cities, and especially ones that are resource-dependent, are struggling to thrive in a changing economic landscape. Downtown areas in these cities are ‘beacons’ of civic identity and they can offer opportunities for economic and social development. Making our downtowns more vibrant requires knowledge of what residents value about them. We want to know what people love about their downtowns, and what keeps them there.

The Mapping Project

The project includes two key components. The first is a community mapping project occurring February through April, 2016, that engages residents within three small cities (Courtenay, Port Alberni and Nanaimo) in a video/mapping adventure. Participants are asked to tell a story on video about the place within the downtown core of their resident city in which they “feel most connected to their community”. Videos (no more than 1.5 minutes each) of residents talking about their ‘connect-spots’ are uploaded onto an online map that is accessible to the wider public.

The Symposium

The second component is a multi-layered event occurring July 20-22, 2016, in Courtenay, BC. Here we bring together over 25 specialists in cultural mapping – including municipal developers, artists and academics (from organizations including Thompson Rivers University, University of British Columbia, Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver Island University and North Island College). This group will talk through an array of strategies and approaches to cultural mapping (and cultural development broadly) within small cities. Embedded within the symposium are panel discussions, keynote speeches and art interventions programmed by the Comox Valley Art Gallery.

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Through this project, we plan to:

  • Enhance the ability of Canadian small cities to understand, interpret and communicate the significance of place;
  • Contribute to the development of three small cities in BC (Port Alberni, Nanaimo and Courtenay) through the creation of a deep cultural map for each;
  • Explore the role that new media technologies, creative practices and community participation play in uncovering and disseminating narratives about place;
  • Host a multi-faceted dialogue centering on the intersections between new media,small city development and cultural connectedness.

Our sponsors & funders

We gratefully acknowledge the support provided to this project by a wide range of funders and sponsors.