2.4.1 Maps and diagrams

An EAR researcher will most likely use a range of mapping techniques, including communicative ecology maps, community or village maps and spider diagrams. Maps and diagrams are useful as ways of making a visual representation of relationships - these can be social, spatial, and emotional. They are useful tools for generating debate about such relationships. They can help you to understand the experiences and perceptions of participants.

Communicative ecology mapping

It is important for an EAR researcher to understand the different and varied communicative ecologies that exist in the communities in which they work. Maps of these communicative ecologies can be made with individuals or with groups of people. You can draw a communicative ecology map with participants as you are talking and listening to them, or you can talk and listen to them, go away and draw the communicative ecology map, and come back and see if they want to alter it or make any additions.

Communicative ecology maps will show you:

  • Differences between men and women, young and old, rich and poor, and so on
  • Who are excluded from what types of information flows
  • How geography influences communication
  • How cost can influence communication

Communicative ecology maps will help you understand the communities you are working in, what communication technologies people have access to, where they get information from, who they communicate with, and how all of this varies across groups and communities.

Community mapping

Community mapping helps you to become familiar with the ways in which different groups see a village or local area, where facilities are in relation to them, and if they access them. Community mapping can include important local sites such as churches, mosques and temples, markets and bus stops, schools and hospitals, wells and tea shops, entertainment areas and meeting places.

You can find out how men and women see their local areas differently. If a woman is not allowed access to an area due to her gender, caste or ethnic group, then that area may not appear on her map; a man may omit a communal water tap as he never uses it because his wife collects all the water for household needs. A young person may make a map that is different from an elderly person. People will prioritise what is important to them, so you may want to gather a few maps of the same area from different groups in the community - women, men, children, professionals, leaders, different ethnic groups - and compare them.

Spider diagrams

This technique is used to get people to draw a diagram that looks like a spider to identify problems relating to issues such as poverty, health or education. This helps them see their problems and also identify some solutions. As with all of the participatory techniques, you should use your field notes to record all discussions and insights that you have gained, along with thoughts and questions that you are still unclear about.