Tilburg Legend(s): what’s in an icon?

Tilburg is at the heart of a region in the southern Netherlands which has traditionally been very socially innovative. This tradition is celebrated annually during the European Social Innovation Week, recently renamed to the Dear Future week.

The TilburgsAns open source typeface

At the conclusion of this week, the annual Social Innovation Awards are announced. This year’s Runner-Up Award was won by TilburgsAns, a unique initiative by Sander Neijnens and Ivo van Leeuwen, two local graphic designers who developed an open source “typeface for a sans serif city” of letters and icons. From the jury report:

The project especially focuses on Tilburg residents. By using the typeface, they connect with the city and each other. Still, its use is not restricted to Tilburgers alone. Also, people outside of the city can download TilburgsAns and apply it, creating a virtual bond with Tilburg. For the initiators, TilburgsAns is not about city marketing or city branding, but it is an innovative art project with the aim of uniting people through (visual) language. Furthermore, TilburgsAns makes visible – in an innovative way – the material and immaterial heritage of the city via its icons.

This immediately piqued my interest. As you know, I am an ardent believer in the power of visualization and mapping to build, strengthen, and link communities.  Furthermore, I have been a long-time resident of Tilburg, a city I have come – like so many other non-natives – to appreciate over the years as a hotbed of cultural and social innovation.  It is not so much a remarkable city architecture-wise. What makes it such a pleasure to live here are the interesting and compassionate people and the multitude of inspiring initiatives they organize.

On icons

In my CommunitySensor mapping methodology, icons play a crucial role. They are at the core of the visual language, I use to map the linkages and collaborations taking place in community networks. However, for sensemaking between communities, we need standard icons. For example, in the map below of a community network mapping project in Malawi we see how  standard icons act as “conceptual bridges” between two projects, outlining how they have activities, stakeholders, and resources in common.

CommunitySensor standardized community network mapping icons

What interested me so much about the TilburgsAns icon set, is that they are the opposite of standardized icons. Each of the icons is unique, capturing part of that distinctive “sense of Tilburg community”. Together, they define the essence of the city, its people, initiatives and events, sites & sights, and language.

TilburgsAns unique city icons

This contrast between both icons sets and their uses – making connections across communities versus communicating the identity of a city – really got my mind racing. Perhaps, effective community network mapping needs a mix of both: (1) unique community icons to visualize what the community is about, strengthen bonds and ties between community members, and clarify its essence to the outside world – and (2) standardized community mapping icons to catalyze inter-communal sensemaking, collaboration, and “knowledge weaving for social innovation”.

The Tilburg Legend(s) map

Lots of food for thought, here, but instead of going off on an academic tangent, I decided to do something practical to get a better sense of the “deep meaning” of TilburgsAns, and  to make a contribution to the Tilburg commons myself, building on the magnificent work of Sander and Ivo. Instead of just seeing the list of Tilburg icons, why not – literally – put them on the map?

To this purpose, I created two Google maps, the English Tilburg Legend(s) map and the Dutch Tilburgse Iconen, playing with the notions of legends defining Tilburg both story and icon-wise.

The Tilburg Legend(s) map

On each map, the relevant icons from the TilburgsAns list have been ordered in the categories People, Initiatives & Events, and Sites & Sights. Only the TilburgsAns word-icons without a clear geographical reference have been left out. By hovering over an item in the table of contents on the left hand side, you can see where it is situated on the map. By clicking a table of contents entry or an icon on the map, a brief description is shown, copied from the TilburgsAns entry.  For example, when clicking the icon of Peerke Donders – one of the iconic “sons of the city” –  the following description is shown:

The Google Maps description of the Peerke Donders icon

When next clicking the link within the description, one is taken to the actual TilburgsAns page for that description, which – besides that text – also shows the full-size icon, plus links to further information:

The TIlburgsAns description of Peerke Donders showing both the enlarged icon and links to further information.

Like so many things in social innovation, this mapping experiment  is only a work-in-progress. The map is far from complete, and comes with many technical limitations, for instance, Google Maps only showing small icons or rather crude descriptions. Still, it has many potential applications, for example in providing a different, off-the-beaten-track view on the city to new residents and visitors.

The experiment also shows how one social innovation may lead to another, in often unexpected ways. Together, these social innovations form a web of catalysts for social change, strengthening our precious common good. In desperate times of societal polarization, alienation, and fragmentation, it is such initiatives that are potent symbols of that there is still much worth preserving and fighting for together.

New publication – CommunitySensor: towards a participatory community network mapping methodology

A. de Moor (2017). CommunitySensor: Towards a Participatory Community Network Mapping Methodology. The Journal of Community Informatics, 13(2):  35-58.

Fig 2 - The Community Network Sensemaking Cycle

Abstract

Participatory community network mapping can support collaborative sensemaking within and across communities and their surrounding stakeholder networks. We introduce the CommunitySensor methodology under construction. After summarizing earlier work, we show how the methodology uses a cyclical approach by adopting a Community Network Development Cycle that embeds a Community Network Sensemaking Cycle. We list some observations from practice about using community network mapping for making inter-communal sense. We discuss how extending the methodology with a pattern-driven approach benefits the building of bridges across networked communities, as well as the sharing of generalized lessons learnt. To this purpose, a community collaboration pattern language is essential. We show initial work in developing and using such a language by examining the cross-case evolution of core community network interaction patterns.

Community mapping with Kumu: making sense of your community network

Collaborative sensemaking

Communities are the building blocks of collaboration in today’s networked organizations. They consist of people working together for mutual benefit, developing strong relations, and weaving a web of vibrant interactions.

Communities of practice, communities of interest, innovation communities, and so on, help to bridge knowledge gaps and cross collaboration barriers within and between organizations. However, successful communities do not emerge just like that. They often emerge in a very fragmented collaborative landscape of diverse stakeholders, activities, and resources.

To improve their collaboration, community members and stakeholders therefore need to continually make sense of it. This collaborative sensemaking involves developing a common process of reaching a shared understanding about their collaboration, including the various perspectives and interests of the community members and surrounding stakeholder network. Collaborative sensemaking helps community members find out what their collaboration is about, what relationships and interactions their community consists of, what collaboration resources are available, and what concrete opportunities exist for better working communities.

collaborative sensemaking

Participatory community mapping method

To support this collaborative sensemaking process,  I am developing a participatory community mapping method and applying it to client cases via CommunitySense. Using this method, community members map their own community network by visualizing the many pieces of their collaborative puzzle into relevant maps and views  that help them better understand where their common ground is and the next actions needed to make their collaboration grow.

Why Kumu?

To make and share the maps, I use Kumu,  a powerful  tool for network visualization, analysis, and sharing.  What makes Kumu so powerful are the combined features of:

  • Elegant layout and multimedia content, such as embedded images and videos to make the maps look appealing and useful for storytelling.
  • Enabling different views on the map, best reflecting different stakeholder needs and interests.
  • Social network analysis options to, for example, determine what the hubs of activity are.
  • Web-based environment, so that parts of maps and views – each with their own permalink – can be shared and integrated with the daily activities of participants.

kumu - screenshot stadse boeren

What’s in Kumu-based community mapping for you?

Kumu-based community mapping can serve many purposes for your organization, network, or community:

My services

I help organizations, networks, and communities to design and set up relevant community maps, to answer the right questions to fill the maps with meaningful content and to discover customized ways to integrate the use of maps in their workflows and business processes.

As a consultant, I can help you to efficiently set up a Kumu-based community mapping process tailored to your specific collaboration needs.  My community mapping services include:

  • Strategic advice on the relevance of community mapping for your organization
  • Consulting on how to use community mapping to improve your business, management, and communication processes in practice
  • Defining the scope of your own community mapping process
  • Designing the architecture of your community maps
  • Creating your initial community maps
  • Facilitating workshops to roll out community mapping in your community network
  • Training your staff to become their own map makers

WP_20141202_014

Contact me if you are interested to learn more to discover how community mapping might benefit your collaboration.

Links

 

New publication – Knowledge Weaving for Social Innovation: Laying the First Strand

Just published: A. de Moor (2015). Knowledge Weaving for Social Innovation: Laying the First Strand. In Proc. of the 12th Prato Community Informatics Research Network Conference, November 9-11, 2015, Prato, Italy, pp.51-64. ISBN 978-0-9874652-4-5.

Abstract

Society consists of a web of interconnected communities. A large body of research and practice exists on how to make communities work. Still, the intersection and interaction of multiple communities – the development and use of their inter-communal commons – is ill-understood. Social innovation is the process in which relevant stakeholders jointly develop solutions to wicked problems that none of them can solve on their own. As such, it is a prime example of the need for multiple stakeholder communities collaborating. We propose a process for building a networked community-commons called knowledge weaving. This is a reflective sensemaking effort in which existing communal knowledge sharing practices, initiatives, and resources are tied together into coherent commons-based knowledge fabrics that support intercommunal collaboration, such as for social innovation. We illustrate the approach with the case of the European Social Innovation Week 2015 pre-events.

New publication: Public Libraries as Social Innovation Catalysts

Just published: A. de Moor and R. van den Assem (2013), Public Libraries as Social Innovation Catalysts. In Proc. of the 10th Prato CIRN Conference “Nexus, Confluence, and Difference: Community Archives meets Community Informatics”, Prato, Italy, Oct 28-30 2013.

Abstract

Public libraries urgently need to reinvent their role in society. Through social innovation, libraries may adopt new functions and roles and even act as innovation catalysts in networks of increasingly interdependent stakeholders from different sectors. We investigate how to design such inter-sectoral public library innovations that are embedded in existing organizational practice and are both sustainable and scalable.  We outline a practical social innovation sensemaking method based on a combination of a social innovation collaboration network model and process model. We show how we did an initial validation of the method using the results of two exploratory workshops with professionals in the Dutch public library world. We discuss the implications of this approach for expanding the role of public libraries from providing access to collections to becoming social innovation and community catalysts.

ESSENCE09 Workshop

FIRST FACE-TO-FACE FORUM ON ‘ESSENCE’ ONLINE EXPERIMENT

May 5-6, 2009
KMi, The Open University
Milton Keynes, UK

The ESSENCE challenge

090503_essence1ESSENCE is the first public event organised by Global Sensemaking (GSm), a network formed in 2008 to develop human-centred computing tools to help tackle wicked problems such as Climate Change.
The overall idea behind the project is that digital discussion and deliberation technologies have the potential to provide a structured medium for building collective intelligence from diverse stakeholders, who often disagree.
Within this context the ESSENCE online experiment has been conceived with the overall goal to improve how climate science and policy deliberation is conducted, in local networks, national organizations, and inter-governmentally.
In particular, ESSENCE has been designed to develop a comprehensive, distilled, visual map of the issues, evidence, arguments and options facing the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen (COP15), and being tackled by many other networks, which will be available for all to explore and enrich across the web.

Research

Within the ESSENCE project we study and develop technologies for online discussion and deliberation, with the overall goal in mind to help to build online environments for:
•    scientists to explore and discover common grounds and agendas in a very complex and extensive domain as environmental science is;
•    policymakers to identify problematic issues to be faced in order to reinforce public policies and make them more accepted or even agreed;
•    the Public to widen or build understanding on climate change issues and consensus about new climate change policies.

Outcomes

The workshop seeks to develop a roadmap for ESSENCE to COP15.  We will also discuss strategies for further research lines and challenge to address for the ESSENCE team/GSm community.

Organizing Committee

Simon Buckingham Shum (KMi, Open University)
Anna De Liddo, (KMi, Open University)
Aldo De Moor (CommunitySense)
David Price (Debategraph)

The full program can be found here.

Postscriptum

  • My presentation: