The Spatial Humanities Kit prioritizes access, critical literacies, and civic creativity. Each of these concepts can be utilized as both a pedagogical tool and a methodological frame. Experiment! Don’t get bogged down in the particularities of the method. Let the tools guide your documentation and narrativization of the spaces you choose.
The kit, as well as the maps one can produce with the kit, can be created anywhere, with any assemblage of gear that users have access to. Each assemblage of gear was created with a stated purpose, but many other assemblages are possible. The kit is a low-stakes entry point into learning how one can document, narrativize, and preserve one’s experience of a particular place and time. In the spirit of the kit’s composition and principles, think about how you can make your use of the kit accessible to your audience. Clarify your own goals for documenting and narrativizing space; keep your audience’s needs in mind; and, most importantly, don’t be afraid to experiment!
Drawing from Jason Farman’s approach to locative media, the kit’s creators have mobilized the kit to draw on two approaches that parallel spatial humanities work: “site specificity” and “urban markup.” We did so in a classroom setting, but this is neither a demand nor a necessity. Site specificity, as Farman defines it, pertains to “the unique qualities of a unique location that cannot be transferred onto another place,” whereas urban markup refers to “the various ways that narrative gets attached to a specific place in a city.” The spatial humanities kit is designed to capture both simultaneously. The interplay between documenting what is unique about a particular place and time and how we subsequently attach a narrative to that place and time demands critical reflection. What presumptions are we bringing to the spaces we document? How is our gaze implicated in the stories we tell? Feel free to apply these concepts in your own use of the kit. Feel free to apply and adapt your own!
Play is a legitimate entry point into intellectual work of any kind. Kant’s “free play of the imagination” is an apposite description of this principle. The kit introduces its users to a rule-governed methodology for documenting and narrativizing space in the times they have access to it, but without determining what particular rules should be applied in advance. That being said, all play espouses a method. Civic Creativity, or, as Eric Gordon, Jason Haas, and Becky Michelson define it, deliberative acts of play in which “participants can invent and explore within a safely bounded structure, such that the outcomes of that invention and exploration can be impactful on a civic or community process,” is a helpful model. The kit compels its users to enter into others’ communities and historical sites--developing a critical understanding of one’s place and impact on those communities and sites is a necessary precursor to playing with the kit. Remember: free play is not unbounded play. Be respectful of/in the places and times you document!
Above all, the spatial humanities kit outfits its users with the ability to document, preserve, and share in the stories we tell about the places and times we inhabit.