Neighbors Mapping Neighborhoods

The big outcome of our initial presentation of BNP data was the development and administration of a survey to assess general social attitudes and specific attitudes towards certain city initiatives among residents of a certain area in the city. The survey was intended to inform groups involved in that initiative, but it also complements existing data and the lead author’s research interests.

Of particular interest to me was the opportunity to tag some map-based questions onto the survey. We provided a street map (courtesy of the Goog’s cartography gnomes), and we asked respondents to highlight the streets that comprise their neighborhood. Here’s what it looks like:

This example is representative of the scope and detail of actual responses, but it is a contrived example. No actual individual responses have been (or will be) divulged!

This example is representative of the scope and detail of actual responses, but it is not an actual response. No individual responses have been (or will be) divulged!

In survey parlance, this is a “pilot instrument” in at least two regards. Firstly, we were uncertain how readily respondents would understand what they were being asked to do. Secondly, we were uncertain what the best way to analyze the responses would be.

The first concern has proven to be a non-issue. Drawing on a map is fun; I think people found it the most engaging part of the survey. Furthermore, they tend to reason aloud about what makes up their neighborhood as they mark their stomping grounds. These narratives are interesting.

(Yes, I participated in the door-to-door administration of the survey. It was a fascinating experience which deserves further elaboration.)

The second concern, processing the responses, has yet to be fully addressed. The initial plan was to scan and digitize each map for exploratory GIS analysis. What has actually happened to date is that we’ve numbered each major street segment in the neighborhood, and coded each hand-drawn map according to which street segments it includes. This data will inform a statistical social network analysis of the neighborhood.

Anyway, the survey — of the neighborhood surrounding Mary Street and the straw bale house that will be built there — has generated quite a bit of interest. So far we’ve presented the results three times (to the Binghamton Housing Authority’s South Side Alive committee, to the Mayor’s office, and just today to the South Side West neighborhood assembly); a quantitative approach to neighborhood planning and assessment seems surprisingly novel and interesting to residents and officials alike.

Posted on Tuesday, September 1st, 2009. Tags: .