Mapping Multiculture

Disrupting representations of an ethnically diverse city

The goal of this project is innovative mapping that represents people’s everyday, mediated experiences of an ethnically diverse city. Whilst maps based on census data nicely show who lives where in Leicester, they can leave observers and policy makers thinking that people live separately in ethnic and cultural ghettos, when this is not really how the city is experienced on the ground. It’s important to map places better because such representations leak, unchallenged, into public consciousness, shaping debates and policies concerned with multicultural Britain. Crisis talk often coils around multiculturalism in the UK and yet recent research demonstrates that most people routinely live cultural and ethnic diversity as part of their everyday lives. Our project aims to bring this everyday experience into its mapping of Leicester to disrupt usual representations of the city and to critically engage with debates around multiculturalism. To do this we combine and visualise volunteered geographic information and qualitative data and interface innovative, mapping and visualisation techniques in Geographic Information Science (GIScience) with psychosocially and digitally inspired research methods concerned with multiculture, place, experience and young people.


Leicester, a city in the UK’s East Midlands, is a relevant case study for our innovative mapping. Whilst it is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the UK, it is by no means unique, stitched into a national picture of growing ethnic and cultural diversity. In 2011 20% of people in England and Wales identified with an ethnic group other than white British compared with 13% in 2001 (Jivraj 2012). We think that this project involves some of the most significant dynamics and complexities of our time and the innovation emanating from this project could be the catalyst for rethinking and reimagining how places elsewhere are visualised and mapped.


  • To creatively explore and map (young) people’s experiences of Leicester, investigating how gender, sexuality, ethnicity and class affect how a city’s ethnic diversity is experienced by young people.
  • To examine when, why, how and where young people generate and use geographic information (geo- tagged social media, photos, etc.) and how this shapes where they go, where they avoid and how an ethnically diverse city is experienced.
  • To critically examine and reflect upon our use of ‘big data’, 'small data', and ‘virtual reality’ to discuss, record and map people’s experiences of Leicester.


The project’s original contribution to knowledge involves ambitiously bringing different strands of research into conversation with one another for the mutual benefit and advancement of both. In particular:

  • Participation: Investigating how experiences of Leicester are shaped by digital technologies and social media. Missing from qualitative, grounded research on multiculture and young people is how digital technologies, spatial and social media are woven through experience of place, prompting people to visit, avoid, explore, feel and interact (Rose, 2017).
  • Representation: Exploring how everyday activities involving online platforms create representations of places. This is currently one of the core concerns of digital geographies (Graham et al, 2015).
  • Emotion: Combining two very different ways of working with emotion. That is, quantitative approaches that underpin sentiment analysis of large scale volunteered geographic information and interfacing these with psychosocially inspired methods of working with feelings associated with qualitative research.


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