From Location To Place – ethnographic walking and map making

Alastair Somerville
2 min readDec 14, 2018

There’s a couple of books I’ve read this year which I’m still trying to understand in terms of work.

Setha Low’s “Spatializing Culture” on the ethnography of space and place.

It’s very good and covers the tricky problem of the difference between space as defined by architects and designers and its use as a place by people and communities.

Adam Seligman et. al “Ritual and its consequences” on sincerity and ritual in human society.

What the authors are examining is the spectrum between individual interaction (sincerity) and communal actions (ritual).

Both these books explore the user experience and the service design experience that is not focussed on the individual but on the communal.

Most tools are designed to center on the person and only lightly touch upon the community around them.

That worries me and I’ve been wondering about how to communicate alternatives to the individualised design world.

From Location To Place

Just as a prototype, I’ve made this map making booklet.

It’s a 5 day self-directed learning experience – walking and drawing maps. It’s not meant to be complex – it’s a daily walk to notice more of the people around you and what they are doing.

Spotting the social actions and rituals that exist around the individual interactions and service touchpoints is hard. We’re not trained to notice them. Spending a few days practicing that skill may help.


You can download the prototype from Dropbox: From Location To Place.



Alastair Somerville

Sensory Design Consultant, usability researcher and workshop facilitator. Twitter @acuity_design & @visceralUX