Open Educational Resources

Document Type

Activity or Lab

Publication Date

Spring 2021


This is a guide for the field study and urban lab as partial requirements for GEG 260 Urban Geography at CUNY College of Staten Island. The field study introduces students to spatial ethnography and offers an opportunity to observe, experience and examine a range of spatial urban phenomena that they have learned in the classroom within actually-existing urban environments. Designed as a collaborative activity, students will work in teams in exploring and examining the built environment on-site and then produce multimedia deliverables to capture their reflections throughout the field study using creative and experimental methods. The collaborative and experimental design of the field study offers students to see, sense and re-imagine the city in ways that students might not have done so before.

Spatial ethnography allows us to capture and examine the ways in which space (material, built, embodied, represented, or symbolic) and our interactions with space shape a variety of social, cultural, political and economic relationships, meanings and expressions. As a research method, spatial ethnography is grounded upon an understanding of space as constituted and constitutive of power and relations of power. Through spatial ethnography, students have the opportunity to individually and collectively examine the role of space and their interactions with space framed within the broader themes of spatial politics, spatial agency, and spatial justice.

For this field study, students will draw from the concept of “thick mapping” (Presner et al., 2014) in conducting spatial ethnography to better understand select sections of Staten Island’s North Shore, specifically Tompkinsville Park, Bay St., and the waterfront area. A “thick map” is defined as a temporally layered, multimodal/multimedia, cartographic representation. Part of the “thickness” comes from the different historical, cultural, economic, political, and geographic layers captured in the map. These multiple layers may be presented through a combination of written texts, memories, images, sense of place, sounds, videos, and other types of data. As Presner et al., (2014) remind us, a thick map tells a story and makes an argument about the past, the present, and the future.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License



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