"The land is your witness..."
DEVELOPMENT : Making Projects Locally Relevant with a Research-grade Narrative İnfrastructure  
Narrative İnfrastructure blends the best tools of ethnographers with the spatial tools of planners and developers. Tell their story, and the community members can become a project's most ardent advocates.
Villages once relied on centralized wells for water. This undistributed resource was eventually replaced with plumbing infrastructure to each home and business, greatly improving the health of those communities.
Long-form narratives of spatial and historical significance suffers from the “community-well” model. Whether physically located in a library archive or in an inadequately indexed Internet accessible archive, both the public and researchers do not know how the stories engage the landscape. This is the equivalent of having to fetch the resource from a central repository and improve its value to a standard that it becomes meaningful. These efforts are usually lost to future projects due to a lack of standardization and best-practices.
This infrastructure is a "spatially indexed library". Rather than indexed only by key words or subject, the data is indexed by Global Positioning System.
It embeds the stories into the landscape, at the street corner, or in a neighborhood shop. Given the increasing access to geo-fenced mobile data, these voices can surface in situ.
Evolution in Public Engagement in Development and Regulation
Almost all of today’s best practices for public engagement are cross-sectional, based on micro-level data. The inherent myopia of such short-term practices influences the results of all decision making based on those results. Nearly all of these tools suffer from selection bias. The normal modes are:
•Focus groups
•Community meetings
All such modes are often employed for very large-scale projects with long time horizons, such as Comprehensive Planning. Smaller projects, such as small business starts or environmental impact assessments typically only involve one of such modes if they do any stakeholder engagement to enrich their statistical market analysis. These modes are expensive, time consuming, and typically reactive to the proposed change.
The results from such activity can uncover significant opposition to the proposed change. Given the necessary delay in responses, urban change professionals have typically committed considerable resources by the time community sentiment is made clear. Mitigating this risk to the urban change initiatives would greatly improve their effectiveness and efficiency.
Narrative İnfrastructure will not make cross-sectional methods obsolete, but the success of highly contentious urban change initiatives could improve the site selection process by avoiding areas of strong community sentiment—as identified by NI. As a result, use of the NI will mitigate the risk of negative community reaction.
In the preparation of cross-sectional stakeholder engagement, urban change projects developed with consideration of the local NI will be able to contextualize their ideas with the content of the NI. By developing their proposal from the local sense of memory, they can more effectively communicate the goals and objectives by framing the proposal from known subjects. This rhetorical method greatly improves the critical thinking on the part of listeners. When an audience is presented with new information, the typical response is to search their memory for something similar to gain a frame of reference. Until they have some frame of reference, they will usually be negatively predisposed to any change.
Therein lies the ambition of Narrative İnfrastructure: to employ the science of sociology and make it pertinent do even mundane meso-scale urban work.
How Narrative İnfrastructure Stories Effect Change:

Policy and Regulation

Policy Makers
Public service sector

New longitudinal public engagement tool to blunt opportunism and ensure the local stakeholder has a degree of agency. Provides a local record of sentiment to aid the community engagement process. Improves resiliency to environmental changes and calamity.

Urban Change Professionals

Economic Developers
Private service sector
Non-profit sector

Improves site selection process as a risk-mitigation tool. Identifies cultural boundaries as opportunity zones for peace-building. Aids in contextualization of new ideas with past experiences.

Cultural Heritage

Asset preservation organizations
Memory preservation groups
Tourism sector

Demonstrate the co-location of history to living memory. Contextualizes visitor experience.


Long-term residents
Migrants and immigrants

Adds robustness to community resolve for self-direction. Improves neighbor relations.

Spatial storytellers espouse providing oral-histories to the public in a spatially relevant format to improve the quality of public debate. Corporate influence in news media has diluted the critical analysis of political narratives presented to the public. Social media tends to constrain rather than encourage the exchange of critical viewpoints. The sum-total of these media phenomenon has been a reduction in the quality of public debate and a greater tendency towards tribal-mentality that favors tribal membership over critical thinking.

In this media context, funding for Nİ and the associated research becomes a matter of self-interest for local funding bodies and policy makers. The Nİ tool is their tool: it allows for nuanced approaches to local issues, both enabling and mandating more ethical governance.

©   Narrative İnfrastructure · Empowering Civil Society Long-term · est. 02018