Cognitive Geomatics project workshop: Sense of Place – Crowd Mapping

Posted on March 29, 2023

Learning from each other during the preparation of digital teaching material for blended learning at three universities – Germany, South Africa and Kenya

‘Cognitive Geomatics – Digital teaching to create awareness of intercultural differences in sense of place using Germany, South Africa and Kenya as case studies’ is part of the Baden-Württemberg-STIPENDIUM for University Students – BWS plus, a programme of the Baden-Württemberg Stiftung. The project runs from March 2022 until February 2025 and is financed with an amount of 140,000 €.

The Cognitive Geomatics project aims to address questions about the nature of the interplay between the way we think about and perceive physical space (our mental maps) and the use of high-tech methods for measuring, analysing and visualizing our environment (in the virtual world), which can be described as cognitive geomatics. Spatial perception includes our habits of thought and reflections about the relationship between people and the environment, while awareness of space is considered to be a requirement for one’s orientation in action space. This "sense of place", however, differs from one culture to another and is closely linked to locality and authenticity. In teaching and learning, the respective cultural differences are also of interest.

A previous project, ‘Geomatics & Participation’, successfully established a long-term cooperation between the Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences (HKA) in Germany and the University of Pretoria (UP) in South Africa. With this project, we expanded the network to include the University of Nairobi (UoN) in Kenya and widened the thematic discourse to be interdisciplinary: apart from geo(infor)matics students, students from the social sciences and cultural media management are now involved.

The second project workshop on ‘Sense of Place – Crowd Mapping’ took place on 87 and 98 September 2022 at UP. Prof. Dr.-Ing. Dr Gertrud Schaab from HKA joined the workshop in Pretoria, while Prof Dr.-Ing. Faith Karanja participated remotely. We continued our approach of learn with and from each other together with students. 120 final year students in geography were involved. On the first day, Prof Serena Coetzee from UP introduced them to online crowd mapping tools. Subsequently, students were divided into groups, and each group had to play with geospatial data collected through crowd mapping, considering the following questions:

  1. Could you infer something about ‘sense of place’?
  2. If you had to use the tool to map sense of place for the Hatfield campus, how would you approach it?
Students playing with data collected through crowd mapping, with the tutor, Mr Brian Nkala keeping a watchful eye
Photo: Gertrud Schaab

On the second day, Professor Nerhene Davis from UP and Prof Schaab facilitated a feedback session with final year Geography students about their Sense of Place assignment. The students were given the assignment a few weeks before the scheduled session. They were required to complete a group-based research report to investigate the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sense of place of residents within the City of Tshwane. At the session facilitated on day 2, students presented their findings from the questionnaire-based interviews they conducted for their research as an outcome of the exploratory research they conducted.

Final year Geography students presenting about their sense of place assignment
Photo: Gertrud Schaab

After each of these sessions, students reflected on their experiences with the crowd mapping tools and sense of place assignments respectively. Subsequently, the project partners further discussed and considered these reflections and how they should guide and inform the design of the digital teaching resources (for blended learning), to be developed and tested in 2023, again together with students. Despite physical distances, we plan to develop a portfolio of teaching and learning resources that can be used jointly at the three university sites to also, amongst others, create awareness of cultural differences when using geomatics methods. The results of this workshop are invaluable for the remaining project milestones.

While at UP, Prof Schaab used the opportunity to introduce prospective final year students to the opportunity of spending the summer semester 2023 at the HKA in Germany. Students were also informed about the summer school, to be held in Karlsruhe in September 2023. The funding of theses exchanges is funded by this project, too.

The group of final year Geography students with Prof. Dr.-Ing. Gertrud Schaab (HKA, Germany)
Photo: Serena Coetzee


The Baden-Württemberg-STIPENDIUM supports the international exchange of students and vocationally qualified people. Since 2001, it has enabled more than 28,000 young people from Baden-Württemberg to gain experience abroad and allowed scholarship holders from other countries to visit Baden-Württemberg. Approximately 1,500 young people receive a Baden-Württemberg-STIPENDIUM each year.

Baden-Württemberg-STIPENDIUM for University Students – BWS plus

With the Baden-Württemberg-STIPENDIUM for University Students – BWS plus, the Baden-Württemberg Stiftung supports innovative joint projects between universities from Baden-Württemberg and their international partners. The programme is endowed with approximately 1.2 million euros annually. Since 2011, more than 110 BWS plus projects have been supported at universities in Baden-Württemberg.

The Baden-Württemberg Stiftung

Advocates a vital Baden-Württemberg with a high quality of life for all its residents. It helps pave the way for advanced technological progress, high quality education, and a responsible relationship with fellow human beings. The Baden-Württemberg Stiftung is one of the major foundations in Germany. It is the only foundation which exclusively and above party lines invests in the future of the state of Baden-Württemberg – and thus in the future of its citizens.

- Author Serena Coetzee

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