Research Capsule: Deep-mapping

Capsule Research capsule

The Research Capsule offers a way of reporting on completed research that presents the how and why of the knowledge sought. It presents it in a narrative past tense. The Capsule presents the axiology of the inquiry, which is often overlooked in the enthusiasm to head out into the field. Not considering the value, ethically, aesthetically or the contribution the work will make to society or to the researcher’s own identity often results in the comment by peer reviewers that they do not understand the purpose of the research. These axiological research capsules will appear on the website: Travel Writers Online.

The format is approximately a page in length. It is a synopsis in 3 parts. Here are our three parts for Deep-mapping with the numbered prompts left intact as a guide to future capsule writers:

Deep-mapping for Cherbourg

1 What did you chose to explore and why? Three dimensions were under study in this place-writing research: (i) the articulations between urban experiences and social structuring processes; (ii) sensibilities as an articulation point and; (iii) a seeking out of spaces that emotionally mark the body of the subjects that occupy them and thus load these urban spaces with meaning through affect. We had settled on Cherbourg as our city for study because we sought a more environmentally friendly tourism that uses ferries and train travel to access port cities. We felt that Cherbourg would be enjoyed as a destination if we could identify points of affect and feeling by deep mapping. William Least Heat-Moon had pioneered deep map writing in 1991 for rural locations in the US accessed by car so this work was an updating of this for Europe, public transport, walking and sustainability.

2 Please give an example of some data you collected, eg a transcript from your auto-ethnographic diary or examples of the texts you read as data, or transcripts you elicited. Here are three from our work on Deep-mapping for Cherbourg: Initially, we looked for emotion in travel literature, especially where the urban space revealed the sensibilities of the character. Thomas Mann, as a travel writer, articulates emotions dialogically with tourist spots that can still be found today: the Rialto, the Piazzetta of St Mark’s Square, and finally, the text of Death in Venice tells us, he ‘entered the station torn by this acute inner conflict’ (Mann 1912, 231).

Through close-reading of a novel based on the life of a French spy in Cherbourg, we uncovered places of drama from lived biography; here is one spot with enough information to find the place during a visit, ‘the big square near the Gare Maritime, the station where trains could pull up right to the harbour to load and unload the ships’ (Brubaker 2005, 4).

For the ethnobotany element of the research we uncovered archival texts, this one from 1597 gives a bodily feeling for perry: ‘Wine made of the juice of peares called in English, Perry, is soluble, purgeth those that are not accustomed to drinke thereof, especially when it is new; not with-standing it is as wholesome a drink’ (Gerard 1597).

3 What did you do with those data? What was your process of analysis and your own thinking that made sense of the findings? We used extracts from the literary writing, biographies and archives to form emotional routes across the town for later fieldwork based on these articulation points. We proposed a model we called hexis, as a preparatory framework for the literary travel writer planning inquiry into an unknown urban space.

The future of this work. What do you plan to do next? We have heard that it was published early in January 2021, as a chapter in an academic text on cities and the politics of sensibilities. We will take this plan out into the field when the Covid restrictions are lifted in France and England, to explore the routes we have uncovered. Please view the chapter online here

Since publishing this post in Travel Writers Online, we have had contact with the artist, Damien Reynaud who made a photography installation in Cherbourg city centre to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Roland Barthes, there. Damien has very kindly given us permission to reproduce one of the images he made to document the time of the art work in situ

“Mémoire d’un non-lieu / Où est l’image vraie?”, Serge Mauger et Damien Reynaud, installation urbaine de cent aphorismes sur l’image, cartes postales et textes, pour le centenaire de la naissance de Roland Barthes, impression numérique, les halles de Cherbourg, 2015. “Tous droits réservés © ADAGP Damien Reynaud”

Installation Hommage à Roland Barthes, Serge Mauger et Damien Reynaud, Cherbourg, 12 novembre 2015. Link to the postcards from the installation on Damien’s WordPress site here


Brubaker, B. (2005). For Freedom: The Story of a French Spy. New York: Bantam.

Gerard, J. (1597). The Herbal or General Historie of Plantes. London: John Norton.

Mann, T. (1912) Death in Venice.

Mansfield, C. Shepherd, D. and Wassler, P. (2021). ‘Perry – Deep mapping and emotion in place-writing practice’ in eds: Adrián Scribano, Margarita Camarena Luhrs and Ana Lucía Cervio Cities, Capitalism and the Politics of Sensibilities. London: Palgrave Macmillan. eBook ISBN 978-3-030-58035-3  Hardcover ISBN 978-3-030-58034-6  270 pages. Chapter 6  Amazon

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