The University of Edinburgh and University of Stirling  team developed and refined a suite of mixed online and offline methods to assess the social values assigned by different stakeholders to urban heritage and its transformation.



The Universities of Stirling and Edinburgh developed and refined a suite of mixed online and offline methods to help those involved in urban planning and development with the assessment of the diverse social values assigned by stakeholders to urban heritage and its transformation. Research methods for use with people in offline environments are designed for in-depth exploration of the values associated with specific heritage places in people’s everyday lives, working with a range of diverse, more or less transient communities of residency, attachment and interest. These flexible mixed methods include semi-structured and structured interviews, rapid ethnography (observation and site walks with participants), participatory mapping and photo elicitation to capture the role of embodied, emotive experience in the production of values. The online methods are designed to investigate the presence of urban heritage places on key social media sites and official websites to identify the values that are produced and negotiated in these environments. They combine ‘text mining’ for semi-qualitative analysis using keywords, with qualitative on-platform analysis. Online survey and crowdsourcing tools were also created to contextualise the social media research and collect stories and memories related to urban heritage places.  


Our application of these methods to case study sites reveal that the fragmentary, layered remains of the Deep City are associated with a rich tapestry of contemporary social values by multiple, at times overlapping, communities of residence, attachment and interest. These values relate to both tangible and intangible aspects of this heritage, which mediate relationships between people and places. The research highlights the role of built heritage in mediating social memory and creating a sense of ‘pastness’ and time depth. Furthermore, many of the values expressed are associated with specific aspects of the built environment and related functions, events, activities, affective qualities and personal/familial connections. Much depends on maintaining intangible connections and experiences of past and present uses of built heritage, rather than focusing merely on the preservation of aesthetically pleasing facades and fragments. 


The application of participatory methods for the assessment of social values is essential in the planning and development processs, because social values may not be evident in the tangible historic fabric of the Deep City that planners, heritage managers and archaeologists often focus on. Whilst the built heritage is frequently incorporated into the design and implementation of urban development (and particularly regeneration), our research demonstrates that regeneration projects can result in fragmentation of both the built heritage and the practices and communal memories that are associated with it. There is also a palpable sense in which physical fragmentation is mirrored by fragmentation and/or dislocation of communities themselves, with some people being marginalised and oppositional social distinctions created. The Deep Cities people-centred, participatory methods offer important insights and tools to help those involved in urban planning, heritage management and regeneration achieve sustainable futures for urban communities and their heritage. 


The research approach of University of Edinburgh and Stirling.



The team from the Universities of Stirling and Edinburgh would like to extend our appreciation and thanks to the many people who participated in or otherwise supported the Deep Cities activities at the two case study locations. Our research would not have been possible without the contributions of many individuals – community members, heritage professionals, local officials, third sector groups, and others – who gave generously of their time and knowledge. It is not possible to name everyone, and we wish to respect the confidentiality of all our research participants, but we remain truly grateful to you all.  

For their support in the Canongate case study, the team would like to thank: John Lawson and Jenny Bruce at Edinburgh City Council, and Steven Robb and Ann MacSween at Historic Environment Scotland, for introducing us to the site and sharing their knowledge of its history, and the team at the Old Town Development Trust, for allowing us to join their activities. 

For their support with activities in Woolwich, we extend our thanks to: members of Speak Out Woolwich, including for allowing us to conduct research activities during their annual community event, our associate partner George Neris, Founder and Director of ArtFix, Rob Timmer and colleagues at the Royal Borough of Greenwich Council, including for participating in the Deep Cities London project workshop and leading us in a walking tour of the area. 


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