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Geovisualising Perceptions of Adelaide's Northern Suburbs

The next speaker at ANZCA 2009 is Jess Pacella, who focusses on new opportunities in cultural geography by combining Global Information Services and cultural studies approaches. The role of mental maps emerging from semi-structured interviews is particularly interesting here, and Jess explores this in the context of media depictions of Adelaide's northern suburbs and their effects on residents' mental depictions of the area.

South Australian media present a consistently negative image of the northern suburbs; this leads to Adelaide watching this place in a particular way. Jess and her team monitored news stories in a number of state outlets, and found an overwhelmingly negative coverage, focussing especially on crime. This also leads to residents downplaying their origins in job applications and similar documents.

What has emerged is an almost Pavlovian response - stories beginning with 'in Adelaide's north today' are now immediately seen as taking place in a run-down, lawless area, reinforcing the stereotype. How can this be addressed through discourse analysis, and how can the perception of the area be changed?

GIS can help here. Data visualisation can uncover the operation of stereotypical discourses and mental maps as they pertain to specific geographical spaces. They may also provide the basis for interventions to change perceptions of these suburbs.

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