Mapping Concepts with Fisherfolk

Mapping Concepts with Fisherfolk

Denis Hellebrandt (School of International Development University of East Anglia, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-992-2.ch015


This chapter aims to show how concept mapping is a technique which is capable of representing complex systems in an accessible format and offers excellent opportunities for collaboration and meaningful learning. Effective communication is at the foundation of collaborative learning and concept mapping is expressly used in this research to facilitate the dialogue between participants and researcher. The chapter starts out by situating the reader by way of a conceptual background about complex systems, followed by the basis for the application of concept mapping in this project and the specific research context - a case study of small-scale fisheries in southern Brazil. Then, an account of the use of concept mapping during the fieldwork is given, with an assessment of the technique. The chapter ends with a reflection on the experience gained so far and comments on the application of collaborative learning in similar research projects.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Actor: individual persons with agency, i.e. knowledge and capability to assess situations and devise responses. Adapted from Giddens (1984) and Long (2001).

Concept: “a perceived regularity in events or objects, or records of events or objects, designated by a label”. (Novak and Cañas, 2006: p.10).

Parking Lot: during the first stage of creation of the concept map, a list of concepts related to the focus question is generated, in no particular order, - using brainstorm, for example. These concepts are left in one margin of the working area (thus the analogy with a “parking lot”), with the most relevant being used in the map.

Livelihood: “the assets[,] the activities, and the access to these (mediated by institutions and social relations) that together determine the living gained by the individual or household.” (Allison & Ellis, 2001)

Fisherfolk: fishers themselves, their families and other people who make up a larger group which is dedicated to fishing as a primary source of income.

Focus Question: “a question that clearly specifies the problem or issue the concept map should have to resolve.”. (Novak and Cañas, 2006: p.1)

Participant: people who have an active role in the research process, taking part in the gathering of information, as either sources or contacts for other potential participants, as well as contributing directly to the decisions made during the research through their feedback.

Proposition: “statements about some object or event in the universe, either naturally occurring or constructed. Propositions contain two or more concepts connected using linking words or phrases to form a meaningful statement.”. (Novak and Cañas, 2006: p.1).

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