Issue Mapping for Fashion
The course Issue Mapping for Fashion was developed in 2017 with colleagues at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute (AMFI), as part of AMFI’s Master’s programme in Fashion Enterprise Creation.
The class is designed to train students – who are developing their own fashion enterprise – in studying sustainability-related issues in the fashion industry through digital and visual content. The course objective is to map an issue, namely, one current issue of choice related to fashion and sustainability, using Latourian social cartography and digital and visual methods.
The research topic they choose needs to be important to the field of fashion and timely, as it connects to current societal debates. The mappings are reflexive, in the sense that the students who are working on a particular product or service to turn it into a successful business, may anticipate and hope for a particular result in their research. However, they nearly always find unexpected results that then force them to rethink their own agendas, strategies, or even priorities. The students are already fashion stakeholders but they become researchers and at times even issue experts along the way.
For their reflexive mappings, the students choose an issue that is of interest to their own business and map its resonance, sources, actors (or stakeholders), the issue language (the terms used by the different actors) and the visual language (captured by looking at the images used), found in different online sources using web search engines and social media platforms. Subsequently, the students select one visualization and present it with a narrative that lays out the research questions and their own research objective, the operationalization of the question in terms of the methods necessary to collect and analyse the content, a discussion of the findings and a reflection on how these findings may impact their own position in this field within the fashion industry.
Issue mapping raises awareness among the students that their objects of study in the digital realm are rarely stable, but more often dynamic and may often change over time. They can then learn how to repurpose this characteristic to try and understand why, when, and how these issues and their objects change, which can be an important exercise for students, researchers, and practitioners alike.