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Miami Digital Cartography for Cross-Cultural Communication and Development (MD4CD)


It is an interactive online platform for cultural producers and media entrepreneurs, engaged communities, students and researchers.  MD4CD will map and re-map Miami’s diverse, ever fluctuating and yet-to-be fully leveraged cultural and ethnic landscapes as well as the city’s rich hemispheric connections.


MD4CD will promote the digital visualization and online dissemination of cultural resources and icons. Though essential to the cultural, social and economic development of the city, these are often overlooked or simply not understood in terms of their neighborhood contexts. In other words, MD4CD charts out how cultures and their social communication are an integral part of what has made this city dynamic; we plan to make visible how they are currently providing the innovation, diversity and inclusiveness that make Miami unique and attractive. The project consists of three major initiatives pursued at the Observatory. Below we explain how MD4CD helps advance them and how it will benefit communities in Miami and beyond.


This first initiative traces circuits of cultural opportunity that link neighborhoods across the city and connecting community-based artists and cultural producers to publics and outlets across physical and social distances. While Miami thrives on its cultural image, which attracts visitors, investors and creative people from throughout the world, little is known about how that culture is produced or what the relation is between the everyday life of the city’s cultures and its glamorized global appeal.

Moreover, Miami’s main economic activity, tourism, appears to be enclosed in narrow coastal enclaves and disconnected from the city’s broader ethnic assets and cultural advantages. A basic reason is that visitors simply do not know where things are - not just monuments and photographable landscapes but also stages and festivals, fairs and markets, ethnic restaurants and crafts shops and workshops - and how to get there. Or they do not have enough information to envision the appeal of such tourist destinations in their full cultural richness and diversity. Therefore, in addition to tracing the circuits of cultural opportunity, the project’s goal is to map cultural tourism in Miami and thus help create routes for people as well as economic activities and cross-cultural understandings.

At the same time, the project seeks to identify and disseminate lesser-known cultural events and spaces, distributional networks, and publics and consumer niches that may promote the careers of emerging artists in ways comparable to how major events such as the Miami Beach Art Basel and the Winter Music Festival benefit more established figures. Our goal is to increase the visibility of such opportunities for both local and international artists, particularly those in less well-connected areas in Latin America given the major potential demand for their work in Miami. This project is coordinated by Dr. George Yudice (University of Miami, Modern Languages and Literatures) and Dr. Miguel Kanai (University of Miami, Geography and Regional Studies).


This second related project takes a historical look at how cultural production has helped cement a not always evident sense of place in Miami. The initial focus is that of spaces of performing arts in the mid-twentieth century and particularly the periods of 1930-1950, and 1950s - 1970s. We locate, research, and share cultural history through geographic spaces or ‘landmarks’ – sites where artists, including visual artists, dancers, musicians, and actors/actresses, have lived, produced work, or visited. The ultimate goal is to publish an online, nonlinear, multimedia platform in which the spaces tell their own multiple stories; in other words, we aim to let the sites “speak,” trace, and perform their history. In so doing, the spaces in this cultural mapping will also tell the story of Miami’s geography of inequality and its transformation into a multilingual “world city.” The featured spaces will be used as a springboard to map intangibles such as memories, attitudes towards language use, and personal histories of commemoration of achievements and individual and collective rites of passage as well as processes of discrimination, exile and re-territorialization.

Rich multimedia materials attached to these locations include the following: 1) photographs of the interior and exterior of sites; 2) photographs of these sites now and before they became sites for Spanish-language performances; 3) newspaper clippings where the sites are mentioned; 4) digital versions of cultural programs; 5) digital versions of publicity material when available; 6) photographs and/or short video clips of performers and performances in the different sites; 7) oral histories.

Coordinating this project are Dr. Lilian Manzor (University of Miami, Modern Languages and Literature) who has a received a grant from Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to establish a sustainable technical, organizational, and intellectual property infrastructure and Ms. Lara Stein-Pardo of Mapping Miami, a non-profit funded by the Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator from the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council, the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County Commissioners. This second project complements the first one – mapping circuits of cultural opportunity – by providing a depth of memory that is characteristically missing from much of Miami’s public culture.


The third project focuses on ethnic media and their places in Miami. Miami-Dade County, with nearly 50 percent of its population born outside of the United States (approx. 1.25 million people), presents a rich tapestry of immigrant communities beyond the triad of Anglos, Cubans and African Americans that receive most popular and academic attention. Our initial research has already identified and contacted more than 20 Creole-language Haitian radio stations and other media outlets, an almost equal number of Venezuelan community-based media, and several additional outlets linked to Peruvian and Central American communities.  Many, if not all, of these communities are served by their own forms of ethnic media, from weekly free tabloids to talk radio and local access television. Conceived as a multimedia project, geographically tagged content will include live audio and video streams from radio and television stations, website feeds and page views, and interviews with media producers. Materials can be browsed by reference to immigrant populations, location in the city, and type of media.

The release of 2010 Census data provides an exceptional opportunity. By combining data emerging from Census 2010 with an in-depth, ethnographic survey of the media outlets located within and specific to ethnic communities, a unique picture of Miami-Dade’s multiethnic media make-up will emerge in vivid detail. This project seeks to enhance inter-group communication and understanding in Greater Miami, an ethnically Balkanized metropolitan area, by increasing the general awareness of the geographical composition of the county’s immigrant enclaves and the media outlets that serve them. As an outcome of greater ethnic media visibility and audience access, it hopes that to bring a wider variety of ethnic voices into the county’s public communicative sphere by making ethnic media visible to large mainstream media outlets in Spanish and English, potential advertisers and funders, local government, social service agencies, NGOS, and civic organizations and citizens of differing ethnic groups. Dr. Moses Shumow (Florida International University, Electronic Media) and Dr. Sallie Hughes (UM, Journalism) are the coordinators for this project.

MD4CD is the online platform that integrates all three projects and allows for further research, exploration of the issues and content creation in an interactive, user-friendly and aesthetically appealing site with Web 2.0 interactivity. Using digital cartography and GIS (Geographic Information Systems) as integrative media, MD4CD will provide geo-referenced content produced from the social sciences, cultural studies, humanities and journalism that is both intuitive and informative to users. The project stands as both an online academic multi-media publication and a vehicle for participatory and community-based cultural mapping that encourages and provides a framework for city residents to research and disseminate the cultural vitality and potential of their own neighborhoods.  MD4CD researchers in these three projects have numerous contacts with community cultural producers and organizations, which will provide the starting point for the interactive mapping.

Use of MD4CD is expected to:

  • foster capacity building within artistic collectives and the different participating migrant and ethnic communities
  • disseminate informative insights into language-related social, cultural and other relevant issues from across the city
  • help set up locative media installations inputting community information throughout neighborhoods to facilitate tours, train tour guides, and help set up community-based cultural tourism
  • enhance social and cultural awareness among the city’s student population and allowing them to identify volunteering opportunities
  • promote Miami as a dynamic place with a thriving and diverse cultural life