Geographic Storytelling: Insight into Participatory Mapping as a Tool for Intergenerational Sharing in the Kornati Islands.

Geographic Storytelling: Insight into Participatory Mapping as a Tool for Intergenerational

Sharing in the Kornati Islands, Croatia.

James Bender
Adriatic Maritime Institute
March 2019

The Geographic Storytelling project uses Participatory 3D Modeling (P3DM) to access information by providing a geo-referencing tool for the elder storytellers to relate information to the younger generation in the Kornati National Park. The paper explores the use of the P3DM methodology as a curricular element in an experiential education program and shows how elders relate Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), as well as social and historical remembrance in a geographical format. Several methodological suggestions are made based on the group’s initial programmatic discoveries with the use of the P3DM curriculum.


Place is a center of meaning constructed by experience. Place is known not only through the eyes and mind but also through the more passive and direct modes of experience, which resist objectification. To know a place fully means both to understand it in an abstract way and to know it as one person knows another. At a high theoretical level, places are points in a spatial system. At the opposite extreme, they are strong visceral feeling.
Yi Fu Tuan ~ 1975

The Kornati islands are a place of intricate geography. There are more than 140 islands, islets and reefs in a tightly packed archipelago that extends for 35 kilometers (Figure 2). Each island in its geography has multiple social and ecological facets with a rich layered history. One way this information can be understood is as collective memory stored in its landscape or the spatial dimension of place (Halbwachs 1992). The goal of the Geographic Storytelling project has been to use a Participatory 3D Model (P3DM) to access information by providing a geo-referencing tool for the storyteller to relate this information to the younger generation. The P3DM methodology has been show to be effective in many contexts including safeguarding intangible heritage (Rambaldi, et all, 2006), conserving (TEK) Traditional Ecological Knowledge (DeGraff & Bheshem, 2015), land use planning especially when concerned with risk management in a changing climate (Dwamena, Banaynal, & Kemausuor 2011), and in this case, as a curricular element to encourage intergenerational sharing.
Participatory maps are also used in other contexts. In particular the P3DM method has been used in Fiji and Kenja to support the protection of intangible heritage. (Cristancho &Vining 2009) (Rambaldi 2006). One way this information can be understood is as collective memory stored in its landscape or the spatial dimension of place as it is passed down to the younger generation (Rambaldi 2006).
The matrix supplemented the process, deepening the intercultural and intergenerational understanding of the terminology and cultural system. Aspects of taboos, inter-clan legal systems, faith systems, and the requisites for sustainable hunting and gathering all emerged in a complex but comprehensible web of information and coding. (Rambaldi, et all 2006)

The Kornati islands are only 8 miles from the coast. The division of the Murtersko more, Murter Sea is a three to 4 hour trip in a small boat, provides enough separation to the archipelago so it stands insolated from the coast and near-shore islands. With no electricity water or any other basic services, residents live in remote homesteads and collect what they need from solar panels and cisterns for electrical and water needs.
These islands are more remote and at the same time close to the mainland as one might imagine. On a stormy day while after a short hike to the top of the ridge, the mainland can be seen, but the wind and waves have left the outposts inaccessible. Perhaps waiting for another day for the weather to clear as to make the passage safely in the small autotonic vessels that use the islands for subsistence sheep herding and fishing practices stay in port, sometimes for days, waiting for better weather to make the passage. For the past 4 years, Adriatic Maritime Institute has been working with the local families from several villages around the archipelago to create opportunities for young people to experience life in the island wilderness, which became a national park in 1980

Figure 2: Kornati National Park

Working with the elders in the islands to combine traditional arts of seamanship and agriculture AMI created an education program for students from around the region. This program pairs young people with adults and elders from the remote villages to teach these traditional practices of life in the islands. In 2018 we created a 3d model of the islands (figure 2) to help facilitate the discussions between generations. The elders of the region are holders of knowledge that is situated in these geographic elements, tied to place, remembered in times long past. Others experience these elements in the rich oral tradition where by sharing stories about the land, the sea, nature, history, and personal experience is dispensed through intergenerational sharing.

Figure 3: Kornati 3D Model

At AMI, we believe that youth involvement in the preservation process is essential. The curriculum focuses on three levels of heritage preservation. Skill-based knowledge in boat building and sailing, environmental knowledge of understanding weather lore, marine ecology, and agricultural techniques, and knowledge, and leadership training to help these young people to build capacity as individuals within their own communities in the future. P3DM methodology allows student to work with elders exploring the region with the model.

Documentation is a new focus for the AMI programs. Each year, we have paired the younger generation students with elders from the community to learn the skills, trades, and knowledge that have been passed down. P3DM adds a spatial element as an extra layer in our recording audio and video interviews. This unique aspect of the documentation project will be the incorporated to facilitate the stories that the students are hearing. This will help to construct the stories as in a place-based educational framework that can help to bring out a geographical dimension that is not present in standard storytelling framework.

The idea of participatory mapping came as an idea to facilitate discussion between older inhabitants of the villages with the adolescent participants of the program. The goal of this project is to begin to use P3DM in conjunction with other field methods in a programmatic format with our students in order to build a repository for future generations.
There are several types of participatory mapping. These include ground mapping where on participants use rocks or other natural element to outline areas of importance. Sketch mapping that include hand drawn areas and reference to places and objects, Participatory GIS which uses GIS and computer aided cartography to locate and define areas use and other conditions this can be aided by the use of mobile phones and GPS. Participatory 3D Modeling (P3DM) uses scaled relief maps to be a conduit for public information sharing. Participatory mapping as a process uses topographic models to share. In this project we have used the P3DM methodology.

The objectives:
• To have students and elders from the villages sit together and talk about the places in the local geographic region.
• To learn historical first person accounts of events in the lives of the elders of Kornati.
• To have students use maps to orient themselves.
• Understand the regional ecological elements.
• To learn about topography and climate of the islands.
• Formulate questions that can be answered by local inhabitants.

Using a curriculum around the mapping project allows students to shape questions based on their perception of life in the islands. The student-centered approach allows for the exchange to be driven by the younger participants and therefore allows intrinsic motivation

Learning is enhanced in contexts where learners have supportive relationships, have a sense of ownership and control over the learning process, and can learn with and from each other in safe and trusting learning environments. (McCombs, 2004, p. 7)

Student involvement is key to the success of the project, since the goal is to have the students as the documentarians and the ethnologists. Building relationships with the elders is part of this process. Students each created questions that were to be answered by the elders from the islands.

In the first interview, (Figure 4) Slobodan Skračić, describes to the students his experiences fishing as a kid. Rowing around in the circuit from his home and how he would catch fish for lunch and supper. He details locations where he used to catch fish and list several that he has not caught in the past 40 or 50 years. He attributes these changes to changes in technology but also the mentality of the fisherman.
“Nažalost, danas zahvaljujući tehnici in tehnologiji, ljudi samo grebu, i zapravo samo oholost i bahatost će pretvoriti tu prirodu u pustinju”

Unfortunately, today thanks to technique and technology, people just scratch [the bottom], and in fact, only this arrogance and vanity will turn that natural area into a barren.

With new technology people have been able to catch more fish and use bottom trawl nets. Mr. Skraćič attributes these changes to the types of fishing and larger takes that have come with the modern era. Because of plummeting fish stocks, in the past several years there has been several policy decisions that ultimately ended in the complete ban on fishing in the Kornati Park Boundaries. Slobodan’s Family can no longer row the circuit, which he discussed.

Figure 4: Interview with Slobodan Skračić

Over the past two decades the Kornati archipelago has come under the jurisdiction of the National Parks, and the new designation and management created changes in the lives and the livelihood of the inhabitants. In 2012, National Park staff made fishing illegal within park boundaries, threatening the basic survival of the island communities. An appeal was made, citing basic human rights to acquire food, and the ban was lifted. The following season the ban was reenacted and currently any fishing is strictly prohibited for the past 3 years. Several park residents continue to fish with risks of fines and penalties for illegal fishing. This complicates the ability for the scientists and park managers to get an idea of fish populations in the recovery period, which also signals disconnect between park managers and residents.

This action shows the National Parks staff’s detachment from the local communities they govern. While the law may have been well intentioned, and may have targeted larger boats that fish for the restaurants, many subsistence fishermen were affected. More generally, in Parks and Peoples: the Social Impacts of Protected Areas by West, Igoe, and Brockington, chronicles over 20 years of studies on the demarcation of land and marine-protected areas, and how communities must adapt their uses to newly designated categories. While direct displacement is not often explicit in the founding of the park, and may create more land for subsistence activities and social needs, restriction in other areas such as hunting, grazing, and fishing activities may lead to “conflict, economic loss, and destroy local land tenure systems” (West, Igoe, & Brockington 2006 pg. 259)

Recent EU funded program Konati Revival, has been criticized by local residents as being that funds only benefit the tourist industry and not the local inhabitants. Professor Vladimir Skračić, the president of the Association Kurnatari, said,
“the type of sustainable growth the project is striving for will only hurt the island residents. Back in 1980, when the archipelago got protected as a National Park, some 50 professional fisherman were active in the area. These days, no one is allowed to fish within the borders of the NP – what kind of growth are we talking about, if the locals have their hands tied? (Denmark 2018 pg.8)

The sentiment further complicates the issues surrounding collaboration between managers residents and in 2018 there was even threats of circulating a petition to get the park removed from the national park system. Today, for some island residents, annual income is derived from tourism through restaurants, apartment rental, and modern boat charter. Reduction in fish stocks, relative abundance, and other environmental factors have also changed the dynamics of maritime operations.
While the focus of this paper is not to illustrate the complexity of relations between park managers and residents it does show how the tool of the P3DM methodology could be used in management of ecosystem services. It has also been shown that the P3DM could be a way to resolve land use disputes as a tool for stakeholder negotiation that may be useful in the archipelago.

P3DM (participatory 3-dimensional modeling), an approach combining tangible with digital methods, demonstrates that physical modeling can greatly enhance participatory outcomes, especially in terms of the depth and duration of the participatory communication between diverse stakeholders (Voinov, et all 2016 pg.210)

This technique has been used in situations of land-use conflicts, scenario development for natural resource management, and location of sacred sites. P3DM has also been successful is a tool for fisheries Management in Uruguy, (Dracott, 2016) and in Solomon Islands (Kereseka, 2013). In Kornati this tool could be particularly effective in negotiations with Park Managers commercial fisheries, marine scientists and residents. Using the P3DM as a methodology in stakeholder negotiation may prove to help find shared value in conservation.

Using the model for the curricular element had been particularly rewarding and shows the power of how the tool serves a bridge between the elder and younger generation. The group found this multi-dimensional aspect of the tool to be particularly exciting. As students asked their interview questions on a range of topics during several interviews with the local agriculturalists and fishermen, it became clear that the model could be used for other purposes.
The student topics ranged from understanding way of life in a historical context to the use of the model to delineate ranges of aquatic species. This type of versatility; historical, ecological, and as a structure that creates focus and method for understanding ‘place’ is essential to the residents as they see their way of life undergoing an intensity of environmental change that has not been seen before. Ivanić, Štefan, Porej & Stolton define ecosystem services to also include social aspects.
The environment provides many resources that can be used to provide ecosystem services, subsistence resources, economic benefits and less tangible benefits such as spiritual peace or mental well-being (Ivanić, Štefan, Porej &Stolton 2017 Pg 61).

The disruption to the ecosystem that has led to the current situation, has been within the current generation. The elder members of the community seemed to use this time to relate information that they deemed relevant to the immediacy of the situation. The student question “What is your favorite fishing spot?” became a discussion on the loss of species and the impact of park policy that directly threaten the very existence of the park residents. The definition of ecosystem services points to the spiritual and psychological aspects of ecosystems, and in this case the results of the interviews show disruption of these aspects of the respondents’ biogeography to show in a sense of loss and hopelessness in the current situation.
Creating avenues for sharing seemed to be particularly rewarding for the students and elders. The transference of knowledge, the act of storytelling, and the sense importance were all conveyed by the elders to the students. In future sessions, focusing of the ecological aspects of the local region may help the elders feel as though there is at least some young people interested in the changes that have occurred in the islands over the last 40-50 years which corresponded to the mechanization of the fishing fleet. Focusing on Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) may most readily do this. Berkes (1999) considers four interrelated levels within TEK, which he terms the knowledge—practice—belief complex:
1. Knowledge based on empirical observations essential for survival (species taxonomy, distribution, and life cycles);
2. Understanding of ecological processes and natural resource management (practices, tools, and techniques);
3. The socio-economic organization necessary for effective coordination and cooperation (rules and taboos); and
4. The worldview or ‘cosmovision’ (religion, belief, and ethics). Hence, examples of TEK include knowledge about the names and categorization of species, about the techniques to harvest cornfields, and about the moral norms regulating human behavior towards certain species or towards nature as a whole.

Understanding what TEK is, and how it could be used as a central focus for the future of the Adriatic Maritime Institute’s P3DM program could help elders to restore hope that the younger generations is, and will be, able to resolve issues related to habitat loss and ecosystem disruption. The wealth of knowledge that comes from the elders of the islands represent decades of first-hand environmental practices that can be understood in place based formation and enumerated by using historical and seasonal contexts.

Additionally, Moving forward with the P3DM methodology in the Kornati islands could provide an approach to help resolve some of the issues related to negotiations with park managers, biologists, fisherman and residents. Student involvement in the project creates a curricular element, allows the resident the ability to share first hand with the younger generation, the generation that they see as the future caretakers of the island ecosystem.

One possible approach to the use of P3DM in the Kornati islands could be to create a digital record of the knowledge and knowledge system that are shared by the elders and other community members in a database for future generations. Chambers (2006) points to Community Information System (CIS) as a method of preserving traditional knowledge.
In their approach, traditional knowledge is documented by community members using digital video, audio-recording, digital photos and written text, and stored on computers. It is managed and communicated through the interface of an interactive map (Chambers 2006 pg. 17)

The resulting database could serve as a historical record not only of ecological knowledge but social remembrance of events occasions and technologies that have long since past. The use of the P3DM methodology has opened the opportunity to allow intergenerational sharing of multi-dimensional aspects of this remote and unique community as well as others in the Adriatic and around the world.


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