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Q1: mapping variables can (almost) always be initialised for a session by setting it to the value of a workflow variable with the requested initial value. This takes place in the so-called Pre-Session Assignment Task (to be found under the tab Components of the session).
There's one catch: reusable sessions are exempt. You cannot hand over workflow variables to initialise mapping variables via a pre-session variable assignment, they are disabled in instances of reusable sessions (don't ask me why, I don't know).
The only way to circumvent this restriction is to set the mapping variable via a parameter file.