Category Archives: Storytelling with Maps
Many of us are familiar with the term “cause-related marketing.” Sometimes the phrase is applied in a broad sense to any effort to increase public awareness of an important issue. A narrower definition is a campaign by a corporation to support a cause, either (cynically) to promote its own brand or (unselfishly) to lend its support to a worthy pursuit—depending on your point of view.
The Internet, the airwaves, and print media are rife with cause-related marketing. How many times, for instance, have you encountered ads by oil companies and automobile manufacturers touting their “green” practices? Cause-related mapping, on the other hand, is a far less common phenomenon.
What is cause-related mapping? It’s my own term, so I’m happy to propose a definition: It’s the use of maps, in combination with other rich media, to inform and engage the public in support of important causes.
You may have noticed that Esri has been using several terms to describe maps that are enabled for the web and mobile via ArcGIS Online.
We’ve described web maps as one of the key features of ArcGIS Online. We’ve told you how you can create web maps that combine a base map, your own map services, previously published services, and point data derived from spreadsheets. They’re the suite of capabilities that enable maps to be internet-enabled, mashed up, shared, and published while retaining links to data sources. The core of a web map is a small set of instructions that pull together basemaps, services, and other items. They can be widely distributed by embedding them in websites or enabling them on tablets and smart phones.
There’s something about a good map.
It’s hard for me to describe exactly what that something is, but like many of us involved with GIS and geographic information, I’ve always been drawn to and fascinated by maps.
Ongoing sesquicentennial observances have heightened interest in a topic that millions of Americans have always found spellbinding. The saga of the Civil War seemed an ideal opportunity to test some techniques for timelines, animations, and search functions tied to interactive maps.
The “Battlefields of the Civil War” map was the latest in an ongoing effort to show how intelligent maps can help users explore subjects over both space and time. We’re also seeking to give users different options for browsing, navigating, and discovering content—even within a single story map. Continue reading
We’ve been developing story maps for over a year now, and from the start we’ve defined the term liberally. Many, even most, of our stories are non-linear; that is, they allow the user to browse and wander through the story at will. We’ve organized these stories using elements such as headlines, text blocks, map legends, and user interfaces that help guide the user through the map. But there’s no “correct” sequence by which users are supposed to navigate through these story maps.
Traditionalists might insist that a story is by nature linear. Written or oral stories are in fact linear narratives. Even stories that jump back and forth in time are written and read in a linear fashion. The mediums of text and the spoken word require it: you can’t tell, read, or listen to a story all at once, or back to front, or at random. It’s at least theoretically possible, perhaps, but doing so makes comprehension difficult.
Stories are a very important aspect of our society, and storytelling is one of the things that make us uniquely human. Stories convey important knowledge about the world around us, often in a simplified yet dramatic fashion designed for maximum impact. We have much to learn, remember, and understand in life, but wrap a great story around something and it will make an impression on us that lasts a lifetime.
So where do maps fit in the storytelling realm? I recently spoke with Allen Carroll, who left National Geographic about a year ago and is now ArcGIS Online Content Program Manager at Esri, about Story Maps—a new initiative he’s working on with David Asbury, Lee Bock, and Stephen Sylvia to integrate storytelling and maps.