Show me the map
Nigel Thrift, vice-chancellor and president of the University of Warwick in England, recently published a blog On Being Able to Find Things, discussing the best ways to interpret and communicate the vast amounts of information that are instantly available today. He notes how important quantitative methods have become in analysing data but adds that there has been a growing appreciation of the value of a more qualitative approach, based on description and observation, to communicating the information derived from that data analysis.
Enter the map as an aide to storytelling. Not a new idea but one that is enjoying something of a renaissance with the emergence of sites like story maps from Esri and MapStory from The MapStory Foundation. Both sites provide the tools and publishing framework for registered users to collate and present their spatial data on a particular theme, issue or story. For example, the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment story map on global crop production, or Everett Lasher’s time-lapse map of the distribution of undersea communication cables.
All the recent innovations in geospatial technologies – cloud computing, crowd sourcing, map applications embedded in web pages and so on – make sites like these possible. Best part? You don’t have to be an expert in any of these technologies to take advantage of them.