Tips and Tricks

Storytelling with Maps

John BuechlerBy John Buechler, Director of Geoinformatics, The Polis Center

(This is a re-post of a post that originally appeared in Polis Center’s blog, posted May 11, 2012)

Last week I attended the 2012 Indiana GIS Conference, hosted by the Indiana Geographic Information Council (IGIC). As the GIS coordinating body in Indiana, IGIC provides education and technical and policy guidance. I particularly enjoyed the keynote address this year, “Storytelling with Maps,” given by Allen Carroll, program manager of ArcGIS Online at Esri.

Allen used his personal ArcGIS Online website to introduce himself and describe key milestones in his life’s journey using a customized map and geographically referenced contextual content. The storytelling began with the map and photos of his house and neighborhood on the north side of Indianapolis, continued to highlight his alma mater Shortridge High School, and then moved through various places related to his work at National Geographic and Esri in Redlands.

According to Esri’s website, “Story maps use the concepts and tools of geography to tell stories about the world. They combine intelligent Web maps with text, multimedia content, and intuitive user experiences to inform, educate, entertain, and inspire people about a wide variety of topics. Most story maps are designed for non-technical audiences.” The website includes additional documentation of best practices and templates which use distinct storytelling techniques.

I have been involved with GIS for over 30 years and believe that the industry has matured to the point that people like me, interested in data with limited cartographic and technical skills, can use the rich (no-cost) content of web GIS to communicate and create meaningful content.  Indiana is also extending IndianaMAP by exposing over 200 services to ArcGIS online with map galleries to help novice users like me create maps to convey stories.

Check out this example of a story map featured in Esri’s Storytelling with Maps Gallery.

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