Everyone has a story to tell. Harness the power of maps to tell yours. Combine interactive maps and 3D scenes with narrative text and rich multimedia content to weave stories that get noticed.
Storytellers often turn to maps to illuminate and contextualize their words. Maps are the visual representation of where events happen. As such, maps and stories complement each other, but until recently they have existed more as side-by-side products and not as one integrated presentation. The big idea of this chapter is that narratives and geography can be combined into one experience: a story map.
Story maps use geography as a means of organizing and presenting information. They tell the story of a place, event, issue, trend, or pattern in a geographic context. They combine interactive maps with other rich content—text, photos, illustrations, video, and audio—within intuitive user experiences. While many story maps are designed for general, nontechnical audiences, some story maps can also serve highly specialized audiences. They use the tools of GIS, and often present the results of spatial analysis, but don’t require their users to have any special knowledge or skills in GIS. This has resulted in a veritable explosion of story maps. (Go to storymaps.arcgis.com to see them come alive.) As you click through to the various story maps linked in this chapter or at the story maps website, take the freedom to immerse yourself in the various narratives. These are information products that reward exploration.
With today’s cloud-based mapping platform, the fusion of maps and stories has finally come of age.
Every day the global Esri user community works to create the most authoritative scientific data on the world’s most pressing and serious issues—much of it available for full-scale exploration on the ArcGIS platform. The imaginative uses of story maps and the live examples featured on these web pages and in the Esri-curated Story Maps Gallery are designed to show the range of ways that such narratives can be used to convey rich and complex information.
Some maps do the very basic work of describing places. These are the maps we use to explore and navigate the world. Designed for intrepid travelers and armchair tourists, this entry from Norlisk, Russia, presents the story of deep cold.
Vietnam remains plagued to this day by unexploded ordnance from the Vietnam War. This story map reveals how the locations of such ordnance continue to affect the people by denying safe access to agricultural land for rural villagers.
Although many might believe that America’s largest fast-food purveyors are a nationally homogeneous bunch, this story map examines 94,000 locations to uncover the regional truth.
Take a tour of some of the most extreme inhabited regions of the earth, and learn about what it’s like to live there. How do these places compare to where you live?
Our planet has countless millions of wonderful trees. On the occasion of Arbor Day, this map tells of a tiny proportion of trees which have gained fame as sacred or historic sites, or as specimens of unusual size, shape, or age—the botanical hall-of-famers.
In spite of their literally morbid function, graveyards and cemeteries are among some of the most fascinating locations on the planet, as playfully featured in this Halloween-themed story map.
With US border security dominating the news cycles, this story map uses science and spatial thinking to objectively attempt to answer the question: Will the border wall strike a fatal blow to one of the most imperiled wild regions in North America?
On December 7, 1941, the Japanese launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. This exploration of the actual geography of the attack provides new context for an event that most people assumed they fully understood already.
Storytelling carries the potential to effect change, influence opinion, create awareness, raise the alarm, and get out the news. Who authors story maps? Anybody—any individual or group with a desire to communicate effectively, including you. Here are a few examples, created by people just like you, to spur your imagination.
California novelist Susan Straight created this rich story map to accompany a published essay. The map and essay explore the author’s lifelong connection to regional American fiction, and conviction that these tales of “slaves and pioneers, indigenous and immigrants” can help us better understand the cultural differences that define the United States.
San Francisco Fire Captain Henry Mitchell was on duty April 18, 1906, when the earthquake struck. For the next three days, he kept detailed notes, which were published over 100 years later by his grandson.
As climate change focuses the world’s attention on the Arctic, new elevation data is being developed to improve the science. The data is brought to life and made accessible via this rich story map.
For most people, sight is the dominant sense, so when it comes to information delivery, most like it served visually. One way to think about it is to consider that as information publishers, we actually have relatively few ways to organize information. We can alphabetize it, but that’s not very much fun. We can arrange it by time, chronologically, but that has its limitations. We can organize knowledge taxonomically by category or hierarchically in some kind of ranking. And then we come to spatial organization, the system that arranges things by where they are. This option offers unique insights and the potential to visualize information. Organizing by location is a particularly interesting and useful way to marshal information
Another reason why so many relate to maps and geography is that we have no choice but to think and see spatially. We have to make sense of our surroundings and navigate through our world. Maps make sense of things. They lend order to complex environments, and they reveal patterns and relationships.
Maps can also be quite beautiful. They stimulate both sides of our brain: the right side that’s intuitive and aesthetic, and the left side that’s rational and analytical. Maps are this wonderful combination of both. It’s this neat marriage of utility and beauty that I find so alluring.
The Story Map Tour app is ideal when you want to present a linear, place-based narrative featuring images or videos. Each “story point” in the narrative is geolocated. Users have the option of clicking sequentially through the narrative or browsing interactively.
Designed for when you want to combine narrative text with maps and other embedded content, the Map Journal app contains entries, or sections, that users simply scroll through to see associated maps, images, videos, illustrations, or web pages.
The Story Map Cascade app combines narrative text with maps, images, and other content in an engaging, full-screen scrolling experience. In a Cascade, sections containing text and in-line media can be mixed with “immersive” sections that fill the screen with maps and graphics.
The Story Map Series app presents a series of maps via tabs (shown above), numbered bullets, or an expandable “side accordion” control. In addition to maps, you can also include images, videos, and web content in your series to help tell your story and engage your audience.
The Story Map Crowdsource app enables you to publish and manage a story that allows anyone to contribute photos with captions. Use it to engage a specific or general audience on any subject. Contributors can sign in with Facebook, Google, ArcGIS, or a guest account.
The Story Map Shortlist app lets you organize points of interest into tabs that make it engaging for users to explore what’s in an area. People can click on the places either on the tabs or in the map to find out more about them. The tabs automatically update as users navigate around the map.
The Story Map Swipe and Spyglass app enables users to interact with two web maps or two layers of a single web map. This allows you to present a single view, or to develop a narrative showing a series of locations or views of the same maps.
Story Map Basic puts all the emphasis on your map, so it works best when your map has great cartography and tells a clear story. You’ll also want to take time to configure good-looking pop-ups, which can include text, images, graphs, videos, and more.
Your first step is to think about what you want to communicate with your story map and what your purpose or goal is in telling the story. Who is your audience? Are you aiming your story at the public at large, or a more focused audience, including stakeholders, supporters, or specialists who would be willing to explore and learn about something in more depth?
Go to the Story Maps Gallery to see some examples handpicked to inspire you and that highlight creative approaches. Filter and search to check out how authors have handled subjects and information similar to your own. Explore. Get a good feel for what makes a good story.
Go to the Story Maps App to browse the app templates and choose the best one for your story map project. Each app lets you deliver a specific user experience to your audience.
See the Tutorial tab for the story map app template you choose for instructions on how to proceed. For example, here is the Tutorial for the Story Map Journal app template.
When you’ve finished, you simply share your story map to launch it and make it go live. You can share it publicly or restrict it so it can be accessed only by people in your organization. To promote the story map to your audience, you can add links to it, embed it into your website, write a blog post about it, and share it on social media.
Get updates, tips and tricks, and other story map related news.
The Easter Rising, also known as the Easter Rebellion, was an unsuccessful armed insurrection in Ireland during Easter Week, April 1916. After the execution of 16 rebel leaders by the British administration, the Rising captured the political imagination and became an important rallying cry for separatist groups in Ireland. A 2006 commemorative event marked the first time that the civilian deaths of the rising were publicly and politically acknowledged.
First, you’ll use a comma-separated values (CSV) file to map the Rising’s casualties. Then, you’ll create a Public Information web app that includes social media posts about the Rising’s commemoration. By comparing the locations of these social media posts to the locations of casualties, you’ll probe questions about how the Rising has been perceived, remembered, and engaged with by the general public. In particular, you’ll focus on how the story of civilian casualties has entered into patterns of commemoration and observations on social media. Lastly, you’ll create a story map to share your findings in the context of some key locations during the Rising.