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Going (way) beyond pins on a map

2013 February 3
by Jw

Pins on a mapOr “On Data, Mapping & Stories”. Friday last we had a meetup with a group of digital journalists (there seem to be still a few analogue ones around). After an extreme short introduction about Esri – “we love maps”- by the organizer, I gave a short talk, which served as an intro to a full day of working with data, maps and our real aim of the day: stories.


There are mountains of data available and that is a nice challenge for us all. Open data is a big contributing factor to the current amount of data available and a great source for journalists. In my opinion, the more data available, the higher the value of the filter. I urge everyone to stay critical on the data itself, the source of the data and what a spatial reference would bring. Just a tip: have your result previewed by a few friends.

A nice (great) way to view our world, by projecting a visual grid over phenomena (and do something with what you observe). I thought it would be good to explain a bit about a few basic concepts, like the differences between raster and vector, topographic and thematic, static and realtime data, and maps. These concepts strongly determine what you can do with the data and ultimately what story you can tell. In a sense, cartography is like a choosing a grid on our world.

My first association with story telling is people: great stories effect peoples lives or their memories. Quickly showed a map of villages in the Netherlands, which have disappeared (yes, one can map entities which no longer exist). My colleague Bert Vermeij jumped in with a few practical examples about local governments,  insurance companies, health policy authorities.

Challenges ahead
The main points I made: stay critical on the data (and sources), understand the appropriate mapping method, do tell real stories with impact. The day continued with a deep dive into ArcGIS Online and Esri Maps for Office.

I think that going (way) beyond pins on a map, helps us to discover more, and tell better stories, stories with more impact. Interesting conversations during the day, looking forward to a follow up. And to more storymaps.

On data mapping stories from Jan Willem van Eck


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