Place Based Digital Storytelling, Citizen Science and Place Making – St. Thomas E-Learning And Research
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Place Based Digital Storytelling, Citizen Science and Place Making

Think of a few places you have never been to, but feel connected to.

How did that connection develop?  What stories were involved?

Our earliest evidence of stories are etched or painted on stone, inseparable from the places they inhabit. Through digital storytelling we can better understand people whom we may have never met and places we may have never been. In Voices of the Grand Canyonwe are shown places “firsthand from people whose cultures, world views, and livelihoods are inextricably tied to the Grand Canyon region.” In the video below, Jim Enote shares the meaning of petroglyphs in Chimik’yana’kya dey’a.

Video from the “Voices of the Grand CanyonStory Map

ESRI story maps have specialized tools for creating narratives involving spaces and places. They make meaningful and authentic whole class, group, or individual projects when some aspect of place is a part of the study. Story Maps are not new, but recent improvements have made them easy to use to create modern-looking and immersive web experiences. Their use is growing in the private and public sectors, including k-12 and Higher Education. This post provides an overview and examples of Story Maps with resources to get you started using them.

Guide your audience through immersive and interactive scenes with maps, images, video, and sound.

If you were telling a story in person you would probably use gestures and movement. Story Maps have features that help draw your audience in. For the best experience let’s look at some stories that highlight some of these features.

  • Side Cars allow you to create smooth flowing scenes with rich media content and maps. As the user scrolls down the page, the side cars float up triggering new views or scenes. There are a few well designed options for layout that are simple one-click options in the builder. The Story Maps below show some ways sidecars can be used with different media types.
    • Braided by Greta McLain, A Midway Murals Project by the College of Arts and Sciences SOLV Initiative tells the story behind the St. Paul Mural “Braided” by Greta McLain. The central pane features different views of the art while the sidecar uses video interviews with the artist to tell the story behind the mural and its connection to the community.
    • Saving the Shawangunks uses video and text adjacent to maps in the side car.
    • Sounds of the Wild West immerses you in the sounds of the ecosystems of greater Yellowstone National Park. One unique feature of the sidecar is its ability to add sound that will play in the background as the user scrolls down the page.
  • Slide Shows allow your audience to navigate horizontally for a section of your story. This can be used when you want to provide more detail about a topic in your story without taking away from the main narrative. Hannah Wilber’s Slideshow: A new immersive block in ArcGIS Story Maps provides an in depth look at this feature and when you might choose it over side cars.
  • Guided Map Tours takes your audience on a journey through points on a map. Each stop contains a block that you can configure with multimedia and text. By setting the initial zoom of each point, you can draw your audience’s focus to the action. In guided maps you can choose to have your map, or your media focused in the main view.
    • Mapping street art inspired by George Floyd keeps the art positioned in the center while the map and narrative float to the left.
    • Reveal takes you on a short journey of exposed features in the Mississippi River Gorge near St. Thomas. This tour keeps the map as the central focus.
    • TIP If you take pictures using a phone with “location services on.” Location data is encoded in the picture. If you upload those pictures in .jpeg format to a map tour it will automatically create a pin on a map where you took the picture. For a fun activity ask students take 5 random pictures and then ask them to create a story out of them. As a get to know each other activity you can ask students to create a story about 5 places that are important to them and describe why?
  • Swipes let the user compare two maps or pictures. These are great for highlighting change in a place at two different times.
    • Reveal uses a swipe to compare two photos of the falls of St. Anthony at different times. You can also compare maps.

Maps help tell your story.

Creating maps

Why you should use Express Maps provides useful examples of the types of maps you can create in new Story Map builder.  Use express maps to tell your story provides a comprehensive and efficient animated tutorial to create maps. There are Nineteen Steps, but you really only need to do steps 1-3 to create a simple map with location points. For all maps, steps 17-19 are critical to helping your map stand out, look good, and be accessible. It’s easy for maps to get complicated fast. If you are new to this keep your maps simple to start.

Using existing maps

A library of over eight thousand maps are available through Esri’s Living Atlas of the World.  Maps built from public data sources such as US Census, academic, non-profit, private industry, and a growing open and citizen sources provide a diverse array of maps to enhance or be the centerpiece of your story.

Citizen Science, Research and Placemaking

A compelling story can motivate people to engage with your cause, research, or contribute to your crowdsourcing call. Story maps offer several affordances to promote engagement. Buttons with links provide “calls to action.” <i frame> support for embedded content help you integrate with other data collection forms and widgets. For citizen science work where you want to crowdsource information with a spatial component (like bird sightings), or for collective placemaking, ESRI’s Survey123 application helps you collect information from your audience and map it. In the story map Reveal there are two surveys to collect data and buttons with calls to action or to view the crowd-sourced data. The map River Stories displays the incoming entries in real-time. Survey 123 makes a fun and engaging class activities and a powerful tool for research.

Resources and guides for creating Story Maps

Planning Guides and Resources ESRI Education team

Get Started with Story Maps ESRI Education team

Teach with Story Maps  University of Minnesota

Making Story Maps Citable for Research ESRI Education Team

Have an idea of how you could use Story Maps but need some assistance?

Let us know!

This post was written by Matthew Vernon, Instructional Designer (vern0007@stthomas.edu) with the St. Thomas E-Learning and Research (STELAR) Center at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. To learn more about STELAR, please visit our website at www.stthomas.edu/stelar or email us at stelar@stthomas.edu

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