14. Building an interactive map

A picture is worth a thousand words: when it comes to the Internet truer words were never spoken. Thanks to easy-to-use platforms, all positioning resources can be put to use for newsmaking. You don’t even need to be an expert.

Positioning, a new dimension

If the Internet has won its place in media hierarchy, it’s probably thanks to its ability to immediately translate information in web users’ vicinity, interactively so. This third dimension of information, also called augmented reality, creates additional info. This in real time, thanks to the evolution of everyday things. Indeed, our computers, our phones, and even public transport, have all become information transmitters, able to give their position in real time.

  • Positioning is not necessarily useful in itself. But when aggregated to a sum of similar data, it allows for :
  • Quantifying streams (travelers in a big city).
  • Painting an informational landscape (which maternity hospitals are the best ?).
  • Building relevant maps (where are the city’s best restaurants ?).
  • Depicting causality hypotheses (are wealthier towns conservative or progressive ?).

As a rule, there are many ways you can visualize such data: a timeline, a table depicting trends, diagrams, and interactive maps.

Visualizing information

An interactive map can be defined as a regular map allowing for associated data integration (audio, pics, positioning data). So as not to be mistaken in online cartography usage, you must first be sure your information is accurate. In other words, either they come from officials (NGO, governments, companies…) that have both legitimacy and credibility, or they come from a crowdsourcing operation (see 6) : if so they have to be checked.

In both cases it’s crucial to check. Watch out for excessive techno-enthusiasm : don’t use interactive maps if you don’t have enough information.

Google Maps

Even if you don’t like the search engine’s functionalities, with Google Maps, Google has created an easy to use and efficient tool. Thanks to it every techno-newbie can build an interactive map including lots of data.

For this you need to have a Gmail account and follow the tutorial. Be careful : if you have lots of data to include in your map, Google will suggest you buy its service. Else your map will be blocked.