Useful Ways to Convey Map based Information
Updated: Jul 1, 2021
You would have noticed that youngsters have so much fun exploring a Map or a Globe and extracting bits of information from it. Like many of us, I too enjoy querying Google Maps to plan a getaway, reduce travel time, understand patterns and so on. Essentially, a Map displays and conveys information to us in ways which are very compelling to the adventure-seeking side of us.
In this blog, I will discuss five interesting ways to convey map based information. These are more effective in communicating the desired message to us than what a static 2D map can. The latter, despite all its usefulness, has some marked disadvantages when it comes to conveying very specific information to the user.
(Much thanks to Esri Training for enabling me to learn and practice some of these techniques)
1. Fly-Through Animation
Consider a situation where you want to display a map area in a 'before & after' state of a particular event e.g. construction, disaster etc. A 'fly-through' animation, as the name suggests, enables you to have a third-person, bird's eye view of the situation. In the video below, you can see a fly-through visualization of a location in Wisconsin, USA which was tragically impacted by a large mudslide on 22nd March 2014.
(The site has been rendered in 3D using a Digital Elevation Model (DEM) which gives a realistic feel.The orange columns show the location of the houses which were impacted by the incident)
2. 2D Animation through Time
This technique is helpful when the map based information one wishes to convey traverses various points in time i.e. is 'multi-temporal' in nature. The 2D animation video below shows how ships from three major European countries used to fare out in the sea in the year 1770. Information such as Frequency of journey, Routes used and Ports docked is being conveyed. CLIWOC has retrieved this data basis the logbooks filed by the captains of the ships.
You can understand the beauty of this technique by imagining how crude it would be to convey this story on a standard map. In case you are wondering, this is how the data looks in a standard format. Just a meaningless jumble of coordinates!
3. Stop-Motion Animation
Let me evoke your memories of a Flipbook. The technique behind this is called 'Stop-motion' wherein objects are manipulated in small increments between each frames so that they create an illusion of motion when played quickly. In this exercise, the situation continues from where we left off in the previous example. The situation now is - we want to monitor shipping activity in a particular route and see which journey was completed in the fastest time in the year 1770.
Again, as you would realize, this is a very particular information which we wish to convey and is virtually impossible to visualize using a standard map. See below how a Stop-Motion animation, of three journeys at different times in the year 1770, helps us to visualize this in an effective manner -
Route - from La Coruna in Spain to San Juan in Puerto Rico. Which journey (date) was the quickest?
While this isn't necessarily a new 'technique' as such, I've included StoryMaps because it is a wholesome way of 'presenting' interactive map based information to the readers and integrates various cool features within the powerful Esri mapping ecosystem. As the name suggests, StoryMaps enables one to narrate a thematic map-based digital story. Enclosed below is the promo video of StoryMaps.
Do have a look at this captivating StoryMap example- Mapping Mount Everest (For the best viewing experience, create a free sign-in to ArcGIS Online when suggested,within).
5. Map based Operations Dashboards
Operations Dashboards represents a revolutionary way of conveying specific map based information. With Dashboards, one can configure a dynamic, interactive map with relative ease. These kind of dashboards are extremely useful to deploy in an operational setting, be it business or geopolitical in nature. On this note, I would urge you to explore the various super-impressive dashboards listed on Cool Maps. The Migration Trends & Crime Time dashboards are my personal favorites.
Should you like to explore Dashboards further, the video below will take you through the journey of creating an Operations Dashboard.
Isn't this useful?
I am convinced that once Map based Technology goes mainstream, displaying and conveying information through data visualization will undergo a massive change. I wouldn't be surprised at all if, in a few years, conveying information using slideshows is considered passé.
Interested to explore Operations Dashboard for your organization?
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