Public Lab Research note

Annotated maps roundup

by warren | May 15, 2012 20:52 | 2,387 views | 7 comments | #1994 | 2,387 views | 7 comments | #1994 15 May 20:52

Read more:

Several people have been interested in an "annotated maps" feature for MapKnitter and the PLOTS archive. It seems like there are a few possible next steps.

  • on Github, I proposed making a stand-alone annotation system which we could embed in the PLOTS archive or MapKnitter
  • the Gigapans made by Chris Fastie and Stewart Long are good demonstrations of what a more map-specific annotation system could look like (auto panning, embeddable)
  • we've long discussed just doing screencasts where two people discuss and "walk through" a map on a laptop while recording the screen and audio, and posting on YouTube
  • it seems like may offer some features along these lines when it launches

Anyhow, I wanted to kick off some discussion on next steps. We could try all of the above, or a hybrid. But I keep saying "oh, these other folks are interested in this too" and never connecting people, so here goes.


From my standpoint I am a big fan of balloon mapping and all the work of PLOTS but as a layperson/out of context don't necessarily always understand what the produced maps are communicating (what is the brown thing? what was the map trying to measure/capture? who's involved and what is at stake?)

I wonder if it might make sense to try several of the lower-work methods (everything except building a standalone tool) around one or two maps and then compare results?

I'm a developer right now at Zeega and I'd be interested in working with someone using Zeega to see if it might work for annotating/storytelling around a particular map.

As a sidenote I'd love to learn how to make a Gigapan...

Is this a question? Click here to post it to the Questions page.

Reply to this comment...

Hi, Catherine - just so you don't get left out, some folks are continuing conversation over on the GitHub issue. I wasn't sure if you were subscribed there. Ug, the continual fragmentation of online commenting...

A couple possible case study sites (as per your suggestion) came up today in conversation -- that of an unidentified "plume" at the Gowanus Canal where there's been some debate over what can be asserted and how the investigation should play out -- and that of last week's FarmHack mapping, where Dorn (the farmer/soil scientist) has some very specific ideas about what he'd like to be able to prove about the plot based on the map.

I'm happy to make introductions to folks involved with those mapmaking efforts.

Reply to this comment...

In the Lee, NH farm map, we have a need to put known GPS points on a MapKnitter map. This is a feature request I've heard from other prolific mappers who carry GPS devices. I was thinking of implementing a simple "thumbtack" system in MapKnitter, which could have a bit of text attached to it, and could show the GPS coordinates. Would this be an interesting first place to try doing map annotations?

Is this a question? Click here to post it to the Questions page.

Reply to this comment... is good. but how about having a broader moniker that would include annotations of different data types? sensor readings, stories, measurements, sightings, with x/y/z and time

Is this a question? Click here to post it to the Questions page.

Reply to this comment...

I think the broader case of a generalized image/map annotation system is good, but there's a lot to be gained from first attempting a narrower goal of "can we do good narrative, annotated maps with YouTube, Zeega, or Gigapan?" and seeing what we learn. Anyone want to give it a try?

Is this a question? Click here to post it to the Questions page.

Reply to this comment...

Hi Guys, have you checked out the Research Note we posted a few days ago about our open source project Rhus?

You can also read a little more about it here

I think we can extend this system very easily to add the kinds of GIS points that you are discussing here, and all the mobile to web integration is already completed. I'd be interested in others perspectives on if this could be a component of a useful system for PLOTS annotations.

Is this a question? Click here to post it to the Questions page.

Reply to this comment...

Thanks, matthew - it does seem like Rhus could be adapted. The main features I've heard need for are:

  • ability to click on a map and leave a text comment on the web (pretty easy)
  • ability to record audio narration while panning around a map (i.e. 2 people might have an interview or "map storytelling" at a laptop; this is what we could easily try with a screencast posted to YouTube)
  • ability to view a map, and see text or audio or video annotations people have left from the above interfaces, to learn more about why a map was made, what it depicts, and to invite people to ask questions and develop testable theories about what's shown.
  • maybe a way to "play" a series of annotations during an audio timeline

Reply to this comment...

Login to comment.

Public Lab is open for anyone and will always be free. By signing up you'll join a diverse group of community researchers and tap into a lot of grassroots expertise.

Sign up