In my mind, data and story telling should go hand in hand, and I have been looking at different platforms in which I can tell the ‘Cordaid’ story for work and I have been exploring different options available at present. There are currently many different storytelling tools available online, and one of them is, StoryMapJS, a free tool to help you tell stories that highlights the locations of a series of events geographically. Created by Northwestern University, the tool is a simple way to tell your story and engage your readers with different interactive elements (if you so chose).
StoryMapJs is an intuitive platform that works in a similar way to power point and you can easily add slides via left navigation and add text via the text boxes at the bottom. Creating locations on the map is done by entering a place name in the search field which then gets mapped.
There are a few different map types available but the ‘standard’ Open Street Map map is the most useful for this case. Apart from be able to add text to display in a slide, you can also chose to embed several other items from social media platforms such as twitter, youtube, vimeo, soundcloud, wikipedia and flickr, which gives you a great range of potential storytelling methods. For the purpose of this article, I chose to stick with text with pictures.
The whole process takes a matter of minutes, as the platform really is very easy to use and if you have content already in place to use, I used Cordaid’s IATI file, it’s easy to copy a paste certain fields into the text boxes in StoryMapJS and finish your ‘presentation’.
StoryMapJs has the usual social media sharing options, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Reddit and you can also embed it into your website which can be useful if you use a wide format for your website. Otherwise I would recommend that you share your story through the link option, which allows you to see it full screen in your browser. As you can see below, embedding it within a post looks nice, but even this post format is a little to narrow to fully view all the content in the text boxes on the map. See full screen version here: Cordaid’s Health Projects on StoryMapJs
The platform is still currently being developed and is in beta right now, but it’s fully functional and provides an easy to use platform to create a story, so I would say, go ahead and give it a go and create your own story now.
StoryMapJs is open source and it would be interesting to explore the functionalities of linking different open datasets to StoryMapJs and seeing how this can be embedded in different posts of pages.
All in all, a great and easy tool to create a story based on a content in a dataset or other sources of project information. It goes that little step further than a static webpage by plotting projects geographically and providing readers with a better a understanding of where projects take place. As it’s also interactive, it also creates that extra level of engagement as you click through the slides and the map changes accordingly.
Check out the full screen version of the map here, Cordaid’s Health Projects on StoryMapJs