Week 9: GeoStories — Final Update

We are pleased to announce that GeoStories is proceeding according to (most of) our plans.

GeoStories is still all about connecting—and contextualizing—our many remarkable moments and memories. The site’s simple, streamlined interface allows users to pair their personal thoughts with meaningful images or videos pulled from the media site(s) of their preference (Picasa, Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, etc.), almost instantly transforming the ubiquitous digital map into a personal memoir, descriptive genealogy, historical non-fiction, or lighthearted travel journal.

    How It Works

GeoStories still works the same way, except we’ve added several functions that improve navigation and user experience.

As before, you begin creating your story chapters from the GeoStories Story Board. However, you’ll notice that the Story Board is now one of three functional tabs.

Each geostory is built of chapters; each chapter represents a different location; and each location can be detailed with personal thoughts and narrative text, as well as imagery or video.

As each chapter is completed, you’ll see a numbered icon representing the chapter appear in the GeoStories map display. Clicking on the icon will reveal the full, multimedia description of your experience.

Additionally, as each chapter is completed, GeoStories creates a corresponding button underneath the Table of Contents tab.

Each chapter can then be enriched by clicking the Related Places tab, which will display those Google Place categories related to the chapter’s location. These can be toggled on and off.

Once all the desired number of chapters has been written, and the user hits the Publish button, the map display zooms out to reveal all chapter icons, numbered and linked—a narrative constellation that can be explored and shared.

Likewise, the Table of Contents tab will then contain buttons for all chapters, providing an additional way of manually navigating back and forth within the geostory.

    Key Functions

1. User-Generated Map: GeoStories is ultimately a tool by which users can quickly become authors of personalized, multimedia, map-based narratives. Fundamental to this function is the use of the Google Maps API, as well as the Google geocoder, which enables a non-specific location entered in the Address input to be almost instantly translated into latlong coordinates and mapped.

2. Media Upload: Popular online media management sites such as Flickr, YouTube, Picasa, and Vimeo provide image and video links for content owned by the user or deemed available for public use. Presently, GeoStories users must copy and paste the appropriate image or video link into the Pictures/Video input on the Story Board. They also have the option of including the embed codes of images and videos in the Description input.

3. Connecting The Dots: GeoStories does not present individual locations as separate entities of no (explicit) relation. Its Story Board interface allows for users to attach text and media to specific locations, and then connects those locations using numbered icons and lines, thereby guiding the reader to consider each location, or chapter, as part of a larger sustained narrative. Each chapter is also now represented as a button within the Table of Contents tab, allowing for additional navigation controls.

4. Google Places: Users can now search for different places of interest related to each individual chapter and its corresponding location, thereby enriching the narrative and providing GeoStories with additional functionality that widens its potential uses.

    Notable Challenges

1. Table of Contents Design: The coding necessary to automatically create buttons within the Table Of Contents tab each time a chapter is created was complex.

2. Google Places: Making the Google Places checkboxes and markers appear took much massaging; making them clear and reload each time a chapter changed was even more difficult. Learned a lot in the process…

3. Saving Stories: It seems we may not be able to implement this prior to final presentation…

    Future Improvements

1. Navigation Buttons Within InfoWindows.
2. Transition from Story Board to Table of Contents upon hitting the “Publish” button.
3. Additional introductory instructional videos.

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