Hyperlocal mapping: Tools and tips for geolocation storytelling
One of the first things I did when setting up hyperlocal blog BournvilleVillage.com was to look at a local map of the ward area’s electoral boundaries.
Within the first few weeks of posting up blogposts of news and events in the area, it was evident maps and geolocation tools were integral to the internal mechanics of hyperlocal blogging.
I knew my ‘patch’ from the angles of road junctions, local landmarks by how they looked when I passed them on my way to work, the size of the park by the length of time it took to walk around with the dog, and where my house was in relation to everything else - a map of our local area is woven into the fabric of our day to day lives. Each story’s meaning to the reader is bound up with its geolocation – every line of each post had a longitude and latitude in her mind built through memory.
This post on gritting routes in Bournville written by Dave Harte included a few pars and a map showing the priority gritting routes for the council in times of snow and icy weather. Within minutes the post attracted a comment from a local asking what exact boundaries were considered Bournville – whether roads from neighbouring wards Cotteridge and Shirchley could not be included because many residents considered them part of ‘Bournville’ – location, for hyperlocal publishers and readers, is pumped with emotion.
Maps are part of the very idea of hyperlocal – but when is it best to use them to help illustrate a story – and when is merely adding the name of the road or postcade area enough for residents to get a geolocal grip on the content?
I’m preparing a blogpost on mapping tools and tips for hyperlocal publishers and would welcome your comments and ideas to feed into this practical guide – with perhaps some comment on how maps have been used so far and what should be avoided.
In a couple of weeks I’ll also be running the first Cardiff Students Social Media Cafe where we’ll be looking specifically at using mapping tools to illustrate or tell a story.
Indeed, one of the first things I think about when looking at how big media and local blogs are using maps is often that they are used in completely the wrong context – as a tokenistic nod towards data visualisation.
When used in the right way the map is the medium through which the story is told – or is a portal for readers to add to the story.
Which are your favourite tools for mapping and what are they good for? What stores lend themselves to a map, what problems can be solved with a map? When should we use maps in hyperlocal reporting and when have they worked well/not so well. Leave your comments below and they will feed into my future blogpost and workshops.