Story maps… telling a story in style

story maps used for reference:

“The Two Koreas” is a story map which places a context to recent political insults between the North Korea and the rest of the world. It explains not only how the conflict was started but also how it developed geographically and politically until today.

In the first section, the effective use of the geographical map data makes it easy to compare who had the upper hand in the conflict and who controlled key cities at each stage of the conflict. In addition to geographical maps there is also a political timeline to help you understand how each side has evolved in terms of political thinking which really does help to answer the question “How did we get here”.  The story map then goes into further statistical details to paint a clear difference between the two countries today in terms of life styles, culture and economic growth before going into more depth about potential future conflicts.

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The very simple use of imagery to show the range of artillery fire and South-Korea’s population is very powerful and trivial to understand. This story map explains the tense and complex situation between the two countries in a simpler and summarized better than most news articles and really carries the message to the readers all the while remaining factually accurate. It may not be as factually accurate as full research paper or essay but is considerably more digestible for the average person.

While this story map was very well constructed and with an excellent delivery there was a minor drawback, the entire story map delivered in a very linear fashion. This leaves little room for other historians or political scientists to expand on some of the topics were they in some cases could of. There are of course many other formats for story maps but perhaps this was the best for a chronological explanation of geographical events.

This brings us to a general limitations of story maps, while they are great for explaining research and explaining interpretations of history visually, there are many formats and variations of story maps and while certain topics may fit many formats. Some on the other hand will not. An example of this would the bombings of London during the second world war. You cannot expect to use a simple single screen/slide type of presentation as the it would get far too cluttered and the user would get overwhelmed. It is required to think of your story map as a digital interface through which a reader (user) will consume your content and as such is required to obey some basic design principles when organising content.

Lastly, not everything can be expressed with story maps for the simple reason that story maps require data, the data can statistics, maps, charts, graphs… this can be rather difficult for some topics such as religion and mythology.


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