Maps: Not Just Cartography


Infographics are one of my favorite forms of journalistic media, both in print and online.

Maps are great examples of infographics, and the Internet has allowed maps to be even more useful.

Maps can show things words cannot display as effectively.

Many maps online have become interactive, allowing them to display the demographics and patterns of communities and cultures on multiple planes.

Interactive USA Marathons Map is able to give a large amount of information in a small amount of space. While it is not a visually glamorous map, it is informative, well organized and allows users to access a huge amount of resources.

The map is geared towards an audience searching for a marathon. It is a map of the United States with marathon locations marked by dots.

Screen Shot of Interactive Marathon Map

The size of the dot per marathon corresponds with the amount of finishers per marathon: the bigger the dot, the more finishers.

Blue dots are inaugural marathons.

Hovering over a dot displays the marathon name, location and month.

Clicking the dot links to a new page displaying further details of the associated marathon.

The map is easy to use and illustrates the comparative sizes of marathons in a way words cannot do. The interactive feature is particularly useful, giving interested users access to further information about the individual marathons they may find attractive.

MapMyRun has useful map features beyond name value. If a user is able to access mapmyrun GPS functions the run route is saved onto a user’s account. When users particularly enjoy runs, they can share the route to the community of the website. Runners can find runs in their area through this interactive map easily – and the ability to search or individualize a type of run makes it easy to find runs of all kinds.

Screen Shot of Mapmyrun.com

Search is by location and distance. The map zooms to the targeted area, flagging appropriate routs by number. Selecting a map highlights the route of the run on the map, and its number on the route list.

Screen Shot of MapMyRun.com

Selecting the route from the list of routes below the map gives an extremely detailed overview of the run, and allows users to comment and see others’ opinions of the route.

Screen Shot of Mapmyrun.com

It also is an easy way to see the routes of events runners have signed up for.

Running maps like these are a small percentage of the useful maps that exist on the web.

Maps are powerful infographics that cater to a wide variety of interests.

For lion lovers, there’s the Lion Decline Map. The interactive map, featured on National Geographic’s NatGeoWild Animals, allows users to see the “dramatic decrease in lion population and specific moments that were particularly deadly.”

The map is uses beautiful photography of lions and their habitats while displaying evidence of decline using a timeline and descriptions of time periods.

When selecting a different era on the timeline, the statistics change according to estimated lion counts. The map loses color where animals have disappeared, the significant drop in numbers is evident.

Screen shot from National Geographic Online. Notice the change in color of the Upper Africa region on the map. These countries no longer have a lion population due to the decline.

When selecting an icon of one of the cats, the beautiful photography becomes the spotlight of the page along with a description of one of the many reasons behind the decline of the lion population.

Screen Shot from National Geographic Online.

Sometimes, maps display false information or information taken out of context. This is true of any media, so it’s always recommended to triple-check facts. No matter how powerful images, media and infographics can be, human error is frequent, and to reap the benefits of truth is suggested.

Other maps are uninteresting, faulty or poorly done. These types of maps should be avoided, if possible.

The best maps can be the best, and most memorable, forms of media available. They show a great deal of journalistic ability, and can help give a larger and more visible picture to certain issues and interest.

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About kimberlybrussell

Journalism major & sociology minor, finishing up my last year of college.
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