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From Story Maps to Information Maps

Story maps are very popular.  They combine web maps, text, and rich media content to create compelling applications that inform, educate, entertain, and inspire people about a variety of topics. Many story maps can be lumped into the “fun” category–stories about personal journeys, vacations, adventures, and sightseeing across the globe. Here’s an example: Skiing the Haute Route: Touring from Chamonix, France to Zermatt, Switzerland:

But story maps are also useful for business and public outreach. Here’s a good example from the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), which uses a story map to deliver information about the 2013 Top 10 UDOT Construction Projects:

Information Maps: The Next Step
Beyond story maps, what’s the next step? While many story maps convey important information, there’s another collection of maps that combines configurable templates, sharing, media, live feeds, and more into “purpose built” maps that deliver specific, and more importantly, authoritative and reliable information including live feeds.
Some great examples can be found on the Esri Disaster Response website, which includes several public information maps. Here’s one example showing current fires, active fire perimeters, MODIS hotspots, and social media:

The fire perimeters are updated daily, but the MODIS hotspots tell the story of where the fire is currently active. And social media adds another aspect of on-the-ground observations from the public at large.
Another iteration on this information map is one showing the human impacts of the fire with respect to home ownership and income:

This information map adds yet more insight by adding demographic layers to these ongoing events to gain a better understanding of the human impacts.
Here’s another information map, this one delivering real-time data about hurricanes and tornados, including forecast tracks. Below you can see the current and past positions, as well as forecast track, of Typoon 11 as it crosses the Philippines and nears the mainland of China.

The Characteristics of Information Maps
Information maps tell more than a story; they combine the best available, authoritative information into an information product, designed to meet a specific purpose and information need; they answer questions about something that is happening.
Information maps serve as reliable, decisionable collections of information, which combine GIS and mapping into an easy-to-understand web mapping experience for experts and public viewers alike.
Information maps include the following characteristics:

All these characteristics provide more than just stories–they provide actionable information maps that can help make better, more informed decisions, and provide high-value information to everyone.

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