As the project nears its end, we must design our pages for the Musical Geography website. A lot of factors come into play here: How do I display my maps? How do I make sure people are interested in what I have to say? How do I make sure I don’t forget anything? We’ve talked about this in class, but it’s helpful to write it all down here so others can see our decision-making process.
First, I’ve decided to make an ArcGIS Story Map that has the three map projects tabbed in it – a “map comparison” story map. In this map, I’ve included two ArcGIS story maps (to make it a meta-story map, if you will), one is the journey of Lina Prokofiev while she made music in the Gulag, and the other is the tale of Tamara Petkevich, an actress in Theater Ensemble Collective (TEC), a group made up of prisoners that toured the gulag. Surprisingly, I find that displaying this information in story maps gives an entirely different perspective on how to collect the data for the display. In a story map, you can include lots of prose, and multimedia is easy to incorporate (pro tip: if you make your own story map, tell them your images are online while you’re setting the map up, that way you can include YouTube and Spotify content). The maps are far less data – based, and I feel less obligated to know exact locations and dates for every event. It isn’t necessary, which proves to be helpful in a project where most of the data is uncertain (see my blog post on mapping uncertainty).
The third map that I’ve included in my overarching story map is a general map of musical activity in the gulag. It has layers that incorporate musical events, people of musical significance, specific music played, and contextual information about Soviet Russia that help the viewer understand the political and social climate at the time. This map, far more focused on location and specific information, has no data that is any more certain than the Lina Prokofiev or Tamara Petkevich data, yet it appears to show a much more specific data set. I do not know if displaying the data this way accurately portrays my data – that is no one’s fault but my own. Having others look at the map and tell me what they perceive it to show helps, though; sometimes, we think we are portraying one thing, while in all actuality we are displaying something completely contrary to our thought.
To put this story map on the Musical Geography website, I’ll make a project and embed it on the page. However, this is just the beginning. There is so much more that goes into the project than just the maps. In addition to opening remarks, critiques of the field, and historical significance explanations, I also want to emphasize anything that my map might not be able to say on its own. Then, I want to talk about the process of making the map (where these blog posts will become helpful), the significance of these maps to the field, and how to interact with the maps I’ve made. If I spend hundreds of hours making beautiful maps and a beautiful webpage, but no one understands or cares to learn how to use it, what is the point? John Green crash course in Web Design, where are you?
Additionally, there are basic principles which I adhere to which dictate what to include in presenting this data online. I prefer to be open source/open data, so if there is a way to link to a CSV or my elevator data, I will do so. Since I also want to create an immersive experience, I will include a glossary of terms and quotes from the many memoirs that I have read about people’s stay in the gulag. And, of course, I will have my extensive bibliography with dozens of sources at the bottom of the page. All this, and I have no idea how to do it.
Due to the necessary collaboration in the digital humanities, I don’t think that I will be able to do all of these things on my own, and will likely need to discuss things with the St. Olaf IT department and ask for assistance. Spending countless hours data mining and uploading means that I don’t have countless hours to become a webpage designer, unfortunately. The daunting task of web design, however, is made better by the fact that there is no shame in asking for help, especially regarding matters not related to your field. Particularly in the digital humanities, which requires the knowledge of a cartographer, historian, researcher, computer specialist, and many others, the shame of asking for help is almost non-existent.
Thank you in advance, St. Olaf IT and DiSCO staff.