Ballets Russes Performance Maps and Comparisons

Above is a Story Map created with ArcGIS that includes tabs of the six Ballets Russes Maps we have made. The data includes every cataloged performance available with venue and program information (about 2,900 performances in total). They all include the same data, but we’ve compared a simple pin drop map on Google Maps, ArcGIS, and Carto, and also uploaded a heat map, chronological map, and a cluster map from Carto. If you click on the “more” tab (next to the first four map tabs), you can access all six of these maps.

Our goal has been to test different mapping platforms in order to find a best fit, but each possesses enough benefits and drawbacks to require the use of all three in order to convey our purpose. Each style of map presents the data in different ways and therefore makes a different argument about the influence of the Ballets Russes. Below, I’ve outlined benefits and drawbacks of the different mapping platforms and the different mapping styles.

Analysis of Mapping Platforms

Google Maps provides a great platform for user-friendly, basic mapping. However, the general site lacks a chronological feature, and it also maps multiple points at one location on top of each other. The only way to see all of the performances would be to go in and individually move the markers yourself. This is fine if you only have a couple performances at each location, but for our project with hundreds in each place, it doesn’t suit our needs. There are positive aspects of Google Maps, though. If you are technologically inclined, you can add extra scripts and codes to create chronological features, among other edits. Ideally, however, we would like to have a mapping platform that already has a chronological or time-sensitive feature available. Making these maps public is as simple as sharing and making public just like any other Google drive file.

Carto seems to be as equally user-friendly. Uploading spreadsheets is quick and the site’s layout is intuitive. Carto, however, also maps multiple pins on top of each other that must be moved apart to show the real number of performances, so that also makes mapping thousands of data points difficult. Unlike Google, though, it does provide different styles of maps – chronological, cluster, heat, frequency, and that’s just to name a few. The maps made in Carto, once published, are automatically public unless you change the setting.

As far as ArcGIS is concerned, the site is the least user-friendly of them all. Uploading spreadsheets and making the maps requires more searching and trial and error. The data on each point is presented with an arrow to click through different performances, though, so you don’t need to go in and move every point in order to see information for all the performances of a venue. Making maps public is much more difficult than Google Maps or Carto – every step of the way, you must make each layer and creation public, or the map won’t be accessible to anyone but you. Additionally, media embedded into the pop-ups appears in every pop-up.

ArcGIS StoryMaps provide a platform to display maps from each platform to compare them and show different styles of maps. While ArcGIS is difficult to use, StoryMap is as intuitive as Carto (the publishing is just as easy as well), and provides the best of all three mapping platforms listed above. The maps you see above are embedded into an ArcGIS StoryMap. This seems to be the best way so far to present all of our representations of the data collected.

Analysis of Mapping Styles

Pin-Drop Map: The Google Maps pin drop, along with the other pin drops, provides information as to the geographical breadth of the Ballets Russes influence – but can be easily misleading. From the pin drop maps, you could say that the Ballets Russes had what appears to be as many performances in venues in the U.S. as in Europe, so they probably had a lot of influence in the United States. However, if you know that they only toured from 1916-1917 (and that it was a rather unsuccessful tour), then you know that this map merely shows geographic spread, one layer of the intricate story of the Ballets Russes. This is why thicker maps are essential to show both the data and the context.

Heat Map/Cluster Map: The Carto heat map and cluster map show a second layer of their influence. Not only did they have a wide geographical influence, but they also had a large amount of influence in London. These maps more accurately depict where they had the most profound and influential performances, and where audiences craved the artistry of the company.

Chronological Map: The Carto chronological map is also cumulative, and so essentially with the color changes that come with that is a time-sensitive heat map (you can also make a heat make and make it time-sensitive, but the outcome is basically the same). This map, which provides context of time and space along with frequency of performances in a location, provides the thick mapping that we like to promote – and that’s without the media even being present. Once media and other links to external sources are added to the pop-ups, we can make the ideal map that includes context with immersive material. Unfortunately, Carto’s free version doesn’t provide the opportunity to access pop-ups unless it is the simple map, so to create this map, we must buy a subscription to Carto.

Overall, despite the difficulties of the different platforms and styles, the experience of seeing all of the maps together should provide the user with valuable information that is available through the maps in our ArcGIS StoryMap.