Reflections on Creating a Map

by Hira Amin

To showcase the sheer diversity in research being undertaken at the University of Cambridge by history MPhil and PhD students, I decided to create a map pinning each student to their research area. This brief article will outline the thought process and actions behind the final product.

I decided to have a look at two possible platforms and compare which one would be the most appropriate for this assignment: Crowdmaps or Google Maps. Enticed by the sophistication of Crowdmaps, their sleek design and – according to the short introductory video – ease of pinning points to any location, my initial reaction was to not even attempt any other service as this looked perfect. However, after signing up, my awe for the website rapidly evaporated. Pinning a single point to any location on the map proved to be an insurmountable task. I meticulously watched the introductory video three times and kept trying to no avail. Back on Google again, in the hunt for other videos that could possibly explain what I was doing wrong, I could not find anything that could help. Frustrated at the seemingly simple design yet no results, after 30 minutes I turned to Google Maps.

Again I began with the introductory video. Since I already possessed a Gmail account, no sign up was required. Less than a minute after watching the video, my test map was created and a point generated. Simply put, Google Maps was effortless and in fact fun to use! Editing, creating lines and moving points around were as simple as select and drag or clicking delete. The functions were intuitive, straightforward and had a variety of colours, symbols that I could experiment with to suit my needs. My only qualm was that the design was not as sophisticated as Crowdmaps. However, after the intense frustration, I was willing to overlook this.

Moreover, Google Maps allows you to be as specific or as general as you like when you pin down your location. Some members of the @CambridgeDHP group were uncomfortable with specific locations, which was easily remedied by choosing a generic point rather than a precise position on the map.

Despite the vexing feeling of not knowing where I was falling into error with Crowdmaps, I would happily recommend Google Maps for a quick, easy and fun way of producing maps for personal or public use.

Click here to see the map and to put yourself on it!

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