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Maps for the Modern Age

Finding out a fact or figure used to be a tedious process, before Wikipedia came along. The flagship platform of the Wikimedia Foundation, Wikipedia revolutionized the way we conceive of an encyclopedia. Launched in 2001, it was an attempt to crowd-source the world’s knowledge: anyone could contribute, anyone could edit. Though this has resulted in a fair share of blunders over the years, Wikipedia has been a resounding success, with a searchable repository of 24 million articles in over 250 languages.

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Now another division of Wikimedia is hoping to do for maps what Wikipedia did for reference books. MapStory was started by Chris Tucker in 2009 as a non-profit organization. Where the basic unit of Wikipedia is the article, on MapStory it is, fittingly, the map. Where these maps differ from their old fashioned paper counterparts, or even Google-map based graphics, is in their ability to show change over time.

The maps function like videos, with a play button or the option to progress frame by frame. Each frame contains a specific set of data that overlays the map, corresponding to a specific time. As frames flip by, the user can watch the visual progression of the data and story cross the map.

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The subject of these stories is limited only to the data you can compile, and any user can become an author, just like on Wikipedia. Maps already up on the site show everything from the rise and fall of the USSR to the expansion of WalMart across America.

The site hopes that their maps will become a new medium through which data can be organized, related, and explored. MapStory has been selected as one of 12 LAUNCHedu Higher Education Finalists for the 2013 SXSWedu competition. Check out the maps, or make your own, at mapstory.org.

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