PA 2: Heganoo Critique

Heganoo is a free mapping website that allows and encourages users to create a story or document a part of history through points of interest on a map. With this ability, people can create their own virtual tours on a map with purposes ranging from education to advertising. The Showcase section shows vast varieties of projects differing in style, purpose, and even whether a map is included (this project, here, does not include a traditional base map).

Creators have a lot of freedom in constructing their projects, but not too much freedom where it could be easy to get lost or too hard to learn. Design choices include map style (streets, satellite, terrain), color, font, language, and map feature customization (by this, I mean the creator can color things such as water, roadways, and landscapes). This allows for uniqueness and diversity between maps even though creators are executing similar steps to build their maps.  Katriina Soini writes that “mapping cannot alone build a bridge between the human and natural sciences in landscape research, but it might diminish the gap between them” (Soini, 235). While Soini refers to the gap between human and natural sciences, I believe that this statement about mapping can apply to the gap between space and explanation of space. Heganoo closes this gap because it isn’t restricted to just ‘mapping’; within each new landmark, the project creator can add media such as text, images, video, and sound. The media is as high a quality as the creator uploads it; Heganoo can handle high-quality images that make the projects even more visually pleasing.

It is, however, very important that the zoom and clarity of the map be appropriate. This is vital in preventing the viewer from being lost or confused. The zoom level depends on the project; for example, zoom that shows the shapes of buildings could work for one project while zoom that shows each state could be better for another. Either way, the viewers need a way to orient themselves within the project. Also, it is beneficial to include images for either none or all of the landmarks; having some with images and some without makes it seem like the project is incomplete.

With Heganoo, the emphasis is on the narrative, and at the same time, digital mapping stands out, making this program very interesting. The narratives in these projects often form arguments about location and time, which engages the viewer more so than a traditional map without an inherent argument. For example, my Heganoo project (which Heganoo was perfect for) from earlier in the semester documented the evolution of fitness centers on the Davidson College campus; the viewer was able to see  pictures, descriptions, and locations of the fitness centers throughout history at the college. My argument was that the college increased fitness centers as physical health became more important and campus population and finances grew. On the other hand, a project on the Showcase page maps the top rodeos in the United States; while this project has a narrative, there is less of an argument. Instead, its purpose is to notify viewers about which rodeos to attend and when to go. Martin Dodge and Rob Kitchin write about the power of the internet to allow people to create their own maps, but they do mention that distortion is still a problem with mapping, even digital mapping (Dodge & Kitchin). Heganoo does not eliminate distortion, but it diminishes the effects of distortion since each project has its own agenda based on the author’s creative choice. With Heganoo, it doesn’t matter as much if there is bias or distortion because the creator builds the map with a certain argument.

I would recommend this tool to others; it is an easy and effective way to construct arguments about interesting topics through digital mapping. It allowed me to create the map that I desired, and it definitely would be compatible with ideas that differ from my original. The program functions as a narrative map, and additionally, it takes the viewer on an interactive tour. Monetti might deem Heganoo as an evolved version of his literary maps, which he explains as preparing text for analysis and providing a visual of the narrative (Monetti, 53). This program ultimately allows/forces users to think about their argument in a way that isn’t limited to writing but instead focuses on mapping as the the primary objective. Like literary maps, Heganoo shows the viewer significance that might not have been understood had it only been read.

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