using Google Maps for non-geographic representations

I just finished teaching our annual Short Spring Spatial workshops, and as usual, I had a blast updating my list of “web mapping” applications and projects. One of the categories of “maps” that continue to fascinate me are those that leverage the Google Maps API for innovative and non-conventional “spatial” thinking.  What I value here is the clever outcome that these developers don’t need to spend time/money creating a “new” platform for navigation, when the Google navigational functionality (expressed via their iconic pan and zoom icons) is all we need.

Previously I’ve known about Google’s Art Project, where you can explore the (indoor) collections of many museums around the world (click Museum View and Floor Plan to put yourself indoors) .  They’ve definitely expanded their museum coverage since last year.  I do find it curious that they’ve bothered to keep the compass functionality (which you can suppress). Perhaps someone might really want to consider whether there are patterns to the type of artwork on southern walls across different museums?  Many art museums don’t go out of their way to have large windows because they’re limiting the amount of sunlight that fades paintings.  We could systematically go through these museums and evaluate this? Maybe a project for someone’s rainy day (but not mine…).

Unfortunately, another very creative Google project using their Maps API, one that allowed you to explore fractals, is now untethered and not kept up. It was a lovely one.  And didn’t have the compass built in!

This year I have found a number of medically-oriented sites, all new to me.  These include the Zygote Body (only works with my Chrome browser), the Genome Projector, the Virtual Microscope, Brain Connectivity, and the KESM Brain Atlas (tiny mice brains).  Most of these are obviously targeted towards a particular audience for specific educational objectives, but I particularly love playing with the Zygote Body site! Clever use of overlay that’s both “horizontal” and “vertical” through the layers.  My biology-studying children found it fascinating too.  No north in these sites!

One of these days I need to teach myself how to use the API so I can have some fun. My first project will be to create Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell, Seven Terraces of Purgatory, and Nine Spheres of Paradise.  Seriously.  It’ll be a great spatial humanities project on my next rainy day.

h/t to GoogleMapsMania for many of these.

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One response to “using Google Maps for non-geographic representations

  1. Hi Diana,
    Great post. Thanks! Here’s another cool use of the Google Maps API–zooming into ancient manuscripts.

    http://chs.harvard.edu/wa/pageR?tn=ArticleWrapper&bdc=12&mn=1560

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