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Teaching Statement for Digital Mapping Possibilities Assignment

by April Conway

In a recent winter term, I taught an iteration of a course themed “Literature and Writing Outside of the Classroom.” I titled my section of this 200-level English course “Cartography and Communities.” I designed this community-based learning course around cartography as a framework to explore intercultural learning, digital tools, creative and civic possibilities of spatial representation, and diverse practices of writing. The course built upon my dissertation research, including Google-mapping projects I learned about from interview participants Faith Kurtyka and Ashley Holmes. 

The projects you see here result from “Digital Mapping Possibilities,” the second major assignment from “Cartography and Communities.” From the beginning of the semester, my students and I read about deep mapping, spatial storytelling, and spatial narratives. Thus, for this project, students were asked to create a deep map which, according to Trevor Harris, “…is more than a topographical product in that it interweaves physical geography and scientific analysis with biography, folklore, narrative, text, memories, emotions, stories, moral histories, and so much more to contribute to a richer, deeper mapping of space and place” (39). Students had also received training in map design and had opportunities to compose a deep map, using GarageBand, iMovie, and the ArcGIS Story Maps application. Utilizing a deep-mapping framework, required hardware and software, plus multimodal theories and practices, students were asked to create maps of anywhere they desired. The idea was for them to tell a story of this place (or interrelated places) through the interactive features embedded in Story Maps, and through original short video and audio compositions. Students went well beyond these requirements and incorporated numerous self-generated photos and other media they acquired through Creative Commons.

Students were also asked to circulate or publish their maps beyond the classroom scenario through a popular, professional, or academic online publication forum. This was considered part of the “outside of the classroom” component of the course. Because students were required to circulate their maps or submit them for publication consideration, we discussed copyright, fair use, open access, and attribution. Though not required, I encouraged students to consider licensing any of the work generated for this project under a Creative Commons license.

Finally, to complement the maps they created, students also wrote short essays where they described composing methods, design choices, rhetorical considerations, any scholarly or cartographic influences, and explained their rationale for choosing a platform they published their maps.

To conclude, should I have the opportunity to teach this course again, I will again assign this project as the maps students created were rich examples of what digital composing practices and deep-mapping concepts can engender.

Works Cited

Creative Commons. Creative Commons,, 2018. Accessed 24 Apr. 2018.

Harris, Trevor. “Deep Geography—Deep Mapping: Spatial Storytelling and a Sense of Place.” Deep Maps and Spatial Narratives, edited by David J. Bodenhamer and John Corrigan, Indiana University Press, 2015, pp. 28-53.

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