The visualities of digital story mapping: teaching the ‘messiness’ of qualitative methods through story mapping technologies


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    Increasing attention is being given to how educators might incorporate digital story-mapping into undergraduate geography teaching and assessment, with a particular focus evident on the quantitative and GIS-based values of these technologies. However, we argue that the visual elements of digital story-mapping technologies also raise questions about how students understand, organise and represent the experiences of doing qualitative research. Utilising the concept of ‘digital visuality’ (Fors, 2015), we argue that the broader sociopolitical and cultural contexts that inform qualitative methods teaching (particularly epistemological debates about narrating embodied, ‘messy’ research encounters) shape how students represent qualitative research in a visual form. Using empirical vignettes derived from a ArcGIS Story Map assessment at a UK tertiary institution, this paper frames story-mapping technologies as a more-than-visual form of research representation. We argue that the decisions faced by students about how to present (‘can I show ethics in a picture?’), order (‘I can’t show that video here’), and reflect on methodological rigour (‘Is it still valid data if I type-up my journal?’), stimulates important learning opportunities. Subsequently, the article is not just intended to ‘make-a-case’ for such technology, but also to raise important questions about the digital visualities of qualitative research representation for geographical education.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)441-457
    Number of pages17
    JournalJournal of Geography in Higher Education
    Issue number3
    Early online date9 Jan 2020
    Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2020


    • story-maps
    • qualitative methods
    • teaching
    • digital visualities


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