The ways in which we interact with maps and geography has changed dramatically in the past two decades. The use of interactive, online maps has become a commonplace activity, especially since the advent of Google Maps. The ability to visually discover and explore information is greater now than ever before. The technology of interactive mapping is now being applied to the arts. Two new projects are presenting exciting ways to visually explore and discover new works: With the New Play Map, visitors can visualize where new theatrical works are being produced in the United States and the ways in which they are connected. The website Hitlantis has created a sort of ‘heat map’ that lets users visually explore the new music being produced around the world. Both projects are fun to play with and the technology makes them extremely accessible and easy to use. Here is a little closer of a look at both these projects:
Launched this past month, the New Play Map is a pilot project created by the American Voices New play Institute at Arena Stage. The institute began collaborating with web development company Quilted last spring to create a map that allows users to visually explore new theatrical works in the United States. The map gives visitors a visual snapshot of the new play sector and acts as a resource for those seeking out collaborators.
How it works
The New Play Map’s content is user-generated and visitors can explore and track new plays being developed throughout the US from information uploaded by the playwrights themselves. The New Play Map is free to use and navigating the site will come naturally to anyone who has even a basic experience with a site like Google Maps.
To use the map, zoom in on a region of interest and click on one of three icons. Clicking an icon will bring up a sidebar with additional info and connections. The icons that look like people link to the playwrights, the calendar icons are the plays, and the building icons are the theatres themselves. Each icon’s sidebar includes a short bio of the playwright or synopsis of the new play. The sidebar also contains a list of related projects and affiliated organizations.
Red, dotted lines will also appear when an icon is clicked, showing the links between that specific work/playwright and how it is connected across the country. Each connection is numbered and corresponds to a description offered in the sidebar.
Filters can be applied on the map, and what sets this apart from something like Google Maps, is that the filters are not limited to geography alone. The filters are specific to the theatrical community with parameters such as operating budget, organization type and national membership affiliations. The ability to filter by special interest is also available, giving visitors a custom map of plays that are contemporary, experimental or focused on a specific multicultural group, for example.
Version one of the New Play Map is up and running with new plays being added everyday. Head over and check it out at newplaymap.org.
Hitlantis, an internet startup from is a Helsinki, Finland, wanted to create an easier way for music lovers to wade through the multitude of new music online. Their solution is a sort of ‘heat map’ that visually groups and displays new bands based on their popularity. Users of the site can zoom in to their favorite genre and get a visual snapshot of what the hottest new bands are.
Movement on the map is based on a band’s popularity in the built-in social network of the site. A band cannot just buy their way to the center of Hitlantis, they have to earn their visibility from the fans.
How it works
Popularity on the map can be read in two different ways, the proximity of a band to the map’s center and the relative size of that band’s icon. The closer a band is to the center, the 'hotter' they are, and this proximity determined by how often a song is played, ‘liked’, or purchased. The better the music a band makes, the faster they move to the center of the map.
The band icons vary in size and the larger the icon on the map, the greater the overall visibility. The band’s icon size is determined by their number of fans, how much revenue has been generated by song purchases and the amount of audio the band uploads.
All visitors can register with the site and set up a basic profile, but only the bands will appear on the map. A band’s profile contains biographical info, a comments section, a list of their fans, and most importantly, their music. Songs are played through a built in music player along the bottom of the map and the ability to create playlists is built into the player.
It’s important to note for bands that for all of the music they upload, they must retain 100% of the copyright. In addition to that, the music cannot have been previously published or be involved with any copyright agencies.
Registration is free or visitors can log in using their Facebook ID, but is not required if you just want to check out the site. Hitlantis is free to everyone, but a monthly charge is required if bands wish to sell their music through the site. Try the map out for yourself at Hitlantis.com.
These maps are fun to play with and aid in the process of discovering new work. The New Play Map may shape up to be a powerful tool because it offers many in the theatre community a easy-to-navigate resource for discovery of new works and sources for collaboration. Hitlantis is great because it aids up and coming bands with a free way to share their music and grow a fan base. Personally, I see the bigger takeaway from both projects being that both groups took advantage of a widespread and commonly understood visual format and utilized it in a unique way to fit their own missions. It's an interesting use of a tool and just begs the question, what other platforms are out there that we can leverage for the arts?