I regularly use Google Maps or Waze for directions. Even when I know exactly where I’m going, I’ll turn it on because it directs me around traffic. And somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew that there was more you could do with Google Maps, like plotting a road trip. I just never knew exactly how to do it.
After watching Kathryn Shaughnessy’s Seminar, viewing the campus guides, and doing some of my own research, I began my attempt to plot each of the four trips that Jack Kerouac, as Sal Paradise, takes around the United States and Mexico in On the Road. Here’s what I ended up with:
The cool thing about Google Maps is that I was able to create each of his four trips as a different layer, so you can click each one and on off. I also color-coded each trip and was able to present the stops as numbers, rather than just as points. (Click on the button with the arrow on the top left to see each point individually and to turn layers on and off.)
I initially wanted to connect each point with a line, and I completed the entire first trip before I realized that as you zoom in or out, the lines disconnect from the points. As was pointed out in the video, the draw line function is pretty finicky and doesn’t seem to work properly. I tried to search around to find an automatic way to connect the points, but there doesn’t seem to be one.
The possibilities for this map are pretty intriguing. You can create one for a wedding website or out-of-town guests who are interesting in sight-seeing, you can plot out scenes from a book or play, or you can note the best restaurants or parks in an area. Google Maps also allows you to include photos, metadata, descriptions, and more, so one plot can lead viewers in many different directions. On my map, I simply included the city, and when you click on each one, photos of that city from Google Maps pop up, which is pretty cool.
Often what is missing in the digital humanities is a connection to the real, outside world, and I think Google Maps is a great opportunity to merge those realms.