Students Produce Interactive Story Map

October 14, 2020

Northwestern Qatar students Roja Pande and Muhammad Shahan Ejaz created an interactive story map – 270 Days into the New Decade: Together and Apart – that documents the school’s events and milestones since last January.

The interactive map takes users on a click-through trip around the world to read about what has happened at Northwestern Qatar in the first 270 days of the year – from completing internships at top media organizations to filming a documentary in Korea, and from publishing books on Islam to launching a business in Pakistan to help combat the coronavirus.

The project – created by NU-Q’s Media Innovation Lab (MIL) and the student-run news site, The Daily Q – was a response to the pandemic outbreak in March that forced the sudden end of the semester and the relocation of faculty and students around the world.

Eric Espig, a creative digital media specialist who manages the MIL, suggested to students that they use a story mapping tool from Northwestern’s Knight Lab to create a story that would bring a sense of closure to the semester.

Journalists and storytellers on social platforms such as Instagram, but also on traditional platforms such as The New York Times, have shifted to formatting their content to be much more dynamic and interactive. In order to tell the story of NU-Q and 2020, with everyone suddenly spread out over the world, and over time, it seemed like a natural fit to use the StoryMap tool,” explained Espig.

He added, “Getting a chance to use these kinds of tools can provide students with a new perspective on how a story can be told and how to think about content in new ways.” This experience, he said, will put students at the forefront of futuristic storytelling and demonstrate “their ability to meet the demands of today’s audiences and publishers.”

For Ejaz, the project was a chance to look back on the unusual events of 2020 while also focusing on how “resilient and determined” the community was. “Students, professors, and staff were dispersed around the world, but despite these circumstances, they continued to do amazing things. It was also time for my self-reflection on how blessed I am to be part of such an institution,” he said. 

Pande agreed with Ejaz’s assessment and that the project fulfilled Espig’s hope that the story map would highlight the sense of community at Northwestern Qatar. “Even though we’re all apart in this time of social distancing and self-isolation, our main goal was to bring everyone together and celebrate our Northwestern spirit by highlighting the accomplishments of our community members,” she said.

The MIL was established at Northwestern Qatar to support university projects and provide a space for interdisciplinary innovation and learning. By combining theory with technology, students, faculty, and staff can collaborate to develop original concepts and solutions that address challenges in the media world and make storytelling a more dynamic and immersive experience.