Smithsonian Internship 4

The success I have achieved in the Smithsonian internship is using JavaScript to do front-end development—mapping the data on Syrian cultural heritage sites. Instead of using which has pre-set functions, I use mapbox because coding allows you greater freedom to design your map including colors, font, and visualization effects. I learned how to read and understand JavaScript and mapbox and run my data on them. Although all maps such as Google Maps and mapbox use JavaScript to make interactive maps, they have different JavaScript expressions. The codes that can work on mapbox do not apply on Google Maps. So, I not only need to understand JavaScript but the particular expressions of mapbox. With a few months of exploration and learning, I am familiar with JavaScript and mapbox expressions and use them to do mapping.

My second success is making more than one visualization effects now on the map. To achieve this, it requires more than simple combination of two blocks of codes; I need to coordinate and debug different lines to make them run. It’s like cooking. You need to process different food and integrate them together before it can be a tasty dish. After making a few single effects, now I can make two. For example, I added a geocoder in the cluster map so that a person can locate a cultural heritage site and find its information in the popup box.

The current challenge is to combine three or four visualization effects. I am working on a spiderifier effect on the cluster map. A similar example is below, one marker represents one location which makes up the cluster with other locations. When you click the cluster, markers will fan out from a cluster and, when you hover on a marker, a popup box containing the information of the location will show up. To make this map, you need to make a cluster map first, then make spider legs, and the last is to make the boxes pop up when you hover over the markers. All steps require coding. I am currently figuring out the codes to make the boxes pop up on markers. Together with the geocoder I added to the cluster map, there are four long blocks of codes for the four visualization effects. It is challenging and exciting. I feel I am climbing a mountain and getting close to the top.

Besides constant trials of code in the code editor, when I encounter problems, I look to Github for possible solutions. Web developers around the world post, discuss and solve problems over there. Though I may not find exactly the same problems and solutions, they inspire me to look at my codes in different ways. This is another part I like about the internship. It expands my life boundaries and makes new possibilities. As a humanities person, I never expected my life would crisscross with IT engineers and Github.

So, with success and challenges, I look forward to successfully making the map which spiderfies the clusters and to what happens next.

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