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Two weeks ago, Wendy Hsu gave a lecture about mapping for Professor Shamasunder’s Research Methods for Urban and Environmental Policy (UEP) class. She introduced the students to spatial thinking and scholarly practices of mapping – including humanities, scientific, community and, last, everyday mapping. Everyday mapping is the act of “checking in” to restaurants, historic places, etc. using Yelp, Foursquare or Facebook or geo-tagging images with iPhoto or Flicker. Essentially, anyone can create an everyday map.

To create a map for this class, Wendy used Google Maps. A fundamental problem with maps is that there is a gap between how the world is represented as a map and how we really experience the world. Maps are merely drawn graphics that represent space. What you see on the map is an abstraction of the world as an actual, physical, living object. One of the ways to bridge this gap is to use a GPS (global position satellite) device to track your location in space. Wendy had the UEP students with a smart phone to download the MyTracks app. (For those using an iOS device, you could also download OSMTrack or MotionX-GPS.) Using the MyTracks app, the students were to take a unique route from the patio of Occidental College’s library to Thorne hall and to record their paths.

View UEP 304 Campus Tracks on Google Maps.

Using MyTracks to Track Location Data

Tracking Your Path

  1. Download the free MyTracks (iOS/Android) app. iOS users could also download the OSMTrack or MotionX-GPS tracks.
  2. When you are ready to record your path, open MyTracks and click “Start GPS Track Recording.” Leave your device alone to record your path.
  3. After you have reached your destination, click the REC button located at the bottom left of your screen and choose to “Stop recording.” The track will be added to your track list.
  4. To get to the tracklist, click on “myTracks” button located at the top left of your screen and click “Show Recorded Tracks.”
  5. Next, click on the blue arrow for the track you just made. Here, the app lists information about the track you just made. When you scroll to the bottom, click “Mail track” and email the track to yourself. The file will be sent as .gpx format.

Uploading your Track onto Google Maps

  1. Download the .gpx file onto your desktop.
  2. On Google Maps, click on the “My Places” button. You may use you Oxy email account to access Google Maps.
  3. Click on the red “Create Map” button and fill in the Title and Description of your track.
  4. After, click on “Import” to import your .gpx file. Your pathway will then be displayed on the map.

Editing the Track on Google Maps

  1. Click on the line, and a bubble will pop up from the line.
    1. From here, you could change the Title and Description of the track.
    2. If you click on the blue line at the top right corner of the bubble, you could edit the color, width and opacity of the line.
    3. Click “Ok” after you change any property.
  2. We can also add placemarks to the map to identify the start and end points of the track. At the top left corner of the map, click on the Placemark button. 
    1. When you drop the Placemark onto the map, a bubble will pop up for you to change the Title, Description and color of the placemark.
    2. You may drop a starting and ending placemark onto the map.
  3. Click “Save” and then “Done” on the left sidebar.
  4. Congratulations! You have created your own map using MyTracks and Google Maps.

Helpful Tips

  1. You could import other tracks onto the same map and distinguish those tracks by changing the colors of the paths.
  2. You may also share your map by clicking on the Link button located at the top right corner of the sidebar. Copy and paste the link in an email or IM to send to your friends, co-workers, etc. If you want to display the map on a website, you may copy and paste the HTML embed code onto your website.