About Terrastories

Terrastories is an application for communities to map, protect, and share stories about their land.

It can be used by individuals or communities who want to connect audio or video content to places on a map. It is designed to be user-friendly and fun to interact with, allowing community members to freely explore without needing any technical background.

Terrastories began when a team of geographers from the Amazon Conservation Team and software developers from Ruby for Good decided to start building Terrastories to help a community in South America map their place-based oral histories. The Matawai Maroons of Suriname, a community of formerly enslaved Africans who fled into the forests over three centuries ago and reside there today, wanted to map oral histories about when their ancestors first arrived in these lands (read more about the Matawai and their story here). The community leaders were interested in having a tool that helps the young people get to know these places, their history, their culture, and who they are as a people.

Terrastories was built to accommodate that need, which the team also heard about from other communities across the globe.

To learn more about how Mapeo is currently being used, see How Terrastories is being used.

Key features of Terrastories

  • Interactive user interface Terrastories was specifically created with the youth of earth defender communities in mind, and it is designed to be educational about land, history and culture while also engaging and fun to play with. Teachers may use Terrastories as part of their curriculum to help young people bolster their computer literacy and skills while also learning about their community’s stories.

  • Privacy & sharing Security and data protection are very important concerns for many earth defender communities. Depending on your particular needs, you may want to keep all or certain parts of your map from falling into the wrong hands. Terrastories was built with this concern in mind, and enables communities to designate certain stories as private and restricted. This means that you need to have special log-in credentials to see those stories. By contrast, there might be stories that your community wants to share with the world, and you can set those to be viewable by anyone.

  • Works in completely offline environments Many earth defender communities reside in remote contexts, with limited or no access to the internet. Unfortunately, many storytelling and mapping tools require internet access, and won’t work (or barely work) without it. For those reasons, Terrastories was built to work offline. The entire application can be run on a computer or a device that transmits a WiFi hotspot through which other devices can connect. In addition to ease of use, some communities appreciate this function for data privacy reasons: storing the maps and stories on a physical device helps ensure that private data does not leave the territory.

  • Highly customizable Much of the Terrastories app is customizable in terms of language, maps, and information you collect. When you download it, it comes with a standard online map of the world, but you can choose to use your own map, including one that can work offline. You can also translate Terrastories into your own language, and set up story filters based on your own taxonomies and categories for places in your lands.

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