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Karten der Macht. Macht der Karten. – The Seed Tracker

Karten der Macht. Macht der Karten. – The Seed Tracker

“The Seed Tracker” project was developed as part of the “Karten der Macht. Macht der Karten” course by Prof. Sebastian Meier. The solo work consists of a scrollytelling website which presents the reader with a dystopian science-fiction short story accompanied by a dynamic map, illustrated with photocollages.


The semester project requirement was to find an individually relevant topic and map it creatively. Data research and/or a manual data collection were likewise part of the task.

Since the course called for solo work, I was faced with the challenge of finding a topic that had personal relevance to me. It was a unique challenge because until the 8th semester I was very focused on the technical feasibility of projects since I didn't have any coding skills and had to acquire those first.

What did I – truly – care about?

As a newcomer to Potsdam and Brandenburg I adore the place I live in. Nowhere have I felt more belonging to the natural landscape. It is my Wahlheimat. So I decided to map Potsdams agriculture.


The ideation phase took several weeks, during which I mainly created sketches on paper or on my iPad. Already here the first ideas of a map zoning resonated with me as well as the consideration to create the whole piece in the sci-fi genre.



For my content research, I relied on the data journalism book „Deutschland 2050,“ the Twitter accounts of climate journalist Annika Joeres, Fridays for Future activist Luisa Neubauer, and Taz Klima, as well as some other less known contributers to the climate debate in my twitter feed. I also met with Mr. Herbert Lohner, a former BUND employee for an expert interview.

I learn a lot particularly from the expert interview –  not only in regards to relevant information and contacts to toher potential experts, but also in regard to the huge value of a knowledgeable expert, who is willing to share his insights and who does it so well.



geolocation data

Obtaining the geolocation data was relatively straightforward. In the course we got an introduction to the geodata visualization tool QGIS. The tool includes the Quick OSM (OpenStreetMap) widget that allows you to view and export different areas (polygons) in Potsdam. This way I quickly got to the places I needed: agricultural fields, orchards, allotment gardens, etc.

content data

The content data collection turned out to be much more complicated. I got lost in a sprawling research and could not determine an adequate form for the data collection until the end. Unfortunately, this led inevitably to the next and for me the biggest problem – a visually appealing mapping. How should I visualize the transition from wheat cultivation to chickpea cultivation AND show the geolocation data at the same time in a (mapbox) template? Illustrations seemed to be a viable way. At the same time, I was aware that I did not have sufficient illustration skills, which – for me – made this part of the project overwhelming and somewhat demotivating.



Shortly before the detailed drafting of the final concept, I unexpectedly got stuck on the legitimacy and relevance of my chosen topic. After weeks of Twitter research, the topic of climate and the agricultural sector seemed so omnipresent and untold that I felt unable to make any kind of meaningful contribution.

But Twitter to the rescue, here I found motivational statements about the need for repeated awareness rising concerning climate issues. Now I was able to continue my work.



The concept of The Seed Tracker aims to convey a serious topic - the climate disaster and the accompanying change in local food production - in a way that is cognitively as easy to absorb as possible.

The means used to achieve this goal are a fictional text style, a dynamic map, and illustrations. The form of a sci-fi short story is intended to convey the content on a textual level more lightly than a scientific text, such as the IPCC report for example. The dynamic map, which changes in relation to the text sections, is intended to create a sense of local connection to the site. The illustrations are intended to support impressions of change on an emotional „at-a-glance“ level that work differently than rational, linear texts.

Ideally, this dystopian exaggeration leads to the conclusion that such a future is not desirable for anyone and motivates the reader to engage in protection of the environment in the here and now.

Implementation: code

Codewise, the project is implemented in a mapbox template with a wonderful documentation. The template contains all elements that are necessary for the project: a dynamic map, copy text and image placeholders.

It is also important to mention that the code complexity of the template just matched my coding skills, so I could work on it without stress and overload. And if there were any technical problems, they were solved together with Sebastian in hands on sessions so that I could learn from them in a lasting way.


Implementation: design

The map

The map design is based on a light, monochrome base map on which relevant places are highlighted in slightly transparent color. The color scheme is inspired by a steppe landscape and is supposed to evoke the association of drought and arid heat.

Other map design elements are the zoom levels – from a view of the whole world to a particular institution’s building. Furthermore, there is the bearing, meaning the orientation of the map along the four compass directions as well as the tilt along the horizon. All parameters were already implemented in the template and could thus be easily adjusted by experimental tweaking.


The illustrations

From a creative point of view, in the sense of creating something new that does not yet exist, the illustrations were by far the most challenging part. Determining an illustration style, composition, colors, motifs - creating those visuals challenged me almost like a separate class inside the class. And it was absolutely worth it!

I chose an abstract and less figurative style because it seemed appropriate for the genre. The photo collages visually represent an intentional break from the graphical 2D look of the map.


The final project


Working on The Seed Tracker, I was able to make a very positive experience of a holistic workflow. In this solo project I had to work out every project stage on my own, from the ideation to the implementation. Through this self-directed work – and the hands-on-support by Sebastian of course – I learned a lot and became more independant in my design routine, which I cherish deeply.

At the same time, it was a project of mine with the most creative life of its own, which kept developing differently from what I had planned. That was extremely challenging and I'm not sure if the concept really translated into the final work.

My two absolute key learnings from the project are that I want to become better at narrowing down topics – less is more – and that I need to work harder on my visual expression, as it still seems too inelegant to me.

Ein Projekt von



Art des Projekts

Studienarbeit im zweiten Studienabschnitt


foto: Prof. Dr. Sebastian Meier

Zugehöriger Workspace

Karten der Macht. Macht der Karten.


Sommersemester 2022


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