Marie: A Declarative Authoring Framework for Explorable Explanations

Authors: Ate Poorthuis*, Singapore University of Technology and Design
Topics: Cartography
Keywords: cartography, visualization, interactive visualization
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Recent years have seen a proliferation of interactive content -- often supported by graphics and maps -- in both multimedia publications, educational curricula and even academic publishing. Built on top of the three foundational modern web technologies (HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript), current approaches can require a significant investment of time, resources and skills and are often created in a bespoke fashion. Thus, although the possibilities of building interactive, story-telling content have expanded, a relative lack of tools has hindered more widespread adoption and creation of such content.

In this context, Bret Victor coined the term 'Explorable Explanations' and called for the creation of active reading environments on the web through reactive documents. The idea has gained traction but most 'explorable' work is created as one-off projects, using bespoke software. To address this we present ‘Marie’, an authoring framework that makes both the creation and sharing of interactive, graphical web content easier. Marie allows the user to write such content in a computational notebook-based approach with a superset of Markdown, without abstracting away HTML or JavaScript. In doing so, it provides a clear learning path towards more elaborate, custom content without having to eject from the notebook.

The framework is designed to help educators convert their curriculum from static text to 'an environment to think in', whereby readers would be able to interact with their learning materials. We illustrate several use-cases of the framework with worked examples of map-based interactive stories written with Marie for both educational curricula and academic publications.

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