The ur-example of a map being used for inquiry is John Snow's cholera map of 1854. (Large-scale image here.)
Let's use the data / tools / inquiry framework to break it down
- Data: Cholera cases & water pumps. Both of these are POINT data, not polygons or paths.
- Tools: Street map, with suggested subdivisions of houses
- Inquiry: What is the spatial pattern between the two data types? What causal relationship can be inferred from this relationship?
Thus far, our mapping tools are Google Earth and Google Maps. Can you use them to do the same sort of inquiry? Sure thing. In fact, here's Snow's data, re-created in a webmap:
For more contemporary data, take a look at a mapped database of 25 years of political donations
And now to turn to more local and more modest examples built using Google Earth & Google Maps, see
- A local history project, documenting the life of Bethlehem Steel worker Henry Noll: Wikipedia entry, Google Map on Noll's life.
- A project I've been doing periodically in my social studies methods classes. It's an adaptation of an old social studies lesson plan, Weaving the Globe: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/62251098/Weaving%20the%20Globe%2C%202011-2012.kml
(And in case we get into the idea of inquiry vs. narrative: To get some background on Henry Noll and the narrative in which Frederick Winslow Taylor placed him, see pp. 43-47 in Taylor's Principles of Scientific Management, 1912. Taylor refers to Noll as 'Schmidt'; the passages characterizing him start at the bottom of p. 43.)