What’s Mapnin’, a University-focused marketing startup, released a new map of the Homewood Campus and surrounding neighborhoods on Tuesday, Aug. 28.
The map received mixed reactions from the student body because, although Homewood Campus is prominently featured, the map is intended to serve as an advertising opportunity for the surrounding local businesses that funded its creation.
The map is now on display around campus as well as online on the “What’s Mapnin’ Homewood” Facebook page. The project team included What’s Mapnin’ Co-Founder Kevin Carter, along with sophomore Tori Rose, junior David In, junior Madison Bozich and recent alum Amal Afroz Alam.
This project is the newest of four maps created so far by What’s Mapnin’, which include two of Georgetown University and the surrounding area in Washington, D.C. and one of Michigan State University and the surrounding Lansing area.
Carter, who was on the project team for the Georgetown University map and served as project leader for the Homewood map, discussed some of the changes What’s Mapnin’ made while implementing the map at Homewood. As the student venture coordinator at FastForward U, a student innovation hub at Hopkins, Carter wanted to incorporate students into diverse aspects of the project.
“We ended up getting a team of Hopkins students together to help create not only the map, but to help do all the sales, to even work on an app that we’re planning on releasing soon,” he said.
According to Carter, the goal of the map was to encourage students to break out of the “Hopkins bubble” and explore more areas around Homewood than just a few blocks on N. Charles Street and St. Paul Street.
Although the startup designed the Homewood map to attract the patronage of Hopkins students, the map project is unaffiliated with the University.
Carter explained that this was why the map’s prominent bird was colored red rather than blue and why the Hopkins name did not appear on the map itself.
Senior Casey Haughin added that she was glad that the map extended beyond the Hopkins campus. The quality of the art, Haughin said, was what first drew her attention to the map.
However, due to the selection of businesses it features, not all students were as supportive of the map. In an email to The News-Letter, senior Tucker Chapin commented on a number of inclusions that he found inconsistent with the interests of Hopkins students because several business on the map are not directly related to student needs or wants.
“The Modest Florist made it in, but not Old Bank or Old Market barbers?” Chapin wrote. “How frequently are college students buying floral arrangements?”
Senior Chris Reinhardt noted that several local businesses that students frequently go to, like The Charmery and the restaurants on St. Paul Street, were excluded, while more expensive restaurants further from campus were featured instead.
Carter clarified that What’s Mapnin’ reached out to most of the businesses surrounding Homewood, and the businesses featured on the map were ones that had chosen to advertise with the company. In addition, the project team also chose to feature the logos of some local nonprofit organizations and community resources for free.
Haughin appreciated these inclusions, which she said were a good way to introduce new students to Baltimore community activism and service opportunities. She also noted that several local organizations were featured on the map.
“Having the Baltimore Ceasefire ad on there, that was really interesting,” she said. “I was surprised to see that, and I was also delighted to see that.”
She added, however, that this led to confusion about what the map’s purpose was.
According to Haughin, using a map of the area as both an advertisement and a community resource seemed misleading because many businesses close to campus were not illustrated on the map.
“What view are you getting of Baltimore, then? You’re getting the one... from the companies that have enough money to contribute,” Haughin said. “Are you building your business for Baltimore, or are you building it for this very narrow area of privileged students?”
According to Carter, the target audience was primarily the incoming student population, who this map would help give businesses the opportunity to reach college students as early as possible during their time at Hopkins.
“Businesses like the idea of freshmen getting a copy of the map, because maybe they’re less familiar; they don’t have ‘set places’ like a favorite coffee shop yet,” he said.
Carter said that this was a good chance for other businesses to have a chance to get students to frequent their shops.
“A lot of businesses like that opportunity to be able to reach college students in their first couple of days here on campus, so they can actually maybe go in one time the first week, and if they like it, hey, that’s a four-year customer.”
In response to student concerns, he maintained that the map was neither meant to holistically reflect the area surrounding Hopkins, nor to highlight the businesses that students go to.
“It’s something that I wouldn’t say is supposed to necessarily reflect the Hopkins student experience,” Carter said. “But the businesses hope it will reflect the Hopkins student experience if they get more brand awareness from it.”
He added that the map was always intended to be a guide to local business instead of a navigational tool.
“If you ever see a student carrying [this map] around, trying to get around, they are using it wrong,” he said.
In a post on its Facebook page at the beginning of Orientation on Aug. 25, however, What’s Mapnin’ advertised itself as a campus resource, which some students found to be misleading.
“You won’t need a compass or astrolabe to find your way — just look out for our maps,” the post read.
Senior Elorm Awuyah wrote in an email to The News-Letter that he was consequently afraid that presenting this map as a geographical resource could confuse incoming students. Because the map was not drawn to scale, some locations appear to be closer to campus than they are.
“There’s no sense of scale,” Awuyah wrote. “If you were someone who didn’t know this campus, you’d think that 25th Street was just a hop, skip, and a jump from the North side of Campus instead of the 30 to 40 minute walk that it actually is.”
Rose, the map’s graphic designer, stated, however, that geographical accuracy was not a priority in the design process.
“I definitely agree, this is not a proportional representation of Homewood,” she said. “It’s a caricature map.”
Though Haughin does not believe the map itself is necessarily a negative thing, according to her, it is important for readers of the map to ask themselves questions and think critically about the way they interact with the Baltimore community based on the map’s presentation. Because the featured businesses were the ones that sought out advertising, other businesses that did not pay for this opportunity were not displayed on the map.
“If you’re only interacting with brands and organizations that have the money to promote and are actively seeking out students, there needs to be some consideration of what sort of environment that could create in the long term,” she said.
Correction: Due to errors in reporting, quotes attributed to Sam Gomes have been removed.