Using Semantic Story Maps to Describe a Territory beyond its Map

Tracking #: 3335-4549

Valentina Bartalesi
Gianpaolo Coro
Emanuele Lenzi
Nicolò Pratelli
Pasquale Pagano
Francesco Felici
Michele Moretti
Gianluca Brunori

Responsible editor: 
Rafael Goncalves

Submission type: 
Tool/System Report
The paper presents the Story Map Building and Visualizing Tool (SMBVT) that allows users to create story maps within a collaborative environment and a usable Web interface. It is entirely open-source and published as a free-to-use solution. It uses Semantic Web technologies in the back-end system to represent stories through a reference ontology for representing narratives. It builds up a user-shared semantic knowledge base that automatically interconnects all stories and seamlessly enables collaborative story building. Finally, it operates within an Open-Science oriented e-Infrastructure, which enables data and information sharing within communities of narrators, and adds multi-tenancy, multi-user, security, and access-control facilities. SMBVT represents narratives as a network of spatiotemporal events related by semantic relations and standardizes the event descriptions by assigning internationalized resource identifiers (IRIs) to the event components, i.e., the entities that take part in the event (e.g., persons, objects, places, concepts). The tool automatically saves the collected knowledge as a Web Ontology Language (OWL) graph and openly publishes it as Linked Open Data. This feature allows connecting the story events to other knowledge bases. To evaluate and demonstrate our tool, we used it to describe the Apuan Alps territory in Tuscany (Italy). Based on a user-test evaluation, we assessed the tool's effectiveness at building story maps and the ability of the produced story to describe the territory beyond the map.
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Solicited Reviews:
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Review #1
By Alessandro Bellandi submitted on 08/May/2023
Review Comment:

The paper presents SMBVT, a web tool aimed at creating story maps. The authors describe the general features of the tool and provide an evaluation of its usability through a case study on the Apuan Alps mountain region.
The overall organization of the paper is satisfactory, and the sections follow clearly. The authors seem to have a strong background in Semantic web technologies, and the references are appropriate.

The paper perfectly fits with the topic of the journal. It essentially describes different aspects of the tool: motivation, features, implementation choices, and user evaluation.

The tool provides a set of exciting features and, potentially, is applicable to many other domains beyond that of the case study. I think it’s a great contribution to the DH field.

Finally, I suggest publishing the paper.

Review #2
Anonymous submitted on 12/May/2023
Minor Revision
Review Comment:

The manuscript presents a very interesting tool for creating storytelling maps in an easy way. The work is an extension of their existing tool NBVT, where a spatial dimension of the knowledge visualization is added by introducing storytelling maps. The demo presented very nice results, which could potentially be an attractive application for many users and agencies. Therefore, it could be interesting work for the cartography and gis communities as well.

The following are suggestions that the authors may consider for improvement:

1. Links to Wikidata are automatically generated, which are interesting for further reading. In many cases they are too many, so people may ignore them, or get lost within them. It would be great (in my mind) if the entities in the texts could have hyperlinks, which is similar to Wikipedia's layout.

2. The evaluation of entity extraction performance is not reported. Maybe the authors have reported it in their early publications, but still, it could be nice to have it mentioned in this manuscript that tells how well the automatic process worked.

3. Sec.3: Five participants for evaluating SMBVT could be not very convincing.

4. Detailed instruction on how to deploy the system is currently missing from the git repo (

5. License is missing as it is mentioned earlier to be open source in the early published version (

6. To comply with the "long-term repository discoverability", the repo could be released/published via Zenodo to obtain doi.

7. Sec. 4 The limitations of the tools are less discussed in this chapter.

8. There would be a necessity to demonstrate the efficiency/ performance of the online tool with metrics that are often used to evaluate web systems.

Some minor ones:

1. P2L37 double points

2. P5L45 Which of the popular software would be supported to use these json files directly, some examples would be very helpful.

Review #3
Anonymous submitted on 16/May/2023
Minor Revision
Review Comment:

This manuscript presents the online Story Map Building and Visualizing Tool (SMBVT), which takes advantage of semantic technologies. The authors assessed the effectiveness of the tool in building story maps and evaluated the usability of the tool via a case study. The tool is of great significance in facilitating a deeper understanding of territory and information sharing. The paper is well-written and easily readable. The reviewer has the following questions/comments:
1. There is a duplicate line of keywords. Please remove the duplicates.
2. In the online version of the demo, the interface is slightly different. Does the “Enrich KB” button in the manuscript correspond to the “CREATE GRAPH” in the current demo? In addition, there is a “HELP” button at the bottom. Please check this and update the figure and text accordingly.
3. In the evaluation of the tool for building story maps (section 2.5.1), are there any questions designed to reveal the collaborative process when participants are building the use case story map together? Since one of the highlights of this tool is the multi-tenancy, multi-user collaboration, it would be very interesting to see how this aspect performs.