Introducing the MAPC Municipalities Emoji Map

Introducing the MAPC Municipalities Emoji Map

Written by Stephen Larrick, Digital Services Manager

July 24, 2023 - Sometimes “civic technology” means building tools to analyze government data, solve public problems, and support transparent and informed decision making. And, sometimes, civic tech means having fun with emoji. 😃

Last Monday (July 17) was world emoji day, and at MAPC — where we love the unique character of each of the communities in our region — we on the Digital Services team got to thinking: how might we represent each of the 101 MAPC cities and towns as an emoji? What emoji would each municipality be, and how might we enable participatory contributions to figure that out?

To explore those questions our team rapidly designed and prototyped a new mapping game: introducing the "MAPC Muni Emoji Map"! This simple web application allows a user to select an emoji for any community in the MAPC region — and to give a short explanation to justify their emoji choice.

We know that capturing a community’s identity with a single emoji image/symbol/icon can be challenging — and can even get contentious when different users have different ideas. Leaning in and embracing that challenge and tension is the point of the MAPC Muni Emoji Map game. If more than one emoji is submitted for a given municipality, the map displays the most recent user selection. So, if your emoji gets “bumped,” you’ll have to recheck the map to reclaim representation for your selected community.

A demonstration of how to select an emoji for a municipality.
Selecting an emoji for Boston.

Aside from picking emoji, one of the most fun and rewarding aspects of the Muni Emoji Map is learning new things about cities and towns via the emoji explanations that users give. You can see the explanation for a single community’s current emoji by clicking on the emoji and checking out the pre-filled “explanation” field. You can also see all of these tidbits and fun facts for every submission for each community by selecting the “book” icon in the upper right hand corner of the screen, which brings you to the back-end airtable database “grid view.”

A photo that shows various user explanations for muni emoji submissions.
Various user explanations for muni emoji submissions.

In addition to the default view of seeing every muni emoji submission organized by date-time submitted, the user can also select “Group by municipality” to organize all the submissions by city or town and see all the emoji submitted for each municipality.

A photo of the Airtable view of the MAPC Muni Emoji Map.
Selecting the “Group by Municipality” filter in the Airtable view

Check out the emoji map and have fun submitting as many emoji as you like for your hometown or any of the 101 MAPC communities!

All emoji submissions so far for City of Boston
All emoji submissions so far for City of Boston

Special thanks to MAPC Coding it Forward Fellow Andrew Liu for his efficient and creative work on the MAPC Muni Emoji Map game and for teaching us all about the game design concept of “juice.” In my opinion, a lot more government websites and products could use more juice!