Zooniverse: The Art of Crowdsourcing

As part of our Digital Humanities module that focuses on digital tools and methodologies, I was introduced to the idea of crowdsourcing information using online platforms. It was then that I discovered Zooniverse and how this platform enables people all over the world to contribute to research projects.
Crowdsourcing is a method of collecting information from a number of different sources. Crowdsourcing most commonly takes place online where anyone with access to the project or platform can contribute information. However, the idea of crowdsourcing information has been around for many years; take for example the national annual census. This method of sourcing information from a crowd; either on or offline and allowing them to contribute to your work is often employed by scientists and researchers. In recent years and as technology has been and is constantly evolving and improving, there has been an increase in the number of professionals using crowdsourcing as a resource. From research projects to thousands of online surveys, people from various different occupations have begun employing these methods. The ways in which crowd-sourcing can help different groups of people are endless. For entrepreneurs and businesses, crowd-sourcing opinions can greatly reduce the risk of loss they may incur by releasing a new product. For researchers and scientists, the potential to have millions of people around the world contribute to their large-scale projects can significantly reduce the time taken to receive and analyse results to complete their projects.
Before the World Wide Web became the most popular application of the internet used around the world, gaining information from the majority of the population of a country seemed like a near impossible feat. Despite with the importance of the national census, having a form hand-written and sent away by post from each household in the country within a specified timeframe causes many difficulties for governmental departments. It is for these reasons that more and more institutions and professionals are looking to adopt online methods for carrying out crowdsourcing. The ease at which one can contribute to crowdsourced projects online also increases the number of people willing to part take and contribute in such projects. Because there is now so much emphasis on collaborative working in the digital world, it comes as no surprise that there are multiple applications and websites that allow users to collaborate and contribute to various different projects online. One such website is called Zooniverse.

Amazon Rainforest

The Zooniverse platform allows for a number of researchers and scientists to have their projects openly available to anyone with a Zooniverse account. These Zooniverse volunteers can contribute to the work in any of the available projects of their choice. These contributions in turn help the owners of their chosen project to make significant amounts of progress with regards to completing their work. Once you have logged onto your Zooniverse account you can choose to one of the ten topics of projects that most interest you. Some of the project topics include; climate, literature, and medi
cine. In each of these topics there are a handful of projects to choose from. Before you begin working on any project you can explore what the aim of a particular project is and what is required of you to contribute to the work.
As I have a great interest in the environment and climate change I decided to search for a project within the ‘Nature’ category. Then you can look at the descriptions accompanying the projects in your chosen topic. I chose a project entitled ‘Amazon Aerobotany’ after reading about the aim of the project and how it would be beneficial to climate and environmental research. The aim of this project was to monitor the life cycles and phenomena of the forestry within the Amazonian rainforest. From the monitoring of the trees within the rainforest, the botanists behind the project wanted to find out what affect global warming and human interaction was having on the rainforests plant life.
For this project I was faced with a series of images of the Amazon rainforest. These images that you are shown give you an aerial-view of a particular section of the rainforest. Within these images there are three types of tree crowns that you are to search for are: ‘leafless crowns’, ‘flowering crowns’, and ‘Huasaí palm trees’. In the introduction to this project I was shown example images of what each of these tree crowns would look like in the images. Along with these images was a supplementary written description on how the appearance of these crowns may differ from image to image depending on the quality and lighting in the photo. These sample images and descriptions are readily available to you for every aerial-view image you are faced with to help with any difficulties you may experience while identifying the different tree crowns. With regard to the interface of Zooniverse you are shown on large image in the centre of the screen. Accompanying this image of the rainforest is a panel in which you are asked if you have been able to identify any of the three crowns in the image. If you select ‘yes’ as your answer you are then required to select which type of tree crown you have identified and circle these crowns on the image. If you are unable to identify any of the three crown types you are then shown the next image of another section of the rainforest to work on.
From reading the description of the project I discovered that [1] the botanists in the Amazon had previously spent much of their time walking through the rainforest, trying to identify the tree crowns from ground level. This was a very slow and painstaking process and so they began to experiment other ways to carry out their research. Now these botanists use aerial photography to capture images of sections of the rainforest from above and upload these images onto Zooniverse. Here with the help of thousands of Zooniverse users the time taken to survey each area of the rainforest has decreased dramatically. This additional input from the Zooniverse volunteers allows for these scientists to then analyse all the results gathered from the contributors, rather than spending their time trying the identify the tree crowns from images themselves.
Having now worked on Amazon Aerobotany, I feel that I learned a lot about the importance surrounding the monitoring and conservation of plants and their lifecycles. I had not previously considered that biologists were keeping track of the tree life cycles of the rainforest, as it is more common to hear of the danger of extinction faced by the animals that inhabit it. I was also surprised to find out how much Zooniverse has helped with their work. Zooniverse had allowed for more than two thousand volunteer users to contribute to the work carried out by the Amazon Aerobotany team. With over [2] seventy four thousand classifications made already by these Zooniverse users, this only accounts for fifty-two per cent of the project completed. From these figures alone it is clear that these researchers would not have made a fraction of this progress in their work without the help of users on the Zooniverse platform. This highlights how beneficial both crowdsourcing and Zooniverse in particular is for helping professionals with their work.

The idea of collaborating online for group projects was first introduced to me in my first year of college. Due to the number of group projects were have been assigned to work on, I have now become a regular user of various collaborative and communication platforms. Since incorporating applications such as; Google drive, Google docs, and Slack, sharing content and working collaboratively has never been easier and suits a busier student’s lifestyle. The idea of crowdsourcing, to me, is a continuation of this online collaborative work. The only real difference I can see between a standard group project and a crowd sourced project is the anonymity and the sheer numbers of the people working on a project together. What really struck me about Zooniverse in particular was the high number of volunteers there are online that are willing to help on large-scale projects.
Although volunteering in a crowd sourced project was a new experience for me, I have relied on crowd sourcing for a previous project of my own. I had created an interactive map, marking the major cultural and linguistic points throughout Cork city. For this project I used the social media site Twitter to reach out to my followers to ask for their help and contribution on my project. On Twitter I asked my followers if they had any additional information or some personal knowledge about cultural aspects in Cork that I may have overlooked. From reaching out to these strangers on social media I received messages containing some extra content I had been looking for to include on my interactive map. I also received some images of various pieces of street art containing old Irish phrases that have been appearing around the city over the past year. I had never previously considered relying on people I did not know to help me on a project. However, had I not reached out to my social media followers, the finished product of my map would not have been of the same standard. From this experience alone I understood what kind of benefits sites such as Zooniverse could have for people working on extensive and detailed projects, such as Amazon Aerobotany.
To conclude, I have enjoyed my experience using Zooniverse. I also now have a new sense of appreciation for the ways in which the internet and the World Wide Web can be used to help professionals further their work and research. Although I may not have a need to use Zooniverse or another platform like it in the future for my own work, it is certain that crowdsourcing is something that many academics and students will use at some point in their careers, even if it takes place on social media.

References:

[1] https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/rainforestexpeditions/amazon-aerobotany/about/research
[2] https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/rainforestexpeditions/amazon-aerobotany

Posted in Digital Evolution, Reviews, Social Media | Leave a comment

Lost Culture

Pedrolo

Manuel de Pedrolo

I recently attended a talk by Pedro Fernàndez Dorado, a PhD candidate at University College Cork who is currently working on a project which [1] visually bridges the gap between the work of Manuel de Pedrolo and the Catalan literary space in the second half of the 20th century.

Manuel de Pedrolo was a Catalan novel author, storyteller of many diverse genres, and a poet [2] who published as many as 72 novels during the years 1949-1985. As well as this, Pedrolo translated many other novels into the Catalan language. Although Pedrolo was born in Catalonia and wrote all of his novels and books in Catalan, there still appears to
be an issue for calling the novelist by his nationality. For
UCCSeminarexample, during Pedro Fernàndez Dorado’s talk, it was pointed out to us that on Pedrolo’s Spanish Language Wikipedia page under the nationality heading [3] it said Pedrolo was ‘Spanish’ and not ‘Catalan’. I do admit that when he first pointed this out, I did not realize the significance of not assigning the correct nationality to the novelist until Mr. Fernàndez Dorado’s compared it to someone of a foreign nationality calling Irish people “British”. Even though I have nothing against Britain and wouldn’t consider myself a nationalist, I realize that I would find this ignorance to be somewhat bothersome. In the case of a famed writer who promoted the Catalan language, his mother tongue, there is no excuse for an unintentional disregard of Pedrolo’s nationality. To disregard his nationality would prove that any attempt made to call Pedrolo ‘Spanish’ is a conscious act to suppress the Catalan people and to exert Spanish political power over Catalonia.

It was hard for me not to see a parallel between the history of Catalonia and that of Ireland. Ireland was always faced many challenges since its beginning, including; multiple invasions, the great famine, and British colonization to name a few. It wasn’t until 1921 that the Republic of Ireland was finally declared independent in the Anglo-Irish Treaty. Even though the Republic of Ireland has been an independent state, unlike Catalonia, for the past 95 years and now has been free to practise its own native language and customs, there has been a massive loss with regard to Irish Culture and the Irish language.

Catalonia Map

Catalonia

Even though Irish is still an official language in Ireland and Irish road signs and sign posts can be seen around the country, Irish is not spoken as a casual language outside of the academic system except for the small and scarce Gaeltacht regions. It is English that is the vastly more popular official language of Ireland that is spoken all around the country on a day to day basis. Similarly, with the Catalonian state fighting for its independence from Spain since 1922, and the Catalan language has faced various challenges and restrictions since the 1700s, and it comes as no surprise that the Catalan language has faced near extinctions. [4]As of 2013, Catalan is the habitual language of only 36% of the population of Catalonia, and Spanish is the habitual language of 51% of the population. Although global integration and immigration have been the leading reasons for the decline in a number of native languages around the world, it is still important not to lose your native language completely. Some might argue that many native languages may not seem to have a place nor may not be of much use in the modern world, language is a major part of one’s culture and identity.

Since Mr. Fernàndez Dorado’s talk about his work and the importance of cultural identity, I have thought a lot about the topic. In my digital humanities modules we are required to create a digital artefact, and base a portfolio on a research question that we choose ourselves and I have decided to base mine on the topic of ‘Lost Culture in Ireland’. On that note, I want to thank Mr. Fernàndez Dorado for coming and talking to our Digital Humanities course a few weeks ago.

 

References:

[1] “Pedro Fernàndez Dorado| | Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies UCC.” University College Cork. Accessed December 5, 2016. https://www.ucc.ie/en/splas/people/peopleinfo/pedrofernandezdorado/

[2] “Manuel de Pedrolo – Wikipedia.” Wikipedia, Accessed December 5, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manuel_de_Pedrolo#Work

[3] “Manuel de Pedrolo – Wikipedia.” Wikipedia. Accessed December 5, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manuel_de_Pedrolo

[4] “Idescat. Demografia I Qualitat de Vida. Usos Lingüístics. Llengua Inicial, D’identificació I Habitual. Resultats.” Statistical Institute of Catalonia. Accessed December 5, 2016. http://www.idescat.cat/economia/inec?tc=3&id=da01&dt=2008.

 

Posted in Digital Artefacts, Digital Humanities, Heritage & Culture | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Virtual Heritage Network Conference at UCC

Transport Infrastructure IrelandTransport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) is the result of the Railway Procurement Agency and the National Roads Authority coming together to form one Irish transport authority. Their aim is to deliver high quality transport infrastructure and transport services in Ireland, which in turn aids the economic growth in our country. TII is also one of the sponsors of the VHN conference in UCC, and will see members of their team attending the conference, with some giving talks about their organization. As part of the preparation of the Virtual Heritage Network conference in University College Cork from the 8th to the 10th of December 2016, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rónán Swan of Transport Infrastructure Ireland. Mr. Swan is the head of the Archaeology and Heritage sector at TII, and will be attending the conference with one of his colleagues. Mr. Swan has a pervasive background in Archaeology. Having studied Archaeological computing at post Graduate level in South Hampton, he went on to become an archaeologist and carried out excavations in the nineties. Now he and his team manage the multiple excavations and projects by the archaeological department of TII that take place around the country.

Excavation Discovery

Excavation Discovery

During our interview, Mr. Swan talked extensively about digitizing and publishing the information and all the reports from all the work done by their department on-line. While speaking of his time excavating in the nineties, he said “The general public always wanted to know what we were doing with all the information” that they had gathered. They also wanted to know if this information would be available to them and if they were going to publish this information for public use. Because of this demand for information from the public, Mr. Swan’s department has recently partaken in a project with the Digital Repository of Ireland (DRI) and the Discovery Programme.

The Digital Repository of Ireland is an on-line repository platform for data held by Irish institutions which is open and freely available for public use and research, and the Discovery Programme conducts advanced research in Irish archaeology and disseminating the information globally. Together, the DRI and the Discovery Programme is the key for the on-line publication of TII’s research reports and information. “We’ve developed a system where we can upload all that data onto the DRI platform so that it allows people to immediately to get whatever information they want”, Mr. Swan said about the project. He also said that they work to “give [the information] to the public in the exact same way [they] receive it” so therefore they do not “package” the information for the public, allowing them to use the information their way. Mr. Swan said that within the next three months they will have launched three thousand reports onto the DRI platform, followed by another thousand next year.

Interior of a Medieval Parish Church

Interior of a Medieval Parish Church Artist: JG O’Donoghue

As of now, the archaeological department of TII has two thousand excavation reports, archaeological assessments, and a large publication of about 30 books that they are trying to get onto the digital repository. Unfortunately they have a whole range of data that is currently untapped and nobody is using them”.  This abundant volume of information that has been left unused is another reason for the need of the DRI platform.

While Mr. Swan and I were talking about the access of information to the archaeological reports of TII, I asked would there be a specific group or groups of people, other than archaeologists who would have a particular interest in this kind of information. “An interesting group who use our information are artists,” I was told.  “Many will come to the archaeologists when they’re drawing their inspiration for their work”.

Anglo Norman High Medieval Castle Illustration

Anglo Norman High Medieval Castle Illustration Artist: JG O’Donoghue

Around the country, many artists would use archaeological resources to see what has been discovered, hence why you would see some artists painting and drawing on the sides of motorways and in other slightly unusual places. One artist Mr. Swan named in was JG O’Donoghue, an artist based in Cork, “He’s done some beautiful paintings, and he has worked with us over the years.”  This particularly interesting group of people really shows how the work of archaeologists directly effects and inspires the arts.

That concludes some of the greater points discussed during our interview. I look forward to seeing Rónán Swan and his colleague at the VHN Conference in UCC, to find out even more about their work in TII.

Posted in Digital Evolution, Heritage & Culture, VHN | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Facebook impacting #RepealThe8th ?

It has been proven time and time again that social media is having an awesome impact on modern societies. Since the invention of the first social networking, SixDegrees  in 1997, the number of these sites and their users has grown exponentially. We now have; Twitter for short status updates, Instagram for uploading our digital photographs, and we have Facebook which does everything other websites do and more.

8

A protest against the amendment in 1983

Facebook allows you to connect with friends and family, post status updates and photographs, and create an online profile for yourself on its website. Another component of Facebook that makes it extremely practical in the busy lives of its users is the Create groups or events feature. As member of various societies and clubs in University, I have found that it is these organizations’ Facebook pages that are what keep me informed about events and social gatherings that take place. It is on through a Facebook invitation to the event where I found out about the March for Choice that took place on the twenty third of September 2016.

With thousands of Irish citizens and many Polish citizens in the mix [1], the march for Choice was a success due to the high turnout rate and celebrity appearances along the way showing their support for Irish women [2]. The march also symbolised how the days of total Catholic dominance over every social aspect of this country and its laws are slowing coming to an end, and in its place individual opinions and equal human rights for all are becoming more prevalent. The strict abortion laws in Ireland have become outdated since their introduction to the Irish Constitution as article 40.3.3 in 1983, and also show contradictions with the other main constitutional rights of Irish citizens. Take for example the how the constitution states, with regard to bodily integrity, that neither a person nor the state has the right to harm your life or health. This right is strongly upheld by the state, unless you are a pregnant woman with a fatal foetal abnormality or if you are at risk of taking your own life over a pregnancy, which could result in your death. In this case the state can (and has done so before[3]) refuse you treatment to save your at the cost of the foetus, denying the woman’s right to life. The Irish ban on abortion is even more disturbing in other cases, where both women and young girls alike are being forced to carry their unwanted pregnancies to term, even if they were victims of rape and incest [4][5], unless they can afford to receive the medical care they need and deserve in another state.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Undoubtedly Repeal the 8th has quickly become one of the most talked about Irish social movements since the referendum on same-sex marriage last year. Despite the fact that many people are becoming more educated on the topic of abortion, I wondered if the broadcasting of the march on any form of social media had any influence over the number of supporters that showed up to the march, compared to the pre-Internet era.

Before the use of the internet and social media websites, the main source of announcement for social movement rallies would have been from the news and word-of-mouth. Although both of these are still relevant today it is a mystery as to how much, if at all Facebook and Twitter had made a difference. In some ways it can definitely be said that these platforms have made a difference in some aspects. The constant status updates about the march may have informed more people who previously may not have known of the event about the date, whereabouts and time it was taking place.

I also know of a few #Repeal supporters who were not entirely sure if they wanted to join in on the march in Dublin, but were encouraged to go when they saw how many others said they were attending the event on Facebook. If this happened to three people I personally knew, then without a doubt they were many more other protestors who decided to go based on the expected turnout.

Although it is clear that social media posts were the deciding factor as to whether to attend the march for some, there are a few other factors that are not related to social media that may also finalised some people’s decisions. Such factors include, but are not limited to; the increased acceptance of abortion in Irish society over the last decade, meaning less people would have felt judged or stigmatized for supporting such a cause, and how the number of Irish women who have to leave the country for an abortion has become common knowledge. This staggering number, which in 2015 came to more than nine women a day [6], is often mentioned on the news whenever a report surrounding the abortion ban and the Real the 8th Amendment movement is made.

annie-repeal-ucc

Annie Hoey, USI Vice President, in UCC talking to students about Repealing the 8th

As you can see, it is possible that Facebook and Twitter may have been the reason for the popularity behind the #MarchForRepeal. But it is also possible that it was our modern, less strictly-religion-orientated society that decided it was time to play catch up with other developed countries.

Please feel free to leave your own opinions as to whether or not you think social media is having an impact on social movements below.

References:

[1] “Poland, Ireland & the Fight for a Woman’s Right to Choose – ROSA.” Accessed October 7, 2016. http://rosa.ie/poland-ireland-the-fight-for-a-womans-right-to-choose/.

[2] “Hozier and Cillian Murphy Turned up to March for Choice Today – VIP Magazine.” Accessed October 7, 2016. http://vipmagazine.ie/hozier-and-cillian-murphy-turned-up-to-show-their-support-for-march-for-choice-today/.

[3] “Death of Savita Halappanavar – Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.” Accessed October 8, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Savita_Halappanavar.

[4] “Abortion & the Irish Constitution | Irish Family Planning Association.” Accessed October 7, 2016. https://www.ifpa.ie/Hot-Topics/Abortion/Abortion-and-the-Irish-Constitution.

[5] “Abortion-and-Ireland-Factfile.pdf.” Accessed October 7, 2016. https://www.ifpa.ie/sites/default/files/documents/briefings/abortion-and-ireland-factfile.pdf.

[6] “Abortion in Ireland: Statistics | Irish Family Planning Association.” Accessed October 7, 2016. https://www.ifpa.ie/Hot-Topics/Abortion/Statistics.

Posted in Digital Evolution, Social Media | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

The Return of the Hieroglyphics in 2016

As the age of technology progresses and advances, the traditional manner in which we go about daily tasks are changing quite rapidly. These ‘changing ways’ of ours could refer to the Bluetooth technology we use to make hands-free phone calls while we’re driving, to using our iTunes or Spotify accounts to listen to specific podcasts instead of traditional radio. However it is way in which we communicate with one another online that seems to be changing the most.

A year ago I read an article that was assigned to us by our Digital Humanities lecturers, Donna, about emoticons. ‘Emojis’ as they’re famously called nowadays are used on almost all platforms of social media and instant messaging. Even though they are seen as insignificant and are predominantly used for fun in while online messaging, they are not something one would consider ‘revolutionary’. On the contrary, it has been proven that emojis are starting to alter the way we perceive electronic messages and posts on social media.

I have stated in an early blog post of mine, Emojis, they’re just a bit of fun about how a simple smiley face could change the whole meaning of something as small as a tweet. Although last year when we discussed the topic in class we talked about how emojis can be compared to the ancient hieroglyphics and how the concept of replacing certain words with images is not a ‘new’ development in modern society. These daysm, it is common practise that people would replace an entire word and sometimes even entire sentences with just using a few emojis. Although some people may think that receiving small icons instead of sentences would be difficult to comprehend, it is now rather an easy as the number and variety of emojis are constantly growing. In the case of the replacement of certain words with emojis our lecturer, Donna told us of rumours about people getting master’s degrees in Creative Writing by submitting ‘emoji poetry’ as their final projects. Although I cannot confirm whether or not these rumours are factual, it is evident that people do try to both write emoji poetry and translate it to English. If you are interested in the concept of emoji poetry you should take a look at these two poems written by Carina Finn, and translated by Stephanie Berger on Smoking Glue Gun’s website: https://smokinggluegun.com/2013/06/01/stephanie-berger-carina-finn/

Even as emojis dominate social media, they were originally created to allow for easier communication on-line. I personally find that using emojis instead of typing out potentially long messages is easier for both receiver and sender . Since instant messages are just that, they are sent and received in real time. This means that the longer a message is the longer you must wait for it to be typed and sent, and this can be frustrating. Now that emojis can be used we are reducing this wait time and creating a more proficient way of communication on-line.

 

Posted in Digital Evolution, Emojis | Leave a comment

Textual Humanities and Birds

corr.png

http://voyant-tools.org:80/?corpus=207b453099ee1ba9086589c0861b7679&panels=cirrus%2Creader%2Ctrends%2Csummary%2Ccontexts

The visualization of text has become almost a study necessity to students everywhere as technology and computers become more and more prevalent in the lives of today’s young people. As times and technology changes, so do the way people think and so do the methods in which they use to make sense out of what they are reading. Since video and imagery are more integrated into course work and study techniques it is becoming quite clear that people are using visualizations to help remember and to explain what they are learning in a clear comprehensible manner. In my opinion it is this reason that there are now multiple websites on-line that show its users via various appealing graphs how frequently certain words and phrases appear, and where in the text they occur the most and the least. From my experience of using the Voyant-tools website for this assignment, I have found that the visualising of texts would be extremely useful for me personally as a lot of my course readings are on-line and Voyant could highlight the most important (repeated) parts of the text for note-making.

As part of our latest Digital Humanities assignment we were asked to download a free text of our choice and upload this text to one of the many text-visualizing websites recommended to us by our lecturer, Shawn Day. For my Textual humanities assignment I used Project Guttenberg’s ‘Bird Houses Boys Can Build’ by Albert F. Siepert Although I have never previously read this paper before, the title caught my attention since I often tried to make my birdhouses when I was much younger. Once I downloaded the paper to my own PC, I used Microsoft Word to edit the paper (removing images and descriptions of images) so it would be compatible with Voyant. Although I had tried other sites to visualise the text, such as Wordle, I had difficulties opening and using these tools since I do not have the Java Browser Plugin.

I read the paper before I used Voyant and got descriptions of everyday birds, their preferred living arrangements and other information that would be used to make the birdhouses and the surrounding area more attractive to the birds. Once I applied the file to my chosen tool, I was struck by the different ways in which the information it gathered was displayed. The ‘cirrus’ cloud was the first thing to grab my attention. The ‘cirrus’ is an assortment of words cirr.pngchosen from the text that occur the most frequently and located in the top left of the screen. All these words were coloured differently which made it pleasant to look at and perhaps would make these key words easier to remember. The letters were also all of different sizes representing which words were repeated the most to the least. As well as all of these features you could change how many words were displayed in the cloud and were told how many times they were repeated when the mouse hovered a word. This was my favourite feature of Voyant due to the fun and colourful nature of the cloud and for the reason that it worked with the feature in the top right of the screen. This feature on the right is a multi-choice tool. What I mean by this is that it first displays a trend graph of the five most common words, which also show where in the corpus they appear the most and the least. Above this graph there are three tabs that you can click and can turn the graph into a series of links which not only shows via spider-diagram what words appear the most, but what other words they are most often put with in a sentence. The third tab shows a table of collocates which has the same function of the links, only some people who prefer lists and structure rather than an interactive spider graph would prefer to gain information through this option.

In the top middle of the screen there is a ‘reader’ which was a small window containing the entire corpus that you can scroll through. Below this reader this a small box where youbub.png can type in any word or sentence of phrase of your choice and then can easily be found by Voyant from the text. There is also a small help box next to this which explains what all the different symbols mean and how they can aid you in your search. There are two more features found at the bottom of the screen which will show you in basic terms what is the most common words and phrases on the left, and on the right the different contexts of a chosen word is displayed in either a list form, or a ‘bubblelines’ form. Bubblelines is another fun and appealing feature than shows where in the corpus certain words occurred the most.

What really appealed to me the most about all these features on Voyant is that they all interact with each other. Once a word was chosen or typed in in a certain feature, all the other features on the page will also work to display the phrases and contexts in which the word can be found. For study purposes especially this would be most helpful. For example, if a student wants to make notes on particular area of a topic, with ‘economy’ being the key word, then all mentions of the words economy along with the sentences will appear. This would cut down on a lot of time wasting that occurs when students have to read through the entire corpus when information is scattered throughout the text. Another aspect of these features that appeals to me is the fact that they ultimately give the same information, only they display it different ways, both as lists and tables and graphs and images, which makes Voyant a viable tool to almost everyone no matter what method they find suits them best as a means to study.

As someone who uses a mixture of the visual and the written for study, I have found Voyant to be an extraordinary tool that I will undoubtedly use myself.

 

Posted in Digital Learning Methods, Reviews | Leave a comment

OpenStreetMap Review

OpenStreetMap is an open source tool that allows people to contribute in detail to online maps used for accurately mapping out the world. In OpenStreetMap anyone with a computer can become a contributor for the project, marking and

labelling all roads and paths, as well as all buildings, various land types, and waterways, on an aerial view map, which is made up of a number of different sources. OSM is a unique project as it created from user generated content, and unlike Google maps, OSM maps are far more detailed in terms of urbanisation and infrastructure, as Google maps only displays roads. This level of detail in online maps allows for a new-found level of accuracy in location for tourists and even emergency services. Another major benefit of OpenStreetMap is that the users are constantly updating, perfeosmcting and reviewing the work of others. This, for the most part, means that the maps are accurate and have approval from one or more validators that the map accurately displays any area in the world.

 As part of my Digital Humanities module we chose between two options of how we were to use OSM, in terms of purpose. The first option included; adding 100 features to the map of your local neighbourhood as well as correcting 10 features already on the map. Option two took a different approach to using OSM as we were to complete humanitarian tasks. In Humanitarian OSM Tasking, you choose from a list of options of areas and regions in the world that need maps completed (generally speaking these areas would of poor wealth status), or validated if a humanitarian crisis or emergency has occurred in that area. These areas were divided up into smaller land masses called ’tiles’. The tile would show a square around a part of land within the area of emergency and we were to complete three tiles and validate one tile with this option.

 I felt that the second option of completing a task for Humanitarian OSM Tasking would be far more beneficial and productive than option one of completing your local area on the OSM map, as most areas in Ireland are completed and were not in a state of emergency. Because of this, I chose to complete option two as part of my Digital Humanities assignment.  Two of the tiles I completed were in the same area of Georgetown in Guyana, the third tile was near the city of San Isidro in Nicaragua, and the tile I validated was just north of San Isidro, again in Nicaragua. Since this was my first time using OSM, it was recommended that I use ID Editor for editing the maps. Although I had never previously used OSM, I found that editing the maps was extremely easy to do, largely due to the basic and comprehensible interface of the program. Within the window of the area you were editing, there were three shortcuts: line, point, and area which you could use to mark in any feature of the land on your chosen tile. Fortunately, I found this aspect of using OSM to be simple to use and understand.

 The areas that were made available for the humanitarian tasks were both in areas and countries I
had not previously visited, because of osm2this I did not feel very confident that I knew what I was marking in at times. For example, at one point I had marked a minor road over a dark line through my tile in Georgetown, only to discover that it was in fact a canal when I inspected the surrounding tiles and Google maps. Because of these little mistakes that I made throughout my experience of using OSM, I understand that there would be many more OSM contributors out there that would make similar mistakes while marking in features on the map. To minimize the chances of these mistakes occurring, I found it helpful to have Google maps and the editor side-by-side on a split screen for accuracy, as the OSM aerial view became quite grainy when you zoomed in on the map. While editing the maps I had marked in different types of roads, waterways and buildings. Although I found marking in houses and buildings to be quite tedious, I found the overall experience of the mapping to be rewarding and I think I have a better understanding of how to identify different road and water features from aerial view for future mapping.

 What I found most interesting about my experience with OSM was that it was a collaborative process. Even though a tile is locked by a user once they began editing, allowing the user to have sole access to the tile during the editing period, the tiles are always being validated by other users once editing is finished. This means that no matter what is done on the OSM, there are others there to help contribute, validate and correct your work if needs be. As OSM is a user-generated tool, anyone including people with very little to no knowledge of certain areas (including myself) can contribute to the maps. For me, knowing that more than one person will work on these maps to improve accuracy and remove any mistakes is reassuring and counteracts the distrust some people may feel towards user-generated content. I believe that all user-generated content based apps and projects should all have some form group work and collaboration, so that the chance of publishing inaccurate or incorrect information on-line is kept to a minimum.

Overall, I would say that completing and validating the tiles on the OSM Tasking Manager was a valuable learning experience in terms of understanding what we can do to help and contribute to the world around us by just using simple technologies and apps from the comfort of our own homes.

Posted in Digital Evolution, Reviews | Leave a comment

Zotero: A Critical Review

z

Zotero is a digital tool widely used among scholars, journalists, and students around the world. Zotero is an open source tool that can be downloaded onto any computer and allows for the easy collecting and saving of research sources, the organizing of the sources, and is also used for referencing in academic work. The program is extremely useful for anyone who needs to research, collect sources and reference other people’s work. The tool was first released in 2006 and now has a strong, supportive community behind it. With hundreds of articles and reviews on-line about the program, it is fair to say that Zotero has been used and downloaded by many.  In theory, Zotero is a revolutionary digital tool that can be used by anyone with a computer with great ease. I also find this to be true about Zotero and now as I have used the program regularly myself since the beginning of my college life. First introduced to me by one of my Digital Humanities lecturers, I have used Zotero many times and find it does truly help with many aspects of my work, after downloading it from its website, Zotero.org.

 

 

To use Zotero for collections sources all you have to do is simply create a new item, fill in the fields about your source, such as; the name of the author, the title of the piece, the date of publication etc., and Zotero organizes this information in a professional fashion. You can also easily collect sources from various websites and webpages by simply clicking and dragging the webpage’s URL to your open Zotero window and dropping it. With Zotero you can not only collect web pages and word documents as your sources, but you can also collect and save audio and visual sources, images and almost every other file type that you may need for future referencing. Once your sources are in Zotero, they are automatically saved onto your local Zotero library and can be synced onto your on-line Zotero account, where you can access you sources anywhere on any computer.

As well as saving your references, Zotero allows you to create collections, sub-collections and allows you to tag all your sources. You can create and name these collections and sub-collections, and store whatever relevant sources you have into each collection. This allows for the easy locating of your sources within your Zotero library. As for referencing, Zotero has its own built-in bibliography and citation template styles and layouts which can be easily used in any word processor.

 

Although the Zotero had a step-by-step demonstration on how to use the program when first downloaded, and even with basic instructions on the Zotero website, learning how to use Zotero properly was a very tedious and time-consuming process. I found myself watching YouTube tutorials for many weeks each time I wanted to use Zotero because I was simply unsure whether or not I was using the tool correctly due to the vague descriptions on the Zotero website. Although, some fault may have lied with my unfamiliarity with referencing and citing sources as a first year undergraduate, I believe Zotero should improve the program’s instructions and descriptions of all the features that come with the program.

Despite the nearly painful process of getting used to using Zotero effectively, the program overall has proved to be an important tool in my academic work.

Zotero allows me to easily create new items within my Zotero library and automatically saves my sources without ever needing me to do this manually. I find that the automatic saving feature in Zotero is crucial for when you are researching, as we are all familiar with becoming engrossed in looking up articles, reading books and trying to find relevant and important sources for your work. During this intense and even stressful process, automatically saving our sources as we create new ones is both helpful and leaves the Zotero user to worry about one thing less.

Before I discovered the collection feature on my Zotero program, for a short time I was left with scattered, unorganized sources in my library. It was only then when I began creating collections and using tags and notes on my sources that I realized how useful this feature was. To organize all my related sources into collections and sub-collections made finding my sources within my library and referencing at the end of my work considerably less daunting.

Last but not least, Zotero now has a ‘group’ feature. This allows for people working on the same project together to create a collection of sources that they can share between their own libraries. Although I have not had a need to use this feature yet, I can only imagine how easy it would make working as part of team whilst researching for group projects.

 

 

To conclude, I think Zotero is a powerful and useful tool to many people who ever need to cite, research, and reference their work. In my opinion, again referring to the difficult time I had using Zotero when it first downloaded, I think it would be an improvement in the functionality of the program to first-time users if Zotero were to create more in-depth instructions and descriptions on its website. As for the program itself, I believe that the feature icons themselves can be made bigger and possibly have simple instructions on how to use the features upon clicking them. With the option to turn off the automatic instructions on how to use each feature effectively, I believe this would be very helpful for first-time Zotero users.

Posted in Copyright, Digital Learning Methods, Reviews | Leave a comment

Making Chores Fun

[1] Image

Have you ever sat down at your desk, filled with dread, as you contemplate what to write you 1,000 word essay on for that one class that you find unbearable and usually fall asleep in the lectures 20 minutes in? Now what if the lecturer decided that the first person to submit their essay to him will be given a free pass to not do one assignment in the future of the winners choice? And the person with the highest word count can have a copy of the lecturers notes for the next class so they can stay and at home and sleep instead of having to go in for fear of missing something important? Also the person who writes the best essay gets a tenner. Wouldn’t you sit down at your desk filled with motivation at the prospect that you could be one of the lucky winners? ThGamification1-e1409127801440e answer is yes. You would. There is an award to be received, turning the assignment into a game of winners and losers. And everyone loves games!

Gamification involves [2] “the application of typical elements of game playing (e.g. point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity.” In the above example, for students ‘winning’ a day or an assignment off, they must compete with each other in a number of aspects on their due assignment.

Although you may not realize it, there are hundreds of forms of Gamification in your everyday life. From Clubcard points in the likes of BGamification1-e1409127801440oots, to filling out online surveys about your experience in a particular store with the chance to win a lump sum of, money, gamification is everywhere. Gamification can entice people into doing things they would not usually want to do voluntarily. It can also give people little ‘nudges’ into doing what’s best for them or a company by making the process fun or with the prospect of an award. An example of a’nudge’ include some large-scale events, such as ‘Piano  Stairs’ by TheFunTheory.com.

In ‘Piano Stairs’ TheFunTheory, who state on their website [3] that they are ” dedicated to the thought that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better”, wire up and create a giant piano on a stairway to deter people from using the escalators as much.

On a lesser scale, I have used gamification only last week on Twitter to encourage people to read my post titled ‘No Privacy Please!‘. In my tweet I created a poll where people could decide whether or not TrackR is a danger to your personal security after reading my post.

The general consensus was that people thought TrackR to be an extremely invasive app and that they would have a hard time trusting it. That particular blog post also earned the most views out of all my other blog posts. Nothing about the this blog post or the way in which I advertised it via social media networking was any different than the others, except for the poll.

Ultimately, the thought of being able to engage in a ‘game’ of sharing your opinion proved to be a highly successful form of gamification.

References:

[1] “Gamification1-e1409127801440.jpg (JPEG Image, 900 × 506 Pixels).” Accessed December 2, 2015.                                       http://magazine.startus.cc/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Gamification1-e1409127801440.jpg

[2] “Gamification – Definition of Gamification in English from the Oxford Dictionary.” Accessed December 2, 2015. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/gamification.

[3] “The Fun Theory.” Accessed December 2, 2015. http://www.thefuntheory.com/

Posted in Digital Evolution, Digital Learning Methods | Leave a comment

Twessay #2 Storytelling

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There is something unique about storytelling and how it engages people compared to other ways of informing people of what happened, such as articles and reports. There is a difference between telling someone facts about what happened the day before and telling someone the story of what happened yesterday. The difference between simply talking and telling a story is that storytelling is usually highly subjective, usually exaggerated and includes lots of detail to allow the audience to feel like they were there or that they are ‘in on the story’.

Now what really gives stories their own twists is how they are told. Since the beginning of time storytelling has evolved. In Irish history, Ogham inscriptions on stones were the earliest form of writing and recording. Most Ogham stones were used as headstones to record the names of the deceased, how old they were when they passed and where they were from. Here in UCC we are lucky enough to have a ‘stone corridor’ which contains a number of ancient Ogham stones. Although Ogham itself is technically considered its own language, it is the way in which stories were recorded and told that I am focusing on. After Ogham stones, scriptures were the next form of writing. [1] The oldest of such scriptures was transcribed in 1100 and was titled, “The Book of Dun Cow”.

Like everything in the past, changes took time. [2] It wasn’t until 1551 when the first book in Ireland (The Book of Common Prayer) was actually printed. Up until this point everything was handwritten.

In contrast to these slow gradual changes that took centuries to happen, since the first movie ever made in 1888 and the first radio broadcast in 1906, plenty has changed in this time. Storytelling since has become more and more popular in the world of movies, gaming and interactive documentaries. One of the interactive documentaries I have watched and played with is bear71  which gives you the narrative of the life of Bear 71 while you can journey through the woods she lived in and find out about all the other species of animals and plants that lived alongside her.

As part of our  twessay assignment there were loads of responses from people in my class. In these tweets they shared their views and understandings of the evolution of storytelling.

In the tweet below, Joseph combats the negative stigma behind reading off kindles compared to traditional paperback books.

Other tweets including Alex’s and Katie’s added how storytelling is becoming more and more prominent in the digital age through games and intangible media.

 

Ironically enough, tweeting is one of the latest storytelling inventions where you must get your point across in 140 characters or less. This is both  a challenge and teaches one how to condense down what they want to say down to the very core of their argument!

 

References:

[1] “Existing manuscript literature” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_Irish_literature

[2] “PRINTING OF IRELAND’S FIRST BOOK TO BE COMMEMORATED” http://ireland.anglican.org/Archives/newsbrief/nbarchive2001/1549.html

Posted in Digital Evolution, Emojis, Twessay | Leave a comment