Network meeting: Friday 11th December 2009, University of Liverpool


Julia Hallam (University of Liverpool)

Julia outlined the network aim: Taking forward a bigger project – establishing protocols for integration of GIS and GPS – e.g. transferral of GIS data stores onto user-friendly application.

Peter Connor (BT)

Peter suggested that the workshop, from BT’s perspective, is about understanding and underpinning partnership objectives with BT. He explained that BT have supported a number of projects throughout Liverpool including:

  • Toxteth – working with schools on intergenerational programmes, providing a route into new employment and new opportunity
  • Work with Phil Redmond in Kensington – supported a programme where the community was trained on how to produce digital content – own electronic environment – including local cultural heritage day project.
  • North-East Liverpool (Old Valley) – supporting a community of 85,000 – creating own digital content, giving people a voice.
  • Everybody Online Project for Liverpool – gave the public a voice, engaging people through technology.

BT to use the North West as a test-bed to move to a new level.

David Hay (BTHead of BT’s Heritage Programme)

BT acknowledges duty of care to rich heritage inherited and creating.

Consists of in-house managed archives, also a museum project (Connected Earth) dispersed huge collection around country,

Theme and significance of partnerships (e.g. with Museum of Science and Industry Manchester, Salford University, AHRC) – drawing attention to significance of communications heritage; how this has impacted upon society and people’s lives over time.

Presentation: Mapping Liverpool’s heritage

Julia Bryan, Clare Ahmad and Liz Stewart (National Museums Liverpool) outlined their plans for the use of maps as a way of accessing information in the History Detectives gallery for the new Museum of Liverpool.

Link to National Museums Liverpool presentation brief notes

Questions arising from museums:

  • How could we develop the data usage?
    • eg. use of hyperlinks embedded within the interactive to interlink themes and create trails through storylines?
  • How could polygons be made to work on a user-friendly front end?
    • e.g. biological records of animals / plants / bird sightings which are usually plotted by kilometre squares
  • How does our data structure tie in with City in Film’s data? How easy is it to link moving images into this sort of multimedia with text and images etc.?

Mapping local heritage in the US: Main Street, Carolina

Robert C Allen, (Professor of Cultural History, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill) outlined the aspect of his GIS project ‘Going to the Show’ that will enable local people and groups in 45 districts of North Carolina to build densely layered historical maps of their own downtown areas.

Link to Robert C Allen's presentation - brief notes

Issues for the network:

- How to build in complex info and still maintain goal of ease of use.

- Which features to build in as a software application and which to use outside (e.g. Flickr, Youtube).

- Display – access beyond a computer – interactive white boards, location-sensitive mobile devices etc?

GPS and social networking: a user’s approach

Justina Heslop (National Museums Liverpool) talked about new mobile phone software applications that she has been experimenting with from a user’s perspective with a view to creating ‘guided’ augmented reality walks around the city.

Justina Heslop

Demonstrated phone applications in relation to own use, supplemented by Youtube videos. Augmented reality (e.g. ghost game – Google maps, game overlaid with ghosts over the top to be chased).

Augmented reality – term used to describe the combination of the real and virtual worlds in such applications. Layer of added info that goes over the top (re. location, geo-tagging and place).

Military, movies, computer games and mobile apps use augmented reality.

GIS and mapping in practice: accessibility issues and problems

The following speakers drew on their experiences of developing academic GIS and mapping resources as part of knowledge transfer projects.

  • 'Mapping the City in Film: 'Les Roberts, University of Liverpool

Link to Les Robert's presentation - brief notes

  • 'Mapping poetry in the Lake District: 'David Cooper, University of Lancaster

Link to David Cooper's presentation - brief notes

  • 'Mapping Liverpool’s musical heritage: 'Professor Sara Cohen, University of Liverpool

Link to Sara Cohen's presentation - brief notes

  • 'Mapping performance Culture in Nottingham:'Gary Priestnell, University of Nottingham

Link to Gary Priestnall's presentation - brief notes

'Issues and perspectives: ''''Ian Gregory, University of Lancaster

Ian’s role – to consider issues more from a technical perspective.

Where are we?

Great amount of geographically enabled content available (e.g. Historical maps – detailed street maps, Sandborn maps, English tide maps, rural areas, wider scale maps beyond this).

Ian associated the museum’s presentation with a past project he had worked on in Sydney (Sydney TimeMap project); a web-enabled project with a spatial recreation of Sydney maps at its core (from past to present day) – superimposed on that were facts, artefacts etc. Included a timeline function etc.

This kind of historical mapping tracks history, frames everything else that lies within this, provides a background content.

On another level, wide range of content that goes with this (discussed throughout all presentations) e.g. music, movies, images, artefacts.

Ian considered other projects that he had been involved in, that also might be relevant – including content such as transport data (more “classic” GIS data), census data, official stats etc have all been digitised now. Can provide a vast amount of content information – ranging from individual level to more aggregate census information.

Structured texts (e.g. street directories) – historical documents often put together for commercial reasons, that often advise who lived in each house in a certain city. These often survive year on year. Might enable you to map shops, industries etc from a certain year onto specific streets. Also unstructured texts – diaries, newspapers etc.

Within this, one of the key issues that Ian is working on with some linguists from Lancaster is ways of automatically extracting place names from a text. If you could, for example, extract a specific place name from a wide variety of texts and geo-reference them, this would enable you to ask questions such as, “What news stories were published about a certain place?”, or “What did certain writers say about a certain place?” etc. Relates to issue faced by Mapping the Lakes project – laborious task of manual searching. The possibility of extracting specific data and automatically geo-referencing would remove much manual searching and open up this content. Not far from that at the moment.

Final sort of content - augmented reality, virtual reality material – Ian referred to current projects taking place in relation to this - recreating past landscapes in 3D (“Virtual Kyoto” project for example). Rural American landscapes – similar project. Also a lot of work done by King’s Visualisation Lab – reconstructing archaeological sites. Re-envisaging past landscapes using virtual reality / augmented reality.

Also modern data – revolutionised by Google Earth, Google Maps.

Volunteered / user generated content (e.g. Flickr) – can query latitude / longitude and link to Flickr easily. Also Youtube, map-based Wikipedia etc. Many of these have started using map-based, geo-labelled content.

Also hand-drawn maps as discussed in Sara’s presentation – tradition of such maps in Geography departments – cognitive / perceptive mapping, where people produce their own maps to record their ideas about a certain area, which are much less rigidly geometric than traditional GIS content.

Cultural / humanities type content is extremely popular with users e.g. 1911 Census of Ireland data (National Archives of Ireland) – free website, which isn’t geographically enabled, has attracted 180 million hits over 18 months. Such information could be used to geo-reference what past cities were like.

At the moment, most of this technology is delivered to computers. There is potential for mobile technology (as demonstrated by Gary and Justina’s presentations), but this is a weaker and less developed area at the moment.

Technical side of this work often tends to be carried out in computer science departments, whereas the content-generated side (mainly demonstrated within the presentations) has been carried out largely within humanities departments – need bringing together, areas need to overlap.

Four possible approaches to the way that you can interact with GIS as a user:

  1. Context sensitive (simplest level) – accessing one set of content (e.g. music in Liverpool, writing in Lake District etc)
  2. As everything in GIS is geo-referenced, makes it an excellent tool for integration of seemingly incompatible content (as all sorts of info can be geographically enabled). Can explore more holistic ideas; bringing together information as a single theme. Difficulty in intellectual property rights rather than technical.
  3. Automated tour guide (e.g. PC could deliver content to phone or sat nav for a certain route/tour – would provide information about certain places as you travelled, if the route was planned in advance).
  4. GPS enabled gadgets storing information about where you’ve been. Can ask questions when you get home about a certain area (e.g. What was the statue called I went past? Which bands have played in the venue I visited?). Would require a gadget that accurately tracks where you’ve been during the day.

Need to consider how we might develop ideas in relation to such approaches.

'Discussion: 'Issues and ideas for development for Lancaster workshop.

Firstly, considered ideas for who it might be useful to invite to next meeting.


  • Concerns about user-interface:
  • Accessibility - particularly in relation to amounts of text. (There are some Museum guidelines, AHRC provide some guidelines etc about presenting material in an accessible way). Text should be condensed – about 100 words per site etc.
  • Presentation formats tolerated, whilst maintaining geographical integrity and providing enough information, variety of different types of information – challenge created by this, bringing it all together.
  • Layered approaches have been tried by Sara – reduction of text again highlighted as important.
  • Interface – what will make people look?
  • Importance of engaging people from the start.
  • Streamlined, integrated structure – selective amount of material, manageable content.
  • Also significance of audience – what is acceptable presentation-wise for different audiences?
  • Suggestion by Julia - Could have a rolling city calendar of key events and focus on different themes at specific times (e.g. festivals, football etc.), offers you a way in. As everything is geo-referenced, easy to switch, move things round instead of having all the themes there all the time.
  • Growing amount of data that is, or could be, geo-referenced.
  • Robert C Allen – requirement that software created will be easy to use by non-experts, in a range of different ways.