2nd network workshop: Tuesday 23rd Feb, 2010

Introductions and welcomes by Ian Gregory (Lancaster University) and Julia Hallam (Liverpool University).

Geographical content in the digital arts

John O’Shea and Tim Brunsden (Re-Dock) Artist Collective Re-Dock present: "You Are Here" -Foregrounding Context.

Link to presentation notes

Chris Speed (Edinburgh College of Art) Walking Through Time: Exploring history through locative media

Link to presentation notes

Taylor Nuttall (folly) Love Culture - fusion of virtual and physical arts participation Link to presentation notes Link to presentation notes

Questions and discussion relating to the above papers:

1. In what ways have you envisaged the projects as being part of a wider structure?

John and Tim: Liverpool Stories – the film clips exist as stable, finished short films. Are interested in an affinity 'infinity film' – putting different sequences of film in various orders, streaming music. Maybe people could start to access the data from Liverpool Stories via certain areas (e.g. a specific experience, location, what children did etc) - if the information could be tagged, people could view the data from their own perspectives. Also a hope that the data could be made available for people to work and engage with it for their own purposes.

2. Chris, presumably an object will have lots of different stories – do you see this resulting in lots of different barcodes attached to an object, or is it a wiki-like approach where a barcode is updated, or is it a combination of the two?

Chris: I think it would have to be a combination – there is something interesting about seeing multiple tags, each belonging to different people. On the other hand, a comments idea might be used (like on Youtube) which has the ability to sustain individual sticking, as well as the ability to write on top of a tag.

3. Could you also tag buildings, so that the actual buildings and locations could be used to tell stories?

Chris: Nokia are doing it – if you find the right architect it will take you to their stories. The point was how you get the public to tell the stories. But people have tagged things like graffiti to interpret what this means, and what experiences and interpretations you might associate. Tim: Then becomes a new curatorial platform around which you can generate new projects. Chris: The local Oxfam shops, for example, tell you a lot about the community, for good or bad – and you get a lot of ghost stories. John: Through this kind of tagging, people can begin to identify with a kind of collective history. With Canal &, we were interested in using this as kind of a historical timeline, and perhaps then people can begin to identify with a collective future and begin to construct that.

4. Chris, can you talk a little bit about the Landmark maps you mentioned in relation to Walking through Time?

Chris: Historical maps were bought by Landmark from the Ordnance Survey – to get our jpegs (the tiles), we have to talk to Landmark, who cut a deal with the HE institutions to disseminate them, and can also sell them to the general public.

Location-based technologies and services

Keith Chervest (Lancaster University) Exploiting Traditional Map Signage with Mobile Devices

Link to presentation notes


1. So far, what kind of consistency have you found across the maps in terms of scale, style etc?

Keith: In terms of scale, 80% northed.

Andy Gower (BT) Pervasive Participation

Link to presentation notes

Questions: 1. Were any of these projects taken up? Andy: The first wasn’t. Participate didn’t really set out to create a system that would be used externally; that work is now going forward within BT in relation to BT vision. Not terribly location-based, want to hit a mass-market.

Nigel Linge (Salford University) mi-Guide: a location based visitor guide

Link to presentation notes


1. Would it be possible to have a GIS platform on your server that provided a range of information, that through another layer, people could then dig down into that?

Nigel: You could, as your scan-point takes you to a piece of content and you can put layers on that, which we have done in one sense as you get five layers of detail on each object. You could carry on with this though and add more. Initially wanted a description of the object that was different depending on where you had previously been – technically that isn’t a problem, but the problem comes in authoring the content in such a way to allow that to appear seamless. It also takes an awful long time to record all of the individual pieces of information.

2. How difficult is it to generate the QR code itself?

Nigel: It’s trivial. It is just a coding of a URL, which is converted to text – there is software readily available for you to do this (e.g. Neo Reader, which can be downloaded for the range of mobile phone that you have).

3. What is the advantage of using a QR code over a barcode?

Nigel: More information.

4. How long do you think it will be before mobile phones include RFID scanners rather than QR scanners?

Andy: There are a couple of phone models that already do. Recommended exploring for more information.

Geographical content in the digital humanities

David Bodenhamer (Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis) You Are Here: A Space-Time Wiki (gwiki) for the Humanities.

Link to presentation notes

Keith Lilley (Queens University Belfast) Digital mappings of a late-medieval city: (re)presenting urban experience through texts, images and spatial technologies – project with Paul Vetch (Kings College London) & Catherine Clarke (Swansea University)

Link to presentation notes

Keiji Yano (Ritsumeikan University) The evolution of Virtual Kyoto

Link to presentation notes

Trevor Harris (University of West Virginia) '''Putting things in their place: augmented reality, real-time spatially embedded media, and Enhanced Location Based Services'  

Link to presentation notes


1. Trevor, are the glasses an essential part of your project, rather than the use of a mobile device such as a phone?

Trevor: Yes, the glasses are still going under a lot of development; as they improve, so will the technology. It would have been easier to use the iphone/smart phone to display this in 2D, but the virtual world is much more immersive than this would allow for. Although I think there are equal developments to take place in both arenas.

2. Keith, are there any issues surrounding what happens to the data on the Chester website once this is downloaded by individual users?

Keith: Not as far as we’re concerned. We’re happy for people to use the data as they like, to create their own versions of the maps. The files were created by digitising historical maps, and that digital data might be useful for museums etc. It would be useful if users came back to us via the blog to let us know how they’re making use of the data.

3. Can any of you comment on the impacts of such technologies on how your geography departments are being structured more recently (e.g. shift in 1980s from human geography to focus on geography as a social science)?

Trevor: There has been a readjustment, an opening up and a repositioning of the technology. Some areas will be more responsive to it. That’s where I got involved in the participatory GIS; it’s not just a top down process, expert knowledge exists at the local level, and so how do you blend those? Local knowledge is predominantly qualitative, the GIS is predominantly quantitative – how do you blend that? That’s where I began to branch out more into the geo-visualisation.

David: One of the real problems we face in the academy is the conservatism of our disciplines, especially in the humanities, where there’s a reluctance to embrace these technologies. There is the issue of how you judge the content of the knowledge that is being created; there is no framework for doing that. We can’t just focus on the creation of this new field, we need to consider how you move it into the disciplines and the institutions. The other issue is to encourage our colleagues to think in two different ways – 1. Spatially, 2. Visually.

Keith: There is a certain scepticism amongst some historians, and an anxiety that we are creating something that was never there; the use of VR is viewed with great suspicion, in this predominantly qualitative environment.

4. I think colleagues in the English department might consider how that re-representation of the senses in Keith’s project might facilitate our understanding of the literary texts, as the texts you mentioned are already sensuous and sensory. How would you respond to this kind of scepticism?

Keith: One, in terms of scepticism over the reality of what you’re seeing, the visual elements of GIS maps tend to take the brunt of that criticism. I think maps are seen as products that are to be questioned, redrawn, rewritten, reconfigured based upon interpretations, which change through time.

Two, in terms of hypothesis generation rather than hypothesis testing – so can you recombine, reposition information like you would in exploratory data analysis, in a way that would prompt another question.

Keiji: In Japan, GIS is very interdisciplinary, and a very open system, so ideas are often inspired by other research areas. Data humanities is also a very interdisciplinary field, so each field contributes aspects to another e.g. we provide a spatial aspect for historians, if they want to visualise an event on a map.

5. Nobody seems to be using existing image material within the projects discussed today. Are there any reasons for choosing not to do so?

David: The gwiki does incorporate moving images. As it’s a multi-modal GIS, moving images can certainly be part of it – it pulls from all sorts of media.

6. Keith: I’ve heard lots of interesting ideas, but my issue is how we reach these goals without spending millions, having a research team of thousands etc, how we get from A to B? Or maybe now is not the time and we have to wait?

Trevor: A lot more technology is becoming available. You can now start mapping immediately using Google Earth and Google Maps. The iphone / smartphone is very valuable. I understand your frustration, but there have been a lot of developments recently that 10 years ago we perhaps couldn’t have imagined.

Robert: I think a larger obstacle in some sense is the conceptualisation itself, as humanists aren’t used to conceptualising in these ways. Because we lack the language and experience of doing it, we think of it as a huge step. But I agree with Trevor that tools are freely available and easy to use. But being able to conceive of that step is what we need to work on, before we look for the tools to help us make it real.

Trevor and I, with a colleague at Florida State University, have created a virtual centre for spatial humanities, and an Indiana Press series on spatial humanities addressing both theoretical and practical aspects of this new area. We’re going to create companion websites, hopefully as a bridge for scholars between the text and the interaction with the data and the media, so they can see that there’s an equivalency there.

David Cooper: I just want to end on that general shift from space to place, that really might get the sceptics on board by articulating that sense of place.


Julia: Hopefully the network will become a place where people can talk to each other about future projects and ideas, as work develops, particularly as the digital humanities community is quite small.

Ian: Something that has come up in today’s presentations is this divide between people who have mobile technology and those that have the digital historical content.

Julia: I think some of us still feel daunted in the technology.

I think when we started, we had what we saw as some big ideas about what we could do if we could link GIS to GPS. Perhaps what we need, instead, is a series of quite small ideas, which can develop most easily; perhaps small and place-specific. We were discussing earlier how in the gallery, for example, rather than thinking about how you can make everything responsive, that you have a week where certain items are responsive, or a specific exhibition that you want school children to respond to as an educational tool.

I think the presentations today have helped us get to that spot a little bit, from where we were before.

Chris, what are your thoughts, coming from a fine art background?

Chris: I have always used technology in a commentary or critical, social dialogue with a subject matter, so that technology doesn’t ever disappear, but has a dialogue with something.

John: I think the technology can be quite daunting and the important thing is to get people working with these concepts, even before the technology arrives.

Julia: Do you see then, in a way, the necessity for the technology? Working in the arts about 20 years ago, we were technologically interested, but not really technologically dependent. We would try to use certain tools – in those days it was video etc – to generate excitement around projects. But what we see now is more of a use of the kind of work you’re doing, as an educational tool, for getting communities that are slightly disenfranchised to be able to engage with these technologies, and engage with education. There’s also this question of how we use these technologies within university education environments. Do those of us who are teaching think we are having to change our teaching practices to include a more space, place, media kind of model? How do the historians feel about that?

David: For the most part, the answer is no. I think the danger is that our students are very acquainted with this technology and use it constantly. Yet it’s a foreign language to us. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when this generation of students become teachers.

Julia: I was struck by the Kyoto project and the involvement of so many PhD students, as they’re going to be the teachers of tomorrow. Do you think perhaps the training element is the key thing for the next generation?

Keiji: Yes, it’s an investment as they can go on to use this technology in their own research.

Julia: Those students will perhaps be far more equipped to suit the kinds of projects that we’re thinking about.

I wonder Andy if you had any sense in this of what is going to happen with BT Vision, in terms of your vision of how that’s going to grow in relation to this kind of work and input?

Andy: The particularly focus that we had was on finding a mass audience for user-generated content on these niche channels, which at the moment is being put on the back-burner. However, we have done other pieces of work that are relevant to this sort of area, but which take a different approach to augmented reality. From BT’s perspective, we’re interested in these new types of apps, and how they will impact what we need to provide on the network (e.g. impact of super-fast wireless).

Julia: Final thank yous.