OpenStreetMap – Open Source’s Answer to Google Maps

OpenStreetMap is a community driven, open source tool launched in 2004 by its creator, Steve Coast, in a bid to provide users with a free, editable map of the world (Wikipedia, 2016).  Initially the main focus of the site was to map the UK but in 2006 the OpenStreetMap Foundation was set up to to encourage growth and development of this tool worldwide (OpenStreetMap Wiki, 2016). Nowadays, the tool has over one million users each mapping and validating parts of their own area and areas from all over the world from the comfort of their own computers (OpenStreetMap Wiki, 2016).

I chose to undertake a humanitarian mapping task while testing out this tool. After looking through the wide array of humanitarian tasks on offer, I settled on an appeal set out by the Peace Corps stationed in Manyaana, Zambia asking people to help map out the roads and buildings in the surrounding area so that a more comprehensive map could be made for the health services in the area so that they can conduct a basic public health analysis. Each of the humanitarian tasks that are posted are placed in a rank order type system to highlight their importance. This system ranges from low to medium to high and finally, to urgent. The task I chose to add to had a high importance level showing that this task needed to be completed at a fast pace. This system helps classify whether the task at hand is a relatively unimportant task that people would like to have completed to a task that needs to be done as soon as possible so that help can find its way to affected area after a natural disaster. 

For every humanitarian task that is created, a set of instructions from the tasks owner are supplied alongside it telling the volunteers what they want done on the map in the area. In Manyaana, the instructions stated that the volunteers should map the roads they could see to the best of their ability and also mark out any buildings in the area and provided them with a building tag. These clear instructions prevent the maps from becoming cluttered and difficult to read. I completed three tiles in this area marking out the roads and specifying whether they were tertiary or residential roads or even just a track and also, marking out buildings where they could be seen.                      

Tile No. 1

Tile No.2

Tile No.3

I found the task to be a relatively simple and while it was time consuming to map out every individual line on the map it was also very enjoyable. The tools interface was very easy to use with it allowing the user to do what they please on the map with minimal effort. This simplistic point and click methodical approach to mapping is what I feel makes this attractive to people. There is no particular skillset necessary to take part in this, you just make an account and the user is free to map any area they like throughout the whole world. While this tool can be a massive time-sink, it also allows the user to apply their free time to something meaningful and useful to other people all over the globe.

Validation

While using the tool, I enjoyed the freedom given to users so that they can validate tiles that others have created. This allows users to critique other people’s work ad if they feel there is more to do on the tile or simply that it wasn’t done correctly they have the freedom to invalidate it. When a tile is marked as done by a user it turns a yellow colour showing users that the tile is up to be reviewed and when it is validated it then turns green so that the users know the tile has been completed. I chose to validate a tile in Figi as the tiles in the area I was mapping hadn’t been marked as complete yet as the task was relatively new. I found the ability for the user to go to the map and assess it was a very good feature which prevented the tool from being abused by people who wouldn’t take the tasks seriously.

Invalidation

I also had the chance to invalidate a box in the area I was mapping in Zambia. When I checked the tile there was very little done and it wasn’t near completion so I chose to invalidate the box so that others could come along and add more to the tile. I feel that the feature for users being able to invalidate a tile is very helpful as it makes sure that the best quality maps are being created for the people who need it most.

box 3 prob sat image

While I thoroughly enjoyed the tool, I often ran into problems in relation to the maps such as discolouration where two satellite images have been sewn together. Of course, it’s impossible to get one continuous image of a large landscape but the difference in colour sometimes made it difficult to see where roads began and ended and made the task of mapping somewhat trivial at times. However, I do realise that this is no fault of OpenStreetMap as the maps are provided by Bing.

Overall, I really enjoyed my experience with OpenStreetMap and the ease at which I and others are able to map our own areas and areas in far off lands from the comfort of our own homes while using this tool. While it may seem like an enjoyable way to pass the time for somebody sitting at home, the maps that we create may just be helping rescue efforts in an area after a natural disaster or simply just help somebody get around an area they aren’t native to. I believe this tool may be useful to me in the future as if I am ever representing data from an area it would be convenient to have an open source way of representing the area in a visual form.

In conclusion, I found the use of OpenStreetMap to be an eye-opening experience as it highlighted the effect that us as the next generation of web users can have on people all over the world wherever we may be by just using simple tools such as this.

 

Bibliography;

  • OpenStreetMap Wiki (2016). History of OpenStreetMap. Available at: http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/History_of_OpenStreetMap [Accessed 5 March 2016].
  • OSM Tasking Manager (2016). #1568 – Peace Corps Zambia – Manyaana. Available at: http://tasks.hotosm.org/project/1568# [Accessed 6 March 2016].
  • OSM Tasking Manager (2016). #1623 – Fiji – Cyclone Winston – Vanua Levu 10 – Lekutu to Naduri. Available at: http://tasks.hotosm.org/project/1623#task/178 [Accessed 6 March 2016].
  • OSM Tasking Manager (2016). Projects. Available at: http://tasks.hotosm.org/ [Accessed 6 March 2016].
  • Rund ums Rad (2016). logo-osm.jpg. [image] Available at: http://www.rund-ums-rad.info/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/logo-osm.jpg [Accessed 5 March 2016].
  • Wikipedia (2016). OpenStreetMap. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenStreetMap [Accessed 5 March 2016].
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Twessay No.2 – “Storytelling” – A Critical Response

The idea of storytelling is one of those topics that can have a different meaning for everyone who comes across it. However, one thing that every person says while discussing what it is and what it’s about is that it conveys a message, whatever language they speak or culture they come from, a good story can resonate with all.

After reading all the Twessays on Storify, I found that while they all had their own points and an interesting approach to the topic, the majority of them settled on the same point – the evolution of storytelling.

Denis Vaughan’s Twessay interested me as it referenced how the “richness and values” of storytelling are staying true to themselves while the platforms they are shared on are ever-changing. However, I wouldn’t fully agree with this as even though the ideals are similar to that of the past, using stories to portray a particular message, nowadays stories are becoming bigger more theatrical specticals with our advancements in technology. This would make one question if the ideals of storytelling are being warped with the change of times and the introduction of new and more explosive ways of telling stories. In a sense, this is already happening with the likes of brain dead action films hitting the scene and smashing the box office year after year, films that don’t have a strong, structured storyline but instead have explosions and car chases to break the movie up and bring it to a conclusion where the hero/heroine either lives or dies. It is stories such as these that make us wonder is the concept of storytelling under attack and in the future will we have no intellectually based stories to pass onto our children?

Dannielle O’Sullivan’s Twessay caught my eye as she used different emojis to get her point across. While referencing the evolution of storytelling from verbal to written to the newest form of interactive storytelling in video games and interactive documentaries, she also encompassed the advancements in storytelling such the use of emojis to get across what you’re trying to say in a small icon. This use of icons helps people to express themselves in new ways and even create stories through this new medium which can then be posted all over the world on the likes of Twitter and Facebook. While they are not exactly full blown stories, they still help deliver news about the persons life in a concise way to their nearest and dearest and also, people they’ve never met. It’s a brand new, exciting way of storytelling!

In my own Twessay, I also referenced the evolution of storytelling but I included how they are delivered to their audience worldwide. These new ways of sharing stories can be seen through many different platforms such as e-books, films, and even through emojis! These can then be shared worldwide to almost anyone which would have been unheard of 20 years ago unless it was a large scale production. These new ways of sharing stories worldwide are truly the future!

Bibliography;

  • Alexander, D. 13 November 2015. Available at; https://twitter.com/americasstudies/status/665120041894060032 [Accessed 26 November 2015]
  • O’Sullivan, D. 20 November 2015. Available at; https://twitter.com/dansull22/status/667693879441924096 [Accessed 26 November 2015]
  • twitter-follow.png. (2015). [image] Available at; https://www.iconfinder.com/icons/43125/animal_bird_follow_twitter_icon [Accessed 25 November 2015]
  • Vaughan, D. 19 November 2015. Available at; https://twitter.com/DenisVaughanUCC/status/667321798074245120 [Accessed 26 November 2015]

Life Choices – A DH Video Project

As part of our assessment in our Concepts and Collaborations in Digital Humanities I module we were tasked with creating “an open access digital artefact that remediates, recontextualises, retells, or invents a traditional story.” and with this myself and my group, which consisted of Eoin Long and Luke Crowley, decided to create a video based around a major problem in our city of Cork, drug abuse. The aim of this project was to create an open access, digital artifact that dealt with a traditional story. The story we covered was that of taking drugs and the adverse effects it has on your life.

Using a myriad of different cameras and editing tools we created a video that we titled “Life Choices” as we felt it encompassed everything we were trying to portray in our short film. While dealing with the complex issue of drug abuse we also wanted to encapsulate open access into our project. We did this by using OA software to create our video, we uploaded it to an open access database in the form of YouTube and also, the information portrayed in this film is accessible to all and shows the dangers of drug use which also ties it into the open access bracket in which information is available to all that want it.

We met up after it was announced that we were in a group together and started throwing ideas around and eventually settled on an app idea that involved photographers and film makers who wanted to share ideas, equipment, and work on projects together being able to get together in an easy manner. However, after discussing this further we soon realised that this would not be feasible in our short time frame so then we came up with the idea for our short film instead.

Over the course of the next few days, we got our equipment together and started filming by borrowing cameras off relatives, using my crutches, that I had due to a foot injury, as tripods, and finding a location that our good friend, Arlene Murray, provided for us. For the most part, we had two if not three cameras running at once to get the same shots at different angles and after about 4-5 hours and nearly losing all our shots from one camera due to memory card corruption we had all the shots we needed. The next few days were spent editing and after everyone was happy I started work on the audio track using music from an artist called Sombear and a city sounds track. After it was cut and edited together we sat down and overlayed the track on the video and made some adjustments so that everyone was happy completing the video portion of the project.

We uploaded the video to a YouTube account we created called “DH Video Projects” and created a slideshow to present to our class along with the video.

Overall, I’m delighted with how everything turned out and I would like to thank Eoin Long and Luke Crowley for working so hard to get this done and also, Arlene Murray for providing location and Eoin O’Connor for providing his phone for the phone scene.

 

Here’s the finished product and a collection of behind the scenes images;

Gaming and Education; Are Video Games Helping or Hindering Our Academic Performance?

I am a lover of all things that encapsulate the audience in a story; be it a book, a movie, or even a short story with a solid story line. Just as we study things such as these, I feel that games should be no exception. In this digital age, where books are somewhat going out of style in the eyes of some (not that I agree with this) games are a place where the creativity of children and adults alike is being influenced by the stories based within these mediums causing their creativity to grow in new ways. While this creativity is different to that of what you may develop from reading books, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It is influences from a broad range of stimuli that cause children to develop a well-balanced, creative psyche. I am not saying that children should not read any books outside of academic ones and only play video games but preventing children from accessing these digital masterpieces and tying them only to books is not the way to go either. I believe that a mix between the two is key for developing children of this age as it is exposure to all types of information that broadens the mind.

In my opinion, gaming does not hinder a child’s academic performance – in fact, I believe it’s quite the opposite and I feel that the use of video games can be incorporated into the curriculum to help students learn. This would be especially beneficial for students who learn better through visuals instead of large blocks of text. There are people who also share the same opinions as me such as Gabe Zichermann who gave a TED Talk (Zichermann, 2011) based around kids and their learning influences through the playing of games such as World of Warcraft. He found that children who are playing video games are constantly learning as with any good video game it adapts as you move through it and the player must learn to change and develop new skills to progress further. He believes that this link between games and learning is an explanation for the Flynn Effect which is “the pattern that human intelligence is rising overtime” and he presents a compelling argument as he states that there has been a rise in fluid intelligence and the rate at which this rises since the 1990s – the introduction of video games into homes showing that there may be a link between people becoming smarter and problem solving through video games. While this is not proven, it does make you think and it has some fairly substantial evidence to back it up making it highly plausible that he is correct. Although this is not proven, a study by Simone Kühn has shown the benefits of video games. Kühn said “[W]hile previous studies have shown differences in brain structure of video gamers, the present study can demonstrate the direct causal link between video gaming and a volumetric brain increase. This proves that specific brain regions can be trained by means of video games,” (Bergland, 2013) showing that playing of video games increases intelligence. Kühn has done several studies on this topic and found that the playing of video games for adolescents is beneficial for them such as in her study entitled “Positive Association of Video Game Playing with Left Frontal Cortical Thickness in Adolescents(Kühn et al., 2014) where she and her team found that “a positive correlation between self-reported hours of video gaming per week and cortical thickness in the left DLPFC and left FEF”  and also that “[R]eductions in cortical thickness associated with video gaming frequency were not observed” showing that the playing of video games is beneficial and not detrimental as some people are lead to believe.

While I feel that gaming is a great thing for children to have in their lives, I don’t believe that children should be in schools playing Xbox in the attempt to teach them, however, it is possible to introduce gaming into schools in a non traditional sense of the word that will increase interest and performance in children in schools throughout the world. This can be seen through websites such as Class Dojo (ClassDojo, 2015) in which the teacher sets up his/her class online and makes up rewards that are customisable and whenever a student does something good they earn a reward (a point) for completing a pre-assigned task e.g. helping another student, and the teacher supplies these points through their computer, tablet or smartphone. This acts as an incentive booster for the students to do well in a way they all understand – through games. You can see how it works further here (sschuhteach, 2012). Another platform where gaming is used to influence learning is in Duolingo (Duolingo.com, 2015). This is a web based site and mobile application that helps people learn several new languages and as you complete each task you are rewarded by being able to move onto the next task just like in a video game. This coupled with bright, colourful graphics makes it attractive to adults and children alike. It is examples such as these that show that gaming and education can be intertwined to create fantastic outcomes.

Overall, I feel that gaming should be introduced more into academics as we move further into this digital age and that the use of games does help with people’s academic performance instead of the common misconception that it impedes them.

Bibliography;

Twessay No. 1 – “Openness” – A Critical Response

The thing that struck me the most while reading through each of the Twessays that my peers composed was how diverse each and every single one of them was. While they were all based around the same heading, each person took their own approach to the subject at hand; some were humourous trying to bring light to the situation without being too heavy while some people took the more serious approach, demanding open access for all. Overall, I enjoyed each of these approaches and I will continue on in this post to discuss examples of each.

While reading through the catalogue of our tweets on Storify, I found the ones that caught my eye the most were the ones that included photographs such as Cathal Deasy’s Twessay (Deasy, 2015) which gave a serious view of the topic we were discussing while also, adding a humourous aspect when including the Doge meme which tied his tweet together as a whole. I particularly liked where he said “Encouragecreativitynot money” as I feel that this encapsulated what the idea of openness is all about. Another Tweet where humour was used to highlight the person’s argument was in Luke Crowley’s Twessay (Crowley, 2015). Luke used another popular meme, based around Jimmy McMillan and his famous quote “The Rent is Too Damn High!” (Youtube, 2015), which which while using this meme highlighted the high price of academic journals to people not within an academic framework. I found the use of this meme to be rather satirical adding a layer of ridiculousness to idea that academic findings should have to be paid for in the first place. I found these two examples both to be captivating while also getting their point across.

While humour can be helpful in highlighting certain topics, I find that going about the topic in a more serious manner is the way to go at times. This is the approach I took within my own Twessay, where I said that I believe that all knowledge should not be held by a small group of corporations but instead as “more of a cooperative structure” where knowledge is shared by everyone, for everyone. I feel that no one, no matter what race, gender, or socio-economic background they come from, should have restricted access to knowledge they need to grow as people. One of the more serious Tweets that I enjoyed reading was Kasia Sobiech’s Twessay (Sobiech, 2015), as I felt she dealt with the topic in a very concise way while also getting her point across very well. I liked the way she included that people need open access “wherever they are” as this highlights the lack of access to knowledge in other countries, especially in the third world where some of our greatest scholars may be but cannot reach their full potential without this access. I also enjoyed her demand that “we all need open access!”, as it really drove the point home.

Concisely, I found it fascinating how everyone who wrote about the topic of “Openness” in their Twessays could come up with such diverse points in only 140 characters.

Bibliography;

  • Crowley, L. 14 October 2015. Available at; https://twitter.com/LukeJohnCrowley/status/654409956368744448 [Accessed 21 October 2015]
  • Deasy, C. 15 October 2015. Available at; https://twitter.com/deasy2306/status/654589971731509248 [Accessed 21 October 2015]
  • Sobiech, K. 13 October 2015. Available at; https://twitter.com/KasiaSobiech182/status/654033359748878336 [Accessed 21 October 2015]
  • Twitter1.jpg. (2015). [image] Available at; http://www.trafficoptimiser.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Twitter1.jpg [Accessed 21 October 2015]
  • Youtube. (2015). Rent Is Too Damn High Party Debate.Available at; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcsNbQRU5TI [Accessed 21 October 2015]

Emojis; Is Language Evolving or Going Backwards?

Following our discussion in class about emojis and how they are becoming evermore present in our daily lives, I have been pondering the subject for the last week or so.

While I am an avid user of emojis while in contact with friends through text, Twitter and Facebook Messenger, they very rarely stem out into my everyday life. It’s rare that you’d hear someone say ”sadface emoji” in relation to something bad or upsetting happening (you do find the odd case) so therefore, I found it odd that some people would refer to it as a language. Sure, send ’em, tweet ’em, even put ’em on your clothes (Amazon, 2015) if it makes you happy. Whatever. But I wouldn’t have gone as far as calling it a language in it’s own right.

That was until I did a quick Google search on the definition of language and was met with this; ”the method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way.”. After reading this, I started to think about the ways in which emojis are used and soon realised that it in fact could be a language. Granted, not a spoken one but a written type. The ”method of human communication” portion of the definition shows that emojis can in fact be called a language of sorts as they help people communicate with each other in a way that sometimes they cannot get across by just using conventional language. While the definition says ”words”, I feel this should be altered to include ”symbols” as well. The communication power of emojis can be seen in the likes of emoji poetry and emoji stories (such as guy chasing balloon (mySanAntonio.com, 2015)) which convey different things through the use of these symbols. Why should Hieroglyphs be considered a language if emojis are not? Are we not doing the same thing as our ancestors just on a digital format?

However, if you pose these questions you are also left with the alternative view; questioning whether the use of emojis is throwing us back into the past. Shouldn’t we be moving forward not backwards? Kyle Smith from the New York Post seems to think so with his article (Smith, 2015) entitled ”Emojis are ruining civilization” in which he states ”Dumb used to be an accident. Now it’s a goal. No matter how complicated something might be, someone is reducing it to a tiny cartoon.”. While I agree with him that complicated issues should not be tried to be explained in a little icon, I feel that he is taking the whole phenomenon a bit too seriously. In reality, no one takes these small cartoons to mean anything much. They’re all just a bit of fun and if it helps get your point or emotions across in a way that you cannot verbalise, then why should it not be referred to as a language. After all, it is a medium of communication isn’t it?

In my opinion, I feel that the communication power of emojis is immeasurable and while it is not a language in the typical sense of the word it has definitely made a huge impact on our society and the way we live.

Bibliography;