Making Edinburgh the First Global City of Learning – Prof. Jonathan Silvertown Liveblog

This afternoon I am delighted to be at the Inaugeral Lecture of Prof. Jonathan Silvertown from the School of Biological Sciences here at the University of Edinburgh.

Vice Chancellor Tim O’Shea is introducing Jonathan, who is Professor of Evolutionary Ecology and Chair in Technology Enhanced Science Education, and who came to Edinburgh from the Open University.

Now to Jonathan:

Imagine an entire city turned into an interactive learning environment. Where you can learn about the birds in the trees, the rock beneath your feet. And not just learn about them, but contribute back to citizen science, to research taking place in and about the city. I refer to A City of Learning… As it happens Robert Louis Stevenson used to do something similar, carrying two books in their pocket: one for reading, one for writing. That’s the idea here. Why do this in Edinburgh? We have the most fantastic history, culture and place.

Edinburgh has an increadible history of enlightenment, and The Enlightenment. Indeed it was said that you could, at one point, stand on the High Street and shake the hands of 50 men of genius. On the High Street now you can shake Hume (his statue) by the toe and I shall risk quoting him: “There is nothing to be learned from a professor which is not to be met within books”. Others you might have met then include Joseph Black, and also James Hutton, known as the “father of modern geology” and he walked up along the crags and a section now known as “Huttons section” (an unconformity to geologists) where he noted sandstone, and above it volcanic rock. He interpreted this as showing that rocks accumulate by ongoing processes that can be observed now. That’s science. You can work out what happened in the past by understanding what is happening now. And from that he concluded that the earth was more than 6000 years old, as Bishop Usher had calculated. In his book The Theory of the Earth he coined this phrase “No vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end”. And that supported the emerging idea of evolutionary biology which requires a long history to work. That all happened in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh also has a wealth of culture. It is (in the New Town) a UNESCO World Heritage site. Edinburgh has the Fringe Festival, the International Festival, the Book Festival, the Jazz Festival… And then there is the rich literary heritage of Edinburgh – as J.K. Rowling says “Its impossible to live in Edinburgh without sensing it’s literary heritage”. Indeed if you walk in the Meadows you will see a wall painting celebrating The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. And you can explore this heritage yourself through the LitLong Website and App. He took thousands of books with textmining and a gazeteer of Edinburgh Places, extracting 40,000 snippets of text associated with pinpoints on the map. And you can do this on an app on your phone. Edinburgh is an extraordinary place for all sorts of reasons…

And a place has to be mapped. When you think of maps these days, you tend to think of Google. But I have something better… Open Street Map is to a map what Wikipedia is to the Encyclopedia Britannica. So, when my wife and I moved into a house in Edinburgh which wasn’t on Ordnance Survey, wasn’t on Google Maps, but was almost immediately on OpenStreetMap. It’s Open because there are no restrictions on use so we can use it in our work. Not all cities are so blessed… Geographic misconceptions are legion, if you look at one of th emaps in the British Library you will see the Cable and Wireless Great Circle Map – a map that is both out of date and prescient. It is old and outdated but does display the cable and wireless links across the world… The UK isn’t the centre of the globe as this map shows, wherever you are standing is the centre of the globe now. And Edinburgh is international. At least year’s Edinburgh festival the Deep Time event projected the words “Welcome, World” just after the EU Referendum. Edinburgh is a global city, University of Edinburgh is a global university.

Before we go any further I want to clarify what I mean by learning when I talk about making a city of learning… Kolb (1984) is “How we transform experience into knowledge”, it is learning by discovery. And, wearing my evolutionary hat, it’s a major process of human adaptation. Kolb’s learning cycle takes us from Experience, to Reflect (observe), Conceptualise (Ideas), Experiment (Test), and back to Experience. It is of course also the process of scientific discovery.

So, lets apply that cycle of learning to iSpot, to show how that experiential learning and discovery and what extraordinary things that can do. iSpot is designed to crowdsource the identification of organisms (see Silvertown, Harvey, Greenwood, Dodd, Rosewell, Rebelo, Ansine, McConway 2015). If I see “a white bird” it’s not that exciting, but if I know its a Kittywake then that’s interesting – has it been seen before? Are they nesting elsewhere? You can learn more from that. So you observe an orgnism, you reflect, you start to get comment from others.

So, we have over 60,000 registered users of iSpot, 685k observations, 1.3 million photos, and we have identified over 30,000 species. There are many many stories contained within that. But I will share one of these. So this observation came in from South Africa. It was a picture of some seeds with a note “some children in Zululand just ate some of these seeds and are really ill”. 35 seconds later someone thousands of miles away in Capetown, others agreed on the id. And the next day the doctor who posted the image replied to say that the children were ok, but that it happens a lot and knowing what plant they were from helps them to do something. It wasn’t what we set this up to do but that’s a great thing to happen…

So, I take forward to this city of learning, the lessons of a borderless community; the virtuous circle of learning which empowers and engages people to find out more; and encourage repurposing – use the space as they want and need (we have added extra functions to support that over time in iSpot).

Learning and discovery lends itself to research… So I will show you two projects demonstrating this which gives us lessons to take forward into Edinburgh City of Learning. Evolution was created at the Open University to mark Darwins double centenary in 2009, but we also wanted to show that evolution is happening right now in your own garden… So the snails in your garden have colours and banding patterns, and they have known genetic patterns… And we know about evolution in the field. We know what conditions favour which snails. So, we asked the public to help us test the hypothesis about the snails. So we had about 10,000 populations of snails captured, half of which was there already, half of which was contributed by citizens over a single year. We had seen, over the last 50 years, an increase in yellow shelled snails which do not warm up too quickly. We would expect brown snails further north, yellow snails further south. So was that correct? Yes and No. There was an increase in sanddunes, but not elsewhere. But we also saw a change in patterns of banding patterns, and we didn’t know why… So we went back to pre Megalab data and that issue was provable before, but hadn’t previously been looked for.

Lessons from Megalab included that all can contribute, that it must be about real science and real questions, and that data quality matters. If you are ingenious about how you design your project, then all people can engage and contribute.

Third project, briefly, this is Treezilla, the monster map of trees – which we started in 2014 just before I came here – and the idea is that we have a map of the identity, size and location of trees and, with that, we can start to look at ecosystem impact of these trees, they capture carbon, they can ameliorate floods… And luckily my colleague Mike Dodd spotted some software that could be used to make this happen. So one of the lessons here is that you should build on existing systems, building projects on top of projects, rather than having to happen at the same time.

So, this is the Edinburgh Living Lab, and this is a collaboration between schools and the kinds of projects they do include bike counters and traffic – visualised and analysed – which gives the Council information on traffic in a really immediate way that can allow them to take action. This set of projects around the Living Lab really highlighted the importance of students being let loose on data, on ideas around the city. The lessons here is that we should be addressing real world problems, public engagement is an important part of this, and we are no longer interdisiplinary, we are “post disciplinary” – as is much of the wider world of work and these skills will go with these students from the Living Lab for instance.

And so to Edinburgh Cityscope, a project with synergy across learning, research and engagement. Edinburgh Cityscope is NOT an app, it is an infrastructure. It is the stuff out of which other apps and projects will be built.

So, the first thing we had to do was made Cityscope futureproof. When we built iSpot the iPhone hadn’t been heard of, now maybe 40% of you here have one. And we’ve probably already had peak iPhone. We don’t know what will be used in 5 years time. But there are aspects they will always need… They will need Data. What kinds of data? For synergy and place we need maps. And maps can have layers – you can relate the nitrogen dioxide to traffic, you can compare the trees…. So Edinburgh Cityscope is mapable. And you need a way to bring these things together, you need a workbench. Right now that includes Jupyter, but we are not locked in, so we can change in future if we want to. And we have our data and our code open on Github. And then finally you need to have a presentation layer – a place to disseminate what we do to our students and colleagues, and what they have done.

So, in the last six months we’ve made progress in data – using Scottish Government open data portal we have Lung Cancer registrations that can be mapped and changes seen. We can compare and investigate and our students can do that. We have the SIMD (Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation) map… I won’t show you a comparison as it has hardly changed in decades – one area has been in poverty since around 1900. My colleague Leslia McAra is working in public engagement, with colleagues here, to engage in ways that make this better, that makes changes.

The workbench has been built. It isn’t pretty yet… You can press a button to create a Notebook. You can send your data to a phone app – pulling data from Cityscope and show it in an app. You can start a new tour blog – which anybody can do. And you create a survey for used for new information…

So let me introduce one of these apps. Curious Edinburgh is an app that allows you to learn about the history of science in Edinburgh, to explore the city. The genius idea – and I can say genius because I didn’t build it, Niki and the folks at EDINA did – is that you can create this tour from a blog. You fill in forms essentially. And there is an app which you can download for iOS, and a test version for Android – full one coming for the Edinburgh International Science Festival in April. Because this is an Edinburgh Cityscope project I’ve been able to use the same technology to create a tour of the botanical gardens for use in my teaching. We used to give out paper, now we have this app we can use in teaching, in teaching in new ways… And I think this will be very popular.

And the other app we have is Fieldtrip, a survey tool borrowed from EDINA’s FieldTrip Open. And that allows anyone to set up a data collection form – for research, for social data, for whatever. It is already open, but we are integrating this all into Edinburgh Cityscope.

So, this seems a good moment to talk about the funding for this work. We have had sizable funding from Information Services. The AHRC has funded some of the Curious Edinburgh work, and ESRC have funded work which a small part of which Edinburgh Cityscope will be using in building the community.

So, what next? We are piloting Cityscope with students – in the Festival of Creative Learning this week, in Informatics. And then we want to reach out to form a community of practice, including schools, community groups and citizens. And we want to connect with cultural institutions and industry – already working with the National Museum of Scotland. And we want to interface with the Internet of Things – anything with a chip in it really. You can interact with your heating systems from anywhere in the world – that’s the internet of things, things connected to the web. And I’m keen on creating an Internet of Living Things. The Atlas of Living Scotland displays all the biological data of Scotland on the map. But data gets out of date. It would be better to updated in real time. So my friend Kate Jones from UCL is working with Intel creating real time data from bats – allowing real time data to be captured through connected sensors. And also in that space Graham Stone (Edinburgh) is working on a project called Edinburgh Living Landscape which is about connecting up green spaces, improve biodiversity…

So, I think what we should be going for is for recognition of Edinburgh as the First UNESCO City of Learning. Edinburgh was the first UNESCO City of Literature and the people who did that are around, we can make our case for our status as City of Learning in much the same way.

So that’s pretty much the end. Nothing like this happens without lots and lots of help. So a big thanks here to Edinburgh Cityscope’s steering group and the many people in Information Services who have been actually building it.

And the final words are written for me: Four Quartets, T.S. Eliot:

“We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring 

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time”


Edinburgh Cityscope: Hello World!

Today Nicola Osborne, is blogging the Edinburgh Cityscope: Hello World! event, where the Engaging Edinburgh projects, funded by the AHRC, will be introduced to an invited audience of University and Edinburgh city stakeholders and project partners. These notes are being taken live, so please do let us know if you see any errors or corrections. 

Edinburgh Cityscope – Hello World – Prof. Chris Speed, ECA

Professor Chris Speed is introducing us to the event. Edinburgh is a really unique city in many ways. We are looking at exploring it through data. But our understanding of a city, our representations of the city… give us different understandings of the city. To show a few introductions of the city – clips from Wings of Desire or Lost in Translation – encapsulate that sort of introduction to the city. And that’s what Cityscope is doing today, introducing lots of different ways into the city, different stakeholders views of the city.

We will start by hearing from some of these stakeholders, projects, ways of seeing the city. Sharing their explorations of the city.

Prof Chris Speed introduces the Edinburgh CityScope - Hello World event

Prof Chris Speed introduces the Edinburgh CityScope – Hello World event

Doing data is really important. Doing privacy is very important. Doing social media is important. And we have a whole section of the day to explore, to play, to try some of these ideas. After that hands on part of the day there is the chance to return, to ask questions, etc.

From Edinburgh Cityscope to Edinburgh, Global City of Learning – Prof. Jonathan Silvertown, Biological Sciences and Prof. Karen Forbes, ECA. 

Chris: Edinburgh Cityscope, formerly “Virtual Edinburgh” is an idea I feel privileged to share in with you, a concept of the city as a space of sharing data, of exploring data, and also for gathering data. It means that we can make Edinburgh a Global City of Learning. It is about new tools and approaches. But the idea isn’t entirely new… And we will hear from three projects already doing these sorts of things in their domain: LitLong; MESH; and Curious Edinburgh. Each of those projects have had to independently raise funds, persuade people to get these things built. The hope is that with Cityscope the University will have its own infrastructure, just there for use, for those sorts of projects. And those projects are a taster for what is possible, and data that might be combined.

Prof Karen Forbes talks about the Edinburgh Cityscope project at the Hello World event

Prof Karen Forbes talks about the Edinburgh Cityscope project at the Hello World event

Karen: We see this Edinburgh Cityscope idea of having relevance at every stage, from undergraduate, postgraduate, and staff and researchers. You can see the potential for interdisciplinary work. There is a very particular character to the city, the different layers of architecture, archeology, ideas, culture, and a dense mesh of information that can be explored as data, as archives recalibrate to the geography of the city. We want to make this data available and open access as much as possible. We see it as being something distinctive about being in Edinburgh in the 21st century. It will provide that infrastructure that enables very positively this use and reuse of data. Adding to the student experience in new exciting ways.

We have a large steering committee at the moment and we are excited to see what we can do here. We want representation from all of the colleges, and also from IS and EDINA, and we see that varied contribution as crucial to the project.

The nuts and bolts of Edinburgh Cityscope – Ben Butchart, EDINA

Firstly I’d like to acknowledge the work of my colleagues on this, Richard Goode from IS Apps, and Ruben Gamez, EDINA.

Imagine yourself faced with a professor, new to the University, who wants to turn the city not just into a “City of Learning”, but a “Global City of Learning!”. I think most engineers would run a mile but we’re made of girders at EDINA! So, myself and Nicola Osborne from EDINA were invited onto the steering committee for this project as it started to take shape.

Myself and Richard Goode have been working on the technical scoping of this projects and what they might need, ways to build apps, ways to manage data, and ways to work creatively. The basic idea is that you login to a workbench and have your own components to play with, that give you access to data, documentation, widgets to play with the data in various ways.

Ben Butchart talks about the "nuts and bolts" of Edinburgh CityScope at the Hello World event

Ben Butchart talks about the “nuts and bolts” of Edinburgh CityScope at the Hello World event

Just to give you a very early sneak peak… We aren’t launching anything today, instead this is an idea of what we are working on. So, if you login to your Cityscope workbench you can use Jupyter Notebooks to explore the data, to code your own interpretation, and we are using APIs and queries to bring data in here. For those who don’t want to touch the dode, code you can create your own apps, e.g. in the way you can for COBWEB Citizen Observatory Web project; Curious Edinburgh, who you’ll hear from later, are similarly a form of pre-baked app idea – in that case using WordPress to create a mobile tour app. We are also looking at third party maker tools like AppGyver, which allows you to build your own apps.

In terms of the data we are using GitHub as a repository – a way to manage and version control that data, to make it easily accessible to developers, APIs etc. This isn’t an archive space, it’s about making that data as accessible as possible.

When we first started talking about this project Prof. Ewan Klein talked to me about JupyterHub – these are like wiki pages but they are executable, with support for over 40 languages, allowing you to code and document as you go, using the data science idea of a “coding narrative”. I think computation notebooks like this will be a core skill for graduates of the future. And I think it’s great that Cityscope will provision a Notebooks server as part of this project.

The final component is Mobile Backend as a Service, using Loopback, which enables you to create an API from the outset for every dataset, allowing you to immediately feed data into those Maker Tools.

Now, no engineer’s presentation would be complete without a box and line diagram! If you are a software developer, you’ll love this diagram, full of exciting things! Now we are using Docker, and working on AWS at present, as that allows us to experiment and deploy tools elastically, but it is all set up to allow us to port it across to another space in the future, to host it locally etc.

Using Edinburgh Cityscope to engage the University with the Public – Prof. Lesley McAra, School of Law

The two ambitions we should have: that we put our research and teaching at the service of our communities, working collaboratively to produce meaningful and sustained change; and an ambition for cities, that an Edinburgh degree “is enough” to make them employable and enriched graduates – with the knowledge, mindset, core skills that this sort of project gives space to develop and use.

One of the things we want to try and do is to have 100 student projects, group projects with multidisplinary groups, at UG or PG levels, can actually use Cityscope in academic year 2017/18 where they will utilise data from Cityscope as part of their learning, but also creating and using their own research and feeding into Cityscope or combining with Cityscope data. It offers opportunities for open learning short courses and pathways to higher education (students as tutors). And there is an absolute massive potential for using the Cityscope datasets to show how any interventions within the city of Edinburgh can map and track change, mapping impact, evaluating work within the city.

Prof. Lesley McAra talks about mapping data at the Edinburgh CityScope Hello World event

Prof. Lesley McAra talks about mapping data at the Edinburgh CityScope Hello World event

So, I want to show you a map. I run a longitudinal project on the impact of social deprivation on crime. I have a GIS system that is used in this, and I want to upload my data from that, and combine and update in the future to track changes over time. One of the challenges the city faces as a whole is a dense clustering of areas of social deprivation, and poor outcomes – school exclusions, police reports of violent crime, detention, etc. –  strongly maps to those. And the challenge is finding interventions that actually change that. Working with the Council and other stakeholders to try to make a real difference. There is a strong connection between poverty and poor outcomes and, as a University, I think we should be trying to make that change, seeing what works and changes over time.

Now, a quick quote from Walter Scott – who has a connection with this building (ECCI), as he taught at it when it was the Royal High School:

“The race of mankind would perish did they cease to aid each other. We cannot exist without mutual help. All therefore that need aid have a right to ask it from their fellow-men; and no one who has the power of granting can refuse it without guilt.”

And I would therefore say that no one who has the power of granting funding and support for Edinburgh Cityscope can refuse it without guilt!

Lit Long: Mapping Literary Edinburgh – Prof. James Loxley, Department of English

Edinburgh is a self-conciously literary city. And we wanted to explore beyond the authors, the coffee shops they frequented etc, but we wanted to explore the imagined city, the city of their literature and ideas. And we wanted to bring computational techniques to bear on material we are used to engaging with in a purely human ways.

We identified appropriate texts, checking they were literature rather than, e.g. poetry, and then text mining them in terms of place names. The project was called Palimpsest (2014-15) And that created a resource called LitLong. We have an online location visualiser, a database to search, and an app to take into the wild. Behind that there is a database of 47,000 textual extracts, gathered in under 15 months, and you can explore all of that in our hands on session.

Prof. James Loxley talking about LitLong at the Edinburgh Cityscope Hello World event

Prof. James Loxley talking about LitLong at the Edinburgh Cityscope Hello World event

Since we created this resource we’ve been looking at what else we can do with this resource. And we have been very fortunate to have had funding from the AHRC to take this forward, to explore the use of LitLong with the community, with authors, etc. And we are also working closely with the Edinburgh City of Literature Trust to continue on with this. So come and have a look during the hands on session and hear more about our work.

Mapping Edinburgh’s Social History (MESH) – Prof. Richard Rodger, School of History, Classics and Archeology

I will be talking about a project related to MESH, but to put that in context you need to understand the two key things MESH has been doing as a project: capturing social history data; and creating a rich detailed underlying contemporary map.

During MESH the team have built up Open Street Map to a huge degree of detail – with the majority of the city now mapped within 3metres, in some cases 1metres of accuracy. This is openly available for everyone, benefitting all in the city. That has huge economic value – there are calculations of this impact from the Dutch government to show the real benefits of this level of detail .

So, with this contemporary and historical mapping we can take another data source – like the Scottish Post Office Directories – and track changes over time, for instance locations of butchers in Edinburgh (see image to follow). 

Prof. Richard Rodger talks about the MESH project at the Edinburgh Cityscope Hello World event

Prof. Richard Rodger talks about the MESH project at the Edinburgh Cityscope Hello World event

Now, Lost Edinburgh is a Facebook page which I’m sure many of us know, and love. This site captures the cityscapes of Edinburgh, the lives and history of the city. And over the last three months Wilson Smith, from Lost Edinburgh, has been working with Eric Grosso, the technician here, has been creating rich metadata for Lost Edinburgh information, so that it can used again, and to structure that data in a way that can continue.

With that metadata and the tools available in MESH that enriches Lost Edinburgh as a resource, and that content enriches our understanding of the city. There are many other types of datasets which we can use via a geocoding tool that will allow us to explore and combine data sets. And we now have a powerful tool for historical analysis.

Curious Edinburgh – Dr Niki Vermeulen & Dr Bill Jenkins, School of Social & Political Science

Niki: Curious Edinburgh is a project creating a website and app, which allows you to explore the history of science in Edinburgh. And this tour is based on a real tour which used to be given once a year by Professor John Henry’s. We are making that into a web and phone resource so you can take that tour any time.

Niki Vermeulan speaks about Curious Edinburgh at the Edinburgh Cityscope Hello World event

Niki Vermeulan speaks about Curious Edinburgh at the Edinburgh Cityscope Hello World event

Bill: I’m just going to give you a quick preview of the content, which explores historical sites and well-known figures, such as John Hutton. Some content is taken from John Henry’s tour, but some also comes from our work in partnership with the National Museums of Scotland, Surgeons’ Hall Museums, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, etc. I’m also going to play a clip of the video we have included, shot the last time John Henry gave his tour in 2014. (Clips were shown, pages viewed. You can explore these

Bill H. Jenkins speaks about Curious Edinburgh at the Edinburgh Cityscope Hello World event

Bill H. Jenkins speaks about Curious Edinburgh at the Edinburgh Cityscope Hello World event

Niki: So our hope is to take this forward with more tours, more histories to explore. We see opportunities here for future tours around: geology (content already ready!), physics (content almost ready), medicine, public health, biotechnology, engineering, beer brewing, philosophy, sociology, architecture, etc.

And with that Chris Speed hands us over the the hands on part of the day… The blog will continue when we return for the plenary later this afternoon. 

The Curious Edinburgh team show their website and app to Principal Tim O'Shea at the CityScope Hello World event

The Curious Edinburgh team show their website and app to Principal Tim O’Shea at the CityScope Hello World event

The MESH project share their work with Lost Edinburgh at Edinburgh CityScope - Hello World

The MESH project share their work with Lost Edinburgh at Edinburgh CityScope – Hello World

The LitLong team show their most recent work at Edinburgh Cityscope Hello World

The LitLong team show their most recent work at Edinburgh Cityscope Hello World

Hands on Google Cardboard visualisation session at Edinburgh Cityscope Hello World

Hands on Google Cardboard visualisation session at Edinburgh Cityscope Hello World

The EDINA Geo team show how data can be mapped using a range of tools at Edinburgh Cityscope Hello World

The EDINA Geo team show how data can be mapped using a range of tools at Edinburgh Cityscope Hello World

The Cityscope development team show off early prototypes and off the shelf tools at the Edinburgh Cityscope Hello World event

The Cityscope development team show off early prototypes and off the shelf tools at the Edinburgh Cityscope Hello World event

And we are back.

Discussion session

Chris: So, we want to wrap up with some discussion of what we need, where are the gaps, where is the potential?

Sally Kerr, Edinburgh City Council: We (Edinburgh City Council) have loads of council data and resources. We have problems we want to solve, data to better understand. We should be working together to take this forward, it has use for your research, and we want to work in partnership, to work collaboratively, to see what can be done with our data. Come and ask us!

Chris: What’s been good or useful today?

Patricia Erskine, UoE: I think it’s brilliant to have all these partners here and it would be fantastic to have follow up to today, about data that’s available, about how to take this forward.

Jonathan: Yes. Right now we have been working on the foundations of this project, we want to move to the work Lesley McAra was talking about, the proof of concept at scale with 100 projects (2017/18). The next step after that will be the all singing, all dancing, version of this, the one open to all. And indeed I’d like to thank the Principal and Information Services for their funding and support for the project so far, and for the year ahead. We then need to think about what is next.

Chris: What about other apps and ideas?

Participants engage with the various tools and discussions at Edinburgh Cityscope Hello World

Participants engage with the various tools and discussions at Edinburgh Cityscope Hello World

Ewan Klein, Informatics: I’m curious about how Cityscope intersects with the MESH project – Open Street Map is an infrastructure that supports comparison of data and information.

Ben: There is potential to combine data in some forms. So, with Cityscope for iOS it makes sense to use the Apple Maps kit, the default. At EDINA, we tend to point to our own mapping or OSM servers. For Cityscope there is the potential for anyone to launch their own app server, moving from tile to vector tile maps – add your own cartography and styling. I’ll be really interest in context of MESH to look at vector tile technology for students and users to clone that data sets and select relevant features, that can be used in notebooks, cartography tools, CSS styling. That is the conversation we just need to get talking and scope specific projects. There is so much we could do, that it’s the challenge of focusing on what is most important or highest profile.

Richard Rodger, HCA: I think we need to understand how far this is an outward looking project, and how much this is inward looking. We have to plan on the basis of that understanding. And we have to test drive it with real users. The imagination is important at this stage, and that dialogue with Edinburgh citizens is central and crucial to that.

Tim O’Shea, Principal UoE: I think clarity of ambition with regards to community and ambition would be useful. The community is probably anyone who has access to a computer or mobile phone; what data is relevant and in scope; and then the third part relates to the App Inventor project I saw on MIT – which is quite a restrictive tool on restrictive data – so just how ambitious are you being in terms of what can be combined and built. For anyone coming to Edinburgh to build any app they want on the city, that’s very ambitious, perhaps too ambitious. But having clarity for those three areas is important.

Jonathan: We are being pretty ambitious right now, towards the higher end of that spectrum. We have been trying out AppGyver, which is based upon the Ionic framework that is also used by MIT, and we are trying AppGyver at the moment, but paying a hefty fee to do that right now. By the time we are ready to open to the world I think there will be an open source equivalent to create many more things – because ideally we do want anyone to do anything with our data, with OSM data, etc.

Ben B: We’ve already done some innovation where being able to use a blog, allows you to make an app. There are already some tools we have, can use, have trialled that use simple and familiar tools. Another approach is the AppGyver type tools – it’s impressive as functionality.

Peter Burnhill, EDINA: Our approach, generally with mobile work, has been to enable paths to make an app, to create what they need. Richard talked about openness, but sometimes there is necessity for restrictions because of privacy or licensing and one needs to address that, and the challenges there. These are real things to confront.

Sally K: At the Council we are trying to think about digital innovation – and thinking beyond “there’s an app for that” and instead focusing on the problems that need solving, and tool sets to try stuff out, to see what works and indeed what doesn’t. Apps won’t be here for ever, we have to think about future proofing. You need to think about scaling and future proofing, and offering more for 3 years, for 5 years.

Jonathan: Indeed, and that’s part of why Cityscope is an infrastructure. You need a safe place for data, tools to manipulate that data, and that top layer for creating and using data – which is where we are using some third party and initial ideas there.

Tim O’Shea: I think it may not be possible to be future proof but the closest we can be is being ahead of other people – and that’s what Edinburgh University is good at doing. There’s some fabulous work here already, but that’s what we need to do here, to keep ahead of others’.

Jonathan: And Edinburgh is in a unique position here, we have a rich history to draw upon here.

Richard R: And that spatial aspect is absolutely central to all of these ideas, that data, the issues that Sally is raising. And the quality of the underlying mapping is crucial.

Chris: We have to be aware that people move at different paces – some of what is happening now seems to reflect what we could do with iPhone 3S – so we have to anticipate that, what is coming and what will be important.

Ewan K: I think if students are collecting data then we need to think about the use and reuse of data – how that is licensed etc. There is a position that all citizen data must be open data, and I think that has some merit. But also it’s not clear how we best support students in collecting, storing and sharing data that is not open.

Ben B: I wanted to come back to Sally’s comment that mobile apps aren’t necessarily the key things in the future. It’s easy to build an app that won’t be used. But there is the idea of using bots that lets you use existing app, to bring back a relevant data set. That means less friction, and again that’s something we’d like to explore.

Eric Grosso: We need our systems to be sustainable and robust, where databases and services can be hosted, so we can make this space for experimentation and more geospatial projects like this.

Chris: I suspect there is a way to think about sharing data, combining data and building connections.

Jonathan Silvertown and Chris Speed lead discussions after the hands on session at Edinburgh Cityscope - Hello World

Jonathan Silvertown and Chris Speed lead discussions after the hands on session at Edinburgh Cityscope – Hello World

Thank you so much for this. We have our website,, and that’s another way to explore and continue. And do email and tweet us your ideas and input.

And with that we move into the wine reception for the AHRC Engaging Edinburgh projects, and the close to the event. Thanks to all who have joined us in person, on the blog, or on Twitter. We welcome your comments and ideas on the Engaging Edinburgh projects, or indeed on CityScope – which we will pass onto our colleagues there. Do leave comments below, tweet the projects or CityScope (@embracityscope).

View images from the event here: