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 atcuriousedinburgh.org)

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, edinburghcityscope.org, 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: https://www.flickr.com/photos/eurovision_nicola/sets/72157668257121685/

eLearning@ed/LTW Monthly Showcase #2: Open

Today we have our second eLearning@ed/LTW Showcase and Network event. I’m liveblogging so, as usual, corrections and updates are welcome. 
Jo Spiller is welcoming us along and introducing our first speaker…
Dr. Chris Harlow – “Using WordPress and Wikipedia in Undergraduate Medical & Honours Teaching: Creating outward facing OERs”
I’m just going to briefly tell you about some novel ways of teaching medical students and undergraduate biomedical students using WordPress and platforms like Wikipedia. So I will be talking about our use of WordPress websites in the MBChB curriculum. Then I’ll tell you about how we’ve used the same model in Reproductive Biology Honours. And then how we are using Wikipedia in Reproductive Biology courses.
We use WordPress websites in the MBChB curriculum during Year 2 student selected components. Students work in groups of 6 to 9 with a facilitator. They work with a provided WordPress template – the idea being that the focus is on the content rather than the look and feel. In the first semester the topics are chosen by the group’s facilitator. In semestor two the topics and facilitators are selected by the students.
So, looking at example websites you can see that the students have created rich websites, with content, appendices. It’s all produced online, marked online and assessed online. And once that has happened the sites are made available on the web as open educational resources that anyone can explore and use here: http://studentblogs.med.ed.ac.uk/
The students don’t have any problem at all building these websites and they create these wonderful resources that others can use.
In terms of assessing these resources there is a 50% group mark on the website by an independent marker, a 25% group mark on the website from a facilitator, and (at the students request) a 25% individual mark on student performance and contribution which is also given by the facilitator.
In terms of how we have used this model with Reproductive Biology Honours it is a similar idea. We have 4-6 students per group. This work counts for 30% of their Semester 1 course “Reproductive Systems” marks, and assessment is along the same lines as the MBChB. Again, we can view examples here (e.g. “The Quest for Artificial Gametes”. Worth noting that there is a maximum word count of 6000 words (excluding Appendices).
So, now onto the Wikipedia idea. This was something which Mark Wetton encouraged me to do. Students are often told not to use or rely on Wikipedia but, speaking a biomedical scientist, I use it all the time. You have to use it judiciously but it can be an invaluable tool for engaging with unfamiliar terminology or concepts.
The context for the Wikipedia work is that we have 29 Reproductive Biology Honours stduents (50% Biomedical Sciences, 50% intercalculating medics), and they are split into groups of 4-5 students/groups. We did this in Semester 1, week 1, as part of the core “Research Skills in Reproductive Biology”. And we benefited from expert staff including two Wikipedians in Residence (at different Scottish organisations), a librarian, and a learning, teaching and web colleague.
So the students had an introdution to Wikipedia, then some literature searching examples. We went on to groupwprl sesssions to find papers on particular topics, looking for differences in definitions, spellings, terminology. We discussed findings. This led onto groupwork where each group defined their own aspect to research. And from there they looked to create Wikipedia edits/pages.
The groups really valued trying out different library resources and search engines, and seeing the varying content that was returned by them.
The students then, in the following week, developed their Wikipedia editing skills so that they could combine their work into a new page for Neuroangiogenesis. Getting that online in an afternoon was increadibly exciting. And actually that page was high in the search rankings immediately. Looking at the traffic statistics that page seemed to be getting 3 hits per day – a lot more reads than the papers I’ve published!
So, we will run the exercise again with our new students. I’ve already identified some terms which are not already out there on Wikipedia. This time we’ll be looking to add to or improve High Grade Serious Carcinoma, and Fetal Programming. But we have further terms that need more work.
Q1) Did anyone edit the page after the students were finished?
A1) A number of small corrections and one querying of whether a PhD thesis was a suitable reference – whether a primary or secondary reference. What needs done more than anything else is building more links into that page from other pages.
Q2) With the WordPress blogs you presumably want some QA as these are becoming OERs. What would happen if a project got, say, a low C.
A2) Happily that hasn’t happened yet. That would be down to the tutor I think… But I think people would be quite forgiving of undergraduate work, which it is clearly presented at.
Q3) Did you consider peer marking?
A3) An interesting question. Students are concerned that there are peers in their groups who do not contribute equally, or let peers carry them.
Comment) There is a tool called PeerAim where peer input weights the marks of students.
Q3) Do all of those blog projects have the same model? I’m sure I saw something on peer marking?
A3) There is peer feedback but not peer marking at present.
Dr. Anouk Lang – “Structuring Data in the Humanities Classroom: Mapping literary texts using open geodata”
I am a digital humanities scholar in the school of Languages and Linguistics. One of the courses I teach is digital humanities for literature, which is a lovely class and I’m going to talk about projects in that course.
The first MSc project the students looked at was to explore Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Dynamiter. Although we were mapping the texts but the key aim was to understand who wrote what part of the text.
So the reason we use mapping in this course is because these are brilliant analytical students but they are not used to working with structured data, and this is an opportunity to do this. So, using CartoDB – a brilliant tool that will draw data from Google Sheets – they needed to identify locations in the text but I also asked students to give texts an “emotion rating”. That is a rating of intensity of emotion based on the work of Ian Gregory – spatial historian who has worked with Lakes data on the emotional intensity of these texts.
So, the students build this database by hand. And then loaded into CartoDB you get all sorts of nice ways to visualise the data. So, looking at a map of London you can see where the story occurs. The Dynamiter is a very weird text with a central story in London but side stories about the planting of bombs, which is kind of played as comedy. The view I’m showing here is a heatmap. So for this text you can see the scope of the text. Robert Louis Stevenson was British, but his wife was American, and you see that this book brings in American references, including unexpected places like Utah.
So, within CartoDB you can try different ways to display your data. You can view a “Torque Map” that shows chronology of mentions – for this text, which is a short story, that isn’t the most helpful perhaps.
Now we do get issues of anachronisms. OpenStreetMap – on which CartoDB is based – is a contemporary map and the geography and locations on the map changes over time. And so another open data source was hugely useful in this project. Over at the National Library of Scotland there is a wonderful maps librarian called Chris Fleet who has made huge numbers of historical maps available not only as scanned images but as map tiles through a Historical Open Maps API, so you can zoom into detailed historical maps. That means that mapping a text from, say, the late 19th Century, it’s incredibly useful to view a contemporaneous map with the text.
You can view the Robert Louis Stevenson map here: http://edin.ac/20ooW0s.
So, moving to this year’s project… We have been looking at Jean Rhys. Rhys was a white Creole born in the Dominican Republic who lived mainly in Europe. She is a really located author with place important to her work. For this project, rather than hand coding texts, I used the wonderful wonderful Edinburgh Geoparser (https://www.ltg.ed.ac.uk/software/geoparser/??) – a tool I recommend and a new version is imminent from Clare Grover and colleagues in LTG, Informatics.
So, the Geoparser goes through the text and picks out text that looks like places, then tells you which it things is the most likely location for that place – based on aspects like nearby words in the text etc. That produces XML and Clare has created me an XSLT Stylesheet, so all the students have had to do is to manually clean up that data. The GeoParser gives you GeoNames reference that enables you to check latitude and longitude. Now this sort of data cleaning, the concept of gazeteers, these are bread and butter tools of the digital humanities. These are tools which are very unfamiliar to many of us working in the humanities. This is open, shared, and the opposite of the scholar secretly working in the librarian.
We do websites in class to benefit from that publicness – and the meaning of public scholarship. When students are doing work in public they really rise to the challenge. They know it will connect to their real world identities. I insist students sow their name, their information, their image because this is part of their digital scholarly identities. I want people who Google them to find this lovely site with it’s scholarship.
So, for our Jean Rhys work I will show you a mock up preview of our data. One of the great things about visualising your data in these ways is that you can spot errors in your data. So, for instance, checking a point in Canada we see that the Geoparser has picked Halifax Nova Scotia when the text indicates Halifax in England. When I raised this issue in class today the student got a wee bit embarrassed and made immediate changes… Which again is kind of perk of work in public.
Next week my students will be trying out QGIS  with Tom Armitage of EDINA, that’s a full on GIS system so that will be really exciting.
For me there are real pedagogical benefits of these tools. Students have to really think hard about structuring their data, which is really important. As humanists we have to put our data in our work into computational form. Taking this kind of class means they are more questioning of data, of what it means, of what accuracy is. They are critically engaged with data and they are prepared to collaborate in a gentle kind of way. They also get to think about place in a literary sense, in a way they haven’t before.
We like to think that we have it all figured out in terms of understanding place in literature. But when you put a text into a spreadsheet you really have to understand what is being said about place in a whole different way than a close reading. So, if you take a sentence like: “He found them a hotel in Rue Lamartine, near Gard du Nord, in Monmatre”. Is that one location or three? The Edinburgh GeoParser maps two points but not Rue Lamartine… So you have to use Google maps for that… And is the accuracy correct. And you have to discuss if those two map points are distorting. The discussion there is more rich than any other discussion you would have around close reading. We are so confident about close readings… We assume it as a research method… This is a different way to close read… To shoe horn into a different structure.
So, I really like Michel De Certeau’s “Spatial stories” in The practice of everyday life (De Certeau 1984), where he talks about structured space and the ambiguous realities of use and engagement in that space. And that’s what that Rue LaMartine type example is all about.
Q1) What about looking at distance between points, how length of discussion varies in comparison to real distance
A1) That’s an interesting thing. And that CartoDB Torque display is crude but exciting to me – a great way to explore that sort of question.
OER as Assessment – Stuart Nichol, LTW
I’m going to be talking about OER as Assessment from a students perspective. I study part time on the MSc in Digital Education and a few years ago I took a module called Digital Futures for Learning, a course co-created by participants and where assessment is built around developing an Open Educational Resource. The purpose is to “facilitate learning for the whole group”. This requires a pedagogical approach (to running the module) which is quite structured to enable that flexibility.
So, for this course, the assessment structure is 30% position paper (basis of content for the OER), then 40% of mark for the OER (30%peer-assessed and tutor moderated / 10% self assessed), and then the final 30% of the marks come from an analysis paper that reflects on the peer assessment. You could then resubmit the OER along with that paper reflecting on that process.
I took this module a few years ago, before the University’s adoption of an open educational resource policy, but I was really interested in this. So I ended up building a course on Open Accrediation, and Open Badges, using weebly: http://openaccreditation.weebly.com/.
This was really useful as a route to learn about Open Educational Resources generally but that artefact has also become part of my professional portfolio now. It’s a really different type of assignment and experience. And, looking at my stats from this site I can see it is still in use, still getting hits. And Hamish (Macleod) points to that course in his Game Based Learning module now. My contact information is on that site and I get tweets and feedback about the resource which is great. It is such a different experience to the traditional essay type idea. And, as a learning technologist, this was quite an authentic experience. The course structure and process felt like professional practice.
This type of process, and use of open assessment, is in use elsewhere. In Geosciences there are undergraduate students working with local schools and preparing open educational resources around that. There are other courses too. We support that with advice on copyright and licensing. There are also real opportunities for this in the SLICCs (Student Led Individually Created Courses). If you are considering going down this route then there is support at the University from the IS OER Service – we have a workshop at KB on 3rd March. We also have the new Open.Ed website, about Open Educational Resources which has information on workshops, guidance, and showcases of University work as well as blogs from practitioners. And we now have an approved OER policy for learning and teaching.
In that new OER Policy and how that relates to assessment, and we are clear that OERs are created by both staff and students.
And finally, fresh from the ILW Editathon this week, Ewan MacAndrew, our new Wikimedian in residence, will introduce us to Histropedia (Interactive timelines for Wikipedia: http://histropedia.com) and run through a practical introduction to Wikipedia editing.


International Benchmarking Review of UK Human Geography

Picked up from Kenneth Field’s Blog, the ESRC have put together a report on Human Geography in the UK. The report is co-authored by the RGS-IBG and the Arts and Humanities Council.

The report concludes that the UK ranks top in Human Geography research when measured in bibliometric data. However, the report did highlight a number of areas where there was room for improvement and one of these was Qualitative methods and GI Science (the report refers to GIS as Geographical Information Science rather than Geographic Information Systems, i prefer GI Science which is much bigger than the “Systems” of GIS). The panel calls for:

  1. an investment in training for GI Science which is currently largely seen as the preserve of the Geographer and
  2. focused investment in GIS laboratories and renewed commitment to hiring in this sub-discipline.

Geographers in the UK have made an important contribution to advancing complex modelling such as agent-baset modelling, but they have also been at the forefront of developments in 3  broad areas:

  1. Neogeography – the use of Web 2.0 mapping
  2. embracing and utalising Open Data
  3. developing innovative visualisations.

The report states that there is a small group of relatively young researchers  taking up these research activities and there is a reduction in the number of postgrad opportunities to learn the skills needed to handle and interpret large quantities of data.  I am not sure i would agree entirely.  The UK is contributing on the Word stage through groups such as CASA at UCL, the Centre for Geospatial Science at Nottingham University, Danny Dorling’s SASI group at The University of Sheffield and researchers like Jason Dykes at City University London.   These groups are small compared to other disciplines but they are growing.  CASA are particularly adept at publicising their work and gaining funding for projects working to visualise Open Data.  Students and postdocs are leaving these centres to take on new positions in different Universities (Alex Singleton was a CASA member but is now researching and lecturing at Liverpool).

Big Data

This sector is growing but growth is slow and organic. I would agree that more funds need to be injected into this area.  The skills needed to handle large datasets (eloquently described by Prof. Michael Batty as “data that is too big to load in excel” ~1 million rows). I actually think that some of the “Big Open Data” needs to mature before it is actually of any real use.  Take the London Tube system for instance, you tap in at a station with your Oyster Card, travel on the network and they tap out. But on any given day, you will have around 500, 000 more tap-ins than tap-outs. This data leak makes analysis of the traffic in the network only about 90% accurate (from Michael Batty’s EEO presentation 1/03/2013). This would most likely be considered not fir for purpose in the engineering or planning World.  The skills and tool-kits for analysing big data are emerging, but the data itself needs to be improved if it is to be useful for Building Information Models (BIMs), which seem to be the new buzz-world in commercial GIS circles.

Here is a link to CASA’s view of Big Data.

Shared Services

Well, I couldn’t really report on the document without mentioning how we see EDINA’s role in all this. EDINA is committed to offering shared services that provide access to spatial data and tool-kits to the education sector. We have seen a huge increase in the use of our spatial services over the past 5 years and analysis shows that the majority of our users are not geographers. Instead, they are environmental scientists, landscape planners, engineers and architects.

Location based services, augmented reality and the rise of the smart phone offer new challenges and opportunities. We have been working away quietly on a few things in these sectors, so expect to see something soon.



GISRUK 2012 – Thursday

The second part of GoGeo’s review of GISRUK 2012 covers Thursday. If you want to find out what happened on Wednesday, please read this post

Thusrday saw a full programme of talks split between two parallel sessions.  I chose to go to the Landscape Visibility and Visualisation strand.

  • Steve Carver (University of Leeds) started proceedings with No High Ground: visualising Scotland’s renewable landscape using rapid viewshed assessment tools. This talk brought together new modeling software that allowed for multiple viewsheds to be analysied very quickly, with a practical and topical subject.  The SNP want Scotland to be self-sufficient with renewable energy by 2020.  An ambitious target. In 2009, 42% of Scotlands “views” were unaffected by human developments, this had declined to 28% by 2011.  Wind farms are threatening the “wildness” of Scotland and this may have implications on tourism.  Interestingly, the SNP also wants to double the income from tourism by 2020. So how can you achieve both?  By siting new wind farms in areas that do not further impact on the remaining wild areas.  This requires fast and efficient analysis of viewsheds which is what Steve and his team presented.
  • Sam Meek (University of Nottingham) was next up presenting on The influence of digital surface models choice on the visibility-based mobile geospatial application.  Sam’s research focused onan application called Zapp.  Sam is looking at how to efficiently and accuretly run visibility models on mobile devices in the field and how the results are influenced by the surface model.  In each case, all processing is done on the device. Resampling detailed DTM’s is obviously going to make processing less intensive, however this often leads to issues such as smoothing of features.  Other general issues with visibility models are stepping, where edges form in the DTM and interupt the line of sight and an over estimation of vegetation.  This research should help make navigation apps on mobiles that use visual landmarks to guide the user, more accurate and usable.
  • Possibly the strangest and most intruging paper title at GISRUK 2012 came from Neil Sang (Sweedish University of Argicultural Science) with New Horizons for the Standford Bunny – A novel method for view analysis.  The “bunny” reference was a bit of a red herring but the research did look at horizon based view analysis.  The essence was to identify horizons in a landscape to improve the speed of viewshed analysis as the horizons often persisted even when the local position changed.
  • The final paper of the session took a different direction with David Miller of The James Hutton Institute looking at Testing the publics preferences for future. This linked public policy with public consultations through the use of virtual reality environments.  The research investigated whether familiarity with the location altered the opinion of planned changes to the landscapes.  Findings showed agreement in developing amenity woodland adjacent to a village, and environmental protection, but differences arose in relation to proposals for medium-sized windfarms (note – medium-sized wind farms are defined as those that would perhaps be constructed to supply power to a farm and not commercial windfarms).

After coffee I chose to go to the Qualitative GIS session as it provided an interesting mix f papers that explored social media and enabling”the crowd”.

  • First up was Amy Fowler (Lancaster University) who asked How reliable is citized-derived scientific data?  This research looked at the prevelance of aircraft contrails using data derived through the Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) Climate Survey. Given the dynamic nature of the atmosphere, it is impossible to validate user contributed data. Amy hopes to script an automated confidence calculator to analyse nearly 9,000 observations, but initial analysis suggests that observations that have accompanying photographs tend to be more reliable.
  • Iain Dillingham (City University) looked at Characterising Locality Descriptors in crowd-sourced information.  This specifically focused on humanitarian organisations. Using the wealth of data available from the 2010 Haiti earthquake they investigated the uncertainty of location from social media. They looked at georeferencing locality descriptors in MaNIS (Mammal Network Information System).  The conclusion was that while there were similarities in the datasets, the crowd-sourced data presented significant challenges with respect to vagueness, ambiguity and precision.
  • The next presentation changed the focus somewhat, Scott Orford (Cardiff University) presented his work on Mapping interview transcript records: technical, theoretical and cartographical challenges. This research formed part of the WISERD project and aimed to geo-tag interview transcripts .  Geo-tagging was done using UNLOCK but there were several issues with getting useful results out, or reducing the noise in the data.  Interview scripts were transcribed in England and complicated Welsh placename spellings often got transcribed incorrectly.  In addition, phrases such as “Erm” were quite frequent and got parsed which then had to be removed as they did not actually relate to a place. Interesting patterns did emerge about what areas appeared to be of interest to different people in different regions of Wales, however care had to be taken in preparing the dataset and parsing it.
  • Chris Parker (Loughborough University) looked at Using VGI in design for online usability: the case of access information. Chris used a number of volunteers to collect data on accessibility to public transport. The volunteers might be considered an expert group as they were all wheel-chair users.  Comparison was made between an official map and one that used the VGI data. It was found that the public perception of quality increased when VGI data was used making it an attractive and useful option for improving the confidence of online information. However, it would be interesting to look at this issue with a more mixed crowd of volunteer, rather than just the expert user group who seemed to have been commission (but not paid) to collect specific information. I am also not too sure where the term Usability from the title fits.  Trusting the source of online data may increase it use but this is not usability which refers more to the ability of users to engage with and perform tasks on an interface.

There was a good demonstration from ESRI UK of their ArcGIS.com service.  This allows users to upload their own data, theme it and display it against one of a number of background maps. The service then allows you to publish the map and restrict the access to the map by creating groups.  Users can also embed the map into a website by copying some code that is automatically created for you. All good stuff, if you want to find out more about this then have a look at the ArcGIS.com website.

Most of Friday was given over to celebrating the career of Stan Openshaw.  I didn’t work with Stan but it is clear from the presentations that he made a significant contribution to the developing field of GIS and spatial analysis and had a huge effect on the development of many of the researchers that regularly attend GISRUK.  If you want to find out more about Stan’s career, have a look at the Stan Openshaw Collection website.

Friday’s keynote was given by Tyler Mitchel who was representing the OSGeo community.    Tyler was a key force in the development of the OSGeo group and has championed the use of open software in gis.  Tyler’s presentation focused on interoprability and standards and how they combine to allow you to create a software stack that can easily meet you GIS needs.  I will try to get a copy of the slides of Tyler’s presentation and link to them from here.

How do you solve a problem like Geo? Highlights from the JISC Geo Event and Discussions

It’s been a few weeks since the JISC Geo Tech & Tools Product Launch event at London so we thought it was time we updated you on some of the follow up activities…

On the second day of the JISC Geospatial Event in London, we had two sessions to gather around tables (and/or move between them) and discuss some questions around the themes emerging from the JISC Geo projects. It followed on from the previous days thoughts “to figure out which products are going to help catalyse the spatial revolution in .AC.UKs”, but this session involved discussion that looked out wider than the presented products.

In session 1 discussions included:

For session 2 themes running through the projects and 6 stages/ways of working with data were identified and discussed.

We would love to hear your thoughts on the discussions – leave your comments on any of the blog posts linked to here or add your comments on any of these topics here. If you were part of these discussions and think an important point didn’t get noted down, do add it as a comment as well.

We will be sharing more materials from the JISC Geo End of Programme events early in 2012 but in the meantime here are some video highlights – also available from our new Podcast stream [Click on subscribe via iTunes] – to enjoy:

JISC Geo Timelapse

View the whole of the first day of the JISC Geo in just 1 minute:  JISC_Geo_Launch_Event_Timelapse

Highlights from the JISC Geo Show & Tell 

Hear about the best projects at the Show & Tell events where all 12 JISC Geo projects showed off their work along with some guest exhibitors: Highlights from the JISC Geo Show & Tell