Information Visualization ‘L’ plater on the loose

30 07 2012

For the last few years, I have been fascinated with the many and creative uses of data visualization. This was sparked by seeing more and more creative and innovate ways of presenting data, especially at events like THATcamp and GovHack. For example, local Canberra impresarios Mitchell Whitelaw, Tim Sherratt and Paul Hagon  have all done very interesting things with a range of national collections.

Of course, Paul Brown has been experimenting with data since the 1970s and is considered one of the pioneers of generative art. I like to add Paul because he is a legend and he included me in one of my first digital art shows in 1999 – SciArt’99 at the Queensland Sciencentre :-)

For my purposes, I am keen to learn how I can play with SNA and maps, as I am intrigued by the possibilities of creating tools that respond to location and audiences in different ways. Anyway, I am not sure exactly what I want to create – I guess I will find out. I know a little – tools like Processing and Gephi are popular, but at the moment I have little working knowledge of these tools.

In September 2012, I will be taking an online course in Social Networking Analysis,  with Lada Adamic at Coursera, a social entrepreneurship company that partners with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. I am really excited and hope to learn some neat stuff. The course outline says:

In this course you will learn about the structure and evolution of networks, drawing on knowledge from disciplines as diverse as sociology, mathematics, computer science, economics, and physics. Online interactive demonstrations and hands-on analysis of real-world data sets will focus on a range of tasks: from identifying important nodes in the network, to detecting communities, to tracing information diffusion and opinion formation.

Sounds fabulous eh! I hope that soon I will have something for show and tell – can’t wait!!

Here are some links to some groovy info vis sites:





Blogging under the radar

7 10 2010

There has been a lot of discussion online about bloggers in the political and media space, particularly if they are public servants or are considered ‘non-professionals’.

But what is also lurking (pardon the pun) is how social media enthusiasts share information and link to each other. There is an etiquette (or more precisely netiquette) involved that is about acknowledging your sources and validating your position. In a blog, an active link is considered a reference. It is not like an academic assertion that needs to be referenced in order to sustain an argument. It is much simpler than that – it is simply an expression of respect.

By taking the time to link to the information and people that you are discussing, you create a picture for your reader that has value and credibility. What is more, the author appreciates it! I am certainly appreciative of the efforts that other bloggers and tweeps take when referencing my posts or creative works. I am less impressed when people cut and paste from my blog into their own posts (even if it is a list of links) without acknowledgment.

I guess this is because I actually want people to read my blog and to follow the thread of the discussion. After all, even though my blog is a hobby, it still takes time and I invest a lot of effort in ensuring that other websites, blogs and tweeps are referenced. This is primarily because I greatly value the opinions and work of people who are active in the space of social media, semantic web and information management. Whether they write as themselves or under a pseudonym doesn’t really matter to me, what I am interested in is the ideas, opinions and the flow-on conversations that are generated.

Personally speaking, I make no attempts to fly under the radar and put a disclaimer on my blog to clearly state that the opinions expressed are exclusively my own. Fortunately for me, my employer and research institution endorse me to participate in this arena, in my capacity as a media researcher and creative practicioner, which takes a great deal of pressure off.

What I hope for, along with respect for each other in the blogosphere, is that there will be increased acceptance of an author’s right to choose how they write and as who. I also hope that there will be an acknowledgment that diversity of opinion is healthy, whether you are a professional journalist, public servant, media critic or just have a point of view.

For more information see #groggate and Craig Thomler’s blog post When traditional media exposes public service bloggers





Report: Life of Information Symposium

27 09 2010

I arrived at the Life of Information Symposium (#lois2010) at ANU somewhat fatigued from the previous days attendance at media140.

Fortunately, I did not feel this way for long. Thanks to Dr Paul Arthur, et al, this event was very well organised, with the timing of presentations and discussions very tight and subject matter kept on topic.

A broad range of very interesting online dictionaries, encyclopedias and collections were discussed including Atlas of Living Australia, Austlit: The Australian Literature Resource, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Medical Pioneers Index, Defining Moments, Dictionary of Sydney, Black Loyalists, Encyclopedia of Australian Science, Gallipoli: The First Day, Founders and Survivors, Invisible Australians, Mapping Our Anzacs, Obituaries Australia, People Australia and Trove

The speakers included Stephen Due, Janet McCalman, Sandra Silcot, Len Smith, Zoë D’Arcy, Cassandra Pybus, Katherine Bode, Donald Hobern, Kerry Taylor, Basil Dewhurst, Ian Johnson, Ross Coleman, Emma Grahame, Steven Hayes,  Stewart Wallace and Tim Sherratt.

My primary interest in this event was to learn more about the technical applications used in the digital humanities as this is a current research interest, particularly data visualisations of semantic web data. So for me the most interesting presentations were by Cassandra Pybus (Black Loyalists), Ian Johnson (Heurist Scholar), Tim Sherratt (Invisible Australians) see his presentation on Slideshare and the team from Dictionary of Sydney – Ross Coleman, Emma Grahame, Steven Hayes and Stewart Wallace. These projects were discussed on a range of levels including content, context and technical tools used for production and management of data.

I could not help comparing media140 and lois2010 even though these events were so different in terms of outlook. What was evident for me as a connection point was the use of the Internet as a communications channel. The major difference at media140, there was a focus on a small number of tools i.e. Twitter and Facebook, whereas at lois2010 many of the projects used custom built, open source and free tools. I guess researchers lead and the rest follow.

The other big difference was the use of social media during the symposium – at #media140 over 2000 tweets were transmitted as opposed to the 50 or so at #lois2010. In fact at one point, I tweeted that I was a lonely voice. Quite a different scenario to the day before.

In summary, I think that the digital humanities is building momentum and starting to really analyse the way in which its subject matter is managed and disseminated. There are still many challenges, including how to manage divergent ontologies and develop tools that have archival value. One of the most interesting questions came from a cultural studies researcher about how dissenting narratives could be portrayed and how other voices could be included in some of the biographical projects. For me this is a crucial issue and one that crowd sourcing can assist with as the audience should be able to include their voice to the narrative.

The other question in my mind is about the audience and their capacity to utilise the tools effectively, which comes back to my accessibility and usability hobby horses. What I would like to see next is a symposium that focuses on the functionality and usability of tools rather than the subject matter as this is currently a gap in my skill set, which I am trying to overcome as quickly as possible.

I look forward to seeing some of the presentations on Slideshare, and I will update this post with the links when they become available.

Project list

 

During the Friday Forum Gavan McCarthy mentioned this report on contextual information frameworks:
http://www.ica.org/en/node/30656





THATCamp CBR – Summary report

9 09 2010

THATCamp CBR Report

On 28-29 August, I participated in a very interesting event titled THATcamp Canberra, which was organised by Tim Sherratt (@wragge), Cath Styles (@cathstyles) and Mitchell Whitelaw (@mtchl) and hosted by University of Canberra.

This blog post is a summary of all the posts that were published on the mediakult blog about THATCamp, in an effort to keep the content together.

To explain, THATCamp Canberra was a user-generated ‘unconference’ on digital humanities. It was inspired by the original THATCamp, organised by the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, and is one of a growing number of regional THATCamps springing up around the world. (‘THAT’ = ‘The Humanities And Technology’.)

The unconference model works on the idea that the participants generate the sessions, based on individual interests and research. In the lead up to THATCamp, participants blogged suggestions and then when we met on Saturday morning, the program was decided as a group, facilitated by Tim.

The sessions covered a broad range of topics including data visualisation to digital mapping to semantic web to augmented/digital space. Here is link to the THATCamp CBRprogram from Cath Styles Flickr page.

The sessions I attended were:

I missed the data visualisation session, but thanks to Michael Honey, this list of data viz links is a great resource of information about projects and tools focused on the visualisation of data.

As a general comment, the content of the sessions I attended was very rich, which was achieved by sharing experiences and tools in the spirit of collaboration. I have referred to some of the tools and projects in my reports on the workshops I attended. I went to THATcamp hoping to gain some practical skills and I found this, plus much more. I think the unconference model is a great way to focus on what participants want to explore, which was a big contributor to the success of the event.

THATCamp CBR – Semantic web session

The semantic web session was hugely popular, facilitated by Corey Wallis a software engineer who is involved in the development of additional services for the AusStage system as part of the Aus-e-Stage project.

I am particularly interested in the development of semantic web tools as an opportunity for LivingGreener to visualise data about sustainability issues. In addition to this as an artist and researcher I am starting to explore the use of semantic web and mapping tools as a way of developing creative work about family, identity. migration and place.

In short, Corey proposed a session that explored the potential use of semantic web technologies, such as the Resource Description Framework RDF, in supporting research and other projects in the humanities. Some initial questions to start the discussion include:

  • What are these types of technologies used for?
  • What kinds of activities in the humanities do they support?
  • What are the kinds of problems that we’ve used these technologies to solve?
  • What kinds of issues have been explored in using these types of technologies?
  • Sharing thoughts on success stories, war stories and other experiences with these types of technologies.

THATCamp CBR – Open linked data session

The main focus on this session was the access and use of PSI (Public Sector Information). Asa LeTourneau, from the Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) led this discussion.

This discussion focused on a range of issues including, developing APIs, data scaping from websites, and making data available and different institutions that have made their data available in different formats.

In many ways, this discussion ended up being more about the ‘who’ and the ‘what’ and I was hoping for more about the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ on a technical level. That said, I did learn that it is important to write good XML and to have strong URIs :-)

There was a general comment that Australian government archives ahead of the game because of the ‘series system’ developed in the 1960s. This is a great opportunity for access and visualisation of open data on a global scale. There were also comments that there had been some very good work in this area in New Zealand.

THATCamp CBR – Digital mapping session

BootCamp: Putting the Digital Humanities in its place … what, why and how to map
Presented by Ian Johnson.

This session was an excellent practical introduction into digital mapping. Ian provided some very good information about the basics of GIS (Geographic Information System) and the types of tools and databases used to generate visualisations that intersected data with mapping.

To begin with, the group was taken through an overview of GIS, which I found particularly helpful as I have not had any formal training in this area and have a great interest in learning skills in mapping and GIS.

The presentation then focused on a number of projects that have used GIS technologies, for example: Macquarie map of Indigenous Australia 2007; South Seas Project; Digital Harlem 1915 – 1930 and Dictionary of Sydney.

Ian then provided a list of tools that are used for developing these projects – most significantly Time Maps and Heurist.

I am looking forward to learning much more about digital mapping and building technical skills with some of the tools mentioned in the blog post.

THATCamp CBR – Digital/Augmented space session

In this session, the focus was on how we can traverse physical space with digital tools, map our location and connect with others. There was a particular focus on who has been in the same location and what this could mean for sharing an experience of a space or idea of place. The discussion was led by Dr Chris Chesher, who initiated the discussion by sharing his interest in robots and augmented space.

This topic is close to my heart as it is related to my creative practice as well as my PhD research.

This discussion covered a lot of ground in terms of covering tools, conceptual issues, future possibilities and challenges. For this reason, the majority of this blog post is a list of dot points which are split into three sections – concepts/issues, tools and references. The best aspect of this session was that there was a lot of blue sky thinking about what was imagined, what was possible and what is already emerging. Thanks to @ellenforsyth for providing the initial list of discussion points.





THATCamp CBR – Semantic web session

1 09 2010

The semantic web session was hugely popular, facilitated by Corey Wallis a software engineer who is involved in the development of additional services for the AusStage system as part of the Aus-e-Stage project.

I am particularly interested in the development of semantic web tools as an opportunity for LivingGreener to visualise data about sustainability issues. In addition to this as an artist and researcher I am starting to explore the use of semantic web and mapping tools as a way of developing creative work about family, identity. migration and place.

In short, Corey proposed a session that explored the potential use of semantic web technologies, such as the Resource Description Framework RDF, in supporting research and other projects in the humanities. Some initial questions to start the discussion include:

  • What are these types of technologies used for?
  • What kinds of activities in the humanities do they support?
  • What are the kinds of problems that we’ve used these technologies to solve?
  • What kinds of issues have been explored in using these types of technologies?
  • Sharing thoughts on success stories, war stories and other experiences with these types of technologies.


The conversation covered the following points:

  • what is the difference between semantic web and linked open data?
  • Relational data and semantic web? Relationship data operates within a schema eg. Database
  • semantic web creates definitions that can be read universally
  • semantic web google doc to share
  • ANDS funded research – Basil D – People Australia
  • local identifiers (URIs) with persistent identifiers (internal) – subjects, events, geo-locale, history
  • making sure that data is published in the right format – RDF (uni of melbourne)
  • friend of a friend – looking at relational ontologies  – People Australia links in
  • trove, skos – concept of a person, simple knowledge origin systems skos
  • link between tagging within the organisation and public interactions
  • XML represents data structure but not meaning, RDF document can be rendered to be human readable
  • you can embed RDF, RDF aarnet, RDFA, griddle into html
  • freebase?
  • http://www.amw.org.au/register
  • seems to be a gap in developer expertise in RDF
  • sparql queries do not compress, distributed sources of data is more flexible and lighter and huge data store
  • breaking up sets of ontologies and cross referencing
  • bio ontologies, creative commons, isocat, dublin core, ontology register, schemipedia, swoogle
  • rdf browser, disco browser
  • australian pictorial resource, AMOL
  • problem with authorative data base of ontologies with folksonomies
  • understanding how ontologies are developed
  • the discussion about universal tags created by institutions vs crowdsourced, folksonomy tags has been going for over ten years – see Ontologies and Metadata

It seems that the way forward is to develop small manageable ontologies that can be woven together in a cohesive, flexible way. It is also important to create good code that follows with RDF standards. Given that there appears to be limited expertise in the area of RDF development, there is a need to build those skills to ensure the success of semantic web projects,





THATCamp CBR – Open linked data session

1 09 2010

The main focus on this session was the access and use of PSI (Public Sector Information). Asa LeTourneau, from the Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) led this discussion.

This discussion focused on a range of issues including, developing APIs, data scaping from websites, and making data available and different institutions that have made their data available in different formats.

In many ways, this discussion ended up being more about the ‘who’ and the ‘what’ and I was hoping for more about the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ on a technical level. That said, I did learn that it is important to write good XML and to have strong URIs :-)

The session proposal on the THATCamp blog read:

Web2.0 has taken hold at PROV and we are now trying to figure out ways to take our existing data and publish it in a usable form on a regular and automatic basis. The specific tasks we have in mind are:

  • how to extract data into xml format
  • design a tool that can harvest xml on a regular basis automatically
  • identify what is an archival standard xml and why and what are its elements
  • how to match our xml elements to the archival standard xml elements and describe why the matching has occurred
  • design a tool that can publish xml on a regular basis automatically
  • Currently users access the collection here. One day, with your help, they may be able to access it

Here are a number of examples of institutions offering data and some of the methods and tools being used:

  • one of the main methods of acquiring open data is by the use of a screen scraper and then put data into xml schema
  • PROV are scraping own website
  • Access the PROV collection
  • People Australia have an API – Basil D (People Australia) is interested in people who want to use apis
  • Powerhouse made available data in csv format
  • Gov 2.0 innovation plan
  • Open Calais?
  • Machine tagging and crowdsourcing as a community activity
  • LORE – anna gerber uq http://thatcampcanberra.org/camper/anna/
  • Design and art australia online – users make corrections to data
  • gate systems
  • Xpath
  • OpenSearch, please consider JSON output – it makes web UIs easier/faster
  • http://defining.net.au/wall/
  • metadata conference – analysis of comments from dutch archives – sigfried??
  • open annotation project www.openannotation.org
  • Koori records unit – wiki – prov
  • community project in western district – wanting to develop sensitive system where rights of access is respected – who can see what because of cultural appropriateness
  • Who am I project – ARC linkage project

There was a general comment that Australian government archives ahead of the game because of the ‘series system’ developed in the 1960s. This is a great opportunity for access and visualisation of open data on a global scale. There was also comments that there had been some very good work in this area in New Zealand.





THATCamp CBR – Digital mapping session

1 09 2010

BootCamp: Putting the Digital Humanities in its place … what, why and how to map
Presented by Ian Johnson.

This session was an excellent practical introduction into digital mapping. Ian provided some very good information about the basics of GIS (Geographic Information System) and the types of tools and databases used to generate visualisations that intersected data with mapping.

To begin with, the group was taken through an overview of GIS, which I found particularly helpful as I have not had any formal training in this area and have a great interest in learning skills in mapping and GIS.

The presentation then focused on a number of projects that have used GIS technologies, for example: Macquarie map of Indigenous Australia 2007; South Seas Project; Digital Harlem 1915 – 1930 and Dictionary of Sydney.

Ian then provided a list of tools that are used for developing these projects – most significantly Time Maps and Heurist.

I am looking forward to learning much more about digital mapping and building technical skills with some of the tools mentioned in the blog post.

Some dot points about  – digital mapping tools and technologies:

  • AusStage mapping service
  • what is spatial data? Vector – points lines, polygons – objects recorded with coordinates. Raster – aerial photos, satellite images, airborn scanner images, historical maps and plans.
  • Formats – CSV
  • shapefile – (old formats .shp .dbf .shx =ESRI) http://www.mapshaper.com/test/demo.html
  • KML (.kml, .kmx = Google Earth)
  • Databases – Access, MySql, ostgres, Oracle
  • TIF, GeoTiff = Remore sensed data
  • JPEG2000, MrSID, Zoomify = Tled images http://www.zoomify.com doesn’t need a image server
  • Projections, Datums, Coordinates – datum: point of reference and model of the earth; projecton: method of flattening earth on map; no such thing as a ‘correct’ projection, grid reference system (cartesian)
  • Lat and Long – GPS – uses WGS84 lat-long, no projection

Some projects worth mentioning:

  • Macquarie map of Indigenous Australia 2007
  • georeferencing – way of matching data
  • street address referencing
  • Geographical names register
  • Geonames
  • georeferencing 2 – usually raster arc gis
  • google earth and overlaying maps over time
  • PHALMS Parramatta Heritage Archeological Landscape Management Study
  • Digitising (Heurist)
  • South Seas Project
  • Digital Harlem 1915 – 1930
  • Dictionary of Sydney
  • CHGIS (Harvard, Griffith, Fudan, Russian Academy of Science)
  • A vision of Britain over time
  • Sydney Harbour landfill
  • BioMap – biofuel research in Europe
  • simile timeline MIT
  • Angkot fly through – real map with data vis laid on top

Some tools:

  • Field collection – i-pad looks very promising 3g model
  • smart phones – embedded GeoTags in images
  • FieldHelper Vsn 2 – GPS/camera mapping
  • abc innovation – using google earth and timeline
  • Sydney TimeMap – ARC SPIRT Grant (2000 – 2002)
  • TimeMap – useful tool – mobile version in development
  • Heurist Vsn 3 http://www.heuristscholar.org/heurist
  • http://acl.arts.usyd.edu.au/bootcamp/







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