As part of my Digital Humanities course, I looked into a website called Zooniverse. What it does is allow people from all over the world to collaborate on projects from a wide variety of topics. I was immediately interested in the Archaeology projects since that is my “minor” subject I took with my course. After a bit of checking around I found one in particular to be intriguing.
It was named Fossil Finder and focused on Lake Turkana in Kenya. What they did here was take photographs of sections of areas which they wished to excavate. They allowed members to interact with these photos in order to find points of interest to excavate in, I’ll explain this a little more in detail a little later.
Lake Turkana is a heritage site in Kenya and one of the world’s largest desert lakes, the idea that I had a chance to be part of such a large excavation while still in the warmth of my living room behind a screen instead of in the baking sun, sweating like a pig and looking like an Indiana Jones rip-off was an opportunity I jumped at. Each photo was taken by genuine archaeologists or remote drone working hard to find shards of bones which would help identify where they should start their excavation. Each Image was high resolution and represented a nominal on the ground of 34x23cms each. As you can imagine, an entire excavation with photos of this size lead to a lot of photos for one person to look through and by a lot I mean over 9,700. This would take weeks even for a large team to sort through so the group came to Zooniverse instead.
With Zooniverse, about 6,400 collaborators including myself were able to sort through this plethora of pictures for the archaeologists at Lake Turkana’s site. Using forums to communicated (which had about 5000 unique topics by the end of the endeavor) were able to find 109,000 potential artifacts for those at the site, many of these would likely have gone undiscovered if not for the collaboration of the group. The system was very simple, you would be presented a simple page with a picture in the center and had users drag over different “Bull’s Eye” Markers for different types of artifacts onto the pictures. Green for Stone Tools, Blue for Fish Bones, Yellow for Fossil Shells, White for Root-Cast / Rhizolith and Red for “Interesting” and “Rare” discoveries such as skulls / bone fragments. Below is an example of how it all works.
As previously mentioned a forum and chatroom were provided in case anyone was unable to understand the goal of the project or the interface or explain away any other problem that they may encounter. Their was also a small tutorial in the beginning when you first joined the project in order to get everyone with grips with the project. After someone completes a photo, adding what they believe to be appropriate markers it would be submitted to a large repository of images. The major goal of this project was of course to identify as many potential artifacts as possible – in particular they were interested in fossilized bone and stone tools. Each image would often have a few potential examples but they were rare and not always obvious. As well, there are all sorts of odd things in the images that are not significant such as animal dung. As you gained experience I felt my skills with identifying finds improved the longer I played around with this project.
Comparison & Cataloguing : Classification page a “Need more help” button will open a help file. As well, the Field Guide tab on the right will open pictorial catalogues of previously discovered items for comparison.Will an expert check my tags? Primarily the data will be used in mapping and statistically to identify hot spots for “boots on the ground” to check. Significant finds will be collected, though most images will NOT be revisited.
The classification page also had a “Need more help” button that would open a help field as well as a Field Guide tab on the right which would open pictorial catalogues of previously discovered items for comparison, it was super new use friendly to say the least. With that being said – with it being so open for use by newer members I had to ask myself two questions. They were: “Am I doing this right?” and “Will someone with more experience think my work is affecting the project negatively?”. Well, after a little digging I found others had asked similar questions to the developers and had already received these answers. “Don’t worry! Each image is seen by at least ten people – the wisdom of crowds saves the day.” So even if I was making mistakes their was other users there at my back in case I caused a disaster in miscataloguing a potential find. Also with so many other viewers, while there are no do-overs, you can bring missed items to the finds forum (The Finds Forum alone has over 5,000 posts in it as well!) so nothing important will be missed. So anything I missed but saw later I could tell someone else about and they would fill it in for me. Finally, more advanced users seemed more than willing to help others as long as they did not appear to be jeopardizing pre-existant work and were very appreciative to all work submitted by new users. This friendly atmosphere really drew me deeply into this project and I found myself adding bull’s eyes to picture after picture for several days even though I was slightly late to the party.
The project really encouraged learning from mistakes & working together in this project with many others from around the globe. If a problem was ever encountered there was always a user with an exact answer. A few questions I asked that were answered within a day were:
How Can I see better? (I had been having issues with one picture I was given of lower than average quality) – See the Help Index for suggestions how to zoom, colour shift or otherwise manipulate the images.
What If I see a skull or jaw? (I thought I had hit the motherlode! Turns out I was just over-excited but the team still put up with me) The chances are very low so you should first consider every other more mundane explanation of what you see, but like a lottery, someone may win so tag it!
I can compare this part of Zooniverse in a way to Open Street Maps which I worked with last year in that, a collaborative group creates something that others can benefit from. While OSM helps day to day users with a map of the world, Zooniverse is a little more specific but can also greatly help a team with a high level of work. “Many hands make light work” is a saying that rings in my mind here.
Getting down into the Nitty-Gritty of the project, it had a great user interface and left me with a great impression of the website. It made sure that I was ok with each image it presented to me before I began scanning them for artifacts hidden amongst them and just the general friendly user atmosphere was more than amiable.
Some of the more interesting finds got put into Collections such as this one
which is potentially an example of bone being found. This was a way to reward users who found rare objects and incentivizes other users to continue examining pictures for rare objects, it was inspirational and while I wasn’t able to add much to contribute to the Research forums, as I am not an osteologist, (a bone archaeologist specialist) it was fascinating to read about the potential implications of discovering different animal bones could mean for the surrounding area such as the dietary habits of the people who resided at Lake Turkana millennia ago.
This project also had an adjacent blog I stumbled on whilst working on the project that kept up to speed with the research and discoveries that the community found in real time can be found here. It in itself provides an interesting incite into the minds of those behind the project and makes for an interesting read.
There were a few shortcomings and drawbacks to the site. Mainly, it doesn’t give context for where the photo was taken. I know all the photos came from Lake Turkana but was this one I’m now examining in the Northern part of the lake? Southern? Is it close to that last one I just did? This might help me determine what I’m looking at and also give myself some context if I can link a couple of the pictures I’ve examined to one another. Also, it doesn’t give context to the time period of these fragments so while I can find a rock that looks shaped to be used like an axe, I can not distinctly say if it is a Mesolithic, Neolithic or any other variation of an axe. Furthermore, It makes it trickier to identify an object as a distinct artifact or just a coincidence like this.
Despite this, I had a very pleasant time using Zooniverse and exploring this project. I hope you enjoyed reading my article as much as I enjoyed playing around and examining the artifacts above! Until next time! Thanks for reading.
What is E-literature you may be asking yourself? Well a definition offered by the Electronic Literature Organization (ELO) states electronic literature “refers to works with an important literary aspect that takes advantage of the capabilities and contexts provided by the stand-alone or networked computer.”  However, it can be much more than that. Of course E-literature refers to your Kindle or reading a digital news article on the train on your iPad but it also offers new depths for stories to explore.
E-literature to me also revolves around new ways of showing a story. Be that through game-play elements such as  Pry (2016) allowing you to see into the mind of the protagonist ever step of the way and understand their motives and decisions vividly unlike the pages of a novel could express. It could also be like in  Journey (2012) where you are initially a mere wandering wayward vagabond learning small tidbits of the world as your explore a wasteland and find little pieces of information along the way that tell a story unlike any novel could express without words.
Stories are developing beyond the medium of pen and paper. Many mediums are looking towards creating video-stories such as in interactive Youtube videos such as Hell Pizza’s Zombie Attack. Videos like this craft a story with some different outcomes depending on the viewer or reader. E-literature is a medium where you do not merely read and enjoy a novel but instead interact with it, explore it and absolutely become a part of the story yourself.
I’ve been a firm believer in anything being able to create a grandiose story when people come together to put it together. As a Dungeons & Dragons (I’m gonna get nerdy for a second, just let it happen!) player and long time Dungeon Master, I know that crafting a story, setting and world can take months of work to pull off. However, that world would go nowhere without the players to push the story forward. I understand that this is not entirely E-Literature as it is not online but it does connect people together to create a collaborative story. Together the players work to craft their story.
It might be a little irrelevant but Roll20 is an online place for D&D players to find each other and play online as well which, in my opinion, is the pinnacle of E-literature as you craft your own story online with other people, the possibilities of these tales are endless.
I hope this was an enjoyable read! Thank you for making it to the end!
 Electronic Literature Organization – http://eliterature.org/
 Pry 2016 – http://prynovella.com/
 Thatgamecompany – Journey 2012
So recently a friend of mind showed me this quiz and it got me thinking about computer analysis of human people in general such as on dating websites. I will mainly focus on the quiz I linked however as it’s fantasy related (and I do love fantasy) but also because it does a great job at showing your results compared to others.
After playing around with the quiz it turns out my RPG class would be this : A Mirror Mage.
I assume you think I’ve gone off the deep end right now with me saying that I’m a mage and can sling spells around and such. Well, let’s not get too hasty with the mental stability allegations! At the end of the quiz you are presented with six attribute ratings. These are : Strength (Athleticism and how important it is to you), Bloodlust (This one is a bit odd but think about it more as your own independent action, how driven you are), Intelligence (Academia and how important it is to you), Spirit (How willing you are to continue preserving against a challenge), Vitality (Similar to spirit but more about your physical willingness rather than mental fortitude) and Agility (Not really your speed here, it’s more how open you are with people, someone with high agility is often very charming or well spoken.) Once finishing the test you’re rated from 1-100 in each stat (and anything above 35 is usually of exceptionally high importance to you).
To take my stats into consideration, I received a 40 Strength, 15 Bloodlust, 20 Intelligence (probably shouldn’t admit that haha), 43 spirit, 53 Vitality and 17 Agility. So I bet you’re thinking “well that’s great but what the hell does it mean?” Well, it means I’m more of a physical person than a studious one, I’m quite a passive person who doesn’t love to be in the limelight but I am always happy to take up a challenge and keep going until I resolve it.
What really interests me is the section at the bottom (after all the fluff about your class and it’s abilities). At the bottom you can compare yourself against everyone else who ever took this test! You can see that a lot of it is just fantasy flair (I mean no one in real life is actually proficient with Necromantic Wizardry or I sure hope not anyway) but some things are quite interesting to look at, such as if you lean more towards good (angelic) or malignant (demonic) tendencies. In the end, this isn’t the most extensive personality quiz out there but it sure throws a lovely fantasy flair on it!
I had two of my close friends take the test as well to which both got the “Spell Slayer” result. Both had similar stats of high intellect, bloodlust and agility. Meaning I tend to have friends who are more independent than me, usually more studious and much better silver-tongued speakers than I. It just seemed to be the trend! I think if an extensive study of which classes were more likely to be amicably with one another was carried out sometime it would have some rather interesting results.
But for as fun as this fantasy idea quiz is, if you really want to have your personality analyzed go to this quiz, it is called the Jung and Briggs Myers Typology test and puts people into two categories of “I” (Introvert) or “E” (Extrovert), “N” (iNtuitive) or “S” (Sensing), “F” (Feeling) or “T” (Thinking) and “J” (Judging) or “P” (Perceptive). It’s a much clearer analysis than the above test and has a rather large amount of works to back up its authenticity. I would say if you truly want to go in-depth and learn about yourself go there but if you just want a fun little side-quest take the fantasy option!
Thank you for reading!
J.H.B. – What fantasy RPG class would you be? – https://www.helloquizzy.com/tests/the-fantasy-rpg-class-test
Schuerger – 16Personalities Jung & Briggs Mysers Test – https://www.16personalities.com/
AI had humble beginnings. In 1957, Arthur Samuel successfully played a match of checkers with an artificial opponent.  This came with some restrictions however, such as his opponent being the size of the room he was playing in. We’ve come a long way since that almost prehistoric computing period and a new age of AI has dawned on us in video games such as Bioshock Infinite‘s Elizabeth being an almost new standard of AI on her own.
Elizabeth  is a very interesting example of AI. She isn’t just a follow along companion or just a recruit you can hire like in The Elder’s Scrolls : Skyrim or Fallout, Elizabeth adapts to the player she is with. She can follow or lead while being reactive to the protagonist character and still proactive in pushing players through the story arcs. The team in charge of programming her faced many challenges in non-combat situations. Will having her function to merely follow the player they said it opened “a comedy of errors” while in play. They knew for this character they needed to step up the AI from previous video games.
They wanted Elizabeth to feel like a real person next to you during the campaign. Never too close to you to be “creepy” but also never straying too far as to become impersonal with the main character. It was a tricky blend but through long hours programming they were able to create what is now a critically acclaimed as the best AI in video game history! It is a far cry from the AI of Watson in Sherlock Holmes : Crimes & Punishments. Who would often feel like he was stalking the player with his obsessive teleporting. (Gif Attached)
At its core, Artificial Intelligence is imbuing interaction between people and machines. Video games already blend this line with player input being the key factor of progressing the story. But what is AI? This is an interesting question Graft, K.  posed to multiple game AI developers on Twitter. Some responses were quite interesting such as “Teaching the game to make decisions that provide context for the player’s own decisions”. Now I’m not one to spell the “end is nigh” for teachers out there but that does sound awfully similar to how teachers in school show pupils how to do tasks and homework. Perhaps one day we could see AI implemented into the real world through similar means? Though that is probably as far away from us as we are from that checker game in 1957!
Currently, AI is still a developing format with limited research. Sadly, The video game industry takes almost no note of cutting edge AI research which is truly a shame in my eyes. As if we could combined or albeit limited research of AI with the expertise of developers who knows what we could create. However, the challenge of learning with less data known is well known and almost inspiring to computer scientists these days  so it may be possible one day soon we will have Terminators and Personal AI Assistants helping us out in our regular routines!
Thank you all for reading, I hope this article on how AIs are currently evolving was suitably entertaining!
 – Togelius, J. Why Video Games are essential for inventing Artificial Intelligence. http://togelius.blogspot.ie/2016/01/why-video-games-are-essential-for.html
 – Corriea, A.R. The long road to building AI for Bioshock Infinite’s Elizabeth. http://www.polygon.com/2014/3/18/5522450/the-long-road-to-perfecting-ai-for-bioshock-infinites-elizabeth
 – Graft, K. When Artificial Intelligence in Games becomes… Artificially intelligent. http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/253974/When_artificial_intelligence_in_video_games_becomesartificially_intelligent.php
 – Knight, W. To get truly smart, AI might need to play more video games. https://www.technologyreview.com/s/601009/to-get-truly-smart-ai-might-need-to-play-more-video-games/
Last year, I discussed Gaming in Education and the positive effects it could enable students between more diverse interesting classes to less likely chance of burning out. While looking into this I discovered Hologram Videos and how some teachers have found ways to incorporate them into their classes (albeit, it is a very limited practice as of right now).
While limited, it is possible to create a hologram with your Smartphone right now if you wanted to try it! I’ll leave a link to the creation of the apparatus you’ll need to make to do so here as well as a video made for holograms.
and once you have this created, place it on the video below for results. (This requires viewing the video below on a Smartphone)
Now, how are these relevant to Gaming in Education? Well, the videos are exceptionally interactive, they’re more or less 3D models of figures, places and such. One day perhaps that Butterfly or Jellyfish could be intractable in a Biography class, allowing “dissection” of creatures without all the grisly bits in between.
We’ve seen great success come from Holograms before from concerts with Tupac from beyond the grave to vocaloids like Hatsune Miku in Japan (Essentially animated musicians coming to life on stage!). But I want to look at the possibility of such a thing coming to the class or boardroom one day. Instead of Skype calls, you could almost be sitting next to someone in the same room while in reality there in America. Would it be possible?
Well, it is sort of a Reality already. The iCandy glass and other Virtual Reality augmentation devices can already perform such a task over skype giving the illusion of real perspectives near the person. That is merely an illusion however, can we take it a step further?
The answer is yes, Cisco have been developing something known as TelePresence Live Holographic Calls and there is even a video circulating YouTube showing off the strides they’ve made (they even had a conference in front of a live audience). So the technology is definitely there! It is just sad to say it is not cost-effective as of yet and the “interactive” nature of this equipment is in its primitive stages as of yet. One day we may see “touch-screens” similar to our smartphones incorporate holograms we can play with on our phones (imagine Pokemon GO where you could pet your virtual friend!) but that is sadly still a futuristic idea but not complete technological jargon! Our technical know-how just may evolve to a stage where holograms are common place everywhere between meetings and in the classroom to give students from primary school to college “hands-on” experience without the actual need for having to actually dirty your hands.
Here is a link to Cisco’s Presentation, it is very interesting and I recommend you give it a watch if you have time! (Or at least the first 2 minutes to see the holograms come on stage). This is quite primitive (it was from 5 years ago) and I believe they were using a projection screen which is technology that can be dated up to 15 years ago but with correct innovation it does show just how far this technology could go.
Thank you for reading!
As my final Digital Humanities assignment of this semester, I was tasked to analyse any publicly available text using some visualization tools such as Voyant 2.0. I chose to analyse Artemis Fowl (2001, E.Colfer) in this way as it was the first book I read as child and nostalgia drew me back to it. There will be spoilers to the plot of this book beyond this point! Consider yourself warned should you wish to delve further.
So, just what does this jumble of text tell us? At first glimpse it looks pretty meaningless, like a kid just scribbled all over his parents’ walls. However, we can see all the main (and even most of the side characters) names appear in this block of words.
First, we have our main characters:
-Artemis Fowl (His name appears 748 times in total): Our protagonist, the boy genius who kidnaps our second main character, Holly and holds her at ransom.
-Captain Holly (Her name appears 429 times): A fairy and captain to the armies of fairies who live just below our feet.
-Commander Julius Root (His name appears 269 times): Commander of the fairy armies, his mission is to save Holly from Artemis.
-Butler (His name appears 229 times): Artemis’ most loyal and deadly servant, military-trained man but with a soft side for his younger sister.
and our secondary cast:
-Foaly (184 appearances): A centaur who is an expert in all things computing, he is allied with Commander Root.
-Mulch (149 appearances): A convicted criminal Dwarf with a nack for burrowing into places no one else can get to. He is reluctantly recruited by Root when it looks like he may be Holly’s only hope of escape.
-Juliet (84 appearances): Butler’s sister who he cares about above all else, even Artemis.
Now, using Voyant’s Trend tool, we are able to see when and where each character is mentioned in the story. This* is a link to a trend page of voyant which compares the frequency of characters appearing in the story. We can see from it, Artemis is always a character in focus, being the protagonist. However, Holly spikes in importance at chapter two and then is pushed to the side in a way by chapter four while other characters see more of the spotlight. Comparing mentions of characters in this way can show their importance to the story line at that moment (such as Commander Root receiving no mention in chapter one, due to this chapter primarily focusing on the kidnapping of Holly.)
Other words being used such as “Fairy”, “Troll” and even “Human” to an extent in context show us a little of the world in which Artemis Fowl resides. It is a fantasy world where ages ago, humans evolved and pushed fairies (who were weaker bodied but technologically superior) under the Earth, where they stayed and were forgotten about except in myths. Artemis believed in these myths and lures Holly – which is where the story begins, however it shows that in the ancient past of this world humans and other mythical creatures were at war, setting up a resentment of one another bringing racism into the novel as a theme (which is developed on in further installments of the series).
It also allows Colfer to write about fantastical creatures such as Dwarves with the power to burrow miles into the Earth, Trolls – mindless but powerful and dangerous creatures which dwell beneath our feet and so much more which gives this series a real flavour of that “fantastical but almost believeable world” one can truly immerse themselves in.
So, in answering, Voyant allows us to quickly glimpse and assemble the image of an entire book, it’s characters, main themes, genre and even the frequency of characters appearing in one amazing tool. It is a fantastic way to covert raw data into visual text and particularly great at turning novels and texts into one “bite-sized” chunk.
*Link to trending voyant page : http://voyant-tools.org/?corpus=d7d717b6b78e14ed7a0d3f081d420657&query=artemis&query=holly&query=root&withDistributions=raw&docId=799701add56d38cc81a7f6df42c2b527&mode=document&view=Trends
Eoin Colfer, Artemis Fowl (2001), Viking Press