Open Street Map Participation

Our project was to contribute to Open Street Maps by either responding to an Humanitarian needed cartography initiative or mapping our local neighborhood on Open Street Maps (OSM for short). I chose to participate in initiative #1623 which included mapping Fiji (the island of Vanua Levu from the city of Lekutu to Naduri) as the Island had recently been hit by one of the most powerful storms recorded to date in the Southern Hemisphere. We were tasked with mapping three “blocks” or sections of the map, this included hand drawing roads, buildings and farmland in the affected areas the storm affect Fiji. We were also tasked with reviewing the work of another member of the OSM community and validating there work as correct.

This was the first time I ever attempted to use software such as this and of course, I started off pretty confused. I stumbled into locking myself to Task #300 and edited this area using Bing Maps and ID Editor. I noticed someone more experienced had already filled out a secondary road on this area, which was a boon to someone as inexperienced as I. Knowing this could affect people in that area, I wanted to map this as precisely as I could, so I spent well over an hour mapping ever dirt road, building, farmland and one lake no one else had marked on a nearby adjacent block. Feeling that I had confidently filled out this block, I saved it and marked it as complete. I may also mention that upon starting this the map was 70% complete and had two more experienced members of the community working on nearby blocks with me, this gave me much more confidence in the case of an error being made (by an inexperienced member such as myself) it would be corrected.

After gaining some confidence in using the software I moved onto Task #299 and Task#352. While the task only asked to map roads, I also marked down houses, farmlands and any water features I could find. Though it may not have been required it may certainly be useful knowledge to locals of the area. It certainly is an enriching feeling to know you may be helping emergency services around the world find routes to areas and potentially saving lives. All of my tasks have been set as complete but not yet validated, I am eagerly awaiting validation so I can either see my mistakes and improve from there or potentially even be praised for using the software well as a first timer! (Though I expect the former much more likely than the latter)

Gaining confidence on the software, I decided to validate Task#350 which was submitted by another member of the OSM community. After reviewing their work I noticed they had omitted several roads and had forgone mapping buildings and farmlands completely. I personally edited as many omissions as I could find, when I believed to be finished I validated the work as complete. However, within an hour I received a message from another member of the OSM community. This message stated that they had noticed I was a new account so they checked my validation and noted I had also omitted a road. They added this in and allowed me a second chance to validate Task#350 again. My second validation was accepted as correct.

However, this experience really showed me the community of OSM, they are extremely diligent and keen to fix mistakes as soon as possible. If not, my mistake and omission of that road could have been critical in an emergency service making it to a site in time and not. I was surprised for the level of scrutiny the community shows the mapping but also very thankful for it as it is only after many iterations that a map is charted to complete accuracy.

As a consensus, while OSM is not the easiest to access community, due to the learning curve and figuring out the level of accuracy expected of members, the members are extremely active and welcoming. When criticism occurs, it is only to help each other improve our mapping skills and never an attack on another person. It is exciting to view your interpretation of a map to become locked into place as the true routes of that area. The community strives for accuracy and collaboration. After helping out on this project of mapping Fiji I believe this community is both noble and extremely important. I am impressed by the more experienced members the most of course, the re-correction of my validation and allowing me to submit it again did not turn me away, it made me want to try harder and be more precise with my maps in the future. I firmly believe that as long as members of the community uphold this standard then OSM may even replace google maps in terms of usefulness one day as the members on OSM constantly update everywhere they can.


Open Street Map Participation

Digital Research Tool Review

After spending some time looking for interesting tools on the DiRT (Digital Research Tools) directory, I stumbled upon one particularly interesting historical research site. Being an archaeology student, I was drawn to ORBIS, a geospatial network model of the ancient Roman World at the height of its power. (Roughly 200 AD) ORBIS reconstructs the time cost and financial expense associated with a wide range of different types of travel in the Roman Empire.

Background, Development and Research
Developed by Digital Humanities Grant of Stanford University and Center for Textual and Spatial Analysis (CESTA), ORBIS is essentially, a website that gives the feel of a Google Maps for an ancient Roman Empire, however it goes into extreme depth and details on Roman Life. For example, we can explore how a merchant would travel from Roma to Corinthus in the Summer by oxcart and see the routes he would take and expenses that would need to be accounted for. (If you’re curious, it takes roughly nine and a half days and you’ll be taking a detour in Messana.) Finally, we can see that this route would cost you roughly ~252 denarii (ancient Roman Currency), with 250 of the denarii being spent on sea travel.

While ORBIS is a pretty niche site, it is stunningly detailed and could be used as a tool to study questions in various fields of study about antiquity, including trade and social interaction in the past. Below is an image of the rivers and roads that have been modeled into ORBIS.


ORBIS is a free close-sourced webpage that anyone can access. While it deals with a niche subject matter, anyone can find an interest in discovering forgotten information of the Roman Empire, such as the cost of transporting a kilogram of wheat or a legion of soldiers across the Empire.

With ORBIS, it is possible to create your own roman routes and discover the price of transport as a merchant living in the past. ORBIS contains 632 sites of the Roman Empire and covers close to 10 million square kilometres detailing the maritime and terrestrial travel. It even accounts for the monthly wind conditions and strong currents / wave height in increasing or decreasing the cost of travel by sea.

In calculating any route in ORBIS you are presented with three options, “Fastest”, “Cheapest” and “Shortest” routes. The fastest route will always take the least amount of days to go from point A to point B, however it will not take into account the cost factor of sea travel or land travel so will often end up well over the amount of denarii any reasonable business man would ever spend!

The cheapest route option will, as expected, calculate the least expensive route. This route is often much longer than the fastest route, however you’ll have denarii to spare after traveling by these routes! In study, the cheapest routes are often taken by merchants selling grain and can be used to see social interaction of Roman people as they traveled and who they may interact with along the journey.

Finally, the shortest route will calculate the geographically closet route. However, many of the roads or sea-ways were less used and this often results in a journey that is both longer and more expensive that would have been expected.

When you become more advanced at using these routes, you can move onto network diagrams, clustering and flow diagrams which give another perspective on movement based on priority routes and seasons. This is distinct from making routes as this shows the priority of routes during the year. (For example, the cheapest route may be more popular in Summer, but the fastest route may be used more frequently in Winter due to goods being in a higher demand)

The goal of ORBIS was initially to model an ancient Roman World and contextualize the information of routes that had long since been forgotten in a modern way. This data is now digitized and preserved forever in an interactive medium. It can also be used to analysis the networks of travel and routes in Roman times and can be used to analysis the spatial distant between Roman sites.

To this, I will say ORBIS has achieved its goals, not only does it bring us a modern overview on the topic of Roman socialization and life expenses but it allows us to in a way travel back in time and plan our own routes across the world.

Design and Accessibility
ORBIS is not a simple website to use at first. However they do offer tutorials in the about tab in the top right of the screen which allowed me as a beginner to understand the procedures in making my own routes within 20 minutes.

One small technical problem some may encounter is that this website is designed with Chrome and Safari in mind, so accessing it with Internet Explorer or other web browsers may leave users with unsatisfactory results. However, there is another version of ORBIS (which they link you to immediately when accessing the website) for those browsers.

Final Word
ORBIS is an amazing example of how we can digitized information that is otherwise long forgotten into an interactive website. Some may ponder as to what advantage digitization of the past in such a manner is important in our world. Well, simply put, ORBIS makes finding the records of these routes a simple process rather than the alternative of looking through ancient ledgers to find the same information. In a way, ORBIS even feels like a game where you are managing the routes people travel in ancient Rome, and that makes it not only a useful resource but in a way, fun aswell.

Until next time, this stream is going offline, thank you all for reading!


Digital Research Tool Review

On the Topic of Emojis

It seems our module has really taken a shining to this topic. From Andrew Wiggins’ post (which I believe to be the first on this, correct me if I’m wrong) to the most recent presentations with Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen being converted to Emoji by a member of my course. It’s pretty apparent this topic really brought some emotes to our group 😉 .

While it’s pretty much old news by this stage and no longer a hot topic of debate, I thought I’d close this blog (well, the necessary posts for this semester) out with the topic that so many of us started off with.

So, we all know what emojis are and there general usage is to make some feel an “emot”-ion from viewing them. What I’m here to introduce to us all today is the various and cultural differences emojis have around the world. We all know the general smilies and emoticons we see on Android or Iphone everyday. (Little picturing listing them below)


But did you know in Japan there exists a huge variant to emojis, the kaomoji. They’re slightly more complex than ours (they require 2bits where our emojis only use one and can not be replicated by an English keyboard.) An example : (。=◕‿‿◕=。)


These kaomoji are understandable without the necessity to tilt your head. (for example : =) and ( ^∇^) ). Both represent a happy emotion, but the kaomoji is clearly this without having to tilt your head (though nowadays, applications will often correct emojis to pictures.)

Then this type of kaomoji developed into a western style. This is when kaomoji is replicated on western keyboards. (<(o_o<)) Though, not many kaomoji are imitable.

Beyond Kaomoji from Japan, Korea also have a variant to our standard emojis by using Korean Hangul letters. They’re called Jamo emojis as jamo is the korean word for letter. An example is : ㅠㅠ which represents a crying face.

Eventually the styles of emoji and then there imitations lead to the creation of 2channel style emojis. Essentially, the internet as a culture created their own variant of emojis.Originally appearing on the internet forum board 4chan it combined many different languages (such as Kannada) to create an even greater variety of emoji to be used. An example of a 2channel style emoji would be : ಠ_ಠ which is supposed to appear as a disapproving look.

To me, seeing the vast variety and cultural differences of emoji from around the globe really makes me believe emojis are a new way in which we express ourselves. I don’t believe it possibly to see quite so many variations and nuances from culture to culture if they were not important to us as individual beings. Personally, I like to try replicate kaomoji with my western keyboard. I do this I believe because I’m showing both that I have an interest in the Japanese culture while also noting I’m from a western society.

Perhaps I’m looking at this too philosophically but I do honestly believe there is a tie in with culture, our own personal passions and the emoji. What do you believe? Does it have something to do with cultures wanting to express themselves through 1 or 2 bit expressions? Leave a comment to discuss! Until next time, this stream is going offline and in case I do not write again until after the holidays, Merry Christmas everyone!

To generate Kaomoji’s I use



On the Topic of Emojis

On the Topic of Gamification


I briefly touched on Gamification in my Gaming in Education post, however I feel that I did not quite give enough information on just what gamification is and how it is affecting our world and daily life.

So what exactly is Gamification anyway? Well according to (a site which literally has it’s own gamification wiki), gamification is the concept of applying game mechanics and game design techniques to engage and motivate people to achieve their goals.

It works due to the human psyche wanting status, achievements and other works we have created to represent ourselves. Our natural drives for competition, achievement, status, altruism and community collaboration are exploited in a way by companies as we are naturally drawn to these times of games in our products. [1]

Gamification comes in many forms, from Subway cards (yes, you’re scoring a point every time you use a card and when you have enough points you get a free sandwich, sounds like a game to me at any rate) to Tesco clubcards (again every purchase you gain imaginary credits that you can later use) it’s evident that games aren’t just “Call of Duty” or “Halo” anymore, they’re everywhere. While mechanics of these games are a lot simpler than that of a modern video game, there is no doubting that both entities are entertaining and fun to use, classifying both as games.

It all started from the Frequent Flyer Programs (FFP) that airlines give out. Where again, the more you traveled, the more rewards you received varying from gifts to free flights. These were the earliest “games” that came to the real world and have since been adapted and used by companies everywhere to encourage more consumers to use their products.

Some more examples of gamification used by companies include Starbucks’ mobile loyalty app, “MyStarbucksRewards”. Besides Starbucks, Nike released the Nike+ app to encourage consumers to be active while also using Nike products. In a way, this gives Nike free advertising when people see a consumer doing sporting activity using their products.

But it’s not just these few companies that use gamification, in fact, Gamification can be applied to many facets of technology and has evolved in the recent years. Over 70% of Forbes Global 2000 companies surveyed in 2013 said they planned to use gamification for the purposes of marketing and customer retention [2].

I feel I might be scrutinizing gamification a little too much, while it is true that it is a ploy by some companies to enrich their businesses, it does have it’s benefits. If the games the companies such as Tesco, Subway, Aer Lingus, etc. were not fun to play we would have stopped long, long ago. Companies are genuinely trying to keep there “players” happy. If this is achieved, the customer is more likely to remain loyal, purchase from the same company and perhaps bring more eager “players” to the market.

I really do hope that this post was a little more in-depth and brought gamification in today’s world a little more into light than my last post. Thank you for reading! Until next time, this stream is going offline.


[1] – Gamification Definition :
[2] – Fitz-Walter, Z. A Brief History of Gamification.


On the Topic of Gamification

On the topic of the Evolution of Storytelling


So, recently my Digital Humanities class did a Twessay (a Twitter essay) on the evolution of storytelling in digital media. The results of our responses can be found here.

And what did I have to say on the topic? Well I said “Storytelling is changing in our digital revolution, everything is online and it opens new avenues of creativity to us all.” (a) Even after all my research has been done, I mostly stand by what I said here. Mostly I now disagree on that “everything is online” that is very much untrue, storytelling is still very much alive offline too. However, I stand that the digital medium has creative new ways for us to share our stories and expand the types of stories we can experience.

Just look at the very successful web comic, Homestuck (by Andrew Hussie) can help more readers finish your story (currently Homestuck is 6,000 pages long and unfinished). This web comic truly is a success when you look at it’s massive fan following and the kickstarter for a Homestuck Game reaching over $2 million in funding. It’s safe to say that the inclusion of digital media (such as videos, interactive games, changeable music) brought a new edge to the web comic style and was the main attraction that spear headed it’s popularity compared to the regular web comics which do not allow fans to so directly interact with the characters.

From Sean Hegarty’s Twessay “Storytelling has evolved in a certain way that it still holds the old meanings, but has evolved mostly in accessibility”. (b) This is something I agree with fully, I mean what is storytelling? Storytelling is the interactive art of using words and actions to reveal the elements and images of a story while encouraging the listener’s imagination [1].

This fact will never change about storytelling, the goal, to put vivid imagery and interesting characters into a listener or reader’s mind will always be the primary goal of storytelling but the mediums we can achieve this goal have now changed and we have more opportunities than ever. Even when we look at more recent novels, we see ways of interactivity being introduced such as in S [2] a book which split by both a section in the book which is a novel called “The Ship of Theseus” written by an unknown author and another part of the book are the hand-written notes capturing the conversations of two college students attempting to discover who the true author is, it is up to the reader how to get through S and no two people will reach the conclusion the same way. While it is a very unique concept as of right now, I would not be shocked to find more clones of this idea in the not so distant future!

Finally, we have this little gem from Luke Crowley, “People interact with stories & change them through new types of games;this interactive medium is the evolution of storytelling” (c) In video games in particular, we can be our own character (or another protagonist) and the actions we take shape the world around us. A recent example of this being executed beautifully is Until Dawn [3] where any little decision you make can literally be the difference between life and death for some characters. This is known as the Butterfly Effect system and is exclusively used in video game medium as it is irreplicable with other medium.  (it even comes with an autosave function so if you want to undo your choice later, well too bad!).

Thank you all for reading my article, perhaps I was able to introduce you to a new way that digital medium is changing storytelling around you? If so, leave a comment below! Until next time, this stream is going offline.

References :
Twessays Referenced :
Andrew Douglas (a), Sean Hegarty (b), Luke Crowley (c)

[1] What is Storytelling?
[2] S (2013) – Doug Dorst and J.J. Abrams
[3] Until Dawn (2015) – Supermassive Games


On the topic of the Evolution of Storytelling

On The Topic of Gaming in Education


While we were discussing topics in class last week we came onto the topic of Gaming in Education and in general the gamification of the world. Now, I’ve been a gamer since as far back as I can remember but even I was skeptic of the idea that gaming could be part of education and seeping slowly into our everyday lives. That is, until I did research on the topic.

Video games are shown (with substantial research found backing it up) [1] to enhance the learning experience but by providing another media to experience while also making the process less dull and boring. (I mean, who would choose to sit down and study in a library if they could also choose to learn while winning a game of CounterStrike?).

Video games offer an incentive, a reward for players to pursue, a goal that comes at the end of an arduous task. As someone with years of gaming behind me, I equate this to the same feeling after researching for hours on one of these blogs and finally complying everything I found until I’m happy to hit the “Publish” button. It’s a exhilarating feeling of completion that stems from my gaming roots.

This brings us to the idea of Gamification – our world is adapting to putting minigames everywhere. Don’t believe me? Look at your subway “free sandwich” card or your Tesco “points” cards, each one incentivizes you to collect points for the reward at the end.

This has even become a part of our school systems. Achievements are much like merits [2] some schools are introducing where you receive a stamp or some kind of token for each merit (such as good behavior). Video games are playing an increasing role in school curriculum as teachers seek to deliver core lessons such as math and reading and it is very much a tool that allows students to take a more active role in learning as they develop the technology skills they need to succeed throughout their academic and professional careers. [3]

Examples of video games being actively introduced to education are MinecraftEdu, a version of the game that teachers created for educational purposes, teaches students mathematical concepts including perimeter, area and probabilities as well as foreign languages while SimCityEDU, a version of the popular city-building game, is likewise a learning and assessment tool for middle school students that covers the English, math and other lessons.

But is it limited to just Video games which are transforming our world? I would argue Card and Board games such as Magic the Gathering and Yu-gi-Oh! have had a hand in this transmogrification of the modern world. Both are highly social games (with dedicated communities keen to meet much like study groups working on a project) and involve a lot of decision making. It forces players to use both there critical and creative thinking to outwit there opponents and defeat them in a duel. [4] Of course, one can not forget how it exercises our mathematical and long term thinking skills trying to see what our opponent is likely to do and how to react.

Overall, video games lead us to having better reactions and fore planning abilities. Our cognitive abilities are naturally enhanced as one plays video games, we learn from our mistakes and are able to apply past experiences we faced to situations presented in front of us. Video games could provide a potent training regimen for speeding up reactions in many types of real-life situations. [5]

All in all, it is evident that some video games such as “Call of Duty”, “Dead Space”, “Bioshock” greatly enhance our reaction ability while other games such as “Yu-Gi-Oh!”, “Heathstone”, “Minecraft” improve our spatial awareness and mathematical skills. It is obvious gamers have picked up a lot of relevant skills to apply to today’s world through the experiences we’ve faced in virtual worlds.

Gamers have already experienced so much that in a way, we are becoming ready to adapt to almost any situation.These experiences, we will carry them with us forever and that is without mentioning the emotional impact video games can have on us (such as “Journey”) but that is treading on the territory of video games as an art form, a topic best left to another day. I believe I have shown how games can be used in education and the advantages they can give us in this blog, and like always, until next time, this stream is going offline.

Picture: Credit to Riot Games. (Professor Ryze)

[1] – Nick Tannahill, Patrick Tissington, Carl Senior, “Video Games and Higher Education: What Can ‘Call of Duty’ Teach our Students?”, 2012
[2] – Elliott Bristow, “Gaming in Education: Gamification?”  –
[3] – Elena Malykhina,“Fact or Fiction?: Video Games Are the Future of Education “
[4] – March Gallagher, “In Praise of Yu Gi Oh”
[5] – “Video Games Lead to Faster Decisions that are No Less Accurate”

On The Topic of Gaming in Education

On The Topic Of Openness


This week we were tasked with critically responding to one another in our Twessay on Openness. A link to it :

And what did I have to say on the topic? Well I said “I believe openness on the internet should be sharing info with each other with knowledge accessible to all people everywhere” (a) well of course, this was my uninformed mind talking here, with more digging I discovered that openness is a concept characterized by putting weight on transparency and freedom, unrestricted access to knowledge and information, especially in this day and age on the internet as well as collaborative or cooperative management and decision-making rather than a central authority. [1] As a Digital Humanities student, I believe openness on the internet encompasses many of our goals.

Between Moravec’s (digital humanity activist) acclaimed writing in public project and Swartz’s (a pioneer of open internet access and recognized as a martyr to some) development of creative commons as an attempt to open the knowledge of the internet up to the public, it is obvious to see technological developments have changed the way we learn. Despite these attempts however, still the collective works of the human race are stored on the internet with only a select few currently able to access them.

From Patrick O’Toole’s Twessay (c) “Transparency of data is the key to empowering governments & citizens on a global scale” to this, I discovered that the publishers, like Elsevier are making up to a $1.1 billion profit (2012) and are exploiting the original writers. How are they doing this? Well in the words of Samuel Gershman [2] “When I published these papers in Elsevier journals, I was required to hand over the copyrights”. Not only does this bar knowledge behind paywalls only universities or other huge institutions have a chance to afford buying information from, the original writers never see a penny of the profit.

Also from Arlene Murray’s Twessay (b) “Pay walling pioneering research is immoral” and I honestly could not agree with her more. So, with all this working against openness in our modern era, what can we do to tear down these “pay-walls” ? Well, Swartz made a huge attempt when he created Creative Commons, a way of easily sharing copyrighted work. While this greatly helps modern works, it does not help us with all the knowledge already hidden beneath restrictions.

Swartz, as some type of last stand against this moral injustice worth a guerrilla manifesto [3] urging people to share any information they could. He states how piracy in this regard is not really immoral, in face it’s a moral imperative. Only those blinded by greed would refuse to let the human race have access to our collaborative knowledge base.

From Andrew Wiggins’ Twessay (d) “Openness to me is the idea of unrestricted access to knowledge and no one body in charge of it,more of a cooperative structure” – So does openness actually exist in today’s world or is it just a hopeful ideal long dead because of corporate greed? Well, if one was to give just a cursory glance, then no, openness on the internet is long dead and the corrupt corporations stand victorious.

However, if one were to really search deep and uncover the “underground” revolution online, we would see it is possible to find academic sources on the web. I’m not even sure if I should mention it here on my blog for fear of the sites being taken down but and have made well over 12.27 Terabytes of academic data available to the public eye. So to all readers of this post, know that there is a mutiny taking place, we will one day soon overthrow the tyrannical likes of Elsevier and Jstor.

In Swartz words “At the end of the day, we have an economy that works for the rich by cheating the poor, and unequal schools are the result of that, not the cause.” We need to band together as community and together we will make the internet open access to everyone in the world, just as it was originally intended to be – to communicate with and share computer resources. [4]

I believe I’ve said all I can on this topic, together we will need to work together to achieve true openness on the internet, so work hard my friends! Until next time, this stream is going offline.

References :
Twessays Referenced :
Andrew Douglas (a), Arlene Murray (b) , Patrick O’Toole (c) , Andrew Wiggins (d)

[1] Michael A. Peters ; The Idea of Openness : Open Education and Education for Openness –
[2] Samuel Gershman : The Exploitative Economics of Academic Publishing –
[3] Aaron Swartz Guerrilla Manifesto :
[4] Arpanet Definition :

On The Topic Of Openness