I’m no MacGyver

I’m no MacGyver. Tim the Tool Man? Bill Nye, Science Guy? Hell, I’m nowhere near Heinz Doofenshmirtz. Or Phineas. I’d kill to be Ferb.

Wile. E. Coyote? Brain? Possibly Pinky.

I’m not handy. But I thought I could do Google Cardboard. Print out the template. Glue it to a sheet of cardboard. Cut. Fold. VR!

Tab A certainly doesn’t fit into Slot B. And how does the eyepiece, crossbrace thingy work out? A Pampers box is admittedly probably too thick for this. Sheesh. Google, go look at Ikea instructions; they are masters of the art.

As for me, I’m going back to the warm embrace of acoustic augmented reality.

Visual- meh.

On Academic Blogging – a Conversation with Matt Burton

Papyrus, Wikimedia Commons, http://bit.ly/1DkaNWG

Matt Burton, who is working on new web genres and informal scholarly communication, asked me some questions recently as part of his research. We thought it would be interesting to share our conversation.

MB: When did you start your blog (career wise: as a grad student,  undergrad, etc)?

I recently pulled my entire blog archive into github, as part of my open-notebook workflow. (http://shawngraham.github.io/open-notebook/ll_CC/#!pages/uploads/blogarchive/posts/contents.md)

 I see there that I posted my first post on Dec 18, 2006. I was, at the time, working in what would now be recognized as alt-ac, doing contract research for Kevin Kee at Brock U, as well as freelance heritage consulting work, some online teaching, and substitute teaching at the local high school. This was after my post-doc, nearly four years to the day that I won my PhD.

MB: Why did you decide to start blogging?

Earlier in the year I had won a spot at the first digital humanities workshop at Lincoln Nebraska. John Bonnett of Brock, whom I’d met at CAA 2006 in Fargo, saw the advertisement and forwarded it to me. (John was an early champion of my work in Canada, and I’m eternally grateful for that!) I met there folks like Alan Liu, Katharine Walter, William Thomas, Stephen Ramsay. I didn’t appreciate it then, but that was the seminal moment for me. At the workshop where I presented my work on agent based modelling of Roman social structures, I distinctly remember Alan saying, ‘you’ve got a nice static website; have you thought about blogging?’  Thereupon the room began discussing how a blog for my work might, well, work.  My postdoc terminated that September, and when I was out of the warm embrace of academia, I decided ‘what the hell; what am I afraid of?’ and I started blogging. I posted three times that day, along with a statement of why I’m blogging. I framed it as a record of my explorations in virtual worlds.

Even then, it was a kind of open notebook. Kevin, the other major supporter of my work in those early days, let me count the writing of blog posts towards the more general research goals of the projects he was employing me on. We expect projects these days to blog, but in those days, I think it was still fairly novel. I wasn’t even blogging about the main project, just the side roads and blind alleys I was stumbling around.

MB How do you host your blog, i.e. Do you use a generic web-host like Dreamhost with WordPress, do you use a blogging service like Blogger.com

I’m using plain old wordpress.com, though I did invest in buying a domain name. Initially, I’d called it ‘electric archaeology’ but in the wordpress.com domain I’d called it electricarchaeologist.wordpress which was, well, confusing and annoying. I host my course blogs with Dreamhost, which over the years has gotten more clunky it seems. That’s just an impression.

MB How did you learn to set up your blog? 

I spent an inordinate amount of time farting around with the settings, themes, etc. At one point I was the tech support for an online liberal arts college start up; because I’d pressed the button on a one-click dream host install of Moodle, that made me the most technically proficient person there.

Scary thought.

Anyway, they had a wordpress merged with moodle arrangement, and one day I utterly bolloxed up the moodle upgrade, which broke everything. I printed out every php file I could find, and with the help of a friend, laid them out on the floor, drawing arrows to connect files by dependencies, shared tables, etc, to sort out the mess.

I learned a lot that day. Primarily, that I didn’t like web development. I’ve stuck more or less with whatever the free theme gods throw my way, since then. My online tenure & promotion portfolio is built on wordpress (graeworks.net) and involved a bit of hacking around to get the right plugins I wanted.

MB What are the challenges with maintaining your blog (i.e. spam, approving comments, dealing with trolls, etc)?

Spam. Spam spam spam spam!

I don’t get many comments. I know people read the thing, but since I don’t often write long discursive pieces, I guess I just don’t attract that much in the way of comments. Although I do get emails directly in response to things I’m doing on the blog, so I suppose that counts.

The biggest issue is maintaining drive. It helps to keep in my mind that this is a research blog, an open notebook, the narrative bits that help me make sense of all the digital ephemera littering my computers. I often have to consult the blog to remind myself just what the hang I’ve been working on. Initially I was posting quite regularly, but over the years it goes in fits and starts.

MB What topics do you normally write about? Do you try and keep it strictly academic, or do you mix in other topics?

I like to futz about with new (digital) toys, to make them do unexpected things, to think through how they might be of use to others, to figure out how to tell others how they might want to use them. I do bits of analyses, munge data together to share with others. I do mix in other non academic stuff from time to time. For a while, the National Geographic channel used to send me dvds to review prior to one of their big ratings weeks. Perhaps it’s a coincidence, but after I wrote, of one episode, ‘bollocks’, the dvds stopped coming.

Probably a coincidence.

MB If you allow comments on your blog, do you often get comments? What has been your experience managing comments/commenters on your blog?

Again, not so much. Probably a function of the content, I suppose. Dealing with spam that gets by akismet is tiring though.

MB What kinds of interactions (scholarly or otherwise) emerge out of your blogging practice?

I like to say that my transformation from a ho-hum bog standard Roman brick guy (and there’s more of us than that sentence would lead you to think) into this thing ‘digital humanities’ was a direct consequence of the blogging. The blogging gained my simulation work (not many DH’ers do agent modelling) a larger audience, which led to many of my how-tos, to email exchanges with grad students (for the most part) who are now getting established in various places; invitations to contribute to edited volumes, conferences, and journals, speaking engagements – all this while I was formally outside of academia. Before twitter, the blogging helped me maintain a sense of community, a sense of purpose for my intellectual curiosity that I didn’t get in my day-to-day scramble to pay the bills. I think I might be the first person in Canada to be hired to a post formally with ‘digital humanities’ in the title (though of course I’m not saying I was the first DH person!!) and it was the blogging, the exposure to and engagement with wider trends going on in computational humanities beyond archaeology, that allowed me to say with confidence, ‘yes, I’m the DH person you’re looking for’.

The blogging made me.

MB Do you find these interactions informative, useful, enlightening, tedious, frustrating, obligatory, etc? How do they feel?

I still get excited when there’s a comment on the blog. The Louis Vitton bag people, they complete me.

Real comments send me over the moon. They’ve led to many productive relationships and partnerships.

MB How do you think digital humanities blogging is different from more traditional forms of academic writing and reading?

I think it’s a return, in some ways, to academic discourses of earlier, not-second-half-of-the-20th-century ways. But that’s mostly an impression; I’m pretty foggy on most things after AD 300. But I like the reflexivity of digital humanities blogging, the exploration of not just what the tool can do, or what computation has perhaps thrown into new light, but the consideration of what that does to us as researchers, as a public.

MB How would you characterize the relationship between blogging and the digital humanities (however broadly conceived)?

Not everybody has to blog. Nor should they. It’s perfectly possible to be a productive dh person and not blog. But speaking for myself, I think blogging keeps things fresh. We’re working on a book; the blogged draft has already had a bit of an impact. I’m worried the paper version will already be dated by the time it comes out (though this is one of the fastest book projects I’ve ever been involved with), precisely because the most interesting conversations are happening across the blogs, faster than the formal apparatus can keep up. But that’s ok.

MB What DH blogs/bloggers do you read and why do you read them? What do you like about them?

A partial list: I read Scott and Ian, obviously; Ted Underwood; Elijah Meeks, Alan Liu, Bethany, Ben Schmidt, Mills Kelley, Tom Brughmans, Caleb Daniels, Profhacker, Donna Yates, Colleen Morgan, Lorna Richardson, playthepast.org… it rather depends on what project I’m working on. I followed Stu Eve religiously for a while as he puzzled out the problems of an embodied GIS. Now that that project is done – and I’m not teaching locative computing for historians at the moment – I’ve moved away a bit. So has Stu, for that matter. It all really depends on what’s going on, and what’s caught my attention. I’m a bit of a magpie. dhnow is essential though for its global view.

I read these folks for the way they dissect ideas as much as for any how-tos or code they share. They help me see bigger picture. Some of them are historians, some are english-flavoured dh, others are archaeologists.

MB What was your most popular blog post? Why do you think it was so popular?

The all-time most popular post on my blog, according to wordpress stats, are:

Civilization IV World Builder Manual & other needful things

19,338

Getting Started with MALLET and Topic Modeling

10,621

Moodle + WordPress = Online University

9,710

So, two how-tos, and one that seems to have hit some kind of SEO sweetspot, since it’s fairly anodyne. A follow up to that last one hasn’t been as popular:

WordPress + Moodle (not equal to) Online University

3,733

But if you asked for my favourites, I’d say:

Signal Versus Noise: Why Academic Blogging Matters: A Structural Argument. SAA 2011

1,206

How I Lost the Crowd: A Tale of Sorrow and Hope

1,035

What is the half-life of blog posts, I wonder? The blogging represents quite a sustained effort. I did the math; I’ve written enough tweets to fill two typical academic books; I have no idea how many words these 700 (or so) blog posts I’ve got add up to. But I do think the sustained effort of writing regularly has made me a better writer. (Reader, you may wish to disagree!)

Historical Maps, Topography, Into Minecraft: QGIS

Building your Minecraft Topography(An earlier version of this uses Microdem, which is just a huge page in the butt. I re-wrote this using Qgis, for my hist3812a students)

If you are trying to recreate a world as recorded in a historical map, then modern topography isn’t what you want. Instead, you need to create a blank, flat world in Worldpainter, and then import your historical map as an overlay. In worldpainter, File >> New World. In the dialogue box, uncheck ‘circular world’. Tick of ‘flat’ under topography. Then, on the main icon ribbon, select the ‘picture frame’ icon (‘image overlay’). In the dialogue box, tick ‘image overlay’. Select your file. You might have to fiddle with the scale and the x, y offset to get it exactly positioned where you want. Watch the video mentioned below to see all this in action. Then you can paint the terrain type (including water), raise, lower the terrain accordingly, put down blocks to indicate buildings… Worldpainter is pretty powerful.

If you already have elevation data as greyscale .bmp or .tiff

  • Watch the video about using Worldpainter.
  • Skip ahead to where he imports the topographic data and then the historical map imagery and shows you how to paint this against your topography.
  • You should also google for Worldpainter tutorials.

If you have an ARCGIS shapefile

This was cooked up for me by Joel Rivard, one of our GIS & Map specialists in the Library. He writes,

  • Using QGIS: In the menu, go to Layer > Add Vector Layer. Find the point shapefile that has the elevation information.
  • Ensure that you select point in the file type.
  • In the menu, go to Raster > Interpolation.
  • Select “Field 3″ (this corresponds to the z or elevation field) for Interpolation attribute and click on “Add”.
  • Feel free to keep the rest as default and save the output file as an Image (bmp, jpg or any other raster)

If you need to get topographic data

In some situations, modern topography is just what you need.

  • Grab Shuttle Radar Topography Mission data for the area you are interested in (it downloads as a tiff.) To help you orient yourself, click off ‘toggle cities’ at the bottom of that page. You then click on the tile that contains the region your are interested in. This is a large piece of geography; we’ll trim in a moment.
  • Open QGIS
  • Go to Layer >> Add Raster Layer. Navigate to the location where your srtm download is located. You’re looking for the .tiff file. Select that file.

Add Raster Layer

  • You now have a grayscale image in your QGIS workspace, which might look like this

Straights of Hercules, Spain, Morocco

  • Now you need to crop this image to just the part that you are interested in. On the main menu ribbon, select Raster >> Extraction >> Clipper

Select Clipper Tool

  • In the dialogue box that opens, make sure that ‘Clipping Mode’ is set to ‘Extent’. With this dialogue box open, you can click and drag on the image to highlight the area you wish to crop to. The extent coordinates will fill in automatically.

  • Hit ‘Select…’ beside ‘Output File’. Give your new cropped image a useful name. Hit ‘Save’.

  • Nothing much will appear to happen – but on the main QGIS window, under ‘layers’ a new layer will be listed.

Imgur

  • UNCHECK the original layer (which will have a name like srtm_36_05). Suddenly, only your cropped image is left on the screen. Use the magnifying glass with the plus sign (in the icons at the top of the window) to zoom so that your cropped image fills as much of the screen as possible.
  • Go to Project >> Save as image. Give it a useful name, and make sure to set ‘files of type’ to .bmp. You can now import the .bmp file to your Worldpainter file.

Importing your grayscale DEM to a Minecraft World

Video tutorial again – never mind the bit where he talks about getting the topographic data at the beginning

At this point, the easiest thing to do is to use WorldPainter. It’s free, but you can donate to its developers to help them maintain and update it. Now, the video shown above shows how to load your DEM image into WorldPainter. It parses the black-to-white pixel values and turns them into elevations. You have the option of setting where ‘sea level’ is on your map (so elevations below that point are covered with water). There are many, many options here; play with it! Adam Clarke, who made the video, suggests scaling up your image to 900%, but I’ve found that that makes absolutely monstrous worlds. You’ll have to play around to see what makes most sense for you, but with real-world data of any area larger than a few kilometres on a side, I think 100 to 200% is fine.

So: in Worldpainter – File >> Import >> Height map. In the dialogue box that opens, select your bmp file. You’ll probably need to reduce the vertical scale a bit. Play around.

Now, the crucial bit for us: you can import an image into WorldPainter to use as an overlay to guide the placement of blocks, terrain, buildings, whatever. So, again, rather than me simply regurgitating what Adam narrates, go watch the video. Save as a .world file for editing; export to Minecraft when you’re ready (be warned: big maps can take a very long time to render. That’s another reason why I don’t scale up the way Adam suggests).

Save your .world file regularly. EXPORT your minecraft world to the saves folder (the link shows where this can be found.

Go play.

Wait, what about the historical maps again?

The video covers it much better than I could here. Watch it, but skip ahead to the map overlay section. See the bit at the top of this post.

Ps. Here’s Vimy Ridge, site of a rather important battle in WW1 fought by the Canadian Army, imported into Minecraft this way:
Vimy Ridge in Minecraft

#hist3812a video games and simulations for historians, batting around some syllabus ideas

I’ve been batting around ideas for my video games class, trying to flesh them out some more. I put together a twine-based exploration of some of my ideas in this regard a few weeks ago; you can play it here. Anyway, what follows below is just me thinking out loud. The course runs for 12 weeks. (O my students, the version of the syllabus you should trust is the one that I am obligated to put on cuLearn).

What does Good History Through Gaming Look Like?

How do we know? Why should we care? What could we do with it, if we had it? Is it playing that matters, or is it building? Can a game foster critical play? What is critical play, anyway? ‘Close reading’ can happen not just of text, but also of code, and of experience. It pulls back the curtain (link to my essay discussing a previous iteration of this course).

Likely Topics

  1. A history of games, and of video games
  2. Historical Consciousness & Worldview
  3. Material culture, and the digital: software exists in the physical world
  4. Simulation & Practical Necromancy: representing the physical world in software
  5. Living History, LARPing, ARGs and AR: History, the Killer App
  6. Museums as gamed/gameful spaces
  7. Gamification and its bastards: or, nothing sucks the fun out of games like education
  8. Rolling your Own: Mods & Indies
  9. The politics of representation

Assessment

Which Might Include Weekly Responses & Critical Play Sessions:

  1. IF responses to readings (written using http://twinery.org)
  2. Play-throughs of others’ IF (other students; indie games in the wild)
  3. Critical play of Minecraft
  4. Critical play of ‘historical’ game of your choice
  5. Critical play of original SimCity (which can be downloaded or played online here). We’ll look at its source code, too, I think. Or we might play a version of Civilization. Haven’t decided yet.
  6. Critical boardgame play
  7. ARIS WW1 Simulation by Alex Crudas & Tyler Sinclair

Yes. I am going to have you play video games, for grades. But you will be looking for procedural rhetorics, worldviews, constraints, and other ways we share authority with algorithms (and who writes these, anyway?) when we consume digital representations of history. Consume? Is that the right verb? Co-create? Receive?

Major Works

  1. Midterm:IF your favourite academic paper that you have written such that a player playing it could argue the other sides you ignored in your linear paper. Construct it in such a way that the player/reader can move through it at will and still engage with a coherent argument. (See for example ‘Buried’ http://taracopplestone.co.uk/buried.html). You will use the Twine platform. http://twinery.org
  2. Summative Project: Minecrafted History
    1. You will design and build an immersive experience in Minecraft that expresses ‘good history through gaming’. There will be checkpoints to meet over the course of the term.Worlds will be built by teams, in groups of 5. Worlds can be picked from three broad themes:THE HISTORY OF THE OTTAWA VALLEY
      THE CANADIANS ON THE WESTERN FRONT
      COLONIZATION AND RESISTANCE IN ROMAN BRITAIN  (…look, I was a Roman archaeologist, once…)
    2. You will need to obtain source maps; you will digitize these and translate them into Minecraft. We will in all likelihood be using Github to manage your projects. The historical challenge will be to frame the game play within the world that you have created such that it expresses good history. You will need to keep track of every decision you make and why, and think through what the historical implications are of those decisions.
    3. The final build will be accompanied by a paradata document that will discuss your build, details all sources used (Harvard Style), references all appropriate literature, and explains how playing your world creates ‘good history’ for the player. This document should reference Fogu, Kee et al, and the papers in Elliot and Kappell at a miminum. More information about ‘paradata’ and examples may be found at http://heritagejam.org/what-are-paradata Due the first session on the last week of term, so that we can all play each others’ worlds. The in-class discussion that will follow in the second session is also a part of this project’s grade. Your work-in-progress may also be presented at Carleton’s GIS Day (3rd Wednesday in November)
    4. (These worlds will be made publicly available at the end of the term, ideally for local high school history classes to use. Many people at the university are interested to see what we come up with, too. No pressure).

So that’s what I’m thinking, with approximately 1 month to go until term starts. We’ve got Minecraft.edu installed in the Gaming Lab in the Discovery Centre in the Library, we’ve got logins and remote access all sorted out, I have most of the readings set … it’s coming together. Speaking of readings, we’ll use this as our bible:

Playing with the Past

and will probably dip into these:

Play the Past

PastPlay

… sensing a theme…

Heritage Jam entry: PARKER

I’m sure it isn’t quite what they were expecting, but I submitted something to HeritageJam.

View it here.

PARKER is an interactive experience in procedurally extracting, uncovering, and reversing, the burial of latent semantic core archaeological knowledge. In this era of neoliberal corporatization of cultural heritage knowledge, PARKER represents the way forward for its creation and appreciation. When we must balance funding for healthcare versus that for archaeologists, in this time of reduced availability of funds, how can we not turn to data mining and revisualization of knowledge? After all, what is the insight of the individual when millions of minutes of youtube videos are being created every minute? Further, PARKER extracts the core insights of archaeology and formats them automatically for patenting, so that DRM can be affixed and rightsholder value be fully realized.

PARKER:  for the archaeology we always dreamed of.

———

This visualization is an interactive story that frames the automatic search of youtube, natural-language parsing, and automatic super cut & re-formatting of those search results to highlight the ways code can frame archaeological knowledge. It applies Sam Lavigne’s ‘videogrep’ and ‘automatic patent generator’ to results from a search for ‘archaeological burials’ retrieved from Youtube, selecting the first few results that included closed-captioning. Videogrep uses natural-language pattern matching on those captioning files to select clips from a variety of pieces, restitching them at random. The result is similar to an I-Ching or other ways of divination of meaning. Similarly, the patent generator grabs the transcription so that elements that fit the language of patent applications. As I have argued elsewhere, digital archaeology is not about justification of results, but rather, the deformation of the familiar.

The result is a making-strange, an uncovering, of deeper truths. Code is not neutral, and we would be wise to recognize, to engage with, the theoretical perspectives encoded in our use of digital tools – especially when dealing with the human past.

 

A method and apparatus for observing the rhythmic cadence; or, an algorithmic alternative archaeology

Figure 1

Figure 1. A Wretched Garret Without A Fire (at least, according to Google Images)

A method and apparatus for observing the rhythmic cadence

ABSTRACT

A method and apparatus for observing the rhythmic cadence. The devices comprises a small shop, a wretched garret, a Russian letter, a mercantile house, a third storey

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Figure 1 illustrates a wretched garret without a fire.

Figure 2 is a block diagram of a fearful storm off the island.

Figure 3 illustrates a mercantile house on my own account.

Figure 4 is a perspective view of the principal events of the Trojan war.

Figure 5 is an isometric view of a poor Jew for 4 francs a week.

Figure 6 is a cross section of a thorough knowledge of the English language.

Figure 7 is a block diagram of the hard trials of my life.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The present invention is the son of a Protestant clergyman. The device is a wretched garret without a fire. The present invention facilitates the study of a language. The invention has my book in my hand. The invention acquires a thorough knowledge of the English language.

According to a beneficial embodiment, the invention such a degree that the study. The present invention shows his incapacity for the business. The device obtains a situation as correspondent and bookkeeper. The device understood a word of the language. The present invention established a mercantile house on my own account. The invention does not venture upon its study. The device devotes the rest of my life. The present invention realizes the dream of my whole life. The present invention publishes a work on the subject.

What is claimed is:

1. A method for observing the rhythmic cadence, comprising:
a wretched garret;
a small shop; and
a Russian letter.

2. The method of claim 1, wherein said wretched garret comprises a mercantile house on my own account.

3. The method of claim 1, wherein said small shop comprises the principal events of the Trojan war.

4. The method of claim 1, wherein said Russian letter comprises a fearful storm off the island.

5. An apparatus for observing the rhythmic cadence, comprising:
a mercantile house;
a small shop;
a third storey; and
a Russian letter.

6. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein said mercantile house comprises a wretched garret without a fire.

7. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein said small shop comprises a fearful storm off the island.

8. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein said third storey comprises a thorough knowledge of the English language.

9. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein said Russian letter comprises a thorough knowledge of the English language.

—————–
Did you recognize Troy and its Remains, by Henry (Heinrich) Schliemann, in that patent abstract? I took his ‘autobiographical notice’ from the opening of his account of the work at Troy, and ran it through Sam Lavigne’s Patent Generator. It’s a bit like the I-Ching. I have it in mind that this toy could be used to distort and reflect on, draw something new from, some of the classic works of archaeology – especially from that buccaneering phase when, well, pretty much anything went. What if, instead of publishing their discoveries, the early archaeologists had patented them instead? We live in such an era now, when new forms of life (or at least, its building blocks) can be patented; when workflows can be patented; when patents can be framed so broad that a word-generator and a lawyer will bring you riches beyond compare… the early archaeologists were after fame and fortune as much as they were about knowledge of the past. This patent of Schliemann’s uses as its source text an opening sketch about the man himself, rather than his discoveries. Doesn’t a sense of him shine through? Doesn’t he seem, well, rather over-inflated? What is the rhythmic cadence, I wonder. If I can sort out the encoding, I’ll try this on some of his discussion of what he found.

(think also the computational power that went into this toy: natural language processing, pattern matching… it’s rather impressive, actually, when you think what can be built by bolting existing bits together).

Here’s Chapter 1 of Schliemanns account of Troy. Please see the ‘detailed description of the preferred embodiments’, below.

——————-
An apparatus and method for according to the firman

ABSTRACT

An apparatus and method for according to the firman. The devices comprises a whole building, a large block

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Figure 1 is a block diagram of the north-western end of the site.

Figure 2 is an isometric view of the second secretary of his chancellary.

Figure 3 is a perspective view of a large block of this kind.

Figure 4 is a diagrammatical view of the steep side of the hill.

Figure 5 is a schematic drawing of the native soil before the winter.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The present invention sells me the field at any price. The device reach the native soil before the winter. The present invention is the highest mountain in the world.

What is claimed is:

1. An apparatus for according to the firman, comprising:
a whole building; and
a large block.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said whole building comprises a large block of this kind.

3. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said large block comprises the native soil before the winter.

4. A method for according to the firman, comprising:
a large block; and
a whole building.

5. The method of claim 4, wherein said large block comprises the north-western end of the site.

6. The method of claim 4, wherein said whole building comprises the second secretary of his chancellary.

Using Storymaps.js

The Fonseca Bust, a storymap

The Fonseca Bust, a storymap

A discussion on Twitter the other day – asking about the best way to represent ‘flowmaps’ (see DHQ&A) – led me to encounter a new toy from KnightLabs: Storymap.js. Knightlabs also provides quite a nice, fairly intuitive editor for making the storymaps. In essence, it provides a way, and a viewer, for tying various kinds of media and text to points along a map. Sounds fairly simple, right? Something that you could achieve with ‘my maps’ in Google? Well, sometimes, it’s not what you do but the way that you do it. Storymaps also allows you to upload your own large-dimension image so that you can bring the viewer around it, pointing out the detail. In the sample (so-called) ‘gigapixel’ storymap, you are brought around The Garden of Earthly Delights.

This struck me as a useful tool for my upcoming classes – both in terms of creating something that I could embed in our LMS and course website for later viewing, but also as something that the students themselves could use to support their own presentations. I also imagine using it in place of essays or blog post reflections. To that end, I whipped up two sample storymaps. One reports on an academic journal article, the other provides a synopsis of a portion of a book’s argument.

Here’s a storymap about the Fonseca Bust.

Here’s a storymap about looting Cambodian statues.

In the former, I’ve uploaded an image to a public google drive folder. It’s been turned into tiles, so as to load into the map engine that is used to jump around the story. Storymap’s own documentation suggests using Photoshop’s zoomify plugin. But if you don’t have zoomify? Go to sourceforge and get this: http://sourceforge.net/projects/zoomifyimage/ . It requires that you have Python and the Python Image Library installed (PIL). Unzip zoomifyimage, and put your image that you want to use for your story in the same folder. Open your image in any image processing program, and find out how many pixels wide by high it is. Write this down. Close the program. Then, open a command prompt in the folder where you unzipped zoomify (shift+right click, ‘open command prompt here’, in Windows). At the prompt, type


ZoomifyFileProcessor.py <your_image_file>

If all goes well, nothing much seems to happen – except that you have a new folder with the name of your image, an xml file called ImageProperties.xml and one or more TileGroupN folders with your sliced and diced images. Move this entire folder (with its xml and subfolders) into your google drive. Make sure that it’s publicly viewable on the web, and take note of the hosting url. Copy and paste it somewhere handy.

see the Storymap.js documentation on this:

“If you don’t have a webserver, you can use Google Drive orDropbox. You need the base url for your exported image tiles when you start making your gigapixel StoryMap. (show me how)).”

In the Storymap.js editor, when you click on ‘make a new storymap’, you select ‘gigapixel’, and give it the url to your folder.  Enter the pixel dimensions of the complete image, and you’re good to go.

Your image could be a high-resolution google earth image; it could be a detail of a painting or a sculpture; it could be a historical map or photograph. There are also detailed instructions on running a storymap off your own server here.

 

Still playing with historical maps into minecraft

I managed to get my map of the zone between the Hogs’ back falls and Dow’s Lake (nee Swamp) into Minecraft. I completely screwed up the elevations though, so it’s a pretty ….interesting… landscape. I’ve trying again with a map of Lowertown, coupled with elevation data from a modern map. This clearly isn’t ideal, as the topography of the area has changed a lot with 150 years of urbanism. But it’s the best I have handy. Anyway, it’s nearly been working for me.

Nearly.

So I provide to you the elevation and features for your own enjoyment, see if you can make ‘em run with the generate_map.py script. If you get ‘key errors’, try editing the features file in Paint, make sure the blocks of colour are not fuzzy on the edges.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/37716296/byward-market/market-maps.zip