Geotagging & mapping Mobile

ABC Innovation’s Sidetracks – a mobile heritage pilot featuring some Powerhouse content

ABC Innovation has launched their Sydney Sidetracks project.

This is a lovely experiment in developing a mobile heritage application which takes some of the archives of ABC TV and Radio and combines them with static imagery and research from the cultural heritage partners – Powerhouse Museum, State Library of NSW, National Film & Sound Archives, Museum of Contemporary Art, the City of Sydney Archives, and the Dictionary of Sydney.

ABC have sensibly hedged their bets so the diverse content is available as an interactive website with a simple map interface, and as a multi-platform mobile Java application.

Whilst the mobile application is not yet location-aware, it does provide a simulation of the potential experience that awaits in a future version. The phone version can be ‘sideloaded‘ to a huge range of different devices. Being out and about with the content changes your experience of it greatly but suffice to say, mobile is still in a very immature phase – with significant usability issues to be overcome. Partially to get around these, a whole lot of the ABC Archives content can be downloaded, separately, to your phone to be accessed as podcasts.

Importantly for the promotion of Sidetracks, ABC Radio 702 is engaged with the project and will be driving listeners to the website (and hopefully the mobile application) to explore.

I conducted a short interview with Sarah Barns, the producer and researcher behind the project, who worked with ABC innovation.

Q: Sidetracks (re)tells some great stories of our city. How did you choose which stories to tell?

Sarah Barns: I was pretty motivated in my selection by finding archival material that had been recorded on location. The original focus for my research was on ambient audio recordings, and embedding them in whatever ways possible (whether that’s mobile, ipod, hypertag, short-wave radio or whatever..!) to enable the listener to tune in to the sounds of another era while looking at a contemporary environment. Obviously there’s a lot of historical tours and commentary and podtours and the like coming out now, and my interest has been to try to decipher what can be made of actuality audio recordings for such purposes. While additional formats were later included in Sidetracks, I remained pretty focused on material that could be uncovered in a very site-specific way.

I also have quite an interest in ‘lost places’, whether demolished buildings or radically transformed environments, and using archives to excavate an area – an archeology of recorded action, rather than surviving artefact – which obviously becomes more potent the more a place has changed. So a lot of the stories are based on those two premises – ambience and disappearance.

I love this quote from Alec Morgan (Hunt Angels, et al) when he says

“It is all too easy to fall into the trap of believing that the cultural essence of Sydney lies embedded in its architecture. It’s structures, buildings and monuments. I find this method of interpreting the past, this reliance on concrete and real estate, a faulty and unsound foundation upon which to build an understanding of the forces that shape the distinctiveness of the city…I sense that there is another city lying undiscovered beneath these bloated, familiar carcasses and that cultural interpretation by architecture is too impoverished to satisfy a secret desire to connect to something of Sydney’s past that is more elusive, more sensual, than a pile of bricks and mortar.” Alec Morgan (2004)

It’s a quote that marks out the imaginative potentiality of the ‘invisible’ terrain.

Q: I like it that these stories traverse multiple content pools – the ABC, NFSA, SLNSW, PHM, DoS etc. How important is the cross-silo approach to the project? How has it been working with these partners? Have you been able to greatly enrich the stories as a result of these partnerships? And, are there any stories that could not have been told *without* additional content?

SB: The cross-silo, cross-institutional aspect has been very important as a background motivation – eventually I’d hope to see a more site-specific approach to the way archival collections can be accessed, enabling an interested user to navigate the range of resource available on a given location. All possible in the world of geo-tagging, etc. But it’s technology developments like geo-tagging that have motivated this interrogation of the archives: if geo-tagging is now possible, if mobile phones and ipods mean we can take material with us, have it beamed down to us depending on where we are etc – then what kinds of archival material is best suited for such purposes and what stories can be unearthed? This is a focus of my doctoral research called Jaywalking Sydney, and commenced with my research of the National Film and Sound Archives collection in March 2007.

Initially this project going to launch with ABC-only content, which could then be expanded to include other collections. Starting with the ABC’s collection influenced the selection of a number of the points of interest (POIs), which in turn led to questions about what else was a available on these very specific locations. If I’d started with the PHM collection, for example, there’d be a different set of stories, I think. Having said that I was really motivated by the PHM exhibition on Pyrmont and its wonderful anecdotes about the area as a “place of ferny gullies” and the working conditions of the quarries etc! But the Dictionary of Sydney, for example, they have a very different curatorial approach and so obviously the stories that feature there will be very different.

Q: Sidetracks is impressive for its depth – even in its very first iteration. The ABC Archives must hold many hidden gems. What were the difficulties faced in unearthing them? How have you dealt with IP issues?

SB:I’ll start by saying that the ABC Archives were an absolute pleasure to work in and with – in terms of the super-duper people, the systems they have in place, and of course the amazing content. Difficulties included some frustrations around loss of audio for early TV footage (as this stuff gets dubbed over, the original audio has been lost in some instances), some minor cataloguing anomalies and yes, some rights issues.

Working with rights issues for the web is one thing (and that’s big enough) but for mobile its still pretty prohibitive trying to tackle re-purposing existing ABC content on this platform, and as the cross-platform spread still being worked out at the research stage I obviously had to play it pretty safe. The Sydney Stadium for example – a whole slew of infamous gigs there, but I wasn’t able to include this footage. Documentaries were also difficult (due to production components for mobile) and so I mostly had to stay clear of these. For the moment . . .

Q: Sidetracks is also part of your PhD research. Tell me a little bit about the overall PhD.

SB:The overall PhD is basically looking at this intersection between the emergence of situated technologies like 3G mobile phones and geo-spatial technologies on the one hand, and the history of the city on the other. I’m keen to interrogate the claims of enthusiasts such as Adam Greenfield et al that mobile phones can ‘improve the public spaces of the city’ by exploring the layers of public participation, conflict and change that lie beneath the streets – to connect with a longer history of how ‘new’ media technologies have shaped the urban experience.

And so rather than pursuing the opportunities of mobile phones etc for the sake of the mobile phone industry (!) I guess I’m interested in what the added element of site-specificity might add to way people not only interact with each other, but also with places. I’m thinking here of mobile phones as homing devices to discover the history of a place – in this instance, Sydney. And with a title like ‘Jaywalking‘, well, that gives me a bit of licence to get a bit distracted with all kinds of other interesting topics as well . . .

Q: It seems that you’ve sensibly hedged your bets by offering multiplatform delivery. What are your expectations around the uptake of the mobile app over the web version?

SB:History is an unusual area for mobile content – it’s not so mass market or young. I guess there is an expectation that given the extra steps involved in actually getting the app to your phone, it will have lower uptake. The ideal scenario is that you are (probably a tourist) in a location or area and are offered the chance to access some of this material when you’re there. That’s ideal, but the ABC is not quite there yet in terms of distribution options.

The ABC has also deliberately stayed away from GPS at present due to some potential consumer issues around data charges, they are playing it safe there as they don’t want a user being told something is free and then being stung by a $100 data fee. Not good! But that extra precaution also means you can access the mobile content on your mobile phone anywhere – home or at some of the locations featured, for example – which I expect will also limit the experience a bit, in that fewer people may actually travel to the locations to listen or watch the material. It will be interesting to see what the reaction is from listeners.

Q: I’ve noticed that you are inviting UGC. How do you think that this is going to work? Are there any precursors to this sort of hyperlocal storytelling in Sydney?

SB:Not that I know of…But I’m sure they’re out there, perhaps not so focused specifically on archives. It would be great if this UGC component manages to unearth some gems – I’m struck at times at how little there is of some locations or events available in the public sphere, given their prominence. It would be nice to build more freely available collections based on the principles of ‘public authoring’.

Sarah’s blog contains a number of detailed highlights of Sidetracks to get you started.

Go and dive in and check out Sydney Sidetracks.

We’ve also popped a little landing page on the Powerhouse site in case you want to look at the Powerhouse contributions. Many of the images used are from the Tyrrell Collection which you can grab from our contributions to the Commons on Flickr. I’ve created a set on Flickr that features these.

Geotagging & mapping Interactive Media open content Picnic08

Picnic08 – my presentation in the Open Museum sessions / Open Museum part one

Picnic is a large ‘creativity’ conference held annually in Amsterdam. I’ve been here as a guest of n8 talking about the notion of ‘open museums’.

Here is the second set of notes (with only a minor cleanup for the sake of timeliness) which were taken during the Open Museum sessions on Day Two. (More notes on the rest of Picnic still to follow)

Open Museum was billed as “a one-day marathon focussing on the idea of an ‘open museum’, a public institution that engages with its environment. Inspired by the great Stedelijk director Willem Sandberg, the Open Museum symposium looks at how museums in the 21st century can learn from media, and how media can learn from museums”. Organised by n8 who run the annual Museumnacht (Museum Night) in Amsterdam, this was an action packed 6 hours of presentations, which, because it was nestled in amongst the rest of Picnic, drew a very diverse and interested crowd. As a result the Dutch newspapers, the local blogging community and others have covered it in good detail.

The sessions kicked off with Michiel van Iersel from MuseumLab taking a run through the history of museums arguing that museums have always had to adapt to changing times and that, on the whole, these changes over the centuries have transformed museums for the better (at least from our current viewpoint) into more transparent, open-to-all institutions that are even opening sub-galleries in airport lounges (see the Rjiksmuseum at Schipol Airport). Michiel’s introduction placed a necessary historical backdrop behind the day’s proceedings – ensuring that we didn’t get too caught up in the emperor’s new clothes.

I followed Michiel with a rapid fire look at the potentials of an ‘open, collaborative museum’ online. In this I argued that in the digital environment, museums that do not take advantage of the opportunities to connect with other institutions (at the global level) and their publics (at the hyperlocal level) are not only missing out on many opportunities, they are at risk of being leapfrogged in relevance by other institutions or even informal organisations. Online, a singular collection of objects is now rather meaningless and the digital space opens the necessity to connect collections internationally. By the same token, online social media offers the opportunity to connect with and engage with local communities in ways previously only theorised about in the scholarship of the ‘new museum’.

Openness is a way for museums to be seen to be ‘creating new value’ from the old – and to assert their relevance in stimulating new creativity, economic and cultural production. Museums can collaborate with the community to improve findability through tagging of various kinds; and make discoveries, create communities of interest around their collections and in so doing improve their research and collection data.

With each other and other sorts of knowledge providers, museum openness can create richer value for researchers, scholars and even general browsers by connecting collections and research with broader context and richer resources elsewhere – moving from being a singular ‘destination’ to simply a high value node in a knowledge network/web (I equated this to the function of a reference librarian).

Finally I posed the absolute necessity for openness for museums to make the most of location-centric possibilities. Without openness none of the problems of location-centric data will be solved, nor will their promise be reached. In the location-centric space, a single collection is meaningless and is a missed opportunity – only a multi-institutional, cross-disciplinary approach will get anywhere near delivering the necessary user experience to make this meaningful. Think of the current situation much like a tourist map that only shows one chain of hotels on it . . .

I concluded with a series of questions aimed at framing the rest of the day –

1. do audiences really want openness? do we expect to much of them? (early adopter tech communities are far from representative of our audiences)
2. where are the new models of rights and IP needed to sustain openness (I posited CC Plus as one option)
3. how do we build new forms of reputation and trust? (especially within museum with scientific research staff whose reputations rely upon currently closed academic research forms)
4. how do we sustainably support the social needs of communities? (I pose that we should look to the existing structures we use to support offline volunteers etc)
5. how do we transform business models in the sector to encourage institutional collaboration?
6. how do we encourage collaboration between our online and our gallery spaces?

Geotagging & mapping Interactive Media Social media

Dan Hill makes a modernism in Australia map for Modern Times (or interesting things clever people do when they have some spare time)

Dan Hill from Arup and the author of the wonderful City of Sound blog wrote a review of the Powerhouse’s Modern Times exhibition. In his criticism of the exhibition he wondered where the extra-exhibition content was – especially given the perfect fit between the content of the exhibition and specific places and sites. He describes the possibilities of architecture walks, downloadable maps, encouragements for museum visitors to go out ‘in the field’.

This approach also doesn’t limit the exhibition to Sydney. It enables the actual museum exhibit to take a more balanced view of the artefacts that don’t relate to the host city – as this distributed exhibition is already reaching out to the host city, by taking it to the streets. So the Powerhouse is experienced outside the Powerhouse, even outside Sydney, and the modernism exhibition likewise (when the exhibition tours, and other institutions host the exhibit, the plaques and exhibits can switch accordingly.)

An accompanying Google Map (or equivalent), detailing modernist places of interest, could be Bluetooth’d/SMS’d to phones and other mobile devices from the exhibition (or the exhibition’s website) as well as from transmitters embedded in the plaques mentioned above. Walk away with the map on your phone (current issues around accessing collaborative maps on mobiles notwithstanding.)

Then, with a group of colleagues he then went off and built a collaborative Google Map pulling together a ‘map of modernism in Australia’. (Zoom in to see the detail . . . )

View larger map in Google

Not only is this a lovely example of mapping exhibition content, it is also indicative of the new participatory environment that museums now find themselves in.

Visitors can now easily go and create their own media for our exhibitions and the walls between the museum and the outside world are becoming far more porous than ever before – and not because of what museums are doing, but because of what ‘the people formerly known as the audience‘ are doing. In part this is the rationale for Hill saying “that the design of the show isn’t simply about mounting a display; it is an exhibit, a cultural artefact, in its own right.” “Mounting a display” is now something that the audience does themselves, recreating their own version of the visit experience through their own digital media – images, videos that they capture during their visit – then sharing these semi-publicly.

Inviting these participatory interactions is no longer optional. And as museums we could be doing a lot more in encouraging, guiding and providing resources to these.

Geotagging & mapping Imaging open content

Flickr meets Google Street View – Paul Hagon’s Then & Now (or interesting things clever people do with your data #6247)

A week or so ago Paul Hagon got in touch with me to say he’d done something really cool with our geo-coded historical images in the Commons on Flickr. In what he describes as “about 30 minutes of coding” he had taken a KML feed from our Tyrrell photos in the Commons on Flickr and combined them with the recently released (in Australia) Google Street View.

The results are stunning and another example of why geocoding and releasing your data makes a lot of sense.

Go and have a play.

Folksonomies Geotagging & mapping Imaging open content Web metrics

Commons on Flickr – a report, some concepts and a FAQ – the first 3 months from the Powerhouse Museum

The first three months of having images from the Tyrrell Photographic Collection in the Commons on Flickr have been very interesting. We launched on April 8 with 200 images and have been adding more each week since.

At the 12 week mark we had 600 photos uploaded, mostly location photography with just under 50% geocoded. Whilst we promised at the outset to upload 50 a week we had to break that promise around week 5. As we began to see which images were being viewed more than others or attracted more comments than others we started to look for similar images in the Tyrrell Collection – many of which had not yet been digitised and catalogued. This extra digitisation and cataloguing reduced the uploads of some weeks to just 25 new images. On the upside, though, this also means we have a large number of already digitised images held back for weeks when key staff are going to be on leave.

Splash! Playable collections

In the first 4 weeks of the Commons we had more views of the photos than the same photos in the entirety of last year on our own website. It wasn’t as if we made the images on our own website all that hard to find – they were well indexed on our own site by Google, they were made available to the national federated image search/repository Picture Australia, and they also existed in our OPAC. Still, that was no match for Flickr.

Flickr’s roots in MMOG ‘Game Never Ending‘ makes it the ideal place for cultural institutions to explore the notion of ‘playable collections’. The social norms and community behaviours that have emerged and are encouraged around image content in Flickr (as opposed to other photo sharing sites) enable historic photographic collections to become game entities. Albeit with a slightly different rule set.

In the Commons images lose the boundaries placed on them by collecting institutions. They take on new contexts and meanings, and they become maleable. All images in Flickr take on these more fluid characteristics, but in the Commons they way others see, respond and interact with these images is slightly different.

In fact I think it is really important to point out the difference in observed behaviours between our photos in our standard Flickr account. I’m not sure how the other institutions who are contributing to the Commons are finding it, but we’ve noticed that there seems to be a difference in behaviour and social norms in tagging and commenting on our Commons images versus our other images. Presumably the obvious ‘historic’ nature of the images combined with the fact that the institutions aren’t the photographers has an effect on this.

The global reach of Flickr and its active international user base (although far from evenly distributed proportional to online population) is impressive. Although our collection is very much focussed around Sydney and NSW, we’ve still managed to attract some tagging in other languages. Other Commons contributors have far more international images and should be drawing more internationalised tags and comments.

What are people doing?

The Commons has several obvious types of engagement from the point of view of a contributor. I hesitate to put these into ‘levels’ because almost everyone does each of them. The first seven, at least, are integral to the ‘game play’ of Flickr and should be judged against the rule set of the game system itself, rather than necessarily against outside behaviours.

Visitors can engage in –

1. Viewing

Viewing comes in many forms and can be counted when those views occur on Flickr. This is the simplest but also least useful way of measuring the project. What is useful about view data, however, is the ability to track the trends and patterns in viewing and observing when and deducing why certain images generate more views at a particular time.

2. Favouriting (“bookmarking”)

“Favoriting” (US spelling) on Flickr is the equivalent of bookmarking. Flickr users ‘favourite’ for many reasons and this is another very simple measure of the relative popularity of an image. It is important to understand that whilst an image may be ‘favourited’ by many different users the reasons for their ‘favoriting’ are not revealed. Again, it is through observing bursts of favouriting of the same object by multiple users, or the favouriting of many objects by the same user that potentially reveals more.

3. Friending (“I am interested in seeing more/connect with me”)

Friending on Flickr identifies a desired but not necessarily reciprocal relationship between the ‘friender’ and the ‘friendee’. The Powerhouse decided after a few weeks to reciprocate all friend requests and we also look at the photos taken by our ‘friends’ and where appropriate tag, comment, and ‘favorite’ their images too. This social reciprocity is really important but also time consuming.

At 12 weeks we had hit 612 ‘friends’. Each of these friends now gets visual notification of new images we upload.

4. Social commenting (“here I am”)

I’m calling the comments that say ‘awesome photo’ or ‘cool picture’ as social commenting. This is a really loose way of describing comments that are really about leaving a linkback-ed mark of a visit. Akin to an “I woz ere” but in a more networked way.

On Flickr this social commenting acts as the ‘social glue’ that binds the communities that play the ‘Flickr game’, together. Whilst it is very tempting for museum professionals to downplay or scoff at this sort of interaction, it might be useful to think of these sort of comments as playing a role akin to comfortable seating or a nice cafe in a museum gallery.

5. Tagging (“let me help”)

Because the Commons specifically asked the Flickr community to ‘help tag’ images the tagging that is done within the Commons tends to generate some pretty useful additional metadata. Whilst the account holder can see who the tagger was, the rest of Flickr cannot. Tagging here is a great example of altruistic behaviour as the tagger is neither the image creator or owner.

6. Image content tagging (“here’s something interesting”)

Flickr also allows the notation of an image with the ‘add note’ function. We’ve noticed that some users are helpfully identifying particular buildings, landmarks, signage, flags and other important elements within an image with these tools. This creates a certain kind of additional metadata that isn’t about the object/image as a whole, but about a certain subset of the content.

7. Content commenting (“let me tell you more about this”)

Here’s where the value of the Commons is easiest to explain to other cultural sector professionals. This is old-fashioned community engagement and we’ve been really lucky to have engaged a number of prolific and dedicated members of the Flickr community who have taken up the challenge of identifying the exact dates, locations and other unknown details about the images we’ve uploaded.

Whilst some of the information we are learning about the images this way could probably have been discovered by the Museum itself, that the public has been able to do this for us and often within hours of new images going up on to the site speaks volumes.

This is also very much about empowering and acknowledging the importance of ‘amateur’ knowledge, which in the networked environment can often outpace, and sometimes outperform, isolated ‘professional’ knowledge.

8. Content embedding (“I’ve stuck this on my site/blog/profile”)
9. Content remixing and connecting (“here’s my images that fit with yours”)

Although harder to track, the other obvious purpose of the Commons is to encourage re-use. Re-use of heritage materials radically asserts their relevance in contemporary society and is an increasingly necessary bridge between the world of ‘museums as holders of old stuff’ and the world of ‘museums as places for inspiration (and connection)’.

All of this is ‘user generated context’ (cf. Haque) as much as it is ‘user generated content’. Context is increasingly what matters in a world overloaded with content, and museums through the exhibition medium should be specialists in understanding the importance of ‘context’.

And of course, our Tyrrell Today group has already gathered 123 images that are contemporary location photography matching the historic photography of the Tyrrells. This shows a huge amount of commitment from others in the Flickr community – to go out and purposely reshoot a Tyrrell from today’s perspective and we’re thrilled to have generated this much interest. We hope we can reciprocate.

Here’s an example.

(contemporary image by lifeasdaddy)

Some basic quantitative stats at 12 weeks

So with all that in mind, here’s some raw figures to consider.

How many?

600 photos uploaded (at 12 weeks)
103,000 views of photos

How are they being found?

69% via Flickr
2% via external search
6% via other websites (blogs etc)
21% direct to URL

Most popular:

Woman inside a settler’s hut (2nd most favourites) – 1735
Wool sorting room, Clifton Station – 1334
Cutting Out – 1011
Bondi Bay, Sydney (3rd most favourites) – 967
Circular Quay 1892 – 945

Perhaps not surprisingly for a global audience the top three images are those without geographic specificity and thus more general global appeal.

Most favourited:

Kookaburras – 29
Woman inside a settler’s hut – 19
Bondi Bay, Sydney – 15
Frank Senior, sculler – 13
The start of girls’ snowshoe race, Kiandra – 11

How many tags?

2433 tags (excluding machine tags)
Average tags per image – 4.055, median 2, standard deviation 4.93 (a fair number of objects have no tags, mostly the newest)

Most tagged:

George St, near Hunter St – 26
A farm homestead – 24
Choir, St Andrew’s Cathedral, looking east – 23
Sydney from Shell Cove, North Shore – 22
Woman inside a settler’s hut – 21

Some answers to some other frequently asked questions

1. What has been the impact on image sales?

It is early days and too early to tell whether or not we’ve ‘lost’ sales as a result of putting these images in Flickr. Interestingly we are getting a lot more online enquiries about purchasing these images and the offline (telephone, fax, etc) haven’t noticeably declined. It is too early to tell but I think once the other benefits of being in the Commons are brought into the equation we will have massively gained.

2. What happens when other institutions add their images? Do your images get ‘lost’ in the flood of new content?

Actually we’ve found that in this situation more is more. When new institutions add their images we see new peaks appear in our stats. This is because with each new addition comes a slew of blog posts across the blogosphere. The addition of the George Eastman House recently and the Bibliotheque de Toulouse both generated new types of media coverage of the Commons as a whole.

Also as the Commons evolves new features are added by the Flickr team so with the George Eastman House came cross-Commons ‘search‘ which will become even more useful as more complimentary collections are added – which in the case of the Powerhouse probably means more Australian collections.

3. What is your favourite story about the power of the Commons?

See my earlier post on the ‘discovery’ of the Mosman Falls.

4. Aren’t you worried about releasing these images as de facto ‘public domain’? Don’t you want attribution and credit for collecting, preserving and making these available?

We’ve noticed that our images are now spreading to the Wikimedia Commons, and are also being used in blog posts and various websites. And, although we haven’t specifically encouraged remixing – primarily because of the nature of the content of most of the images – there have been some Flickr users who have notified us of the intent to create screenprints and other derivatives of some images.

Now, because these images have been identified as ‘no known copyright’ there is no legal need to attribute the source of these images but every single re-use or embed of our images to date has featured an attribution. This is another testament to the nature of the Flickr community. Now that some of these images are also in the Wikimedia Commons it will be interesting to see whether the same courtesy attribution occurs.

5. I work in a museum/library/archive and we already have a Flickr account. As a matter of fact, we’ve had one for ages. Why is the Commons so different?

The two obvious differences are the banding together of collections under the promotional umbrella of ‘The Commons’; and the application of ‘no known Copyright’ to the images. The increasing prominence of the Commons within the Flickr ecosystem brings Commons images to many more people than a regular Flickr account. Together this creates an interesting effect – comparatively more interest in the images and more engagement around them. I wonder whether this is the effect of providing a clearing in the surrounding data smog where the intention of putting up historical images is very clear and contextualised (rather than obscured)?

6. What is the big deal about ‘no known Copyright’?

I guess the answer is both philosophical and practical. Philosophically it makes sense for publicly-owned heritage images to be made available to the public in a digital form to reuse and repurpose except where there are cultural sensitivities involved. This may not apply to institutions that aren’t publicly funded of course.

On a practical level it makes sense because asserting Copyright (or even Creative Commons) over something that clearly wasn’t made by you is full of legal complexities. Not only that, it complicates matters for learners of all ages who legitimately want to see and use these images – if only they knew they existed.

7. What are you doing with all the tags and comments?

Tags are easy and we’re treating them just like our other community generated metadata. Now we’ve passed the 3 month mark we’ve pulled all the tags to date back into our own collection database online where they will soon appear alongside the tags that have been on our own site.

Comments are a little more tricky and we’re working out ways that we can dedicate resources to going through these and updating the collection records properly. There are several factors that make this less than trivial – paradoxically many of the images with the most ‘documentation’-style comments are also the ones that have not been fully catalogued by our own curatorial staff. I expect that we will have resolved a proper process for the ingestion (and crediting) of information supplied via Flickr comments in the next six months.

8. How do you manage the community that is forming around your content on Flickr? What is the time commitment?

As I mentioned right at the top of this report we are still coming to terms with this. Our Image Services Manager, Paula Bray, does the bulk of the responding, commenting, favouriting and interacting. She is an avid photographer too and had her own Flickr account prior to joining the Museum and well before this project. She spends at least an hour a day in Flickr – yes, even weekends – and that’s not counting the time she spends selecting and preparing the content for bulk upload.

I drop in and out of our account to check what is going on each day also spending about 20-30 minutes a day making sure things are as they should be.

This need for ‘continuous participation’ is a challenge but it is reaping enormous rewards. However within an institution of our size and structure both Paula and I are spending considerable time ensuring we have a strong case for the resourcing of this ongoing participation which is part of the reason why we’re testing different metrics and documenting outcomes as we go.

9. How do you upload the images to Flickr? (and pull down those tags and comments)

We use the very well documented Flickr API to both upload and download. It took about 5 programming hours at most to build our uploader and also a downloader in PHP. After the images are uploaded from our collection database we have to go in and add them to the correct groups, geotag what we can, and then change their permissions so everyone can see them. Easy.

Need to know more? I will continue to post reports periodically. Courtney Johnston at the National Library of New Zealand (kia ora!) has posted a similar report on what they’ve learnt from the first year of having a ‘standard’ Flickr account. And, Bridget McKenzie in the UK has produced a good discussion paper arguing the pros and cons of having a Flickr presence for your institution.

Geotagging & mapping Interactive Media

Some new technologies talked about at the Inaugural Meeting – July 2008

It has been an interesting day down in Melbourne brainstorming many of the technologies that might impact on the higher education sector in the next 5 years. This brainstorming is forming the basis of the upcoming Horizon.Au Report – a version of the Horizon Report tailored specifically for the Australian and New Zealand community.

The North American 2008 report is available from Horizon, and there is a special Museums Report coming very very soon too.

Geotagging & mapping Imaging Social media

The Commons on Flickr: finding the Mosman Bay Falls

Whilst we are collating the data to report on the Museum’s first three months in the Commons on Flickr, I’ll share one of the best stories to come from the project for us so far – the story of finding the Mosman Bay Falls.

Amongst our photographs we found two images simply titled ‘Mosman Bay Falls’. Here’s one of them

Geotagging & mapping Interactive Media Mobile

Mobile augmented heritage reality

It shouldn’t take much imagination to see the enormous potential afforded by this prototype project coming out of Germany via Japan – Enkin.

Built on Google’s Android mobile platform (for which, it should be pointed out, no commercially available devices exist), Enkin looks amazing, even as a prototype. David Bearman has written recently about the notion of the ‘inside out museum’ where collections can be ‘digitally repatriated’ and connected up in both space and time (previously discussed). Enkin is one glimpse into that potential future.

If you have only a short amount of time take a look at the video (hat tip – Renae), otherwise spend the time and read their technical PDF.

Of course it is going to take a long time for mainstream audiences to engage with augmented reality heritage content and there are many barriers to be overcome. Interface is perhaps the easiest to solve – already mobile carriers are finding that iPhone users make considerably more use of mobile data than other phone users (see Jason Grigsby great presentation on this and other mobile usability issues over at Slideshare – especially slide #15). More problematic are carrier issues around the charging of data, and even more problematic are the philosophical issues that museums need to deal with in order to release their collections and other content in these new ways.

Geotagging & mapping Imaging

Commons on Flickr – one month later

Our experiment with the Commons on Flickr continues and barring a few hours delay we have managed to keep to our promise of 50 new images a week. We’re up to 400 images now with the most recent 50 going live this morning. 158 of these have been geotagged.

Some statistics:

– we’ve been added as contacts by 230 people
– our images have been viewed 39,685 times to yesterday.

Collection databases Geotagging & mapping MW2008 Search Semantic Web

MW2008 – Data shanty towns, cross-search and combinatory approaches

One of the popular sessions at MW2008 in Montreal was a double header featuring Frankie Roberto and myself talking about different approaches to data combining across multiple institutions.

Data combining was a bit of a theme this year with Mike Ellis, Brian Kelly and others talking mashups; Ross Parry, Eric Miller and Brian Sletten all talking ‘semantic web’; and Terry Makewell and Carolyn Royston demonstrating the early prototype of the NMOLP cross search.