Watch this space…

As we enter our second year in university, we are faced with new challenges, opportunities and tasks. Expectations are high and we are thrown into the deep end. Now is the time when we can reflect on our accomplishments and experiences from first year with the aim of both refining our outward content and broadening our horizons. Many of us now face the task of balancing work and college life as we prepare for work placement in third year. At this point it is important that we set specific goals and try to achieve them to the best of our abilities.

This year I would like to focus on a number of topics that regularly cross my mind and my screen. As I am studying politics (with a focus on European politics) I feel that I am in a prime position to cover the following issues.

  • The refugee crisis: over 5 million people on the move and flooding into Europe. What does it mean for us as European citizens, how can we help and what does the future hold for Europe and affected countries.
  • Climate change: Governmental, NGO, human and wildlife response to the greatest natural disaster since the extinction of the dinosaurs.
  • Health: A broad term but specifically I aim to look at Pharmaceutical manufacturers. The rise/fall of physical and mental disabilities comparing both developed and third world countries. Finally the role of governments in regulating drug testing/ legalisation and ethical practice in healthcare.

All very serious topics but equally important. I’ll also dip into the rise of YouTube as the world’s main video entertainment platform as I am an avid viewer of a number of channels.

Have a great year and watch this space!


Data Visualisation  


In an increasingly digital orientated world of learning, many scholars turn to online libraries, forums and infographics to aid them in their learning. There is a demand for relevant, specific and concise information to be available at our fingertips. Digital humanists have acknowledged this demand and have reacted accordingly. There is now a range of online tools and applications available to anyone who wishes to engage in data visualisation.

Text visualisation is one of the simplest forms of data and the call to make it more dynamic, interactive and user-friendly has not gone unanswered. Simple tools such as allow users to simply enter a block of text (or the URL to a blog, online text source) and the application transforms it into a simple diagram with the most mentioned words appearing larger than the least mentioned words.wordle

One of the most common forms of text digitisation is historical books. The significance of running a historical text through an application such as wordle is that it will show the significance of certain areas, people, objects, themes, etc. This can be a great help for students who wish to write on a certain topic, but time restraints do not permit them to read large sections of a text(s) to find their desired field of writing.


In this example I decided to use The Second Boer War as my historical topic. Using the open source projectgutenberg. I chose Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘The Great Boer War’ – 1902. I opened a HTML variant of the text and proceeded to copy all 39 chapters of it, unfortunately this quantity of text was far too large for the wordle application to process. I then moved to the more suitable Voyant ( I inputted the entire novel and received a plethora of diagram, statistics and textual information. It told me I had inputted 224’508 words.Screenshot (101)Screenshot (104)

The sheer amount of easy to read statistical data, coupled with friendly diagrams was pleasing. A small button located adjacent the ‘Cirrus’ diagram option allowed me to enlarge the image in a separate tab.Screenshot (103)

From here I could easily examine the individual words to quickly come to the following conclusions: The text is predominantly associated with the actual fighting rather than any other wartime occurrences, the armies most likely were made up of entirely men (in contrast to the large number of female roles in modern militaries globally), the soldiers carried firearms (as opposed to swords), horses were ridden into battle but the cavalry was not as large as the infantry, the fighting took place mostly in the south and it appears that a large distance was covered (judging by words such as: ‘miles’, ‘long’, ‘river’, ‘town’ and ‘advance’) and finally that there were more people wounded than killed during the war.

Obviously these are rough guesses and estimates based on the visual data supplied and is widely open to ambiguity and interpretation but overall it serves to provide the reader with a ‘statistical blurb’ for want of a better word. Screenshot (106)Screenshot (105)

Again, links between words illustrates that the Boers held defensive positions while the British advanced for the majority of the war.

The use of data visualisation is not limited to text. Harvard Business School have prepared a list of various historical visualisation projects compiled from a variety of sources. The majority of these projects involve the global mapping of certain trends. I located one entitled ‘Rise and Fall of Imperialism 1820-2010’, this immediately stood out to me as I was researching the topic of The Boer War. HBS have created a short ~3 minute video that shows the colonisation of the world by 14 different Empires. In 1910 we see the British colonization of South Africa and the decolonization of it once again in 1932. This tool was useful as it showed the extent of empirical control over the span of two decades. One thing I wondered was; ‘What would the British Empire would look like if they had manged to retain all of their controlled territory to this day?’. A quick Google image search revealed this image.The_British_Empire_Anachronous

At its height in 1921, the British Empire ruled over a quarter of the world’s population of 458 million people. And that isn’t hard to believe judging by this image.

As for more interactive maps, I located one through the online museum on communism that allows the user to interact with the map as they go to show the extent of communist regimes on a global scale. It also provides useful and interesting information on communist political leaders and the number of deaths in a country as a result of the communist regime. (Link to map in sources below).

The uses for data visualisation are growing with the introduction of new technologies such as virtual reality headsets and 3D printing. These developments will surely allow for even more avenues to be developed. As more historical texts are converted to digital and the movement for open-source information grows, digital humanists are provided with more opportunities to create a streamlined, digitized form of learning.


Open Street Map


OpenStreetMap (OSM) is a user created/ open source mapping tool. It allows users to map the world using satellite images as guidelines, users contribute by editing maps and validating others created content.

The purpose of this review is to outline my personal experience of OSM and to give an insight into what I contributed and learned through using OSM.


The first part of my project involved signing up for OSM. The thought of sign-ups is usually quite daunting but I was pleasantly surprised that all OSM asked from me was a username, password and email address to validate my account. I followed the link provided by my lecturer ( which brought me to an extensive list of global humanitarian projects. Each project was unique in their purpose but they all had one common requirement, maps. I decided to choose a project dedicated to the preventing and eradication of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, specifically Mozambique. The project was outlined as follows:  This project directly supports programs under the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), which was launched in 2005 with the goal to reduce malaria-related mortality by 50 percent across sub-Saharan Africa. The OpenStreetMap data created through this task will be used to plan the logistics of an Indoor Residual Spraying campaign in Milange. I was directed to read a manual before I began mapping, this outlined exactly what the project managers were looking for from contributors. They were asking specifically for the markings of roads, waterways and buildings. A simple request. I jumped straight into IDEditor and was able to quickly grasp the controls and tools through a short and straightforward tutorial. I chose my first tile and got to work drawing roads, outlining rivers and marking houses/ buildings.

An earlier contributor had marked the main road so I set to work filling in dirt tracks and buildings.Screenshot (93)

I continued working on several tiles over the course of a week adding minor roads, buildings and rivers/ streams. I reviewed others work in my spare time, also double-checking validated work to ensure there was enough content to be considered complete. On inspection of one ‘done’ tile I found there to be very little actual mapping complete, only a handful of roads had been drawn. I thought it necessary to invalidate this work and leave a comment on the matter.Screenshot (95) - Copy

Following the mapping/ validating of several tiles I decided to have a look at my own neighborhood to see if I could contribute to it in any way as I know the area quite well. The main roads and much of the landmarks had been mapped but I was able to find a number of minor roads and points of interest to mark in.

Below shows the parish of Crossbarry which is very near to where I live. A contributor has mapped the main roads in the area but had omitted the large quarry located to the north of the village. I decided to add that in and searched for the name of the quarry online.Screenshot (89) - Copy


I also used my knowledge of the local area to input a large residential park and an abandoned railway.Screenshot (91) - CopyScreenshot (90) - Copy

Overall I found the experience of OSM very enjoyable. I was able grasp the use of IDEditor with ease. The idea of multiple contributors for an area divides the work among larger numbers and therefore makes it easier on each individual involved.

I learned a great deal as the malaria epidemic in Mozambique prompted me to read further into the origins, causes and symptoms of the disease. Humanitarian workers can organise their logistics with more ease due to the combined work of OSM contributors, this can help save lives and can benefit future projects in these areas. It felt good on a personal level that I could make an impact on this project, no matter how small, from the comfort of my own home.

As OSM grows, so does the movement for crowd sources and open source information. Not only are we providing assistance to humanitarian projects but we are also making steps in the right direction towards a more open and creative internet that can incorporate and accommodate everyone.

Hopefully OSM will be able to establish a timeline where they can review the amount of content uploaded over a period of time, this will make projects such as ORBIS more accurate and faster to complete in the future. As new satellite images are imported into the OSM database, it is important that edits to older images remain accurate or the system is liable to become disorganised. Example a road is drawn for an older image, a new town emerges in the area so a new image is taken, unless the image is taken from the exact same position as the previous there will be discrepancies in the overlap between the image and the map.

Crowdsourcing information can be a very effective way of collecting large quantities of data with ease over a short period of time. The very concept of crowdsourcing is developing rapidly as internet access grows to incorporate more areas and could be a potential avenue for research. How has crowdsourcing developed as we move further into the digital age? Can the methods of crowdsourcing be thought to school goers so that we are able to join it into the world of big data, where each person is anonymously contributing to a larger, more organised system of data collection that spans the width of human knowledge through everyday actions on the internet?

Location and review of a digital tool.


For the purpose of this assignment I am beginning my essay before I have begun my search for a digital tool, I am hoping to quickly locate a relevant tool without the need for an extensive and time consuming search.

What I hope to find is a tool to help me in a very specific task; I have been given the opportunity to work with Newstalk during the upcoming general elections. As part of this I will need to know the constituency I am working in (Cork South-West), both the candidates and the geographical location. I will need to be able to predict when certain candidates are going to score large numbers of votes based off their general geographical campaign area. Therefore, I will be searching for a tool that allows me to map the constituency based off the candidate’s hometowns.

After about 15 minutes of searching I found a program called GRASS GIS, a tool used to create maps and graphs. I downloaded an earlier model that was said to be fully stable. Initially I was struck at how difficult it was to use the program as there is no instruction or tutorial offered to the user. After some web searching and online help I decided to import a PNG file of the Cork South-West constituency and hopefully just edit that by placing names and images of candidates. I then hoped to triangulate the candidates so I could more accurately see where the most contest there would be over votes. I saved the PNG and clicked import on GRASS GIS and the program crashed. After being promised a stable build I was frustrated by this and decided to go back to the drawing board and continue my search.

After downloading a second program called Sci2 and then downloading Javascript as it would not run without it, I encountered another issue as the program would simply refuse to open. I see a pattern developing here.

Third attempt I found an online tool called ArcExplorer. Similar to the previous two programs but simpler to use, thankfully this tool did not require a downloaded program and was web browser friendly. I was quickly able to bring up a global map and hone in on the Munster region. This is where things started to go downhill. There was a severe lack of tools available at my disposal. I was able to measure area, distance, write bookmarks and that’s about it. I decided to measure the area of the constituency instead. I was given a polygon mapping tool that was highly effective and updated me on the total area I had covered as I plotted my points across the map. Then the tool stopped working so I started again and again and again. This happened roughly five times before I accepted that it was not going to work. I came close to finishing the map twice but never made it the whole way. The website offered a standalone download which I decided to opt for, when I went to open the download I told me that there were ‘no files located’. So that brought to an end my underwhelming experience with ArcExplorer.



Finally I came across a tool from ArcGIS, the same group that created ArcExplorer. The tool is called ‘Map Journal Builder’ and allows the user to create a story type project using images and text in a user-friendly manner.  The map editing tools were the same as on ArcExplorer so I ruled out that avenue for creating my ‘journal’. I focused on compiling all the candidates from the Cork South-West constituency and their relevant profiles and profile pictures as well as an overview image of the CSW constituency. Using google as my search engine I quickly found all my relevant data and compiled it within the space of about 10 minutes. The result is a minimal but simple page where the reader can quickly jump between candidates personal profiles with ease. Some independent candidates did not have online profiles so I substituted these with articles from instead. I can see this tool being used again for similar projects and also more map specific projects where the creator can have a series of smaller maps to illustrate different sections of their project.

Please feel free to visit my ‘Map Journal’ at:

Overall I am slightly disappointed due to the relative difficulty I encountered while trying locate and effectively use a mapping tool through DiRT. Even the search bar on the DiRT website brought me to an error page when I clicked the ‘map’ option that I was given. I do hope that the team at DiRT strive to resolve this issue. I feel that an effective, user-friendly and visually pleasing mapping tool to combine both topographical and statistical information would benefit digital humanists in future project creation.


How has the digital age influenced the development of the fashion industry’s marketing methods?

It’s no secret that the e-commerce market has been on the rise since the early 90s. Statistics suggests that there has been a steady 5.7% rise in the  percentage of e-commerce as part of all retail done in the US between 2003 and 2015 (Source: y-charts). Capitalism has flourished and the influence of the fashion industry is stronger than ever. Pop-stars, Models and Actors are the medium that is employed to showcase the latest and trends. These are all things which are on the front line of the fashion industry’s marketing ability. But what goes on behind the scenes and how have the technological developments of the 21st century influenced what we wear and see daily?


Screenshot (85)

Any regular user of social media and e-commerce websites has experienced a little pop up as a disclaimer to inform you that you are being tracked by ‘cookies’. These cookies log your search history to develop an online profile of you. This profile is sold to marketers and allows companies such as Amazon to displayed tailored advertisements to entice you to buy a product you may have searched for. The fashion industry uses this method extensively. Google has made available its privacy policy and has included a section on the information that is gathered by using its services.Screenshot (84)


During my time working for footwear retailer Schuh I noticed the link between the store’s online presence and the physical store. The check and reserve feature allowed customers to check if the item they wanted was in stock, reserve it and call in to try it on before buying it. This saves time for both the customer and the company as it eliminates the element of a browsing customer clogging up the store and an employee rushing about to check if items are in stock. Schuh was very quick to employ new forms of technology and expand its online presence and it has paid off as shares in parent-company Genesco have risen since its purchase in 2011.

Free Advertising:

The success of social media branding has allowed companies from small second hand stores to massive franchises to advertise their business and products for free on social media sites and applications such as Facebook, Instagram and Pintrest. As they do this, the public is invited to spread the word about their favorite brands and stores.


The market for vintage, retro and second hand clothing has been on the rise in recent years. Levi’s has even setup a standalone store dedicated to its dates items that have returned to the company after many years. Temple Bar in Dublin is a hotspot for second hand clothing stores with several operating very successfully. Social media as allowed this area to grow as the promotion of garage and car-boot sales have become easier and automated.

Where now?:

I have only scratched the surface of the marketing methods. QR Codes, Self-Design products and shopping apps are only a few more areas that have been exploited by marketers to expand their target market. Only time will tell what revolutions will be made in the fashion marketing industry.



How has technology changed education?

In 2015, technology is evident in every aspect of society, commerce and education. As the internet expands it links more and more of these disciplines together. This expansive source of information has been harnessed by businessmen and teachers alike to develop their professions. Technology is the path that is being built in front of us and it is obvious that we must embrace and cherish this seemingly free source of knowledge.

As the education system in Ireland follows its defined linear path, a revolution in technology aims to possibly change the way in which we view education. We have begun to invest in the areas of open access sources, interactive learning and digital books or e-books. When I began in primary school we were in the dark ages, the blackboard and chalk was our only form of written communication. Occasionally the tape recorder was brought out during religion or music classes. By the time I was in my final year of primary school we were using interactive whiteboards. The jump between traditional technologies continued into secondary school; after one year of using the overhead projectors and whiteboards, the entire school was fitted with modern projectors and a laptop for each of the classrooms. Classes such as photography and web design were introduced to us in our transition year. Currently I am sitting in a specially made room for the discipline of Digital Humanities. The room has been fitted with the latest technology including but not limited to several macs, touchscreen smart TVs and high speed broadband. All of this equipment came at a hefty cost to the college and it has been provided for the purpose of research into the idea that technology can benefit the education of college students. As we progress through our degree we will discover more about the field of information technology and explore developing concepts in the areas of technology based education.

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

As science has progressed we have come to a point where more and more technological advancements are required to yield further discoveries the various fields of research. According to a Forbes article the cost to build and run the Large Hadron Collider at CERN between October 2008 and September 2009 was a grand total of $13.25 billion. This expensive technology has paved the way for the scientists to uncover the mysteries surrounding the big bang and the formation of the universe. Massive research indeed. Without the funding and developments in technology that is seen today, none of this would have been possible.

We move forward we are faced with the choice: Do we follow the path that science and innovation is paving in the development of technology to embed within our education systems or do we develop a separate method of teaching that diverts from this path?


“Let’s go invent tomorrow instead of worrying about what happened yesterday” – Steve Jobs

Critical Response to Twessay No.2; Storytelling

Initially when I received the topic of the second Twesasy I wasn’t so sure what to include in my limited 140 characters. The title of ‘storytelling is such a broad one that I had a flood of ideas in my mind but I was so heavily restricted that I decided to keep it short, sweet and to the point.

From Pettakera to your bedroom. Thanks to the internet, stories are now available to all. So go read!

Embedded image permalink

I was asked by a number of people what ‘Pettakera’ was, so without going too in-depth on the subject; A brief history of Pettakera.

Sulawesi mapindonesian-cave-art-old-01_84472_990x742__1_

Leang Pettakera (Pettakera Cave) is located on the southern peninsula of the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. Archaeologists believe that Pettakera cave is home to possibly the oldest cave paintings ever recorded. Researchers from Australia and Indonesia determined that the specific painting as seen above of the animal and hand stencils is a minimum of 40’000 years old. If you would like to read the full article on the history of Pettakera and the researcher’s findings, note my references below.

My reason for choosing Pettakera is because I believe this may be the oldest form of recorded storytelling. The hand stencils are not unique to Pettakera as similar stencils have been recorded in similar caves in Europe. The animal depicted is said to be an Anoa, which is native to the region. Admittedly I cannot determine what the ancient race was trying to tell us but I am confident that there is a story behind the art.

The opposite end of the scale:

Tools help evolve but human interaction is @ the core of any we r the future

Patrick argues that human interaction is at the heart of storytelling. I would agree in that even before the days of cave paintings and other forms of written record, the spoken word would have been the earliest form of communication and therefore storytelling. Patrick also claims that ‘we’ as humans are the future of storytelling. This is where I would disagree. While human interaction has always been on the forefront of storytelling, in recent years the development of technologies such as the internet and now e-books have shown that one does not necessarily have to hear a story from another person to receive a compelling and thrilling tale, whether it be fact or fiction.


The initial idea for an e-reader came to a man named Bob Brown after he viewed his first film with sound in the 1930’s . Brown had the idea for… “A machine that will allow us to keep up with the vast volume of print available today and be optically pleasing”.

It was not until the 1980’s that the US Department of Defense developed the first working e-reader, called ‘PEAM’ (Portable Electronic Aid for Maintenance). It was developed by Texas Instruments and was titled:  “Apparatus for delivering procedural type instructions”. The application for the patent for PEAM was submitted on December 4th, 1985.

Since then, the e-reader has become an everyday commodity. You can now see people using their phones, tablets and kindles to read a variety of material daily. The availability of high-speed broadband enables one to access a world of literature from their own hand-held device. The e-book has become an integrated part of our society with very little notice from society itself. This is why I believe that e-books are the future of storytelling, the traditional word-of-mouth is being overtaken by a plethora of online stories. So go read!