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ADS
November 2011: York Archaeology wins Queen's Anniversary Prize
The Department of Archaeology at York University, which hosts the ADS, has been given a Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education. Introduced following the 40th Anniversary of the Queen's reign in 1992, the prizes, which rank alongside the Queen's Awards for Industry are awarded biennially for 'work of exceptional quality and of broad benefit either nationally or internationally'. This is the fifth to be conferred on the university in 15 years, only the second time it has been awarded to a whole Department.
26 Jul 2014
ADS - New Collections
June 2010: Developing Magnetometer Techniques to Identify Submerged Archaeological Sites
Marine magnetic surveying has become a standard technique for mapping the location of ferrous material on the seabed. The aim of the project was to acquire a better understanding of magnetic data and thus develop our ability to interpret these data with increased confidence.
24 Jul 2014
Google Maps Mania
Tour de France Winners
Tour de France: Where Have the Winners Come From? is an interactive map showing the home countries of all the winners of the Tour de France. Using the map you can view the geographical spread of all the Tour winners since 1903. I found the results a little surprising. Having grown-up during the period when Lance Armstong seemed to dominate the race almost every year (his wins are obviously now
21 Jul 2014
Megalithic Portal
Ipplepen Iron Age Settlement

The 2014 excavations of Ipplepen Iron Age Settlement are underway. Open day on the 20th July. We have lots of information and photos from last year's dig.. An Iron Age settlement unearthed in Devon has been described as one of the most important finds of its kind. It was prompted by the chance discovery of Roman coins in fields at Ipplepen, near Newton Abbot about five years ago. Archaeologists who have recently started examining the site, said it is the first of its kind in the county.
17 Jul 2014
The Map Room
Geologic Map of Mars
As I said during the Q&A part of my fantasy maps presentation at Readercon (see previous entry), maps of other worlds in the solar system are usually images from space probes that have been set...

(Click through to read the entire post.)
17 Jul 2014
mapperz blog
Global Wind Animation ESRI JS API
 Wind Animation Map ESRI JS API  Clean visualisation of Wind Currents across the world  http://esri.github.io/wind-js/  data source:[US National Weather Service -...

Map and GIS News finding blog. With so many Maps and GIS sites online now it is hard to find the good from the not so good. This blog tries to cut the cream and provide you with the newest, fastest, cleanest and most user friendly maps that are available online. News has location and it is mapped.
16 Jul 2014
Open Objects
How did 'play' shape the design and experience of creating Serendip-o-matic?
Here are my notes from the Digital Humanities 2014 paper on 'Play as Process and Product' I did with Brian Croxall, Scott Kleinman and Amy Papaelias based on the work of the 2013 One Week One Tool team.

Scott has blogged his notes about the first part of our talk, Brian's notes are posted as '“If hippos be the Dude of Love…”: Serendip-o-matic at Digital Humanities 2014' and you'll see Amy's work adding serendip-o-magic design to our slides throughout our three posts.

I'm Mia, I was dev/design team lead on Serendipomatic, and I'll be talking about how play shaped both what you see on the front end and the process of making it.

How did play shape the process?

The playful interface was a purposeful act of user advocacy - we pushed against the academic habit of telling, not showing, which you see in some form here. We wanted to entice people to try Serendipomatic as soon as they saw it, so the page text, graphic design, 1 - 2 - 3 step instructions you see at the top of the front page were all designed to illustrate the ethos of the product while showing you how to get started.


How can a project based around boring things like APIs and panic be playful? Technical decision-making is usually a long, painful process in which we juggle many complex criteria. But here we had to practice 'rapid trust' in people, in languages/frameworks, in APIs, and this turned out to be a very freeing experience compared to everyday work.
Serendip-o-matic_ Let Your Sources Surprise You.png
First, two definitions as background for our work...

Just in case anyone here isn't familiar with APIs, APIs are a set of computational functions that machines use to talk to each other. Like the bank in Monopoly, they usually have quite specific functions, like taking requests and giving out information (or taking or giving money) in response to those requests. We used APIs from major cultural heritage repositories - we gave them specific questions like 'what objects do you have related to these keywords?' and they gave us back lists of related objects.
2013-08-01 10.14.45.jpg
The term 'UX' is another piece of jargon. It stands for 'user experience design', which is the combination of graphical, interface and interaction design aimed at making products both easy and enjoyable to use. Here you see the beginnings of the graphic design being applied (by team member Amy) to the underlying UX related to the 1-2-3 step explanation for Serendipomatic.

Feed.

serendipomatic_presentation p9.png
The 'feed' part of Serendipomatic parsed text given in the front page form into simple text 'tokens' and looked for recognisable entities like people, places or dates. There's nothing inherently playful in this except that we called the system that took in and transformed the text the 'magic moustache box', for reasons lost to time (and hysteria).

Whirl.

These terms were then mixed into database-style queries that we sent to different APIs. We focused on primary sources from museums, libraries, archives available through big cultural aggregators. Europeana and the Digital Public Library of America have similar APIs so we could get a long way quite quickly. We added Flickr Commons into the list because it has high-quality, interesting images and brought in more international content. [It also turns out this made it more useful for my own favourite use for Serendipomatic, finding slide or blog post images.] The results are then whirled up so there's a good mix of sources and types of results. This is the heart of the magic moustache.

Marvel.

User-focused design was key to making something complicated feel playful. Amy's designs and the Outreach team work was a huge part of it, but UX also encompasses micro-copy (all the tiny bits of text on the page), interactions (what happened when you did anything on the site), plus loading screens, error messages, user documentation.

We knew lots of people would be looking at whatever we made because of OWOT publicity; you don't get a second shot at this so it had to make sense at a glance to cut through social media noise. (This also meant testing it for mobiles and finding time to do accessibility testing - we wanted every single one of our users to have a chance to be playful.)


Without all this work on the graphic design - the look and feel that reflected the ethos of the product - the underlying playfulness would have been invisible. This user focus also meant removing internal references and in-jokes that could confuse people, so there are no references to the 'magic moustache machine'. Instead, 'Serendhippo' emerged as a character who guided the user through the site.

moustache.png But how does a magic moustache make a process playful?

magicmoustachediagram.jpgThe moustache was a visible signifier of play. It appeared in the first technical architecture diagram - a refusal to take our situation too seriously was embedded at the heart of the project. This sketch also shows the value of having a shared physical or visual reference - outlining the core technical structure gave people a shared sense of how different aspects of their work would contribute to the whole. After all, if there aren't any structure or rules, it isn't a game.

This playfulness meant that writing code (in a new language, under pressure) could then be about making the machine more magic, not about ticking off functions on a specification document. The framing of the week as a challenge and as a learning experience allowed a lack of knowledge or the need to learn new skills to be a challenge, rather than a barrier. My role was to provide just enough structure to let the development team concentrate on the task at hand.

In a way, I performed the role of old-fashioned games master, defining the technical constraints and boundaries much as someone would police the rules of a game. Previous experience with cultural heritage APIs meant I was able to make decisions quickly rather than letting indecision or doubt become a barrier to progress. Just as games often reduce complex situations to smaller, simpler versions, reducing the complexity of problems created a game-like environment.

UX matters


Ultimately, a focus on the end user experience drove all the decisions about the backend functionality, the graphic design and micro-copy and how the site responded to the user.

It's easy to forget that every pixel, line of code or text is there either through positive decisions or decisions not consciously taken. User experience design processes usually involve lots of conversation, questions, analysis, more questions, but at OWOT we didn't have that time, so the trust we placed in each other to make good decisions and in the playful vision for Serendipomatic created space for us to focus on creating a good user experience. The whole team worked hard to make sure every aspect of the design helps people on the site understand our vision so they can get with exploring and enjoying Serendipomatic.

Some possible real-life lessons I didn't include in the paper

One Week One Tool was an artificial environment, but here are some thoughts on lessons that could be applied to other projects:
  • Conversations trump specifications and showing trumps telling; use any means you can to make sure you're all talking about the same thing. Find ways to create a shared vision for your project, whether on mood boards, technical diagrams, user stories, imaginary product boxes. 
  • Find ways to remind yourself of the real users your product will delight and let empathy for them guide your decisions. It doesn't matter how much you love your content or project, you're only doing right by it if other people encounter it in ways that make sense to them so they can love it too (there's a lot of UXy work on 'on-boarding' out there to help with this). User-centred design means understanding where users are coming from, not designing based on popular opinion.you can use tools like customer journey maps to understand the whole cycle of people finding their way to and using your site (I guess I did this and various other UXy methods without articulating them at the time). 
  • Document decisions and take screenshots as you go so that you've got a history of your project - some of this can be done by archiving task lists and user stories. 
  • Having someone who really understands the types of audiences, tools and materials you're working with helps - if you can't get that on your team, find others to ask for feedback - they may be able to save you lots of time and pain.
  • Design and UX resources really do make a difference, and it's even better if those skills are available throughout the agile development process.
10 Jul 2014
Wessex Archaeology: Events
Barrow Clump Open Day

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As part of the Festival of Archaeology this summer, discover the amazing archaeology at Barrow Clump, a Bronze Age burial mound and Saxon cemetery being excavated by injured Service personnel and veterans as part of Operation Nightingale.
 
 
 

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Free entry
Saturday 19th July 2014 
11am - 4pm
No need to book, all ages welcome
 
  • Witness the archaeological excavation
  • Come face to face with Saxon warriors 
  • Handle replica Saxon artefacts with Wiltshire Museum
  • Meet Channel 4's Time Team favourite Phil Harding
  • Take part in activities for the whole family
  • Plus lots more to see, do and discover!
 
For more details contact Laura Joyner
 
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How to find us
Drive north on the A345 from the Amesbury junction of the A303, crossing one roundabout. Turn right at the 'C' tank crossing and follow signs to the parking area. Please note that the site is a 15-minute walk from the parking area. Limited spaces are available at the site for those with walking difficulties. 
 
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19 May 2014
UK Archaeology Conferences
In, Out and In Between: Dynamics of Cultural Borders
17/10/2012-19/10/2012: Session focussing on dialectical relations between culture, social relations and landscape, with special interest in the reflections of ethnic boundaries in material culture..
03 Jul 2012
Computing, GIS and Archaeology in the UK
Portable GIS vs OSGeo Live
Over the last couple of weeks, a few people have asked me the same question, which is (to paraphrase) “what’s the difference between Portable GIS and OSGeo Live or USB GIS?”. You get asked something once, and that’s fine, but more than that and it’s worth a blog post! The main difference between the two [...]
23 Mar 2012
Archaeology News
Scientists discover Oetzi's last meal
Oetzi's body was discovered in 1991 inside a glacier near the mountainous border between Italy and Austria, where it had been naturally mummified about 5300 years ago. Previous analysis concluded...
18 Dec 2011
Archaetech
Digital Approaches to Cartographic Heritage
I’ll be giving a paper on Ptolemy at the ICA annual workshop on Digital Approaches to Cartographic Heritage at the Hague and it’s been a great excuse to finally put some ideas (old and new) down on paper. Comments welcome!      
12 Mar 2011
Professional GIS / GPS Developers Google Group
New stable version of gvSIG Desktop available: gvSIG 1.9
A new stable version of gvSIG Desktop has been released: gvSIG Desktop
1.9.

It's available on the Downloads section of the gvSIG website:
[link].

This new version has many new features which are listed next.

12 Nov 2009
Online Archaeology Blog
OPEN ARCHIVE - a new web based system for accessing our past
The wealth of information gathered by local archaeological groups and societies on excavations, surveys and documentary research is one of the important sources of data for the study of archaeology in the UK. Currently, this archive of British archaeology is stored locally, within libraries and local history centres as well as with the originating group [...]
16 Sep 2009
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