maps. time. visualisation. { a reflection. }

November 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

This is a reflective journal entry and summary of the unit of study; ‘ARCA2606’, archaeology’s “Maps, Time and Visualisation” subject, taught by Ian Johnson and Andrew Wilson. It has been quite a practical course, with a nice mix of theory to support the exercises practiced. I have maintained an online student journal of my progress through this subject for personal documentation.

The class began by looking at an overview of mapping, it’s use and benefits, (of it and visualisation), over time. I learnt about the existence of different characteristics of represented data, from symbology to chosen map projections (‘Getting the hang of ArcGis’).

Over the first few weeks, the fact that “All Maps Lie” became much more apparent (especially through readings such as “Deconstructing the Map”, a paper by J.B. Harley, and a reading of Mark Monmonier’s “Lying with Maps”). A fact that is caused by maps’ subjective and contextual (historical, educational, political, religious, state-based) nature, and the reason why they should be treated as historical documents (‘Mapping the Past’). Likewise, uncertainty and technical errors were also present in historic maps, as can be seen in nine different views of the Munghal Empire in 1605.

Maps are pretty amazing, not only can they reveal stories, they can reveal so much about a culture, the map’s author, intended audience, and the context of the map’s creation (‘Mapping Historical Data’).

The nature of cartography was explored, classifying maps, and learning how to evaluate modern maps, along with their essential parts (such as scale, projection, symbolisation, orientation, key, title, etc.). The learning of such elements were augmented by our own (the student’s) initial drawings of the area in front of Madsen Entrance.

This same knowledge carried onto future excercises, such as maps depicting Irrawang Pottery Site.

Such weekly readings, lessons and activities were nicely supplemented by discussions such as “Why should we use an ‘incorrect’ map.”.

After exploring the core nature of cartography, Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) were examined. This type of software was very versatile, with growing and wide-spread use. It can essentially be sub-divided into three functions: a geo-database for storing, relating and querying geospatial data, a geo-visualisation tool for querying, modifying and showing features in relation to the Earth’s surface, and geo-processing – where new geographic datasets could be derived from existing ones. The importance of themes (layers) were emphasized, along with the difference of raster and vector data types. (‘What is a GIS?’)

Layers in GIS are certainly powerful, aiding in the filtering of data sets to their most important information for a map, so knowledge can be derived from the map. As practiced in a mapping exercise.

Also covered were the many methods and techniques for collecting data for different uses, all with their own strengths and weaknesses. This data could be collected by oneself [LINK] , or obtained externally ( ’Sources of Data’ ).

The various strengths and weakness of using free and open source data was also examined.

Different GIS types were explored (falling under proprietary or free-or-open-source GIS’), and I speculate we will see a rise in their use, but, at the consumer level, in much smaller and portable systems, with very different uses ( ‘Making maps gis types and speculated future’ ).

Historic drawings were also potential sources of data, but must also be viewed as historic texts. For example, paintings may add a house, to the original painting for aesthetic reasons.

Along with the intricacies of historical drawings, we also learnt about various technical terminologies associated with GIS and geo-spatial data. ( ’Map Delivery’ ). Differences in historical drawings were observed in exercises that involved mapping them ( also called rubber-sheeting, or georeferencing) to existing geospatial points. Such mappings could be augmented in Google Earth showing additional values, building types and structures.

Case studies such as the reading: Indigenous Perceptions of Contact at Inthanoona, and other information ( ‘Usefulness of Digital Data Capture techniques during fieldwork’), revealed much on the process of collecting data at a site.

Different websites were also assessed for their presentation of information and interactivity.

Techniques were explored for geo-tagging routes (which I found extremely useful and will definitely re-use in my travels), and rely on GNSS’ . We also handled data from total station surveys, transforming it into contour lines ( Gathering Data Practice’ ).

After looking getting a grounded understanding on GIS, and a tonne of knowledge on the collection of data, ‘Time’ was next on the subject name (‘Maps, Time, and Visualisation’). This was quite an intriguing topic, as it is a type of data that is conveyed abstractly ( ‘Handling time’ ) and consequently has many different models.

The reading on by Mostern & Johnson’s (2008) “From named place to naming event: creating gazetteers for history”, was extremely insightful, and provided a very nice event-based model (having events ordered by time, grouped into chronologies, and ascribe causalities). Heurist also appears to emulate this model.

Visualisation was one of my favourite topics in this course, and one of the reasons I chose it, it was a shame there was only a lesson dedicated to it’s core and conception, but it was a good lesson, and there was a lot of content covered. The history of visualisation was interesting to learn, beginning as early as the 14th century with Nicholas Oresme. The matching of different data types with different visualisations was also extremely beneficial, and something that motivated further exploration ( ‘Importance of Data Graphs’ , ‘Exploring some Aussie Visualisations’ ). And, like clockwork, Charles Minard’s map was mentioned yet again (but it’s importance in representing the most important datasets across multiple dimensions was much better explained than in previous descriptions I have heard). ( ‘Nature of Visualisation’ )

After exploring the core ideals of visualisation, extra dimensions were explored , along with visualisations as simulations, and visualisations in websites, their content, and the user interaction design behind them.

Activities related to visualisation included playing with google sketchupvisualising Sydney Census Data,

( A visualisation mapping domestic and internationally-born populations )

and visualising temporal data.

( A video of urban growth in Sydney. )
( A video of Australian World Heritage Listed Sites. )

The management and issues of digital data was addressed, with a large note on recycling and preserving data through their digitisation.

As the course progressed, I began noticing an increasing amount of content related to this area of study, most recently; Rusia’s own GNSS, an article on how to better visualise and mapping social statistics ( ‘Mapping Social Statistics Dots’ ), processes of mapping ( ’To Map or Not to Map’ ) , and beautiful and historic visualisations (Willard Cope Brinston’s Graphic Presentation).

Since this subject began, I have learnt much about maps, and my knowledge of visualisation, and the intricacies of mapping time have been augmented. From lying about maps to the nature of visualisation, from cartography to GIS’ and data collection, this has been a very insightful journey.

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Exploring the Evolution of the Great Wall

November 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

[Late Post]

As a long exercise in the application of the ‘Heurist’ Geo and Correlation Oriented Database program, I explored the evolution of the Great Wall of China.

The report can be found here:

ARCA2606 Hanley Weng – 309248434 -Exploring the Evolution of the Great Wall

Managing Digital Data

October 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

According to the Digital Curation Centre, Data is “A re-interpretable, representation of information in a formalised manner suitable for communication, interpretation, or processing”.

There are various issues concerned with the management of data. These include volume (deciding what to actually keep, and what to discard), the management and preservation (including formats and costs), legal issues, and re-usability (especially in regards to the context of the digital data).

Digitising data allows it to be shared and re-used. Being in digital format it is also much more portable and versatile. Good data underpins high quality research and appropriate data can be preserved for long times, with credible and verifiable interpretations.

There exists digital repositories (such as institutional data repositories (USYD has one), and national and discipline specific ones) ) for managing and storing research data.

The following depicts the data lifecycle (taken from ARCA2606 slides[1]).


The predominant benefit to publicly sharing data is it’s communal access, re-use, and re-interpretation (also in combination with other datasets).

[1] Ian Johnson, Andrew Wilson, (2011), ARCA2606 Slides – Week 14 Wrap Up, University of Sydney.

To map or not to map

October 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

Matthew Ericson has written an excellent article discussing when the use of a map is appropriate to other forms of representation and vice-versa. Predominantly with consideration to the maps purpose and the intended relationships to display. Not all relationships are best represented by mapping them. He also describes his conceptual mapping process (using tools such as ArcView).

Check it out at:

Willard Cope Brinton’s ‘Graphic Presentation’

October 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

Willard Cope Brinton’s second book ‘Graphic Presentation (1939), shows some excellent and old information visualisations.

Willard Cope Brinton – Graphic Presentation   /_37

Check them out here:

Visualising Temporal Data

October 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

As an activity in visualising temporal data in ArcGIS. World Heritage List data and Sydney Urban Growth data was looked at.

The world heritage list data had lists of sites with their type, name, location and data of addition.

The data was filtered to only list those in Australia, and color coded based on their type (red representing a cultural site, orange – a mixed site, and green representing a natural site). ArcGis has a time Slider tool, which when enabled, allowed the playback of the series of sites over time. New sites popped up over time (based on addition).

This file was then exported to kmz which could then be read on google earth. Due to google earth’s larger scaled representation of information, the text and symbology of the original had to also be made much larger.

Click here to see a recorded ANIMATION of the data progressing through time on Google Earth. (like the below animation, you may have to be signed onto your google account though).


Data on Sydney Urban Growth was also provided, however, stepping through this data (time-wise) revealed a missing polygon available to represent the state of urban growth in the year 1917. Hence, a 1917 image of urban growth was imported, rubber-sheeted, and traced as a series of polygons (whoms attributes had their date set to 1917).

This addition of such data allowed for a smoother animation of sydney urban growth through time (through ArcGIS). ( See RECORDING ).

Simulation and Augmented Reality

October 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

Computer simulation can play an important roles in areas of entertainment, education and training. It utilises and encourages interactivity for better understandings of scenarios. These scenarios can be quite flexible and conducted in safe environments (for example, simulating pilot errors). Familiarity with the visualisation / system / scenarios is also an important outcome with positive and negative effects.

Computer simulation often consists of physical simulation, or interactive (human) simulation. Interactive simulation can be freely classified as live (real people with dummy equipment), virtual (real people with simulated equipment), or constructive (where everything is simulated).

Existing examples of simulation include the use of Second Life to represent and describe archaeological sites. Applications like Layar also are useful in projecting information over a camera view of the world.

Addison (2000) presents an interesting paper titled “Emerging trends in virtual heritage”. He talks about the predicted increase in Virtual Reality applications, and three domains for these emerging technologies: 3D documentation (everything from site surveys to epigraphy), 3D representation (from historic reconstruction to visualisation) and 3D dissemination) from immersive networked worlds to ‘in situ’ augmented reality. He documents quite a bit on the technical challenges of the technology which in this age, is too long and detailed to be of much use (as the technological landscape here has changed immensely). The trend of virtual worlds have become much more prominent around 2006, with services such as second life, however, the popularity of these services that were attributed to social needs have been recently addressed with the rise of social networks. Unique projection systems to exist, with concepts as large scaled as the ones Addison presented, however none are truly commercially available (as of 2011). Much of the large scale projection systems have been utilised in marketing, or specific specialised systems. Also much of the projects presented here have since evolved and diverged into their own fields, resulting in an article that touches on the beginnings of a wide variety of fields in this day and age. (See the allosphere , Layar , Side-by-Side, ).

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