On using ArcMap Collector as a mobile app for SSV

Since its inception, Stories of the Susquehanna has been a collaborative, interdisciplinary Screenshot 2014-05-08 21.41.18digital project that has at its core a geospatial interface. What started out as historical/cultural mapping of the Native American landscapes of the Susquehanna in ArcMap Desktop with maps published in static image format (as discussed in the interviews of me and Emily Bitely) has evolved through the iterations of ESRI’s software development.

About a week ago, one of our Digital Scholarship Coordinators and SSV  project manager, Diane Jakacki pointed to to the fact that ESRI was now publishing apps. photoAt first skeptical, I proceeded to delve further into the Collector app and battled my way through tutorials designed for insurance adjusters gathering data in the field (no, I don’t need fields labeled “Habitable” or “Partially Destroyed”) to create a feature layer that could be added to any map in ArcMap online. This feature layer was supposed to be able to both locate you in the field and allow you to input field data in real time at the same time as giving you access to the rich data associated with points and lines in pop-ups. The new feature layer could also permit the attachment of photos and video.

My co-PI, Alf Siewers and I had been discussing over the last few months how we could best create this kind of mobile interface and had been in long discussions with both Diane and Andy Famiglietti as to how this might happen. This app seemed to me to offer us a ready made way to send our students out into the field to collect data, upload it, and also see it within the context of the historical information that had already been collected.

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Add Feature window showing the fields and photo upload option

After some tussling with an outdated version of ArcMap (10.0 vs. 10.2) and successfully navigating our excellent ArcMap Online resources, I was able to author and upload a prototype of a multi-layered interactive map of the Susquehanna watershed that had the mobile features I wanted (well, almost). However, one field caused the app to crash repeatedly and I knew I had to re-author it in Desktop.

Enter my Presidential Fellow, Steffany Meredyk. Today, as almost a final collaborative act after four years of working together, Steffany and I worked out the problem;  now we can test out an interactive crowdsourcing feature layer for online maps of the Susquehanna this weekend on the North Branch Kayaking Sojourn. Whoops of joy were detectable…. but not uploaded…

photo-1The Collector app has a rich potential for data gathering in the field. Whether to record information on bird populations, the state of repair of the rail-trail, tracking  plant coverage, or encouraging crowdsourcing of local history, this is an exciting and versatile digital step forward in our work of bringing the Stories of the Susquehanna alive.

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Curating the Cold Spots…

In his opening talk of the Herrenhausen conference on the Digital Humanities (#dighum1213), Jeffrey Schnapp  proposed that the future of the world as a hot spot might be one that is punctuated by increasingly sought after cold spots, places where we are not connected by the digital transfer of data, where we as humans can trust our own senses to make decisions about what it is we see, hear, smell, feel, and express verbally.  Rejecting the curation of nature as one that might involve pinning QR codes to trees, Schnapp instead called for another way to make data matter in the human weaving together of narrative to make places meaningful.  Digital ecologies, as he termed them, might consist not of us experiencing nature mediated by the digital (sorry, no Google Glass on the Buffalo Valley Rail Trail!)  but rather by the human observer using the digital device to collect and record data that later is uploaded in what he termed a crowdsourcing of the environment.  Citizen science produces knowledge, much as for Luis von Ahn, human computation digitizes millions of books through the use of that annoying Captcha. Continue reading “Curating the Cold Spots…”