The Story of the Commons

This fall I am taking a Creative Commons Certificate Course for Librarians.  The first assignment involves telling the story of the Creative Commons using one of a selection of tools.

I wanted to create a visually appealing presentation using a tool like Haiku Deck.  I have used it in the past and like the layout templates and easy to use Creative Commons images.  I started creating my video using this tool, but soon discovered that an upgrade to the Pro version was necessary to embed audio into the presentation.

Plan B involved using Google slides for the presentation part and then embedding invisible videos to take care of the audio with the whole lot being exported to the web.  After upgrading Audacity, installing something called ffmeg and trying to create videos from audio files then getting a Google video playback error, Plan C was invoked.

Plan C – Install Screencastify, make short videos and embed them in Google Slides. This worked somewhat, but the resulting embedded slideshow below does not play the audio automatically. If you would like to view the slide show, please advance the slides manually and click on the play arrow to hear the audio.

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1K Radius – Torontopia

Spacing Magazine has opened a pop-up shop at the northwest corner of Queen and Bay Streets in Toronto.  It is open from Wednesday to Saturday until the Labour Day weekend.  The store, which operates out of a shipping container, has a selection of Toronto-themed goods (a subset of what is sold at the Spacing store at 401 Richmond St.). The t-shirts, postcards, socks, buttons, bags and books will appeal to both tourists and Toronto residents alike.

This is the first in a planned series of brief blog posts about places of interest within a 1 km radius of Ryerson University that can easily be reached on a lunch time stroll.

Notes from the #ccsummit

This past weekend (April 28- April 30, 2017), Creative Commons held their global summit in Toronto.  There was a packed program of sessions, workshops, keynotes, etc. over the three days. Here are a few of my highlights from the Summit.

3D Surprise

The first day of the Summit got off to a spectacular start with Ryan Merkley’s (CEO of Creative Commons) announcement of the 3D printing of a column from the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria.  This tetrapylon is a copy of one that was destroyed in 2016.  More information about this project  can be found on the #NewPalmyra website.

This story was featured on the CBC National on Wednesday May 3 (at the 36:45 minute mark)

 

Can you Plant That Seed?

Tom Michaels (University of Minnesota, Dept of Horticultural Science) asked this question when talking about preparing a bright red pepper for eating.  When you have trimmed, cored and sliced the pepper, can you go ahead and plant the seed?  Fifty years ago the answer to this question would be “Yes”.  Today the answer is “Maybe” as many large plant breeders have placed limitations on what you can do with seeds.  Thirty years from now we do not want the answer to be “No”, so we need an alternative to patent-protected seeds sold by large agricultural companies.  Enter the Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI) which aims to create open source varieties of crop seeds.

Since seeds do not lend themselves well to software licenses, other options were considered to ensure that at least some seeds are always available for sharing and are not locked by intellectual property rights.  The following simple pledge was developed to provide an alternative to the legal restrictions on many seeds:

“You have the freedom to use these OSSI-Pledged seeds in any way you choose. In return, you pledge not to restrict others’ use of these seeds or their derivatives by patents or other means, and to include this pledge with any transfer of these seeds or their derivatives.”

If you are looking for seeds that preserve the farmer’s and gardener’s rights to save, replant, share, breed, and sell seed, look for seeds marked with the logo on the left.

 

Open Syllabus Project

I caught the latter part of this presentation about the Open Syllabus Project software that mines the syllabi from millions of courses, primarily in the United States but also with representation from Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand, to surface the texts being taught in these courses.

Top ten titles in Canadian Syllabi (May 2017)

From the OER perspective, the data surfaced via the Open Syllabus Explorer, software that mines the data collected by the project, gives a clear picture of which public domain works are heavily used across the college and university curriculum and would be good candidates for including in open text projects.

The list to the left was generated by the Explorer and shows the top ten titles appearing in Canadian syllabi as of early May, 2017.

Future versions of the project will include a syllabi map, bar charts, ability to see changes over time, metadata improvements and more.

Creative Commons Certificates

“CC Certificates Logo” by Creative Commons licensed under CC-BY

This session introduced a new and exciting certification initiative from Creative Commons.  This is not going to be a read some text, complete some disposable assignments and answer a few questions course, but rather a big questions, applied practice, reflection, creating and sharing learning experience.  The bank of assignments being developed for the program borrows many positive characteristics from the popular DS106 (Digital Storytelling) course which challenges participants to take their learning to a higher level.

Currently there are four certificates planned:  a Core Certificate and three sector-based (Library, Education and Government) Certificates.

The Creative Commons Certificates aren’t quite ready for prime time yet, but you can check them out, start thinking about how you might complete the assignment, or provide feedback on the project.

Sharing Photos

CC0 licensed image by Tim Wright

CC0 licensed image by Scott Webb

Unsplash

The Capturing the Community of Photographers session highlighted two recent photo sharing projects.   Unsplash, based in Montreal, has created a collection of high-resolution public domain photographs that you can use as you wish.  All photos published on Unsplash are licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos for free, including commercial purposes, without asking permission from or providing attribution to the photographer or Unsplash.  Attribution would be a great way of thanking the photographer and Unsplash for making the images freely available.

Capture.Canada

This photography app is Government of Canada project which received funding as part of the Canada 150 celebrations. The app is designed to let Canadians take pictures of the country and upload them to a living archive.  Coming soon to a phone near you.

 

 

 

Some Notes from OpenCon 2016 Toronto

This past Saturday a group of enthusiastic Open Access advocates met to attend OpenCon 2016 Toronto held at TWG (The Working Group) on Adelaide St. in Toronto.  Lorraine Chuen, Co-Founder of OOO Canada Research Network hosted the event.

Open Access and Social Justice: Aligning Open Access with the Mission of the Public University

The first speaker of the day was Leslie Chan, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Arts, Culture and Media and the Centre for Critical Development Studies at the University of Toronto, Scarborough.  His talk discussed shifting the narrative of Open Access from showcasing an institution’s research output to using it for public good.  Chan pointed out that changing this narrative is difficult in an era of metrics, marketing and recruitment as there is a disconnect between the stated mission of public good and the tendency to favour rankings as a yardstick.

The second part of his talk focused on the tyranny of journal articles, their format – a relatively recent development perpetuated by the major journal publishers to facilitate sales, the insidious nature of impact factors, and the focus on the discovery aspect of research.

Chan also discussed new models of access that can help address the inequity not just of access but also of knowledge dissemination. This interesting map used in the presentation graphically illustrates the imbalance in contributions to scientific research:

Contributions to Science Research

Map that shows size of countries based on the amount of science research

Map created and copyrighted by SASI Group (University of Sheffield) and Mark Newman (University of Michigan) and licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license and is available at: http://www.worldmapper.org/display.php?selected=205. Based on data from the World Bank’s 2005 World Development Indicators.

Beyond Free: Harnessing the Resonant Value in Open and Collaborative Practices for Public Good

David Porter, the new CEO of eCampus Ontario, gave a talk that highlighted many existing Open Educational Resource (OER) initiatives and outlined plans for developing an OER textbook  platform in Ontario (by reviewing and importing the BCcampus Open Textbooks) and engaging faculty here.

Beyond the economic benefits to students of free textbooks, Porter outlined five other benefits:

  • Teachers have full legal control to customize and contextualize learning resources for their students
  • Access to customized resources improves learning (by providing choices for students)
  • Opportunities for authentic learning activities (student contributions to learning)
  • Collegial collaboration
  • Demonstration of the service mission of the institution

For those interested in attending more Open events, Porter mentioned the following:

Porter’s slides and notes are available on SlideShare:

Lightning Sessions

After lunch there were several lightning sessions highlighting various open initiatives:

Dr. Rachel Harding talked about making her research into Huntington’s disease open by blogging about her findings on Lab Scribbles where she reports on her research in real time and by posting and licensing her data under Creative Commons on zenodo. She has found that this practice has led to other researchers sharing their work with her reducing the amount of time required for her research.

Wes Kerfoot, a recent philosophy graduate from McMaster, talked about and demoed his software, Textbook Commons,  that he built to help students find public domain copies of course readings and texts.

Karen Young, recently graduated from the University of Toronto, spoke about Student Participation in the Open Access Movement and it Applications for Mental Health and how in this sphere Open Access not only benefits the researcher but also those facing mental health challenges while pursuing higher education.

University of Toronto Culture and New Media Professor, Alessandro Delfanti talked about academic social media sites, Academia.edu and ResearchGate, that faculty members use to disseminate their research.  He mentioned both the positive and negative aspects of these sites.  While using these sites to post research does make it more accessible there are issues such as the opaque algorithms that generate scores, the proprietary nature of the software, and the danger of publishers purchasing the sites and their content.

Open Access in the Creative Disciplines

The final formal conference session was given by Chris Landry, Scholarly Communications Librarian at OCADU. His talk, Open Access in the Creative Disciplines, focused on some of the challenges of Open Access in the arts.  He also talked about the difficulties of making content available through institutional repositories as most institutions only encourage contribution to these repositories and it is a rare few such as Harvard that require faculty members to opt out of participation.

The day wrapped up with a one-hour unconference focusing on the following topics:

Building a Open Education Movement for Student Leaders in Ontario
Facilitator: Chris Fernlund (eCampus Ontario)

Open Access and Social Justice
Facilitator:  Dr. Leslie Chan
Open Access and Social Justice Session Notes

Reproducible Research & Open Science Tools
Facilitators:  Mike Galang & Rachel Harding

History and New Media Adventure

RULA_mapsThis semester several of us in the Ryerson Library (librarians, developers, co-ordinator of our Digital Media Experience Lab) are contributing to a course, HIS500 being taught to upper-year students at Ryerson by Art Blake.  Many of these students are history majors, but there are also students who come from other disciplines across campus.  Library staff will be assisting with this course by drawing on our previous experiences with various digital media tools and, in particular, with a tool called RULA Maps. RULA Maps  was developed by the Library in conjunction with the Ryerson Department of Architectural Science for use one of its courses.   The plan is to build upon the RULA Maps app for a class project tentatively called Feeling Ryerson, Feeling Toronto.  The app was initially designed with buildings as the focal points, but with this project we hope to incorporate emotions and narratives into the app.

SlackAs part of this class we are also exploring using Slack for communication.  Slack is a team collaboration tool that allows for communication between individuals and groups and is available for use on desktop, laptop and via downloadable apps for iOs and Android.  Use of this app for communication was slow to start, but now that we have started working on the class project, Slack is getting much more use.  Several groups have been set up in Slack to facilitate communication within and between the various teams.

Also of interest in this course is the use of an Open Access textbook, Writing History in the Digital Age that is distributed under a distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 United States license.  Students are commenting on the readings from this text in the blogs that they have set up for this class.  These blogs are aggregated on the History and New Media Fall 2015 blog.

 

Ontario Snowy Owl Sightings – Winter 2014/2015

Snowy Owl, Toronto, December 24, 2014

Snowy Owl, Toronto, December 24, 2014

ebird, a project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, collects data about bird sightings from observers around the world.  In addition to providing many ways of viewing this data online, it also allows downloading of data for use in non-commercial projects.  To access the data you will need to set up a free account (or use  your Project FeederWatch or Great Backyard Bird Count account) and request access to the data.

I requested data about bird sightings in Ontario and a smaller file of sightings of Snowy Owls in Ontario .  The data comes with terms of use, a recommended citation format and metadata information.

 

This map was created using the ebird data and CartoDB.  I uploaded the dataset, created a query to extract a subset of the data relating to the winter of 2014/2015 and created a torque map using the CartoDB map wizard.  The map shows a time-lapse of reported sightings of Snowy Owls in Ontario from October 1, 2014 – April 29, 2015.

Data retrieved from:  eBird Basic Dataset. Version: EBD_relMay-2015. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. May 2015.

Digital Odyssey 2015 – Open Data, Open Heritage

Sugar BeachDigital Odyssey 2015 attracted a small but enthusiastic group of individuals interested in this year’s theme of Open Data, Open Heritage.  The event (June 12, 2015) was held at George Brown’s new Waterfront Campus just east of Sugar Beach in Toronto.  These notes are from the sessions I attended at Digital Odyssey.  There were additional concurrent sessions which are summarized in the session descriptions on the OLA web site.

Storytelling From Space

The keynote speaker was Aurelia Moser of CartoDB (previously of Ushahidi and a Mozilla Fellow).  Her talk entitled “Storytelling from Space” was illustrated with images from mapping projects that use a wide variety of open and crowd-sourced data.  Many of these maps show changes in landscapes over time – disappearing lakes and forest-cover, changes brought about by natural disasters – earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanoes, changes in conversations on Twitter by location , etc.

Moser’s current employer, CartoDB, offers many tools and resources that enable citizen cartography by allowing users to manage, import, and query their data to create customized maps.  CartoDb offers:

  • software for creating maps
  • open datasets (including hi-resolution satellite imagery)
  • APIs and javascript libraries
  • tutorials
Chicago Snowplow Heatmap

Chicago Snowplow Heatmap

Moser used one of the CartoDB projects to illustrate the need to understand your data.  It is easy to make false assumptions based on what you are seeing. A heat map created from GPS data sent from snow plows in Chicago seems to indicate that one section of the city receives frequent and excessive service.  This is not the case as that hot spot is merely the snow plow parking lot where the plows began and ended their shifts.

Another challenging project that Moser told us about was mapping water availability data from Tanzania gathered over decades by many different people in many different formats. Results of this project can be seen at the Vital Signs Water Availability website.

Of the other many interesting projects Moser mentioned in her talk, here are a few that I’d like to look at further:

Illustreets

Illustreets

odyssey.js

odyssey.js

  • odyssey.js, a javascript library that lets you add storytelling to maps
  • Global Forest Watch, an interactive map featuring forest cover change, land use, biodiversity hot spots and user stories
  • Fires in the Amazon, a time-lapse map of fires in the Amazon 2012-2014
  • Illustreets – An interactive map of England showing detailed information about the standard of living, crime, house prices, and schools for any location

Creating and Collecting Open Cultural Heritage Collections

This session was lead by Loren Fantin and Jess Posgate of OurOntario, a partnership of Ontario cultural and heritage organizations created to make Ontario digital content discoverable by a global audience.  They gave a good overview of what is involved in creating and maintaining cultural heritage collections and discussed what is possible, how to create value with a focus on moving beyond the search box and  creating once but publishing multiple times.  They also talked about the challenges: messiness of metadata, migration difficulties, practical and philosophical issues of crowdsourcing and issues of licensing.

Several interesting projects (in addition to OurOntario) that make use of open heritage objects were mentioned in the course of this presentation.  This is a sampling of just a few of them:

Vango Yourself

Mons 2015

Europeana’s Vango Yourself is a site that lets you recreate a painting with your friends and then share the results on social media and with the Vango site. It promotes re-use of cultural heritage and allows you to look at art in a completely different way.

Mons 2015 by Pieter Goiris
License of this image CC-BY-SA

License of original image Freer and Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution CC-BY

What’s on the Menu

What's On the Menu

What’s on the Menu is NYPL Lab’s crowd-sourcing project to transcribe historical restaurant menus dish-by-dish so that they can be found by anyone searching on the web. You can help by reviewing transcriptions of menus.

Culture Cam

Culture Cam is another Europeana offering.  It is a webcam-based similarity search tool that lets designers, artists and any creative person explore the images on Eurpeana in a new way.  You take a photo of an object, texture or colour with your webcam and then Culture Cam will return a selection of related images from its database.  All images in Culture Cam are under Public Domain or have no known copyright so can be used for derivative designs.

Culture Cam Selection

Powerhouse Museum

The Powerhouse Museum (Sydney Australia) is making its collection dataset available in a variety of forms.  In addition to traditional two-dimensional images, the Powerhouse is making available 3D files that you can download and print.

Consuming and Transforming Open Data

In the afternoon, Mita Williams of the University of Windsor led a hands-on session on using open data and free online mapping tools.  The first challenge was to map all of the branches of the Toronto Public Library on a map.  This could be done painstakingly by hand, but we started with a file of data made available the City of Toronto with geographic information about the branches of the Toronto Public Library.  Using one of several tools, Google Maps, CartoDb or MapBox, this data was then added to a map.

This is the map Chris Rumas of Sault Ste. Marie Public Library and I created using Google Maps:

The second part of the workshop was to create a time-lapse map of the building of the Toronto Public Library branches by their dates of creation.  Since the first data file did not contain any dates, we needed to combine it with a second file from Wikipedia which did have the dates. Once the data was merged it was then imported into CartoDB to create a torque map to show the  time-lapse of the buildings of the Toronto Public Library system.  Some tweaking of the data was required (more refinement is still necessary), but a map was eventually created.

Time-Lapse of the Building of the Toronto Public Library Branches

If you want to try this project yourself, Mita’s files are available on GitHub and there is a google doc with additional information for creating these maps.

Lightning Talks

The day concluded with several lightning talks on a wide variety of topics.   Alan Harnum, soon to be of OCADU, gave entertaining and illustrated talk on Barriers to Open Data in Libraryland.  Ab Velasco and Jeffrey Toste introduced an upcoming hackathon to be held at TPL in November. Dan Scott gave a short presentation on creating a linked data  bibliography on Canadian Labour Studies using Zotero. Sarah Simpkin discussed a recent Omeka Project and Mita Williams told us about the inclusive week-long PressPlay hackathon held by Hack Forge earlier this year.