Tuesday, 27 March 2012

What do end users want from Pelagios widgets?

Ancient mashup
'Ancient mashup' (thanks to flunitrazepam)
We weren't 100% sure so we asked a few (and some of them weren't sure either, but that's understandable and useful to know). The 23 people we asked were suggested by Elton and a other Pelagios partners, and 12 folk responded. This post describes:
  1. Who the respondents are in terms of their roles (Who?)
  2. What sorts of things they would like Pelagios widgets to do (What?)
  3. Contexts - the sorts of activities respondents undertake related to ancient places and history, concerns they have and so on.
  4. Next steps
Thanks to all those who responded: you've provided lots of useful information!


The first couple of question we we asked give us information about the respondents activities and roles with respect to ancient history and ancient places. To give you an idea of who our respondents are, they told us that they used the internet for ancient history/ancient place related activities:
  • as students,
  • as researchers,
  • as teachers or lecturers,
  • as bloggers,
  • for communications and marketing,
  • for hobbies and leisure activities,
  • and for researching and writing historical fiction.
6 of the 12 used the internet to pursue more than one of these activities, the rest for one activity alone. The most popular categories were 'Teacher/lecturer' and 'Researcher'.


We asked them what sorts of things they would like Pelagios widgets to do and got some thought provoking answers including:
  • Embed a map so it works in a wordpress.com blog,
  • Display places and movements represented in specific texts.
  • 'Compare the geographical relationships (and names) represented in ancient texts with historical and modern representations'
  • Serve archaeology/art/museums and go beyond ' classical world'
  • 'My students want quick lookup tools that are linked to authoritative information'.
  • 'Link ancient places with ancient sources, but also with general knowledge about the place, author and work (as many people without university studies about this field might not know who is Herodotus or why he is famous for). I would also love to browse ancient places through geolocalization mobile apps I already use: Google Maps / Google Places, Foursquare, etc.'
  • 'Would love to put them in our own VLE'; 'I'd like stuff that was directly related to current course content on GCSE, AS and A2'.
However, several respondents remarked that they didn't know, because they felt they did not have a good idea of what the options and possibilities are. That's an understandable reaction, and something we will try to address by making initial versions of the widgets available for user testing as soon as these initial versions are ready in April or May 2012.
Overall, responses to other questions indicate an interest that could be satisfied by Pelagios widgets even when the respondent was not clear about precise possibilities and options. For example: 'my interest in places is because some geographical etc. information will illuminate the text being read'.


Web sites

Respondents were asked to tell us their favourite ancient history websites, or ones which they visit most often. Answers included:
These suggested websites are also potential target hosts for Pelagios widgets.

We also listed 12 Pelagios partner websites and asked whether the respondents had visited them in the last 3 months. The percentage who had visited any of the sites are shown in the table below.

Name URL %
Perseus Digital Library http://www.perseus.tufts.edu 83.3
Google Ancient Places http://googleancientplaces.wordpress.com/ 50
Fasti Online http://www.fastionline.org/ 33.3
Pleiades http://pleiades.stoa.org 33.3
Arachne http://www.arachne.uni-koeln.de 16.7
Pelagios Graph Explorer http://pelagios.dme.ait.ac.at/graph-explorer/ 16.7
SPQR http://spqr.cerch.kcl.ac.uk/ 16.7
CLAROS http://explore.clarosnet.org 8.3
American Numismatic Society http://nomisma.org 8.3

Respondents also told us about the web sites and blogs that they themselves create, edit or manage. This work includes rogueclassicism.com, contribution of original translations of quotations from Ancient Greek and Roman literature for sententiae antiquae, http://flavias.blogspot.co.uk/ (facts, research, news & topics linked to the children's books, The Roman Mysteries and The Western Mysteries), The world of ancient art (in development and works in tandem with www.clarosnet.org), http://blogs.sapiens.cat/picantpedra (mainly about Roman Archaeology, but also related to ancient places), a website for teachers of Classics (www.theclassicslibrary.com).

Activities and reasons for using the web in relation to ancient history and ancient places

Teachers, students and researchers reported using the internet to research ancient sites and museums prior to visiting them. Students also reported using the web for accessing teaching resources, and for reading journal articles and ebooks.
Researchers and teachers use the internet to access and search classical texts and primary sources in the original language and in translation, and to use tools such as latin and ancient greek dictionaries, lexicons, language parsing tools, calendars.
There was a general interest among students, leisure/hobby folk, researchers and teachers to "see what's there" and "filling in holes in background knowledge".

Concerns about interacting with data related to ancient places online

When asked whether they would have any concerns about interacting with data related to ancient places, more than half of the repondents said that they would not. Those that did raised issues about the tracking that could result from it, and of quality control and accuracy of the data.

Downloading data relating to ancient places

There was interest in output of the widgets being rendered as a Jpeg images or PDF files for use in teaching or publication, and the question of whether the copyright of materials generated in this way would permit this use was raised.
There was also interest that the licence of data should permit students to work with it, e.g. in collaborative projects guided by mentors.

What's next?

Work on the widgets is underway, and there are several iterations of both graphic and functional development shecduled between now and the end of June 2012. The next iteration is due at the end of April 2012.

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