Revisiting DiRtDirectory: JotForm

dirt

For students and academics conducting research, acquiring a library of digital research tools is essential. The DiRt Directory (https://dirtdirectory.org/) offers a free web based collection of digital research tools intended to support the collection and analysation of scholarly material. The directory offers a wide variety of tool categories, ranging from interpreting and publishing data to transcribing digital media.

cite

Having previously explored the DiRt Directory, I chose to review CiteULike ( http://www.citeulike.org/), a free web based service for managing and discovering scholarly references.

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Bearing in mind that this year we will be actively conducting research, a tool which appeared appealing was JotForm (https://www.jotform.com/about/). This digital tool allows the user to efficiently build web forms, for surveys, e-commerce sites or for any other research or business need. JotForm uses a web based platform and offers the user a free or paid version. The site uses an extremely user friendly drag and drop interface, which adds to the efficiency and simplicity of this tool. This tool appeared under the data collection category on the DiRt Directory.

Conducting surveys is inevitably a huge aspect of conducting any form of research either at an undergraduate or post graduate level. JotForm offers over nine thousand templates to their users, many of these being survey orientated. The process of building a survey using a given template was unsurprisingly efficient, quick and user orientated. There is an also an option to create a form (or survey in this case) from scratch. However, I found the templates to be a useful guideline for those only beginning to construct surveys.

For those building a form on the site, there are also themes to accompany the templates available, which makes customisation of the user’s work to be extremely easy.

Strictly for experimental purposes, I chose the topic of student’s social network usage in order to construct a short survey. The purpose of this survey is to exclusively exhibit how user friendly JotForm is and how simple it is to complete a simple form to collect data for research purposes.

Student’s Social Network Usage Survey:  https://form.jotformeu.com/62742817885368

The other functions JotForm has to offer should not be disregarded, they currently have nine million users and offer eighteen languages, adding to the sustainability and prosperity of the site.  They also have integrations with other web services such as PayPal, Google Drive, Drop Box, alongside many other services which can be added on to forms created for e-commerce sites or small businesses. JotForm’s accessibility and user interface makes it  very appealing for those looking to conduct research using online surveys or if one were to build an e-commerce presence, they offer options for payment forms as well as booking forms. JotForm’s usability appears to be endless whether it be for academic, business or casual use.

 

 

 

Our Nation’s Mental Health, Men And Our Digital Voice

mentalhealth

Upon opening the Facebook newsfeed, we are asked “What’s on your mind? Alternatively we can express an emotion or “feeling” in an instantaneous click. It is through social media, using our newfound digital voice, we are dissolving the stigma around our mental health. Mental health continues to be one of society’s most pressing issues (Utley, 2016).

For many the idea of speaking out about a topic that has been swept under the carpet for so many decades is daunting and for some, humiliating. Throughout the 19th and 20th century, those who were mentally unwell and could not “behave” or integrate well into normal society were commonly placed in mental asylums (Moran, 2009), where their behaviour could be contained, controlled and ultimately their mind contained to the four walls of a building.

Looking at our society now, we still have the same mental health issues to some extent. What is unique about the era we live in, is the role our digital presence plays in our day to day lives. It is our responsibility to harness the potential for online technologies for mental health promotion.  Through social media platforms, such as Twitter, campaigns exist, like the #IAmAReason hashtag, which took over Twitter amid the mental health outrage in April of this year. It was through this hashtag that people vented their anger and frustration at the TD’s who failed to turn up to the Dail for the Mental Health Debate that month, following cuts and failure to release the 35Million Euro to the HSE. It was through this hashtag that people showed they weren’t just another number, they were people who felt let down and vulnerable thanks to our nation’s mental health services. It was through this hashtag (merely a few characters squished together) that united so many people on a digital platform over an issue we are forced to take into our own hands. It was through this hashtag that someone in a depressive state or amid a panic attack, who has been turned away countless times by our health services, may have thought “wait, maybe I am actually a reason.”

 

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Men, a sex which are often overlooked when it comes to mental health. 510,000 men die from suicide globally each year, that equates to one every minute (The Movember Foundation). It is apparent that men are more hesitant to ask for assistance with their mental health than women. (The Movember Foundation).

“We’re alarmed by the increasing number of men who take their own lives around the world. We are working to ensure all men and boys look after their mental health and are comfortable to reach out to others for support when they’re struggling.” — Therese Fitzpatrick, Global Mental Health Director

Recently there has been a popular campaign targeted at men’s mental health and suicide prevention. The campaign uses the #itsoktotalk, men from all over the country have been uploading selfies on social media sites to spread the awareness of suicide among young males. The movement has gone viral and encourages young men to talk to one another about their problems, and their mental health. Part of the campaign also encourages those involved to tag friends to take part, which reignites this whole idea of using our digital voice to motivate, support and share with others.

Of course this is only scratching the surface. Sufferers need more than a hashtag to get them through this week, the next few days, even just tomorrow. With poor mental health, there is no respite for many, the funding set aside for the amount of people suffering is simply inadequate. Getting people to talk is the first step, using social media to promote this idea is looking more favourable each and every day. Taking these topics into our own hands and onto these digital platforms is proving a lot more beneficial than detrimental. Today we are uniquely equipped to make a huge impact with our digital voices. If a trending social media campaign can motivate even one person to admit they’re in fact not okay, that’s taking a step in the right direction.

 

Bibliography

Moran, J. (2009), History of Madness and Mental Illness: A Short History of Care and Treatment in Canada, Available at: http://historyofmadness.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=80

Utley, T. (2016), The Rise Of Digital Technology In Mental Health, Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/toriutley/2016/05/24/the-rise-of-cognitive-technology-in-mental-health/#6205e03158fb

Walton, A. (2016), The Brave Voices Who Are Helping Dissolve The Stigma Around Mental Health, Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2016/04/27/the-brave-voices-who-are-helping-dissolve-the-stigma-around-mental-health/#46e2d5af798a

https://ie.movember.com/programs/mental-health

 

OpenStreetMap

osm2333

 

Founded in 2004 by Steve Coast (Sterling, 2014), OpenStreetMap (OSM) uses User Generated Content (UGC) to compile its visual data. Since OSM is an open data source, any individual or company can access and add to the data within OSM. Any information added becomes immediately accessible to OSM users. OSM currently has an Open Database License (McDonough, 2013), which means that OSM along with all its data can be shared and used once all the data within OSM is made available to all OSM users. In this way it differs to outlets such as Google Maps and Google Map Maker, which is a closed system. Any information submitted becomes the property of Google (McDonough, 2013). OSM is ultimately a community-engaged project to collect geographical data for public use.

Humanitarian OpenStreetMap tasking is a collaborative mapping tool. Its objective is to map areas that are not mapped sufficiently. Through the use of the OSM task manager, important humanitarian initiatives can be met. I participated in mapping the Morrumbala District in Mozambique as part of the Africa Indoor Residual Spraying Campaign. The goal of this particular humanitarian initiative is to help indoor residual spraying programs in the area, which will help control and ultimately stop the spread of Malaria. The mapping of the Morrumbala District in Mozambique will help Peace Corps Volunteers to complete Field Papers to determine where to spray in the district.

 

 

 

The OSM task manager provided useful information with regard to mapping the area. I was evidently unfamiliar with the landscape and structural layout of the area. The OSM task manager provided me with a tracing guide, which I reviewed. I found this guide to be extremely helpful with regards to recognising houses and roads in the Morrumbala District.  This particular task focused on mapping a complete transportation network, as well as identifying buildings and waterways.

I also participated in mapping the Togo area in West Africa. The aim of this mapping initiative is to help contain the Meningitis outbreak. In order for the Togolese Red Cross and the government to contain and control the outbreak, mapping of roads, buildings and residential areas is a priority. Comparing this experience to mapping the Morrumbala district, I found the Togo area to be more straightforward to map with regards to noticing structural and geographical features. However, the Togo mapping task did not supply a tracing guide, the Morrumbala district task did supply this as well as alternative information.

 

 

 

Mapping an unfamiliar area proved difficult, I could only map on an indefinite basis. I could not be entirely sure if a road was secondary, residential or tertiary. The only guideline I could follow were the ones provided. Comparing the experience of mapping an unfamiliar area versus a very familiar area was interesting. Mapping through the task manager proved to be more stimulating and there were definite objectives for each task. The user could also see the percentage of progress made on each task. This reinforced the idea of OSM being a community engaged project. The task manager made it possible to view the contributions other users had made. Users can also validate and leave comments on other user’s work. I validated mapping by a user in the Vanua Levu area, which requires mapping after the Winston storm. Users were encouraged to map roads and buildings that had not already been mapped.

With regards to the additional features of OSM, a “User Diaries” feature is easily accessible to all OSM users. Users can contribute to these diaries by sharing their personal experiences using OSM as well as viewing other user’s comments. OSM also offers a feature called “GPS Traces”. This particular feature allows users to upload their recorded GPS traces directly to OSM. The collected data from the GPS traces are displayed as a background of dots and lines. These can help the user recognise map features while editing which adds to the functionality of OSM. These two additional features add to the interactive nature of OSM and reinforces the idea of OSM being a community engaged project. Not only is the site’s data compiled from user generated content, but users can interact and work collectively on an online platform.

To present all perspectives fairly, the limitations of OSM must also be considered. Since anyone, anywhere can contribute to OSM, the accuracy and reliability of the data inputted can be questioned. From my own personal experience with OSM and being an unexperienced mapper, attention to detail was required to ensure the mapping was as accurate as possible. It is apparent however, that OSM’s validation function can help counter this problem, work can be reviewed and validated accordingly.

Ultimately, OSM is a largescale crowdsourced map and its data is constantly evolving due to its thousands of contributors. Their contributors vary from GIS (Geographic Information Systems) professionals and engineers to enthusiast mappers and casual cartographers. Having experimented with OSM and its functionalities, it is evidently a resourceful, interactive digital tool that encourages the use of digital tools to meet important humanitarian initiatives. OSM could definitely be used for academic purposes. Its efficiency and simple functionality makes it a very appealing tool which could ultimately be adapted to research projects or portfolios. For example, research in relation to geographical space and its influence on cultural development and human behaviour would make use of a tool such as OSM. To conclude, OSM is a unique digital tool and promotes community engaged projects on a digital platform.

Bibliography

McDonough, M. (2013) Google Map Maker vs. OpenStreetMap: Which mapping service rules them all? Available at: http://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/google-map-maker-vs-openstreetmap-id-editor/ [Accessed 1 March 2016]

Sterling, G. (2014) Founder: OpenStreetMap Already As Good Or Better Than Google Maps. Available at: http://searchengineland.com/founder-openstreetmap-good-better-google-maps-already-192089 [Accessed 1 March 2016]

 

 

Interactive technology – Storytelling in the digital age

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The introduction of new digital tools has allowed for storytelling to be a more immersive experience; it allows the audience to have a higher level of engagement. The idea of storytelling has exsisted for generations. In recent years the way in which literature is represented has progressed. The basic structure of a story; a plot, a narrative, characterisation, has not changed. The platforms they are shared on have. The combination of the art of storytelling with multimedia such as video, audio and graphics has become more popular in the digital age (Alderman, 2013)

Digital literature is often represented through video games, interactive documentaries and through some social media platforms. The combination of storytelling and the digital age has added another dimension to literature. Interactive technology allows for the audience to have an increased level of emotional engagement. Each user will have a different experience because of this interactivity, improving audience engagement. Interactive technology has the ability to represent choice, allowing the audience to influence the story. The interplay between creativity and technology can be seen in certain video games. Games or digital media that contain a storytelling component can be useful for decision making and problem solving. Digital storytelling allows for the development of critical thought.

Interactive documentaries such as Bear71 prove to be hugely immersive and engaging. The user is directly involved in the telling of the story. Even though the same narrative and soundtrack was heard by each user, each user’s experience was different because of the interactive nature of Bear71 .This allowed the documentary to be more engaging than a traditional documentary. This interactivity enables the audience to have a more immersive experience.bear.jpg

Interactive technology could help optimize children’s potential in a learning environment. Fun, interactive tools help children retain more information thus optimizing their learning opportunity (N/A,2012). Children get distracted easily, interactive technology could help children remain attentive. Promoting technology to children is sometimes frowned upon by older generations, however the children growing up in this digital age will be expected to be accustomed to the technological era. It is inevitable that interactive technology will be utilised in learning and development environments.

Television was once just an electronic box people sat in front of. Today, interactive technology has enabled the interactivity between the user and their device (such as a television). This interactivity allows for a more immersive experience, allowing more information to be shared and collected. Take the Wii console as an example, a highly popular device for all age groups. The user’s movements/actions are broadcasted onto the television screen. There are various fitness, roleplay, story and educational Wii games. They’re all of an interactive nature, the user plays a significant role in the telling of the story or of the completion of tasks.

Interactive technology is developing at an unprecedented level and will continue to develop as the digital age progresses. Stories that are represented digitally and allow interaction enable the user to have a more immersive experience. The possibilities for interactive technology ranges from education to advertising.

 

Bibliography

Alderman, N. (2013) How interactive technology is transforming storytelling, url: http://www.theguardian.com/culture-professionals-network/culture-professionals-blog/2013/jul/12/interactive-technology-transform-storytelling-fiction Accessed on the 3rd of December 2015

De Leeuw, I. (2011), The 6 Most Innovative Interactive Web Documentaries, url: http://thecreatorsproject.vice.com/blog/the-6-most-innovative-interactive-web-documentaries Accessed on the 4th of December 2015

N/A.(2012) Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8,url: http://www.naeyc.org/files/naeyc/file/positions/PS_technology_WEB2.pdf  Accessed on the 3rd of December 2015

 

 

My critical response to the evolution of storytelling

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The unique combination of the digital age and the art of storytelling has resulted in the evolution of storytelling. In recent years storytelling has been adapted to the digital age, like many other traditional concepts. The digital age allows for the interplay between creativity and technology. My “twessay” focused on this particular relationship between storytelling and technology. The possibilities the digital age offers to storytelling is varied, ranging from advertising to publishing. Recent technological advancements have allowed for storytelling to be utilised on digital platforms, for both commercial and personal use. Technology and the internet has profoundly affected how we consume and collect information. Even though the tools have changed, the basic structure of storytelling has not changed.

The various tweets from my classmates focused on the interactive nature of storytelling in the digital age and the accessibility of communication. The traditional ideas of storytelling still exsist but have been adapted to the current digital age. The combination of technology and storytelling has also enabled storytelling to be shared universally, to all nationalities and languages. This allows for ideas and information to be shared to a wider audience. Digital platforms in this way have enabled information to be shared universally. Arlene (@arlsmur) explored this idea in her tweet. She also noted that how we tell a story has evolved, this can be credited to the evolution of the digital age. The proposed possibilities of storytelling in the digital age were explored in the various tweets.

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Storytelling is commonly used in advertising for large scale companies. The traditional structure of a story; a plot, characterisation, a narrative remains. The use of this structure to convey a story has often been used in advertising on digital platforms. Digital media such as video, has added a new dimension to the idea of storytelling. Andrew (AndyWiggins_DAH) explored the evolution of stories and how they are delivered to their audiences.

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Stories, in a traditional sense were once delivered by word of mouth or by the written word. The digital age has added diversity to the concept of storytelling.

In recent years, storytelling has evolved visually. Visual aids, such as video and images has enabled storytelling to be utilised in the gaming world. Interactive documentaries have also availed of the qualities of storytelling. The increased popularity of gaming and its proposed educational benefits is an example of the diversity of storytelling. Danielle (@dansull22) noted how storytelling has evolved to be interactive.

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The tweets exploring the evolution of storytelling illustrated how technology can benefit more traditional concepts, like storytelling. Storytelling has evolved and will continue to develop as the digital era evolves and develops. The “twessays” explored every aspect of storytelling. There appeared to be a huge focus on the interactive nature of storytelling in the digital age. The core elements of storytelling have not changed, the platforms they are shared on have.

 

Bibliography

-Clayton,S. (2014), #Cannes_Lions 2014: The art and science of storytelling in the digital age, url : http://blogs.microsoft.com/next/2014/06/10/cannes_lions-2014-the-art-and-science-of-storytelling-in-the-digital-age/ Accessed on the 26th of November 2015

-De Monte,M. (2012), Dawn of the ‘Story Arc’: The Return to Storytelling in the Digital Age,url : http://www.wired.com/insights/2013/12/dawn-of-the-story-arc-the-return-to-storytelling-in-the-digital-age/ Accessed on the 26th of November 2015

-(2012), Social media has evolved into the art of storytelling, and we must all become masters of it, url : https://www.simplyzesty.com/blog/article/november-2011/social-media-has-evolved-into-the-art-of-storytelling%2c-and-we-must-all-become-masters-of-it Accessed on the 26th of November 2015

Media in the digital age

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Media has always been one of the most powerful ways to influence the masses. Even with regard to Hitler’s days, his use of media to consolidate his power was very effective. No matter how hard you try, you cannot get away from the media, whether it be radio, newspaper, television, social networks or advertisements on bus stops. Media combined with the digital age is somewhat of a phenomenon, there has never been a time when media could be shared at such unprecedented levels. As of 2013 there was 757 million daily users on Facebook (Protalinski,2014). Media is one of the main means of mass communication, social outlets like Twitter and Facebook allow for this mass communication to flourish in the digital age.

I think one of the best ways to look at media and how it has developed in the digital age is to take a look at its past. Take Stalin in the 1930’s, he developed a cult of personality through the use of mass media, to consolidate his power. His propaganda regimes were initiated through the use of mass media (Borade,2014). Similarly, Hitler used a great deal of mass media to gain support for his Nazi Party and to infiltrate German society, brainwashing the masses, through radio and loud speakers. He even appointed a propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, who was in charge of radio, theatre, cinema, anything that influenced the masses, and ultimately secured the continuity of the Nazi Party. In some ways the use of media in those totalitarian states can be linked with media today in the digital world.

We are constantly “consumers”, even without knowing it. We are being virtually followed on our phones and laptops, to find out our interests, what we look up, what we buy, what companies we’re liking or retweeting. Advertisements and “deals of the week” are thrown at us everywhere we go. We are constantly being updated on the latest political scandal, celebrity pregnancies, stock exchanges, what the government want us to know. What ‘gives’ us cancer?, what ‘doesn’t give’ us cancer?, what to eat , what not to eat, “you should avoid carbs, not sugar, actually we change our mind, no sugar”. It’s okay though, because we will listen to them, we tend to trust the media, and it has never been easier for the media to influence the masses in the digital age.

If you take boybands as an example, in recent years the power of digital media has enabled Boybands like One Direction to have such a broad fan base so early on in their career. Having done no promotions in places like Japan, the power of social media enabled them to perform to thousands of Japanese fans on their first visit in 2013(they played to 120,000 this year in Japan).They have played to thousands in Indonesia and Dubai, places the Beatles did not even play. Since The Beatles were most prominent in the sixties, they did not have the power of digital media that these newer bands have. Media is no longer confined to radio and newspapers –the combination of the digital age and media is revolutionary in itself, the power it has over public opinion and society is growing rapidly.

Since the digital world has developed into a ubiquitous source of news and information, the question arises of the long term viability of printed newspaper. Will more traditional forms of media still remain reputable in the near future? Or will digital media continue to grow and influence the masses?

 

Bibliography

-Borade, G. (2014), Stalinism and the Use of Propaganda by Joseph Stalin, url : http://www.buzzle.com/articles/stalinism-the-use-of-propaganda-by-joseph-stalin.html Accessed on the 29th of October 2015

-Marshall, J. (2015), Digital Media Consumption Is Booming as Investment Floods In, url : http://blogs.wsj.com/cmo/2015/08/19/digital-media-consumption-is-booming-as-investment-floods-in/ Accessed on the 29th of October 2015

-Protalinski, E. (2014), Facebook passes 1.23 billion monthly active users, 945 million mobile users, and 757 million daily users, url : http://thenextweb.com/facebook/2014/01/29/facebook-passes-1-23-billion-monthly-active-users-945-million-mobile-users-757-million-daily-users/ Accessed on the 29th of October 2015

-Picture -http://www.stephenpokorski.com/digital-marketing-and-digital-marketing-jobs-in-2015/ Accessed on the 29th of October 2015