Querying Europeana Linked Data through Tangible User Interfaces

Querying Europeana Linked Data through Tangible User Interfaces

Basic Queries

After building essential queries to be performed, I have now designed the final objects to be implemented on the interface. For ease of build, I decided to use basic cubes. I believe users will find easier to build cubes than more complex shapes.

Data providers and object types
Data providers and object types

All these query elements are tied to Europeana’s Data Model thus allowing users to indicate the particular set of metadata that they want to find. Compared to my previous report, I have now removed the type of object from the queries. The User Centred Design study showed that not many people were particularly focused on the particular type until they got some results, thus making it a secondary tool. Nevertheless, I have still provided a display window of the amount of results retrieved per object type and provider.

When the query is entered, the list autoscrolls showing the user the whole list of providers. When a new query is entered, the list is updated and presents the new list to the user.

Users can choose the amount of results that they want to select. I have provided a pre-designed set of choices. These are: 12, 24, 48 and 96 results. Users choose these variables by rotating the pyfo. If the pyfo is removed, the last chosen option stays active.

The what, where and who pyfos will still have the option to add the OR or NOT boolean option. This is performed by rotation the main pyfo +or- 45º as indicated in the design.

Rotated pyfo
Rotated pyfo

Testing The Table

I have also finished building a small version of the prototype table. At this stage I am just finalising final technical details to make the markers more stable. They are still flickering to some degree. This might affect the interaction when testing the interface.

I designed a search and delete fiducials on a single pyfo (cube) object that will be used to enter or delete the elements on the screen.

Here is a video of the current state of the interface:

The Mexican Social Media Politics Information Warfare

The Mexican Social Media Politics Information Warfare

From #PeñaBots to Soap Operas, An Information Warfare in Mexican Politics

A few days ago, I re-posted a small article about Mexican populism and the foreseeing incursion of social media by politicians. The short piece discussed the role that tweets and Facebook posts among other social media platforms have on their perception of their population. Erin Gallagher asked me what was my opinion about the role of the government in social media. I have decided that I would answer her question as a blog entry that expands my current view on the topic.

Mexico, Everytime More Connected… To Television.

In the case of Mexico, as in many other countries, this is still an area that requires further study to identify how these platforms alter people’s perceptions of political leaders. Nevertheless, it is more and more evident that these governments are investing more and more in how they want to be perceived in under this media spectrum. But Mexico’s case is quite unique. Mexico has a very low level of Internet subscribers with a 10% of the population, compared to the UK (37.8%) or the USA (31.42%). [i] Nevertheless, that 10% of the Mexican internet subscribers represent 12’838,093 Mexican households. Enough people to make substantial changes to a political outcome. Therefore, politicians and political parties have acknowledged that the Web plays an important role when reaching the millions of Mexican homes but at the same time these are homes under the Web 2.0 umbrella. These homes can also broadcast their messages and backlash against the original message originally sent by the politician. Arguably, the Web can be used as another mass media channel or at least to extend the original media pathway of a marketing campaign. Lately, political campaigns have become marketing wars with their particular advertising outputs. This is the reason why we are witnessing huge coverage of characters such as Donald Trump that have a high top of mind awareness as referred in marketing terms. Nevertheless, these effects do not really convince the vast majority of people to vote, particularly the ones who are looking to exercise an educated vote, but it will still affect and influence voting in the general population. Mexico knows this and has invested heavily in marketing campaigns and embedding themselves in the media. [ii] For instance, Enrique Peña Nieto’s campaigns have cost over $413 million dollars.

Web Access
These images by Animal Politico show the Web penetration market in mexico.

This advertising investment took place in states that do not rank on the top states with Internet access [i]. This suggests that this push strategy ( yet another marketing term ) is made through traditional means such as television, print and radio. Moreover, this is supported by the investment distribution made to each one of their providers where the vast majority has been spent on Televisa, one of the main television networks in Mexico. [ii]

Investment In Advertising
Investment in mass media by the government. By Animal Politico

What we are witnessing now is a new investment on media manipulation through social media. The astroturfing of politicians is more and more evident. Memes, trending topics and internet shaming are some ways of society to backlash against political inconformity, and politicians have noticed this thus spreading a huge shift in the way they deal with their personas on social media networks. Astroturfing is now a central part of politicians on the Web. Due to the fact that other countries have may government and private agencies such as the NSA, CIA, Ofcom or GCHQ regulating their content and Mexico only has one private organisation regulating it (Carlos Slim / Telmex), Mexico had to invest in hiring what are now known as #PeñaBots. PeñaBots are individuals paid to push or promote Peña Nieto’s twits thus lowering the reach of a particular trending topic. What we are witnessing now is astroturfing as a marketing campaign for a political gain. For example, Merca2.0 published a list of the 20 most followed Mexican politicians in Facebook and Twitter. [i] Where on top place Enrique Peña Nieto place first place. Nevertheless, this does not mean that he is actually that relevant or popular. Once an analysis is performed on the amount of real followers, then it is evident the investment that has been made in producing fake followers. In order for an astroturfing strategy to take place it is necessary to portray popularity thus depicting popularity or a mass movement. Ironically Peña only has 45% of real followers. From the three main political parties of the last national election, he is the one with less credibility in this sense, followed by Josefina Vazquez Mota and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, both 48%.

Evidence of fake followers.
Evidence of fake followers.

This evidences the way in which Mexican politics work. The general mexican population lacks political education thus ignoring their local government. Arguably, Mexicans commonly complain about the main government without actually getting involved within their local community governmental bodies. This argument can illustrated with the lack of investment of fake followers in social media networks. All the main political parties scored positive in their percentage of real followers. This could suggest that it is not that important to invest on main organisations whilst investing on the individual main representative remains a priority.

Political parties and their twitter status.
Political parties and their twitter status.

Other countries such as the UK, or the USA, do not have the same result. Barack Obama, David Cameron and even Arnold Schwarzenegger score positive as well. As expected, on a lower level, local and less central Mexican representatives present higher scores similar to the ones from their parties. In here PRI lead the list, followed by PAN and PRD. Many of these representatives such as Manuel Velasco and Luis Vinegary have very low acceptance in the polls in areas with high levels of Internet access. Nevertheless, the investment is not there, arguably due to the same issue of the importance that the central leader has above local authorities.

The three main parties
The three main parties

A more clear example can be shown as well with the main political parties. Most of these accounts do not show a significant investment of fake followers. In this case MORENA is the account with the highest score. Similarly, the population focuses on what the main leaders are saying instead of the political house parties. This is also reflected in advertising, the investment is commonly reflected in individuals and not on the working groups. It is certainly cheaper invest US$9 for 3000 followers thus risking showing the lack of integrity and lowering reputation than engaging with the communities behind those twitter accounts.

The lack of engagement between social media users and politicians differ from different parts of the world. As said, the case in Mexico there is only a few areas that have fully engaged with Information Technologies. These states are in majority the ones that make Mexico the 4th fastest growing country in social media communities 5. Therefore, there is a large community ready to engage with information and criticise the current government. But what we have witnessed is a government not yet ready to engage with the social media communities. Instead PeñaBots have left traces of evidence of the difficult situation that social media communities create for the current government or politicians. For example the case of #YaMeCanse became a trending topic when Jesus Murillo Karam, the PRI principal attorney who handled the case of the 43 missing students from Ayotzinapa, Mexico mentioned that he was too tired (“ya me canse”) to continue with the journalist’s questions. This became the trending topic where Mexicans were showing their inconformity with the government. A quick response was shown by the government where according to Alberto Escorcia, a social media specialist, PeñaBots were used to push other trending topics to displace the current #YaMeCanse 6.  He used Gephi to visualise how #PeñaBots attacked the trending topic, here is the video of how it happened.

There is not much evidence of other countries performing similar actions from their main accounts, but many of them are investing heavily in the way they are portrayed online and the way their communities engage with them. In this case the main Mexican government has only a 57% of real users, meanwhile Russia only has 22%. This is an area that requires further research since there is many evidence that shows that digital communities are deeply connected to the real world. Finally, even though a hashtag can not fix the issues in their countries, it shows that there is people interested to do it and that puts a lot of pressure in a government that are not doing their job properly.

Status of governments in Twitter.
Status of governments in Twitter.

If you would like to know more about the topic, I recommend you that you take a look at Erin Gallagher’s presentation and follow @LoQueSigue_ and Alberto Escorcia.

[i] OECD, Broadband Portal, http://www.oecd.org/sti/broadband/oecdbroadbandportal.htm, July 2015.

[ii] http://www.animalpolitico.com/2015/08/pena-nieto-se-excede-en-publicidad-oficial-y-gasta-mas-de-lo-presupuestado/

[iii] http://elladobueno.com/los-10-estados-con-mayor-acceso-a-internet/

5 http://www.emarketer.com/Article/Social-Networks-Capture-Users-Engagement-Mexico/1008960

6 http://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias/2015/03/150317_mexico_internet_poder_penabot_an

Tangible Interaction with Sifteo Cubes.

 Dynamic Fiducial Pyfos (DFPs)

During the last weeks I have started developing what I would like to call DFPs short for dynamic-fiducial-pyfos. With the help of some friends I have now a basic skeleton to extend my interactive experiments. Here is a video of the result:


Tangible Interaction and Pyfos

After I submitted my upgrade draft, I realised that I was going to encounter some issues when working with pyfos when using them as part of the fiducials for the TUIO system. Since users have to combine different concepts (e.g. Roman + pottery or painter + 1800) this will result in a numerous amount of pyfos. The interface already has several objects that can not be removed since they are part of the basic interactions such as: map navigation, box dragging, etc… Therefore, I decided to explore a little bit further. I need to find a way to extend the capabilities of pyfos.

Pyfos have three main states: token, constraint and token+constraint. The TAC (Token and Constraints) paradigm in Tangible User Interfaces (TUIs) offers a set of constructs of how these objects react. Nevertheless, it can be argued that technology can offer pyfos that can self adapt or expand the constraints that bound them. This due to the fact that physical objects such as pyfos cannot morph or change according to user needs.


Other researchers are exploring how these TAC approaches can be expanded. It is this search that directed me to explore with mini-displays and sensors. Since I had worked with some Internet of Things and Arduino, I thought of designing some display that detected two different RFIDs to make the combinations and display a specific result. That result display presents the final combination in a form of fiducial so the TUIO interface can detect it. This way, users can pre-design a concept combination thus integrating it in a final dynamic-fiducial-pyfo (DFP) that encompasses that prior combination. Most importantly, DFPs can also produce other display results on the table-top without clustering tools or options.


Producing DFPs

There are some alternatives to produce DFPs out there. Many of them require to be built from scratch, but there are some products that can be adapted to our needs without having to fiddle or hack any of the electronics. Although there is a wide variety of tools out there, these are the most ‘approachable’ tools that I encountered.


Since I had worked with Arduino and Internet of Things before, I thought of building a mini-display with either RFID or any other type of sensor. I found the Educubes project that presented a good opportunity to start developing for this idea. This might also prove to be beneficial since there are some TFT mini-displays that support touchscreen actions as well.

Educubes by Adafruit
Educubes by Adafruit

 Although this presented a good opportunity to develop, I needed to start producing tools that could work straight away instead of focusing on the electronics. Moreover I thought that the size of the electronics is still quite big for them to be used on the prototype. But it was mainly the issue of working with a wide range of electronics and hacking them so they can do what I wanted.

Sifteo Cubes

After searching I encountered Sifteo Cubes. These cubes already provide a very nice presentation that encompasses a wide range of electronics and a mini-display. Moreover these cubes can be programmed through an SDK provided by the same company. I decided to jump ahead and ordered a second generation Sifteo Cubes.

My surprise was at the moment of using the SDK. I was not the first user to be put down by its complexity. The Sifteo SDK works with C++ with other command tools to run installations and device management. Moreover, through the forums I encountered that the released SDK contained some bugs, which made some of the tutorials not to work.

Nevertheless, I encountered some compiled SDK in GitHub such as Investio and Sifteo Blickets. They provided me with some hints into how to actually start using and managing the cubes. I still had to learn how to program what I needed. So I started first learning how to make interactions. There is a base of few interactions that are supported by the sensors in the cube that include: tilt, pair, shake and press. 

Sifteo Actions
Sifteo Actions

Although it seems quite nice in pictures, the task was not so simple. Since I do not come from a programming background, working with C++ was a huge challenge. First I did a tutorial on neighbouring. Here is the video:

A few days after, I started working with other actions such as tilt and press. It is relevant to mention that I worked using the examples that came with the SDK so, the interactions were pretty much pre-designed and I was just learning a few basic commands that might be used. Here is a video of this stage.

The problem started when working with my specific requirements. I needed an array of options per cube that could be combined between them. This so the final combinations could be applied in the Europeana TUIO system. Using C++ this was not so straightforward. In a nutshell, this is what I needed to create:

Basic combination skeleton
Basic combination skeleton

It took me a lot of time and effort to find a way to program this interaction. I could program something like this with other languages but not with C++. Therefore I asked for some help to develop this. Kevin Lesur from One Life Remains gave me a hand with this. So this is was the basic skeleton built for the interactions:

Operations and interactions skeleton.
Operations and interactions skeleton.

Two cubes are required to make the combination through neighbouring. When they are combined a third cube presents its combination that will eventually show a fiducial making it a DFP. To navigate between the cubes options, users can tilt the cubes in either direction.

This way I am hoping to now carry on and go back to the TUIO experiments and see how these DFPs work on the tabletop system.


Draft Almost Ready

Working Toward my Final Draft

Three weeks ago I had a meeting where the original index was approved. I kept on working on it and I have what it the closest thing to a final draft version of it. This was built from previous reports and presentations in conferences and workshops that I have made. There is still a lot of work to do in my research but this encompass the theoretical foundations for my hypotheses.

The Content In My Thesis

There is mainly six chapters. Starting from the Introduction where I discuss the origin of the problem and the different theoretical (and practical) approaches to provide a solution. The second chapter discusses how different cultural heritage (CH) organisations work on the WEb and built what I call the Online Cultural Heritage (OCH). – Paper coming soon! – The third chapter discusses how interfaces work and its types followed by different testing methods such as Usability, UX and Engagement in Chapter 4.

The interface prototype is presented in Chapter 5. Then I discuss what is the future work that I need to do to build, test and implement the interface in Chapter 6. I also have a conclusion and references chapter but to get an idea of my research based on the index, it can be done solely on the first six.



1. Research Introduction 
1.1.    Introduction
1.2.    Cultural Heritage Institutions
1.2.1.    Museums.
1.2.2.    Libraries and Archives
1.3.    Museums, Libraries and Archives: Online Cultural Heritage (OCH)

2. Online Cultural Heritage 
2.1.    Reshaping the OCH Technology to Engage with Information
2.2.    Producing Common Ground. Information in OCH
2.2.1.    The Data Information Knowledge Wisdom (DIKW) Model: Knowledge Construction
2.2.2.    Information and its users   Information Production   Information Sharing   Engagement with Information
2.3.    Users First Approach to OCH                                                                                                               2.3.1.    Information Engagement
2.4.    Information Production, Sharing and Engagement. Information stages in OCH context
2.5.    Current State of Engagement with Information
2.5.1.    Content Management Systems
2.5.2.    Data Querying Systems
2.5.3.    Technology

3. User Interfaces 
3.1.    Introduction to User Interfaces
3.2.    Tangible User Interfaces
3.2.1.    Design Principles (HCI) in TUI Context
• Visibility
• Feedback
• Mapping
• Affordances
• Pyfos – Token and Constrains Paradigm
• Physical Objects (Embodiment)
3.3.    TUIs in OCH Context
• TUIS and Data Exploration, a Constructivist Approach

4. Interaction Design Methodologies and Measurements
• SA&D and HCI Development Methodology
• Software Development Methodology
• Design and Graphic Design Methodology
4.1.    Integrating Methodologies
4.2.    Testing and Measurements
4.2.1.    Usability
• Testing
• Evaluation                                                                                                                                                         4.2.2.    Engagement
4.2.3.    Design
4.3.    Evaluation Methodology and TUIs. Methodological Integration.

5.Case Study. Exploring OCH with TUIs. 
• OCH TableTUI
• Places
• Google Maps Timeline
• Technology Specifications

 6. Future Work 
• Design and Prototype
• Technologic Specification
• Evaluation

 7. Conclusion

8. References