Monthly Archives: May 2012

The Mock-up: Part I

We have now created a mock-up of our user interface (UI) of our WMA. To develop this mock-up we reviewed the initial goals for the WMA. Given that data collection for the project has finished, the current critical need is in the area of data querying, data review, and export of data subsets for further manipulation in other applications (e.g., Excel, Photoshop, SPSS, ArcGIS). After revisiting these goals, various CSS, HTML, and JavaScript snippets were combined. These snippets resulted in an initial UI which was then commented upon by members of the informatics team. We have now taken these comments and created two mock-ups which are presented below. The first figure depicts the overall UI while the second figure presents a feature selection information bubble.

It should be noted that this is our first WMA, designed to handle basic query searches and data extraction. We will design WMAs relevant to the needs of the project.

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Tools of the Trade

We will be using a variety of software for this summer which will build upon previous work for the Avkat Archaeological Project. Prior work has been dominated by the creation of an SQL database coded in MySQL. A front-end was created for this database using PHP for query optimization. This database has stored all tabular and image data for the project, however spatial information has been lacking.

ArcSDE is used to store spatial information. Recently the MySQL database was translated to PostgreSQL which employs pgAdminIII. This allows for better communication between the SQL database and the ArcSDE geodatabase.

Currently, we are working on building data queries which result in tables and views which can then be queried by end users. It is important to note here the difference between the two – tables and views. Tables result in a more static image of the data within the SQL database. This means that as the data is changed within SQL database, the table either stays the same or breaks due to information loss. Views, on the other hand, update their information thereby allowing end-user queries on the most recent version of the data. While it seems that views are more ideal than tables, there are situations where a table could be useful. Such a situation could include when a researcher does not need the most up-to-date dataset.

Future work will include uploading this information to ArcServer and at least one web-mapping application (WMA) will be created. Information is uploaded to ArcServer in order to serve out geospatial data which, in this case, has been joined to tabular data. REST services will then be created via ArcServer REST API. These REST services will then be consumed by the WMA.

Our WMA will employ ArcGIS API for JavaScript. As such, the end-user interface is highly customizable. This level of customization is not only useful, but necessary when dealing with researchers that have different foci for their research. We can create one over-arching WMA which allows many researchers to access the same data or we can create many highly specialized WMAs. There are various benefits and drawbacks to both of these approaches. Additionally, this API allows for coding in HTML5 thereby increasing the capabilities of the WMA.

An Example

It might be useful to provide an example for how this applies more directly to archaeological research. Field research for the Avkat Archaeological Project tied artifact information to an observation point, which can correspond with zero to infinity artifacts. These artifacts have been recorded on paper forms which have been entered into a SQL database which stores data in a tabular format.

Geospatial data will then be tied to the tabular data by using ArcSDE. ArcSDE functions as middleware between the tabular and geospatial data. This means that the spatial observation points can then be tied (i.e. joined) to the tabular data. This is where differing versions can be created. For example, here we can join the observation points to a broad overview of all artifacts found at that point or to specific assemblages such as lithics or pottery. The beauty of this is that when the geospatial data is queried, i.e. through selection, the query retrieves all relevant/joined tabular data. Similarly, when tabular data is queried through the WMA the spatial information can also be referenced (i.e. highlighted). This provides a valuable tool to the analyst wishing not only understand the assemblage quantitatively, but also spatially.

A researcher conducting pottery analysis can observe an anomaly of interest at a given point and select nearby points to see if this anomaly continues into other areas. We additionally seek to provide the ability to download relevant data in both tabular and geospatial formats.

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Never Let a Roadblock Stop You

This past week we began working on the Avkat Informatics Project.  We planned this development to be more or less linear. However, we discovered that this will not be possible due to a number of obstructions.

The main delay involves our server, which appears to have experienced a number of internal errors resulting in services not starting up properly.   It was discovered that a reinstallation of ArcServer would be the best course. We are using this as an opportunity to upgrade from ArcServer 9.3 to 10, and have split the development of the WMA into two main sections. First, we will begin developing the user interface in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript using stand-in data obtained from ESRI to test layout and functionality. Once the server is upgraded later this week, we will begin importing actual project data into ArcSDE, uploading it to ArcServer, and creating services for consumption.

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Introduction

Welcome to the Avkat Archaeological Project’s Informatics development blog! This blog will be providing information throughout the summer on the creation of web mapping applications associated with the Avkat Archaeological Project. There are three facets that this project will be focusing on this summer:

  1. Cleaning data to enhance analysis
  2. Organizing and enhancing the current ArcSDE geodatabase environment with an eye to long-term data curation
  3. Designing and developing web mapping applications using ArcGIS API for JavaScript.

The Avkat web mapping application will eventually serve a variety of purposes including data dissemination, visualization, and analysis initially targeted at the needs of principal investigators of the Avkat Archaeological Project.  Further goals include the expansion of the web portal’s functionality to support the needs of the wider academic and lay community and developing the underlying data structure to provide wide applications to a variety of research needs in the social, humanistic, and natural sciences.

Financial support for this digital initiative comes from the Department of History at Princeton University and the Department of Classics and School of Languages, Cultures, and World Affairs at the College of Charleston.  Logistical and technical support is provided by the Santee Cooper GIS Laboratory at the College of Charleston.

Meet the Team
Dr. James Newhard
– Is Assistant Director of the Avkat Archaeological Project and leads the development of the project’s archaeoinformatics. His research interests include geospatial applications in archaeology, archaeological methodology, and landscape studies. He has conducted fieldwork in Turkey, Greece, Albania, and the United States.

Dr. Norman Levine – Is geospatial director to the Avkat Archaeological Project and Director of the Santee Cooper GIS Laboratory at the College of Charleston.  His research interests include natural and environmental hazards, geoarchaeology, and geospatial informatics and visualizations.

John Wall – Is the geospatial developer for the Avkat Archaeological Project. His primary research interests include data visualization and analysis through various geospatial environments and remote sensing technologies. He has conducted research in Turkey, Ireland, and United States.

Kurt Goldstein – Is the database manager for the Avkat Archaeological Project. His primary interests include database integrity, optimization, and versatility.

The Avkat Archaeological Project
The Avkat Archaeological Project is an interdisciplinary, multifaceted regional survey project conducted between 2007 and 2009 in the Republic of Turkey. The project has sought to integrate large, complex datasets of varying types towards an understanding of the regional history of a small section of north central Anatolia.

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