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Final blog post - Walking Through Time

Walking Through Time closing blog

This is a final closing blog post that summarises the achievements of JISC follow-on funding for Rapid Innovation - Benefits Realisation Small Project Funding.

The WTT project has taken many turns in its two year history and has forged many links that continue to demonstrate the rich nature of both the idea behind it and the collaboration that made it happen.

As of July 2011 the iPhone App has been downloaded over 9000 times and it continues to attract attention with limited marketing.

The App site is here:

The link the to App in the Apple store is here:

The app was launched at the end of July 2010 in time for the Edinburgh International Festivals. At this time the project team had secured an agreement with the Landmark Information Group to allow free public access to their historical maps for a period of time that covered the festival. This made the free app very attractive because along with 3 maps from the National Library of Scotland, the app allowed multiple maps of Edinburgh.

In addition to the maps, two guided tours were included that featured audio files embedded within the app:

1. Margaret Stewart a historian at the Edinburgh College of Art provided a very personal narrative to the history of places surrounding the Royal Mile.

2. The Edinburgh World Heritage Trust recorded a selection of narratives by two Scottish actors to extend their popular House Histories trail.

The tours appear as trails that are linked between landmarks in the map. Each landmark is identified by a pin point in the map, and touching/clicking the pin give access to text and audio file (where available).

Gallery of working app (click here for larger images):

Education and Cultural impact

The app has made good impact into the education and cultural communities and WTT was presented through an invited lecture and accompanying workshop at the Digital Futures of Cultural Heritage Education symposium at the University of Edinburgh (DFCHE), March 2011. The DFCHE project was funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and led in collaboration by the School of Education at the University of Edinburgh and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and the National Galleries of Scotland. DFCHE had two specific aims: 1. To begin to establish a research agenda for museum and gallery education for the digital age, 2. To inform policy and practice in the use of social media and user-generated content by the Scottish cultural heritage sector.

Business / Spin out

Following the immediate success of the app during the Edinburgh Festival 2010 the project team began conversations with Landmark Information Group to develop a UK version of the app which would allow the public to walk/drive across the UK using an 1850 map. Particular excited by the prospect of finding out what was under the M1 as one drives to London, the idea, coupled with the exciting download statistics from the festival led to a series of conversations about a fully licensed product.

Landmark remain keen to develop a product, however concerns over the pricing framework have meant that discussions have since stalled. In order to justify the release of UK wide maps, the company would have to charge a significant price for the app (something in the region of £4 for a single map).

More recently following a presentation of the app at the Scottish Technology Showcase (7th June SECC, Glasgow) interest has now turned to developing international language versions of the app for Edinburgh Tourists. Since the app capitalises upon the free maps that are made available by the National Library of Scotland, and 60% of visitors to Edinburgh are international, developing foreign language versions may be better way of capitalising what the project team has achieved.

Invited Talks

The app has attracted a great deal of attention across academic communities for a number of reasons:

1. For the GIS community the very user centred approach in its simplicity as an iphone App has given the team access discussions about how GIS technologies can access new audiences.

2. The museum community has embraced the App as a model demonstrator of novel audience engagement that connects historical data with contemporary media.

3. The IT / HCI community enjoy it’s critical design approach – the turn toward using old maps as oppose to adopting new cutting edge technology.

These connections and interests have led to range of invited talks and presentations in which WTT was discussed in the context of multi-disciplinary production and agile development:

SACHI: the St Andrews Computer Human Interaction research group

St. Andrews University

Invited research seminar: 29th March 2011

Learning Sciences Research Institute, Nottingham University

Invited research seminar: 11th January 2011

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS), Edinburgh

Invited research seminar: 8th August 2011

Conference presentations

The App has also been presented as part of a series of conference presentations and papers:

The Digital Landscape Architecture conference, at Anhalt University of Applied Sciences, Germany. 26th to 30th May, 2010.

Speed, C. and Southern, J. (2010) Handscapes - Reflecting upon the Use of Locative Media to Explore Landscapes.

Also published in the conference proceedings:

MappingtheCITYinFILM a Geo-historical Analysis.

An International Interdisciplinary Conference
School of Architecture / School of Politics and Communication Studies

University of Liverpool. 24th -26th February 2010.

Speed, C. (2010) Walking Through Time: Use of Locative Media to Explore Historical Maps.

The Digital Humanities 2011 conference

Stanford University Library, Stanford. 19th – 22nd June 2011.

Co-organised Panel: Virtual Cities/Digital Histories featuring papers by:

Robert C. Allen, Natasha Smith, Pamella Lach, Richard Marciano, Chris Speed, Todd Presner, Philip Ethington, David Shepard, Chien-Yi Hou, & Christopher Johanson

Speed, C. (2011) Walking Through Time and Tales of Things.

The App was also presented the Scottish Technology Showcase, Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, Glasgow. 7th June 2011.


ALISS (Association of Librarians and Information Professionals in the Social Sciences) is a not-for-profit unincorporated professional society. It is an independent group which was formed in April 2005 by the former committee of ASSIGN (Aslib Social Science Information Group and Network).

Walking Through Time article / paper published in ALISS Quarterly was nominated for the first prize (£50)

Chris Speed Walking Through Time in Volume 5, no. 3 ISSN 17479258, April 2010 of ALISS Quarterly

Network Activity

Following the conference presentation at MappingtheCITYinFILM a Geo-historical Analysis in Liverpool in 2010, Speed was invited to consult and become a member of an AHRC/BT funded research network.

Through a series of meetings the network established a small but critical community who offered expert inquiry into cultural opportunities for GIS and new media to engage with historical documents / material.


Research from the WTT project has informed two book chapters:

Mapping Cultures, published by Palgrave Books

Edited by Les Roberts

Chris Speed: Walking Through Time: Use of Locative Media to Explore Historical Maps

Due early 2012

Heritage and Social Media: Understanding and Experiencing Heritage in a Participatory Culture, published by Routledge books

Edited by Elisa Giaccardi

Chris Speed: Mobile Ouija Boards

Due early 2010

Link to code repository or API:

Source Forge Site:

download the XCode project here

Project Team:

Chris Speed, - Edinburgh College of Art

Ian Campbell, - Edinburgh College of Art

Karlyn Sutherland,, Edinburgh College of Art

Dave Berry, - Information Systems, University of Edinburgh

Peter Pratt, - Information Systems, University of Edinburgh

Petra Leimlehner, - Information Systems, University of Edinburgh

Jeff Haywood, - Information Systems, University of Edinburgh

James Reid, - EDINA

Tim Urwin, - EDINA

Project Website:

PIMS entry:

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New public site

We’re beginning to get some external interest so we thought we’d better make a more public site!

here it is, small but beautifully formed:

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WalkThruT: A web app that provides historical maps to people with smart phones

Screenshots or diagram of prototype:



•    Final copy of user manual and description

Link to working prototype:
Please contact: to get URL

Link to end user documentation:
◦    We feel that the YouTube video was the most effective and user centred piece of explanatoy documentation:

◦    Micro Site:


Link to code repository or API:
◦    Source Forge Site:

Link to technical documentation:
◦    Technical Report

Date prototype was launched:
◦    User testing began throughout September, with a refined version available at the end of September: 30/9/09

Project Team:

Chris Speed, - Edinburgh College of Art

Ian Campbell, - Edinburgh College of Art

Karlyn Sutherland,, Edinburgh College of Art

Dave Berry, - Information Systems, University of Edinburgh

Peter Pratt, - Information Systems, University of Edinburgh

Petra Leimlehner, - Information Systems, University of Edinburgh

Jeff Haywood, - Information Systems, University of Edinburgh

James Reid, - EDINA

Tim Urwin, - EDINA

Project Website:

PIMS entry:

Table of Content for Project Posts
◦ - Technical Start
◦ - Is this the answer - Geolocation
◦ - Getting Started
◦ - Our Edinburgh?
◦ - The artists view
◦ - Meeting one a summary of work up to that point
◦ - Art meets Tech - Chris and Karlyns write up
◦ - Tech fights back - early prototyping using balsamiq
◦ - Mr Speed and his iPhone
◦ - Outline of what came next
◦ - Summary of the work up to that point
◦ - Cross Platform - how does Android look or the day before Dave came to visit
◦ - First cut is the deepest? A summary of feedback up to this point
◦ - Meeting summary
◦ - Post JISCRI event
◦ - Web Application findings
◦ - Google API changes
◦ - Caching - web app fights back
◦ - One of the last formal meetings
◦ - lo, the user speaks…
◦ - Chris’s project Evaluation
◦ - The Developers speak
◦ - Chris speaking for the Users

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User Participation

User Participation

Dave and Chris have previously blogged about the test-run with the Historical Society, which was largely unsuccessful due to a series of problems from the outset. Despite not being able to fully access the application (but having seen several demo’s on Chris’s computer), both Robin and Andrew seemed very enthusiastic about the potential for the application, which was really encouraging. Both seemed to grasp the concept and methods of navigation well, despite admitting to not being particularly computer literate or owning a mobile phone!

Shortly after (following some trouble-shooting) were the test runs with staff and Diploma students from college. The first was with Vicky, from the conservation unit. Having never used an iPhone before, she found the application fairly straightforward to navigate, although concern was expressed at the size of the buttons along the bottom of the main screen – there were a few occassions where the wrong menu was selected, and due to signal problems it often took a long time to return to the main screen.


A quick run-through outside Old College

Generally, this round of testing went without too many hitches. Remembering to turn 3G on makes a big difference. I’m not particularly iPhone savvy, so had to be instructed by Peter over the phone on how to switch it on – I’m not sure if it’s safe to assume that other iPhone users would know to (or how to) do this?


On the move….and walking through time!

Figuring it would be a popular route for future users (sightseers, students, historians etc.), we walked from Chamber Street to the bottom of the High Street. Although the maps loaded pretty quickly, Vicky found the naming and filing to be quite confusing and frustrating, and suggested that there should be an option to list all of the maps chronologically, rather than just by scale or name (i.e. ‘Edinburghshire’).


Vicky in the 18th century…

At the time of testing, the conservation students had a project site in Aitchison Close, so we paid a visit. It was really great to see Vicky get excited by selecting and tagging the different maps! She was really positive about the benefit the application could have on projects and site visits. Her only suggestion at this point was that perhaps it would be worthwhile considering photographs of former streetscapes and buildings (either through markers or as a seperate option in a chronological list similar to the maps). We discussed the concept of the markers a bit more – I thought perhaps this was where the answer could lie, but Vicky felt that it would be better to have the images already available rather than hoping that someone else had uploaded them (or having to track them down and upload them personally).


We walked back up the High Street towards Chamber Street, and hit a few minor glitches along the way – despite a full signal, on several occassions Vicky’s screen went white then sent her to the start-up screen to log in again. Thankfully this seemed to be shortlived! Before returning the iPhones to Peter and Petra we both created routes using the markers we had created. Again, this was something that Vicky was enthusiastic about – like the team, she felt that pre-existing routes laden with information (as well as the users ability to create their own) would be a valuable and interesting learning tool.

Later in the same week I went out and about with Feng, Klas (both students) and Ian. We walked from Chamber Street to the Castle Esplanade, then through some of the nearby closes where Ian knew there had been several radical changes.


Klas, Feng and Ian discussing their finds on the Edinburgh Castle Esplanade

Again, the application ran smoothly, with the only draw back being the length of time it took to load some of the maps. This seemed to be largely due to the poor (or non-existent) signal we got in the closes and courtyards. It’s annoying that this hinders it so much, but even more annoying is the fact that it’s outwith our control.

Everyone was really excited about the application, especially Ian – we got an amazing commentary from him as we walked around, which gave a great insight into how adding all this information (via markers, routes etc) could greatly enrich the users experience of and interaction with the city.

Having already discussed the previous feedback from Vicky, Robin and Andrew, the group had little else to add, other than comments about the occassionally disappointing 3G signal. From the esplanade we walked back towards Nicolson Square before heading to Chamber Street (with no signal problems!). Klas (an M.Phil. student) is interested in the relationship between people and the city of Edinburgh, and was encouraged by the potential for the application as a research/design tool.

All in all, the application got a huge thumbs up from all who tested it, which was a great result for us.

Thanks to everybody for volunteering – your feedback has been much appreciated and greatly valued!


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Minutes of project meeting, 22nd October 2009

Present: Chris, Dave, Peter, Petra


  • Chris has uploaded the MP3 file of the discussion with the Historical Society and the promotional video.  We will continue to improve these.
  • Peter gave a 10-minute pitch at the “This Happened” event on Monday 12th October, which went down well.  We got some vey good questions from the audience.
  • Dave wrote a joint article with Richard Rodger, Steven Vickers & James Reid for the University’s internal IS newsletter.
  • Chris’s paper was accepted for the Mapping, Memory and the City in Liverpool.
  • AHRA - The Architectural Humanities Research Association - is meeting in Edinburgh on Nov 20-21.  Chris will give a demonstration of Walking Through Time.
  • IT Futures - Chris and Ian to give a presentation at the university’s IT futures workshop on December 15th.
  • Chris to set up a web site, to complement the blog.

Work Package 6 (User Community and Embedding)

  • Karlyn’s work with students went well.  Karlyn to blog.
  • One UI improvement was to provide on-screen buttons for switching between years.
  • Ian will invite the Historical Society to see the improved version.

Work Package 7 (Closure)

  • Petra to put the code on SourceForge.
  • Dave & Chris to prepare the final blog post.
  • Dave will complete the IS completion report.
  • Petra and Peter producing user manual and technical documentation.


  • James to arrange a meeting with Landmark re map licensing.
  • Dave to speak to Informatics’ KT staff.

Future support

  • IS will keep the current server running.
  • The blog will remain open.

Next Meeting: Monday 9th November, 12:30pm


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Project Evaluation

Oops manage to miss most of the official Progress Report blog posts. In truth all of the content is located through our posts, but an extended reflection follows:

So WTT is proving to be a rollercoaster, but one that has stayed well on its tracks!

lets go through some SWOT…

Strengths: attributes of the person or company that are helpful to achieving the objective.

So unlike many applications that i’ve been involved in the project team didn’t really know each other, at all! But this has proved to be a stunning strength. Due to not knowing each other, everyone has retained a professional approach and has listened carefully to each others positions to maximise the project. There is no ego, no driver, and everyone is learning to appreciate each others skills and interests to make the project work. The Div Apps guys are amazing, so many times i’ve worked with developers who want to push their own agenda placing the project in jeopardy, but Peter and Petra seem to just get on with stuff and are able to solve problems with tenacity and enthusiasm. ECA end is ok, in truth the rapid innovation is really a tech thing, so once the creative parameters were established we just sat back - an extraordinary comfort and privilege! But thats not strictly true because communication and reflection has always been very good indeed.

Weaknesses: attributes of the person or company that are harmful to achieving the objective

Weaknesses are relative i guess, we’re trying something pretty ambitious things here and pushing the envelope is always going to have some fallout. We might reflect upon the decision to go web app one day - but the pay offs with the web app are immense as the phones get faster. Even the new 3GS has suddenly added more speed to what was a slow web app. If we’d had a bigger team (budget) we may have had more chance to trial a proper app. But then we’d have cut out our Google audience. There a cool app here and they clearly have gone for the single platform killer app. Doesn’t look as though the blue dot falls though - this is critical for the embodying the map within the user experience.

Opportunities: external conditions that are helpful to achieving the objective.

I think the gap between institutions  (ECA and UE) is good - they work very professionally and the college are bit sloppier - not bad sloppy but just creative sloppy. Div Apps are tight and well ran with Dave at the helm checking our every move. In the big wide world i’m still stunned that people don’t question the Google tiles, so despite being an incredibly obvious business / creative move to swap them the world seems prefixed with navigating the present. I guess we’re also lucky with EDINA - access to alternative map tiles is not easy, and with EDINA on your doorstep and with James and Ben providing so much constructive support we’re very lucky indeed.

Threats: external conditions which could do damage to the objective.

Well the world does catch on, and is a good and close app to ours. It clearly has difference objectives and we need to identify ours (social dimensions, community and the fact that its a web app). Our biggest catch may be the licensing behind the EDINA maps, with the best support in the world, James can’t make the maps visible to the public on a wide scale yet - not without somebody paying for the license! We need to get some press soon, and we need a work around really to make this app as successful as it possibly can be. Hence making the video but this needs more work  - my use of grammar is under rapid innovation ;) Users so far seem keen and enjoy the moment of going back in time, so we’ll continue to develop toward their suggestions.

all for now


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MP3 From Edinburgh Historical Society

Meant to post this ages ago.

Its an ok quality recording of one of our early trips with our phone app that didnt go so well.

it was with Edinburgh Historical Society and the outcomes proved interesting for the developers.


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YouTube Edit 1.0

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Minutes of project meeting, 8th October 2009

Present: Chris, Ian, Karlyn, Dave, Peter, Petra

Chris has produced an MP3 file of the discussion with the Historical Society.  He needs to edit this further, after which he will put it on the blog.

Chris has also produced a promotional video which will be posted to YouTube.

Peter will give a 10-minute pitch at the This Happened event on Monday 12th.

The AHRA Meeting (Architectural Humanities Research Association) will be in Edinburgh on Nov 20-21.  Chris will give a demonstration of Walking Through Time.

BITS is the internal IT newsletter for the University.  Dave will mail other researchers working on historical maps about a joint article.

Chris and Ian will give a presentation at the university’s IT futures workshop on December 15th.

Chris will set up a web site, to complement this blog.

Work Package 5 (User Community Enhancements)
We completed the development.  There were only a few days on this WP5 after the last project meeting, so the bulk of the changes were as reported there.

Work Package 6 (User Community and Embedding)
Karlyn has started to work with students.  One piece of feedback was whether we can record a route.  We don’t currently provide this functionality.  We could add this but it hasn’t been a priority.  We would have to think about how to represent the route.  To an extent, this functionality isn’t the key point of the application.

We will invite the Historical Society back to see the improved version.

We had a discussion about the licensing of the map data, which is restricted to users in UK Higher Education, and how we could extend access within the terms of the license.  One idea was to set up a user group.

Next Meeting: Thursday 22nd October, 2pm

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Minutes of Project Meeting, 23rd September

Present: Chris, Karlyn, James, Peter, Petra, Dave

Historical Society feedback
The meeting with the Historical Society was useful but a little disappointing.  The system didn’t work well on this occasion.  It turned out that one iPhone had 3G turned off and therefore didn’t work at all.  The other had UI problems that we hadn’t been encountered before.

The users were also frustrated that they couldn’t zoom in to see the maps in more detail.  This didn’t work because the map images that we are using were scanned at only 300dpi.

Among the feedback on the UI, the users requested a button to switch back to the Google Maps without using a menu, and they would have liked an online introduction.

Work Package 5 (User Community Enhancements)
- To improve the download time, we compressed the images, cached downloaded images, and optimised the Javascript and HTML code.
- We improved the UI in response to feedback.
- Among new features, users have ability to create their own markers and routes, upload them to the server and share them with others.
- The beta version of the new Google API is still lacking some functionality so we haven’t been able to use it.

Work Package 6 (User Community and Embedding)
- The Conservation students are now back.  Chris and Karlyn will lead them in exploring the opportunities that the system allows.
- We will buy an iPhone 3GS for user tests
- Minor point: we need to add functionality to see full the text associated with a marker.
- Minor point: we need to modify map names to indicate scale more clearly.

NLS maps
We have been in discussion with the National Library of Scotland to get access to higher resolution, pre-OS, maps.  These won’t be available in the timeframe of the project, because they need to be georeferenced.

Discussion of followup activity
We discussed possible followup activities, both academic and commercial.

Management Actions
Dave to check budget re iPhone purchase and expenses for Manchester trip.