Comparing Data Modelling Techniques

In the age of ‘Big Data’, one where we are drowning in information from corporations, media, the world wide web etc… there has to be a way to structure this data in the information age. Companies are beginning to recognize that semantics is very important for the systems to communicate with each other and also with people who run them. A data model is then a drawing which represents data or things and the relationships between them.

Relational databases:

A database is a collection of knowledge, which has been organised in some way so that it can be easily managed, accessed updated queried, retrieved etc…  A relational database then is an organised structure of data which is used to leverage relationships and connections between objects. When modelling this form of databases one tends to use a relational schema, and the query this using SQL. For example the figure below shows an example of this database

This technique of modelling data is favorable when a user wants to specify data and certain queries, a user can input exactly what they want and leave it up to the software to bring back results which describe the data and the relationships between them.

Example of an relational database model:


The RDF or the Resource Description:

The RDF or the Resource Description Framework on the other hand is another type of data model. This RDF model is used as a method for conceptual modelling of information that is implemented in web resources. This type of data model uses a vary of syntax notations and data serialization formats and is based upon the idea of making statements about resources in the form of subject-predicate-object expressions. By using this type of data model it opens up data on a global scale and essentially enables anybody to refer to anything. The difference between the RDF model and an object-orientated model would be its use of object, subject, predicate as opposed to an entity, attribute, value approach. This, though, enables software to more easily exchange information throughout the web which then in turn results in the user gathering and receiving data from these databases more easily with greater efficiency and certainty. This as mentioned can then be done on a global scale which opens up the possibility for more users to access this material.

Example of an RDF model

.RDF model


Miller, Eric.  Resource Description Framework (RDF) Model and Syntax. Accessed May 2017 

Pinczel, Balazs, Nagy, David, Kiss, Attila. ‘The Pros and Cons of RDF Structure Indexes’ Annales Univ. Sci. Budapest  Vol 42. 2014. Pp 283-296

Schreibman Susan, Siemens Ray, Unsworth, John. A Companion to Digital Humanities Oxford: Blackwell, 2004.

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The Upper Floor.

All along the modelling process I decided I was going to leave out the Upper Floor, until the final stages of the model, I felt that without the upper floor the model did not look right. Although it was debated whether or not an upper floor was built the arguments that prove there was one outweigh its nonexistence. Ultimately this decision would then lead to my downfall. When modelling the upper floor for the first time I extruded the polygons on the top of the walls of the ground floor and also beveled the pillars to make them look like buttresses to become the beginnings of a support for a roof.

Like so.

Pillar supports.

I then began creating the windows in the upper floors by using the boolean command to remove boxes I had created.

Like so

upper story

With these removed I was finally going to move onto adding the textures and materials to my structure. That’s when 3DS max decided to crash. Throughout the whole project I had never had any issues with the system crashing and thought at that point my experience with that was just far too good to be true. Unfortunately I had not got any of my work saved up to this point and it wasn’t salvageable.

So I began the process again, however this time I don’t know what I did when extruding the sides of the walls I somehow messed up the geometry and when it came to using the boolean command to subtract a box the walls it would only work for one side.  At this point I became frustrated and tried pretty much anything to remove some of the objects to create the windows on each side.  I began connecting edges together, removing the polygons etc…. nothing I did however seemed to work and I was gone past the point of no return.  For this reason the upper story only has one window and one slightly distorted wall where I was adjusting the edges to try and create another window. My biggest regret with the project was that I extended the walls instead of building another structure separately and so may not of had as many issues regarding the the geometry when trying to use modifiers or the boolean command.

As I had taken up so much time recreating this upper floor I lost time in trying to complete the materials of the structure. Only the arches over the doorways and the fountain truly have the proper materials I wanted.

It was a disappointing end for me personally to the project as I felt I had the potential to model so much more, the materials, a proper Upper Floor with windows, the capitals and the decorative stones. I have learned my lesson though, it is ultimately easier to build objects and join them together than what I started off doing by trying to model the objects I already had, this could be said for the arches I first started off with and the Upper Floor example from above. I also learned that just because for the first 95% of the project I had no issues with 3DS max it doesn’t mean that this can turn around and change drastically at the end. But most importantly I have learned to always always save your work and not give the software the opportunity to delete your hard work.

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The Fountain and the Tiles.

As there is no evidence of the original fountain left from the Lavabo, modelling the basins for the was somewhat based on fragments found from the site and other Cistercian abbeys that were formed in and around the time that Mellifont Abbey was built. From looking at Stalleys ‘Decorating the Lavabo: Late Romanesque Sculpture from Mellifont Abbey’ it is known that there would have been two basins at least forming the structure. I decided to use this basis and then look at the fountain from Santa Maria de Poblet, Cantalonian Cisterian Monastery Spain, which can be seen below.

fountain abbey

My final structure looked like this.


The bottom basin was just a cylinder shape, which I then extruded and beveled the top polygon to create the edges of the structure. I then created a small hemisphere and aligned it on top to sit in the middle of the cyliner for me to place another larger hemisphere on top to act as the second basin. With this shape I again converted to editable poly and used the bevel and extrude commands to model the edges. I then copied the previous smaller hemisphere and again aligned it to the centre of the larger hemisphere for the final “basin” to sit on top. From the fragments that were found at the site, the archaeologists interpretation was that there would have been 8 decorative stones where the lead pipes would have pushed the water out of. As mentioned in previous posts due to time constraints I decided to leave out decorative features on stones and capitals and instead focus on the actual structure itself. For this reason the the spouts at the top of the fountain are just represented here as eight stones, modeled together in an octagonal shape to keep in align with the structure itself.

The Tiles then where just a cylinder with 8 sides and a diameter of 25ft just like to Lavabo structure. I just used a bitmap image to import an image of the tiles on top of the geometry and then used tiling and bumps to create the tiling affect on the floor.


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The Ground Floor.

In the last post I talked about building one side of the octagonal structure. My next step then was to copy this, 7 times to complete the ground floor.  I used the dimensions of a floor plan to create a cylinder with 8 sides to align with the walls. However although they were all lined up, there was till “gaps” between the sides which needed to be filled in to complete the structure. I did this by using the splines to create small triangles, converting this to an editable poly, extruding the shape and then using the cap hole modifier to create a shape. Using boolean in the compound objects I used the union option to join this shapes with the wall sides, altogether creating the ground floor.

Like so.

fin arch

From here I created another spline for the wall edges, on the outside of the structure were on the Lavabo there would have been a slight pillar.

I next looked at the pillars or columns on the inside of the structure.

inner pillar

This part of geometry was quite simple to do as it involved creating a cylinder, converting it to an editable poly and applying the slice modifier to cut it in half. The by applying the cap hole modifier to the vertices I could then extrude and bevel the pillar to the way I wanted. In Lavabo structure the beveled part of the cylinder at the top of the pillar is actually a decorative capital, however I decided to leave these out, more for time constraints rather than for lack of ability.

Below is an example of the pillar joined with the wall using the boolean command.

arche and pillar

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Taking a different approach to the structure. Day 3

From my previous post here you can see that when attempting to build the model, I tried to take a shape and work from it ie… the octagon shape where I would attempt to edit/mold/delete and model around that specific object, however I have learned from my mistakes and instead this time I am attempting to model it from a different approach.

I began looking at the individual sides. Below is an example of one of the walls of the lavabo, so my approach now was instead on looking at the overall structure work from the individual sides and then copy them 8 times.

first pic

I began this by building (what I deemed) the most challenging aspect of the sides, which is the arch way, and then modeling on from this. To start with the archway I create a spline for half of the arch, converted it to an editable poly and the choose the polygon which I wanted to start with and the used the option ‘hinge from edge’ option to angle and heighten it, like so.

Spline Spline 2 Hinge from edge

I then mirrored my object so I would have a copy, aligned this to my object and used a boolean union to create this object.

step 4 extrude bevel extrude bevel and mirror

I then selected the polygons on the bottom of the object, extruded them and beveled them until I was left with the basic arch that I needed like above.

Adding on the a simple cylinder and box shape with the boolean operator I created one side of the arch including the pillar. I then mirrored this and created the full arch.

Like so

Arch fin2 double arch

This boolean command however distorted the geometry somehow and the base on the right hand side is now slightly distorted.


At this stage though I was way to far ahead in steps to try and amend this, and when I did try something else would then move somewhere else. So as its only a slight distortion I have decided to leave it in.

Finally I wanted to finish off the wall and did so by creating a box and using the boolean command again to cut out the arch shape. The using boolean again to united the two shapes like so.

wall fin

This is were I am finishing up for today, but in the next post I will hopefully model the sides together to create the octagon shape and finally have my basic structure complete.

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Building the Structure (3d Modelling AFF625[A])

Wrights Louthiana 1748

Today I began trying to build the basic structure of the Lavabo. Above is the earliest known image or representation of the Lavabo from Wrights Louthiana in 1743 featured in Stalleys, Decorating the Lavabo: Late Romanesque Sculpture from Mellifont Abbey.  This image along with my own images from the previous post, is what I was basing my reconstruction on.

I approached the structure as 8 sides when connected together form an octagonal structure. I began with focusing on the ground floor first as the second floor didn’t originally look like the image above and so is contested what it originally would have looked like.

I began doing this by creating a plane and then editing this to have an arch.

Like so, I then used an array to create 8 of these and move them into a circular fashion, hoping to edit the individual sides to be wider, longer etc…

Arches 1

However…. I did not take into consideration that as I began with a plane as my standard primitive object to build from, when trying to make the sides wider you are going to have an issue. As it only has one side extruding it means that the object will be pushed out and no matter how I tried to get around it I was left with a 2D shape.

Like so.

Arches 2


This then led me down the line of just creating an octagonal object and creating the structure from there. However again this did not work out as it is more difficult to model the sides of the structure and build in arches into the structure when it is already an octagonal object already. Like so.

arches3 arches 4

So unfortunately after day 2 its back to the drawing board for me.



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Day One: Visiting the Site (3d Modelling AFF625[A])

For my final project for this module on 3d modelling, I have decided to attempt to reconstruct the Lavabo at the Old Mellifont Abbey just outside Drogheda Co. Louth.

Mellifont was the first Cistercian monastery in Ireland, founded in 1142 by St Malachy of Armagh. Part of the reason why it is such an important site for the history of the country is the fact that it established the connection between Irish and continental church architecture. The first example for the Romanesque style was the construction of the church on the rock of Cashel in 1127. Just over a decade later the continental type of monastic design and planning was introduced at Mellifont, the first Cistercian abbey in Ireland. By the time it was dissolved in the beginning of the 16th century, Mellifont had become one of the richest monasteries in the country. Its most interesting architectural feature is the octagonal Lavabo built around the year 1200. This is also the most well preserved building on site. Today, very little of it is preserved of the site and with the Lavabo only 4 1/2 of the octangonal sides remain. A 3D reconstruction of the site would help to understand and see the grandeur of the Lavabo as it once was.

Before arriving to the site, from researching it and viewing images in books and online, I went in with the aim of reconstructing the whole site. After walking around the site for 5 minutes I knew that this was an impossible feat given the time constraints regarding the deadline.


Old Mellifont Abbey


Floor Plan of the Abbey [Source Old Mellifont Abbey]

The most intriguing structure on site is the Lavabo, where the monks would have originally washed their hands before meals. One of the reasons behind choosing this structure for my project is because although it is quite well preserved, there is a lot to consider when thinking about an interpretation. The structure, as you can see below still stands with 4 and 1/2 walls remaining.





One of the capitals at the Lavabo

Originally the middle of the Lavabo would have held the fountain, where the monks washed there hands. From Archival digs in 1953, remains of lead pipes were found which suggest that the fountain would have had 8 taps, as there were 8 pipes, which was what was traditional at the time. However there is no remains left of the fountain, one can assume that it would have been modeled off similar Cistercian Abbeys throughout Europe at the time, according to Roger Stalley in Decorating the Lavabo, it has been suggested that the fondant in the basement at Townley Hall was designed off the basins from Mellifont (the owners of Townley Hall also owning the Abbey at the time).  The other option is to style or model it off the fondant at Poblet Monastary in Spain, also an eight taped fountain from a Cisterian Monastery built at the same time.  So I will need to decide which is the most suited for the reconstruction.

Also another thing to consider is the second story of the Lavabo, this second story came later after the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century. Although there is no record of a roof, or even an interpretation of what it would have looked like, there is mention of a second storey, so this is another aspect of the structure I will need to consider.

Finally, I am hoping to in some way incorporate the medieval tiles into the Lavabo. These tiles can be found in the Chapter House currently, however as the original flooring was removed from the Lavabo, there is no reason why the tiles wouldn’t have featured here, the Chapter house being only meters away, so I will have to consider this adaption.


Example of one of the style of tiles found at Mellifont

This and many more of my decisions and I’m sure failures when it comes to modelling the Lavabo will be coming up in later posts.


Roger Stalley Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Section C: Archaeology, Celtic Studies, History, Linguistics, Literature. Vol. 96C, No.7 (1996), pp.237-264.

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Between data and knowledge (Data Visualisation)

Data originates from the latin word datum which roughly translates into “a thing which is given”.  Data is raw and has no meaning it only just exists, it can be captured, modeled, inspected and then interpreted where it becomes information and knowing this information or having great experience with it then becomes knowledge. Before the computer age data would have been collected and captured only by individuals and then they would find conclusions or patterns in this data, leading this interpretation of the data and it becoming information and then knowledge. Now we are overwhelmed with different software and programmes that do the job of organising and analysing the data for us, and plotting this data on a graph of some sort. This opens up the opportunity of visually analysing and studying data which leads on to data visualisation.

Data visualisation is a powerful tool, not only does it make sense of the data by analysing it and transforming it into knowledge but also it is a ways of communication to make sense of said data and expressing that for the viewer.  It creates patterns and trends in data where previously it was hard to make out. For example the raw data I decided to download from the CSO was mean temperatures recorded from different points in Ireland, I decided to focus on Malin Head (North), Roches Point(South), Dublin Airport (East) and Bellmullet (West). When reviewing the excel spreadsheet we can clearly see what the mean temperature was in a specific area within a specific month, we can also compare this figure to another month/location. However what this table fails to do is tell a story with these figures. This is where the data visualisation element comes into consideration.  With the use of shape, colour position etc.. we can study the data a lot easier, while on the other hand it is communicated to us more clearly.

excel(Image 1)

Above is the example of the spreadsheet. At a glance, the figures are all in a fairly close range to one another. However if we take a look at the data plotted out on a graph below the picture tells a different story, taking for example that in May the mean temperatures across the country were practically the same and that in December the temperature in Dublin was two degrees cooler than in the South. Above in the excel sheet the figures when presented in a table format couldn’t really truly express or communicate the story quite like the visual nature of the graph. I understand that the subject matter of the data I downloaded is quite trivial and there aren’t ground breaking results but I truly believe that without the visual component, one reviewing this data would not come to the same conclusions as one reviewing and analysing the table.Mean temperatures(Image 2)

Roches Point(Red)


Dublin Airport(Grey)

Malin Head (Yellow)

On the subject of the data visualisation programmes, as mentioned there are so many out there from very professional software, to your bog standard Microsoft Word. I began using Tableau which when starting off with one or two columns and rows worked perfectly however when I began adding on extra data, the programme began converting this to “null” (image 3) and as I’m sure happens to most when dealing with data, I lost patience and gave up. Instead I took the easy way out and googled the ‘top data visualisation tools’, where I came across what was quoted as being a tool which required “no technical abilities” called Data Hero. A tool which took only minutes to set up and was most importantly free was a user friendly one to use. I uploaded my CSV file, checked to make sure that the columns and rows, were all aligned and in correct order and pressed a button which then created a graph for me. I played around with it, the colours, different styles of charts etc.. and the end result was the graph pictured above (Image 2).

tablaeu data(Image 3)

As I mentioned I haven’t made any groundbreaking results from this data exercise. But I hope I have conveyed the importance of data visualisation and the part it plays when coming to finding and conclusions and eventually information and knowledge for studies.



BonJour, Laurence, 1985. The Structure of empirical Knowledge. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Few, Stephen. ‘Data Visualisation for Human Perception.’ The Interactive Design Foundation. Retrieved on 17th February 2016

Central Statistics Office, retrieved on 17th February 2016

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Digital Preservation – Dr. Natalie Harrower [AFF601]

The risks to Digital Data Preservation.


I attended a lecture by Dr. Natalie Harrower the Director of Digital Repository of Ireland about Digital Preservation, the beginnings of it, the methods used to preserve it (namely repositories) and the importance of having these repositories in place for the preservation of digital data. The task of digital preservation is a challenging one, more so than that of a tangible item. Unlike a physical item all digital materials have a unifying characteristic, that they are machine dependable, the more technology becomes sophisticated, the more dependency lies on a certain system or piece of hardware to read/store that piece of data down the line. This dependency on different technologies while they are being updated and improved upon, along with the fact that there are different policies and legal considerations that come into play regarding privacy, are all important risks to digital preservation that need to be taken on board when considering this topic.

A digital repository according to Harrower is ‘an infrastructure that provides long term storage, management, and preservation of digital resources as well as reliable access to these resources.’ What I like about this quote is that this type of repository will provide long term storage for these digital resources. In the digital age that we are living in, data and data management is constantly changing. A digital file is stored as a series of bits or binary digits, these bits are then stored on some media device. The problem with this however is that storage media can decay which may lead to corrupted files down the line, these files could be attacked maliciously by a virus or somebody could forget about that storage device or lose it, especially with something as small as a memory stick. I emphasis the last point here as even though I am talking about the importance and risks to digital preservation I am the number one suspect when it comes to losing memory. However, the biggest or what I believe the biggest threat to digital preservation to be is that this new technology is being created at such an accelerated rate that preservationists have had to adapt very quickly, projects that were stored on a floppy disk 10 years ago are now obsolete, even data saved to a physical hard drive has now moved to data being saved on cloud storage.

Metadata is at the core to this preservation, particularly for the Digital Repository of Ireland. According to the National Information Standards Organisation, metadata is ‘structured information that describes, explains, locates, or otherwise makes it easier to retrieve, use, or manage an information resource.’ Meta data not only helps with the preservation but it will also store information like who has created the data, who has the right to that information and if there are any intellectual or property rights associated with said data. This however this can give rise to problems in itself, namely the standards of the metadata. With this rise in different digital technologies as mentioned above preservationists have had to adapt quickly. The four most common standards for metadata are Dublin Core, EAD, MARC, MODS and these are also the four which are supported by DRI. This standardisation on metadata means that a certain community will be all singing essentially off the same hymn sheet, it results in a consistency in the metadata which will lead to more accurate search and retrievals of that information.

With directories, repositories or any file sharing software, privacy and other security risks can be a threat.  Not only is keeping the data safe and secure of primary concern but also by sharing files you or opening access of files to others, you may be giving out sensitive or personal information. This is why there is an introduction of certain restrictions on who can actually access the information but with that information still being ‘open access.’ For example taking a look at the Magadalene Oral Histories Collection, this is an extremely sensitive topic, one which deals with individual stories and personal details, especially individuals who are still alive today. There has to be certain procedures put in place for the protection of this information. On the other hand, this was a collection which was built by Maynooth University as a means of research so this information would need to be accessed by a variety of different users. By introducing levels of access to this information it resulted in the information being available for teaching and research purposes only. Also, all information within the collection was anonymised, so although the information was still valuable there was no way of being able to pin point it to a story or example to an exact individual. This collection on DRI is an example of how it is important to preserve the data but in a safe way, where individuals personal information is not put at risk.


What metadata used to store this information also needs to be carefully scrutinized from a security and risk perspective. Using a slightly different example in 2011 a torrent file was leaked by a member of the Anonymous group (the vigilante hacker group) with files namely from the US Chamber of Commerce and the American Legislative Exchange Council. The files that were released were all document based meta data from different file types, word, pdfs, powerpoints etc… Although the information was ‘only’ metadata some of the information which was released was sensitive which could have put individuals at risk. This information included network IDs, email addresses, IP addresses and operating systems etc… ,on their own not a whole lot could be done with this information but it could open up the potential for a phishing scam or malware being introduced into their network. I understand that this is extreme example and comparing this to the metadata used in the Magadelene Oral Histories example it is a lot different, some may argue that I am over exaggerating the risks involved however security breaches or data being leaked can start at a small scale like the one above. It is a possibility and it is an important thing to consider especially when it could put an individual, or individual’s information (personal or otherwise) at risk.

Digital Preservation Coalition. “DCC Curation Lifecycle Model.” Accessed December 2016

Digital Preservation Coalition. “Digital Preservation Briefing”, Digital Preservation Handbook, 2nd Edition, Digital Preservation Coalition, 2015. Accessed December 2016

DRI “Meta Data Quality Control” January 2015, accessed December 2016

O’Carroll, A. and Webb, S. “Digital archiving in Ireland: national survey of the humanities and social sciences” National University of Ireland Maynooth, 2012. Accessed December 2016

Ragan, Steve “Study examines the problem with metadata and file sharing” , July 2014. Accessed December 2016

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