Category Archives: Creating Digital Artefacts


My name is Justin Martin and I am currently doing an MA in Digital Humanities at Maynooth University for the academic year 2016/17. In the last few years I experienced a small amount of digitisation through the research I had done on my undergraduate thesis Augustan Coinage: Imagery & Symbolism.  It was during this period that I frequented and researched many numismatic databases that specifically dealt with coins from antiquity.  These databases or digital platforms were designed to showcase numismatic images along with their historical biographies and physical characteristics.

After finishing my (TSM) Bachelor’s Degree in Ancient History/Archaeology & Jewish/Islamic Civilisation in 2016, I had my heart set on doing a Master’s Degree in conservation/preservation in the cultural heritage sector.  This is when I became aware of the MA in Digital Humanities that Maynooth University were advertising.  I did not think twice about applying for this exciting and relevant course, as it ticked all my areas of interest.

Photograph of a 3D Model-T Ford Induction Coil by Justin Martin.

This MA is both theoretical and practical in equal measures.  The course has helped me in areas such as blog construction using WordPress, Java programming, XML, HTML, which are all transferable skills one can use in IT jobs at home or abroad.  In addition to these computer skills, I also learned how to capture objects using different methods such as 3D scanning and photogrammetry using a high spec DSLR camera.  Using software programmes, one can learn how to produce a high quality 3D model and upload them onto reputable platforms such as Sketchfab which allow one to publish, share & discover 3D projects online and in Visual Reality.  I also discovered RTI (Reflectance Transformation Imaging) this is a computational photographic method that captures a subject’s surface shape.  This method works well with ancient coinage, and provides intricate details on the coin that would be otherwise invisible to the naked eye.  The other technology that really interested me was the hyper-spectral imaging; this involves the scanning of an object using multiple wavelengths that are outside the parameters of the human eye.  This method is used to detect art and antiquity fraud and is an area that I am passionate about.

The MA in Digital Humanities is a degree that can provide one with the skills and theoretical knowledge to avail of multiple job opportunities across many disciplines which I have outlined.  Digital Humanities is a very exciting subject that traverses the boundaries of       other       deep      rooted      disciplines      such     as      archaeology and computer science.

Photograph of the V.H.N conference in Cork (2016), by Justin Martin.

I recently attended the VHN (Visual Heritage Network) conference, which was held in Cork in November 2016.  I came away from this conference in Cork feeling really excited for the future of Digital Humanities and even more so, for my own future in this new and exciting field.  You can find out more information about some of the new exciting presentations given by experts   at   the   VHN   conference  in  Cork  by  clicking   on my  (blog-post).



We live in times when images, and especially digital images, are ubiquitous.  Most of us share photographs daily on social media platforms like Flickr, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.  There are other platforms in existence, for example Google’s “Open Gallery” (which is part of the Google Cultural Institute platform)  that also make it possible for anybody to upload images, videos and arrange exhibitions, i.e. to become a curator of an online exhibition.  The pervasiveness of image sharing platforms and the facilitated access to these platforms for lay-people can leave us with the illusion that we are all curators and that the role of professional curators will soon become obsolete.  I tend to disagree with this view and believe that although technology has developed rapidly in recent years, not everybody can be considered a curator per se.

It is also important to point out that the development of technologies, such as computational image analysis, poses the question of whether or not curation can be done without the participation of a human agent.  Computational image analysis is a very powerful tool as it saves time and effort for the image curator.  The internet has become flooded with billions of images and sorting through them, categorising them and organising them has become a colossal task.  With the help of technology, sifting through images has become easier and faster.

This does not mean that computational image analysis can substitute the judgment made by a curator.  I agree with Steve Rosenbaum  who  states  that     “Computers          can’t         distinguish


between data and ideas or between human intellect and aggregated text and links”.  This is the main reason why I am of the view that computational image analysis cannot replace the input of human curators.  Computers do not feel or think as humans (or at least not yet!).  Exhibitions are made with the purpose of reaching                certain                 audiences, with the intention of broadcasting particular ideas  and/or evoke certain memories or feelings.  This is where the role of the curators becomes immensely important. Although computers can help in the curation of images, the organisation of an exhibition itself, in relation to the selection of images cannot be made by a computer.  Curators are the experts who evaluate the images and identify what images would fit with the specific theme.  Selecting the images, their arrangement and presentation, are not actions that can be done solely by machines.  Every exhibition aims to achieve certain emotive responses within the audience, and that is where computational analysis fails.  The curator, through his experience, both personal and social, knows how the human psyche works.  Sifting through the avalanche of images can be done faster and easier with the help of computational tools but choosing the most appropriate images and contextualising them can be achieved solely by a human agent.

When talking about computational image analysis and human curatorship, I feel that there is no need to juxtapose them.  There are many benefits to computational image analysis but I remain of the view that its role is ancillary to the role of the human curator.  On the other hand, modern curators need to embrace new technologies in order to deliver the best possible experience for their audiences.


Rosenbaum, Steve.  “Why Curation is Just as Important as Creation [Opinion]”.  Mashable UK, 17 March 2011, available from  Accessed on 13 December 2016.

Palladino, Valentina.  “Google Open Gallery launches, letting almost anyone create online exhibitions”.  The Verge, 10 December 2013,

available from  Accessed on 13 December 2016.




In the age of social media obsession, it is becoming increasingly difficult for us to keep control over the images and related personal information being shared on social media and the world wide web in general.  Privacy is becoming an increasingly contentious issue among the majority of social media users.  As technologies are developing to facilitate the upload and sharing of images, the personal information in the public domain which we or other people, inadvertently or not, post is increasing.  I will examine the privacy concerns on two levels – on a more personalised level, in the area of “small data” (data, in particular images, posted by an individual user) and within the context of “Big Data” (the data uploaded by other users).


The term “privacy” varies from person to person.  Not everybody has the same notion of “privacy”.  While software engineers view it in binary terms, most people have ambiguous and changing views of “privacy” (Highfiled, 7).  It is interesting to note that a study carried out by Yahoo! Research Berkeley group, which examined Flickr users’ privacy settings and concerns, concluded that only 2% of the surveyed photos had the location information suppressed.  This probably indicates that overall most people are not that concerned with their location’s disclosure.  However, we cannot take this at face value as the default option on Flickr at the time of research was for the location to be included (Ahern et al, 361).  Even if we take into consideration this fact, I find the percentage of photos revealing (inadvertently or not) location somewhat surprising.  The location data attached to uploaded images reveals details of a person’s daily life which in turn can lead to concerns as to that person’s security or the physical security of their families and property.  This concern prevents me personally from uploading photos of my child on social platforms.  I also choose not to upload photos while on holidays as this could give away the fact that my home is vacant.

Furthermore, I believe that when we upload photos on social platforms it is important that we take into account that these photos affect our social image.  For example, some employers perform background checks on Facebook and other social media when hiring new employees.  Uploading a picture which is compromising in any way could mean loss of a job or other social opportunities.  This problem is exacerbated by the fact that even if we control what images we post, there is the bigger problem – we do not have much control over what images other people are uploading of us.  This concern leads us to the issue of privacy in the context of “Big Data”.

Data digital flow

“Big Data” is the name given to large data-sets which are often collected and researched by companies and governments with the purpose of market research, targeted advertisement and national security (Smith).  The amount of uploaded data is increasing on a daily basis at an ever-growing speed.  A quick perusal of Instagram’s Stats page shows that more than 95 million photos/videos are uploaded per day on that platform alone.  The existence of myriad social media platforms means that very often images of us can be uploaded by other users without us being even aware, especially if we are not users of that particular platform.  Some social media platforms allow for tagging and inform the tagged person that an image of him has been uploaded but in a lot of cases the photos are not tagged.  The fact that modern devices are capable of embedding geo-data and other metadata increases the threat to a person’s privacy, especially in cases of non-linked tagging of photos when the person is not made aware of the uploading of this image (Smith).

Overall, I feel that in our age of social media obsession, we, the social media users, remain over-exposed.  Despite all attempts to defend our privacy, it is near impossible to prevent other people from uploading images and data about us.  I remain of the view that we need to get accustomed to the idea of our diminished privacy, especially in cases where we voluntarily choose to make our photos available online.  This seems to be the price we have to pay for the benefits of using social media platforms.


Ahern, Shane et al.  “Over-Exposed?  Privacy Patterns and Considerations in Online and Mobile Photosharing”, in Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems, 2007, available from

Highfiled, Tim, and Tama Leaver.  “A methodology for mapping Instagram hashtags”, First Monday, Vol. 20, No. 1, 1 January 2015, pp. 1-11, available from .php/fm/rt/printerFriendly/5563/4195.  Accessed on 26 November 2016.

Smith, Matthew et al. “Big Data Privacy Issues in Public Social Media”, Leibniz Universitat Hannover, available from  Accessed on 26 November 2016.