Play the Picture
Ajapaik (Timepatch) is a gamified web and mobile application for crowdsourcing geo-tags and rephotographs for historic photographs.
Public collections in LAMs have hundreds of thousands of historic photographs that are and already have been digitized and made accessible online. The problem with these historic views is that the location of the pictures is mostly only in textual form (a street name, a description) and not in the form of geographic coordinates what would enable the presentation of the pictures on a map or even in much talked about augmented reality applications. The problem is universal and common to all the photographic collections. The need for geotagging historic pictures has been recognized in recent years and there are several sites dedicated to that (historypin.com, sepiatown.com, whatwasthere.com) but they lack the crowdsourcing functionality for geotagging that is essential for making the geotagging on a large scale. Ajapaik (Timepatch) would do the same task in a different way – the geotags for pictures are crowdsourced from users and statistical algorithms are used to calculate the average from location suggestions to every single photograph made by multiple users. The other task for users is adding repeat photographs (rephotographs) to historic pictures in order to create then and now picture pairs for better comparison. The fundamental aspect is that the process is gamified. Historic imagery is data for creating a location based game that is at the same time a tool for enriching historic pictures with geographic metadata and a platform for presenting old pictures on a map.
The ICT is central to Ajapaik (Timepatch) as it is a web and mobile application. The digitized historic photographs in LAMs are also becoming open data and have APIs for access by other applications. That is what Ajapaik will be using. This goes for individual LAMs material, but also linking to bigger aggregators and repositories (like Europeana or Wikimedia Commons or Flickr Commons) is intended. Ajapaik has its own database for storing pictures, the descriptions and links to the sources, but also the data about the users and created by the users. The intention is also to connect Ajapaik with other social networks (Facebook, Google+, Twitter) for the identification of the users and also for the virality of the application. As Ajapaik is dealing with geographical and visual data its mobile app is also making use of data connection, different sensors (GNSS, gyroscope, compass) and camera of the smartphones and tablets for users to navigate to the vantage points of the historic pictures and take rephotographs on these spots. But the central innovation and ICT of Ajapaik is all the algorithms for harvesting and calculating the geotags plus the gamification mechanisms for making Ajapaik more engaging for the users and for creating the community of users.
Ajapaik is intended for general public to connect them better to history via photographic heritage and active gamified engagement. Still we can distinguish different groups of users who might be doing different tasks on the application. First group of users is expert users who have the tacit knowledge about historic buildings not existent anymore (war damage for instance). These people have an already well established interest in history – they can be private photo and postcard collectors, amateur historians and also professional historians and LAM staff. These people are able to pinpoint the most challenging historic photographs. The larger group of people is those who just are able to recognize places depicted on old views. When the abovementioned users have made the initial geotagging of pictures the material becomes accessible for new users for rephotography especially with the help of the Ajapaik mobile app that helps them to navigate to right places in order to see the places in reality and create a "manual" augmented reality when overlaying the historic view with the contemporary environment. We see that the task of rephotography can be very well used in education as an active and also creative plus technology related out-of-classroom activity (compatible with BYOD approach too) both for history and environmental studies subjects.
First – Ajapaik (Timepatch) is not just an idea, but it is already an existing web (ajapaik.ee) and mobile application that is still far from being ready. Great part of Ajapaik has been developed during three hackathons in Estonia. And Estonian Photographic Heritage Society has received two grants (5000 and 4000 euros) for developing Ajapaik. Still, these sums are not enough for having a fixed team and developing process. At the moment we do have a functional web platform with a test set of 1400 pictures from Estonia with a minimal aspect of gamification. We also have a basic Android application and a Windows8 application (both localized to only Estonia) that are dedicated for rephotography of the historic pictures and lack any gamification. We are seaking for more funding and cooperation. We plan to link Ajapaik to Estonian National Archives project of making their data open data. We also have initial contacts with Wikimedia Estonia and Finland. As the application requires local users for local pictures we have planned to develop and test run Ajapaik in Estonia with historic photographs from Estonian museums and archives. We want to keep the development process agile, have things functional and running and grow the user base and implement new features. We want to have connections to the LAMs internationally and if possible engage also interested developers from abroad. Although we've done research and have lists of ideas we also need mentoring in gamification.
Sustainability has been a key issue for the idea of Ajapaik. We have several not-so-sure ideas of how to monetize Ajapaik in order to become sustainable. As Ajapaik fundamentally is a crowdsourcing application and the users are contributing information and new data (rephotographs) it seems logical that the application should be free for the users. The actual beneficiaries are the LAMs whose pictures acquire new metadata and extra visibility. As Ajapaik also connects to the education sector we see that creating special dedicated educational extra tools and applications and licencing these to schools can be one option to gain some revenue. Also, after users have already enriched the pictures with locational data we might be able to create some special and for instance freemium tourist guide apps that don't ask for users contributions but are just guiding them and offering augmented reality. The questions of sustainability are actually the ones that we need most of advice and mentoring we believe.