Tools of the Trade

It’s not all reading material for p-Celtic linguistics you know – just getting the tools to work can be a pain. This page is just some how-tos and musings on IT things.

QGIS for Name Mapping

One of the main outcomes of my research thesis is a set of map resources that may be used to illustrate how certain types of names are distributed in the landscape. This is partly a linguistic endeavour, but also one that needs a geographer's tools and mindset (it remains to be seen whether I have this!).

I needed to find an Open Source mapping tool, and QGIS presented itself, particularly so since a great number of people use it for a variety of uses, from physical geography to anthropology.

QGIS provides the means to load data from CSV files, in my case a list of place names with coordinates. These are then 'projected' onto a map canvas (remembering that the Earth is curved) and then displayed. The basic idea is that a map (in the form of a picture), is linked to a coordinate system (in this case the Ordnance Survey system), and then OS points (places) are then mapped onto the map image.

Once this first step is completed, all sorts of really cool stuff can be done (mathematical stuff), such as finding nearest neighbours, statistical co-relations, density calculations and so forth. One of the goals of this for Cornwall is to look for associations between name types and man-made features such as fortifications and roads, or natural defences such as rivers.

Coming Off Facebook - Again

Yes, this is the third time I have come off Facebook, and this time there is very little chance I will be using it except for the odd public advertisement for something I am involved in (Cornish language or history most likely). In fact I have seen a trend for Facebook now to be used only for advertising local events, and people to post pictures of local landscapes. It is worth it just for those two things, but in my opinion clear boundaries need to be set.

I'm not going to make a song and dance of it, but I'd like to explain why, and it's not all to do with Facebook giving our data to Cambridge Analytica, although that's certainly a part of it, because I already guessed this would would happen when I dumped Facebook the first time around (when was that, 2010?). That time I signed off with "In all conscience I cannot stay on Facebook since it means everything I do will be associated with family members and friends."

I admit that I have a knack for spotting trouble long, long before it arrives but this was obvious to me, and I'm still surprised that so few people took the risks of Facebook seriously.

The second time on Facebook was purely for IT testing purposes when I worked at Falmouth University as part of my paid work for my University clients, and I never 'used' the account (to the annoyance of some family and friends who though I was blanking them).

What I did not spot is that someone evil genius (and I am not being facetious, it really is genius) would find a way to harvest data (easily) and then perform personality matching (harder) to work out a system of nudges to change people's minds (utterly evil genius: I wish I'd thought of it, even though I couldn't manipulate people this way).

This is the reason why I think social media is dead. It really is now just two-way advertisement, where the recipient agrees to be manipulated. I am not being melodramatic as I have seen first hand my friends and relatives manipulated through peer pressure (willing and unwilling) and nudged through propaganda to take ever more outspoken political positions. I cannot see how well natured debate or democracy can function in such a cloud of trolling and hysteria.

As Scotty of the Enterprise would say, "Captain, we have a problem." No kidding.