5.2 Recommendations for future development

Expansion of project data

Future projects could benefit from integration with a more diverse array of datasets such as place-name gazetteers and historical mapping, particularly digitised tithe mapping. A worthy example of WebGIS utilising tithe maps can be found at 'e-mapping Victorian Cheshire: Cheshire's Tithe Maps Online'. This will enable users to form a deeper understanding of a historical geography of a locale and form a more nuanced interpretation of features. Depending on freely available coverage, the value of the addition of multi- or hyper-spectral data could be explored. This would allow greater potential for subsurface archaeological features to be identified through cropmarks and soilmarks. However, increasing the range of sources may add unwanted complexity to the WebGIS and usability may suffer as a result. Consequently, the value of additional sources has to be carefully balanced against any negative impacts experienced by the user. There is potential to develop a wider user base and realise the true potential of crowdsourced/citizen science applications, possibly through integration with already utilised tools such as Google Earth. In addition, encouragement to modify the current WebGIS code and improve functionality, facilitated by the FOSS concept, may prove beneficial. Therefore, software development tasks can be crowdsourced in addition to facilitating knowledge production.

Potential technological improvements

One aspect to consider is that LIDAR also offers the potential to create 3D products, rapidly breaking out of Cartesian 'top down' perspectives that shackle visualisation methods commonly used in many disciplines. As web infrastructure and skills improve in the archaeological community it may be possible to develop projects that allow LIDAR data to be viewed in 3D. There is currently FOSS software available that could be used to develop 3D viewing of LIDAR data for archaeological purposes, most notably Dielmo OpenLIDAR 3D LIDAR Points Client, which aims for any user, expert or non-expert, to visualise a LIDAR data point cloud in 3D over the internet via LIDAR Online (LIDAR-Online 2011). It is therefore possible that integration of 3D capability with existing WebGIS projects is possible, although currently the Dielmo LIDAR Online project has very limited UK data available for viewing and therefore faces the same challenge regarding LIDAR data availability and the tendency towards commodification of geospatial data currently prevalent in the UK.

In addition, on-demand geoprocessing tools could eliminate the need for pre-processing of data for effective visualisation. Examples of online geoprocessing are now beginning to emerge in other disciplines, such as hydrological analysis (Granell et al. 2007). In reality, current processing time for many of the more complex methods used at present in remote sensing could possibly prohibit this to single azimuth processes. However, online geoprocessing would allow expanded engagement with the process of LIDAR data utilisation for the non-expert user and minimise the burden on the centralised resources of expert institutions involved in a project. This essentially would harness the capability of the 'distributed computing' concept used by citizen science projects discussed in Section 1.


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