Glossary

By Titus Bicknell, Nancy Proctor and Ted Forbes

app Common abbreviation for application program which refers to any body of code that performs a task or tasks when installed on a given operating system e.g. word processing, image manipulation or even a game. See web app and native app for specific uses pertaining to mobile device usage in museums.
web app Common abbreviation for web application program and also know as SaaS (Software as a Service), which refers to any body of code that performs a task or tasks when installed on a given Internet accessible server and a user interacts with it via a web browser; the key differences from an app are that it does not require installation on the user’s computer and the processing power required to execute the task(s) can be leveraged from a number of servers in the cloud; a key advantage is that the web app can be upgraded for all users by updating the central server app rather than each individual user’s locally installed copy, the key disadvantage is that the user requires an internet connection to use a web app.

N.B. in discussions of iOS and Android devices web app has come to refer also to mobile websites that are accessed through an app icon on the user’s device and feel like a native app but rely on the content and experience being delivered via the Internet.

mobile website A website optimised for access via a mobile device rather than a laptop or desktop computer; mobile websites are formatted to be viewed on a range of small screens, include minimal graphics or media elements that require significant bandwidth to download or plug-ins to display correctly to the end user; some mobile websites are designed specifically to be experienced on certain devices while others make use of different CSS sheets to delver a different layout depending on what device the web server identifies the user is visiting the site with.
native app Refers to any application program designed to be installed and run on a specific operating system; it is most commonly used to distinguish between a user experience that runs natively on a device, usually without needing access to the Internet, and a website that is formatted to feel like an app rather than a mobile website and is accessed via a app icon on the user’s mobile or portable device.
OS Common abbreviation for Operating System, the foundation layer that is installed when a device is switched on, required by all installed hardware, applications and peripherals for their individual functionality e.g Microsoft Windows 7, Mac OS X, Linux on personal computers or Apple’s iOS, Microsoft Windows Mobile, Android on mobile and portable devices.
CMS Common abbreviation for Content Management System, often deployed as a web app or SaaS to allow for collaboration among many users in creating, editing and organizing content that will be delivered via the Internet as a website, mobile website or delivered via a web app or published as part of a native app.
DAMS Common abbreviation for Digital Asset Management System, often deployed s a web app or  SaaS to allow for collaboration among many users in ingesting, tagging, and organizing digital assets. DAMS focus on secure storage of hi resolution originals that can be leveraged by a CMS in platform specific, reduced quality, alternative format instances. This dynamic relationship between DAMS and CMS minimises the number of digital versions of the same asset that need to be stored.
Device Device is a term used to describe computer hardware. Devices include computers, phones, game systems, media players and other physical electronic aides. The term “mobile” device usually refers to a hand held, portable piece of equipment such as a smartphone, smaller media player or tablet. 
Standard Refers to a set of ratified principles, coding vocabulary or mark up language used to organise and manage content, its apeparance and data structure. The adoption of standards ensures wide compatibility with devices, operating systems and applications developed by different manufacturers.
Platform Platform can refer to a) the operating system running on a specific piece of hardware (ex. Windows 7 is a platform) or b) a method of distributing content (ex. Facebook, YouTube and an iPhone app are all platforms we can use to distribute content)
Specification Sometimes a synonym for Standard but referring to a principles, coding vocabulary or mark up language that is under consideration as a standard; multiple specifications originating in different development contexts can often be aggregated to define a Standard that multiple developers can then adhere to and leverage.
HTML5 HTML is a common abbreviation for HyperText Markup Language which refers to the simple yet powerful standard that governs the writing and rendering of web pages; ratified by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium), HTML5 is the latest iteration of the standard and adds support for the presentation and control of and interaction with audio, video and other visual assets without needing additional plugins. It is hoped HTML5 will allow the development of richer interactive content to run on mobile and portable devices with minimal processing power or ability to support plugins such as Flash.
CSS Common abbreviation for Cascading Style Sheets, a W3C ratified standard for describing the layout and appearance of content. Most commonly used in conjunction with HTML, CSS allows the look and feel of large websites to be updated from a single central style document or for web content to appear in alternative ways appropriate to different devices e.g. mobile or portable devices. CSS can also be used to define the appearance of any XML document.
XML Common abbreviation for Extensible Markup Language, a W3C ratified standard for organising data. Due to its flexibility and ability to support custom defined containers it has become a de facto standard for passing data among different incompatible applications.
Metadata Refers both to data about data and data about the framework in which that data is contained. In most cases metadata is invisible to a user during their experience of data, but is used to inform or organise the user experience e.g. metadata can be used to group results in a search by key shared metadata not explicit in the search query or metadata can be used to find associated assets in multiple CMS or DAMS in order to generate a rich media experience of a given piece of data.
API Common abbreviation for application programming interface, a set of defined parameters and interaction that allow different apps to communicate with each other e.g. Twitter API allows other apps to collect tweets, query twitter accounts or send tweets, Facebook API allows other apps to post status messages, retrieve user account information or posted images.
iOS Apple’s operating system for the iPhone and iPad; a powerful and feature rich OS, but with limited extensibility by the developer community. Apple argues the tight controls it places on iOS ensure the highest quality of user experience, others argue that the restrictions hinder development and cite open source platforms where large disparate communities collaborate to develop and optimise new functionality as a better model.
Android A mobile operating system based on Linux; although now owned by Google, Android is extensible by the vast developer community and many variants of Android have been deployed by different hardware manufacturers on mobile and portable devices such as smart phones and tablets.
Open Source Open Source software (OSS) describes any application where the source code is available freely to anyone for use and improvement. Many open source applications have attracted large dedicated communities whose cumulative improvement and extension allow for faster version release, and feature addition than many paid applications. While there is no purchase price for open source applications they are often wrongly described as free: considerable technical and staff costs may be required to make effective use of an open source application but doing so often allows for cross-institutional collaboration and cheaper customisation compared to paid apps. The museum community has made extremely good use of such Open Source applications as Drupal and WordPress.
Drupal an Open Source application widely used within the museum community as a CMS.
Moore’s Law First described by Intel co-founder Gordon E. Moore, in 1965, it indicates that the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit doubles every 24 months. The increase in processing power has in fact doubled every 18 months due to complementary developments such as parallel computing that support multi cored processors and multi threaded processing to allow for multiple processors in the same computer.
asset An asset is a piece of content in a discrete, self-contained form such as an image, a video, an audio file, or a text document.
swiping “Swiping” is a touchscreen gesture introduced by Apple with the iPhone. A lateral swipe or drag of the finger across the screen either left or right will cause a menu of content, often images, to flow by at a speed that responds to the speed of the gesture.
smartphone A “smartphone” is a phone that has Internet connectivity, enabling it to provide access to websites, apps and downloadable content. Smartphones are distinguished by simpler, often earlier, mobile phones that provide only voice calling and text messaging (SMS).
SMS Short message service or ‘text messaging’ allows messages of up to 160 characters in length to be sent or received from a cellphone.
personal media player A personal media player (PMP) is a mobile, often handheld device that plays rich media such as audio and video from local memory on the device. A common example is the iPod. PMPs may or may not have Internet access (wireless) capabilities.
hybrid app A hybrid app combines features of a native app with web-delivered content and/or web pages.
tablet computer A tablet computer or simply “tablet” is a portable digital device that consists of a screen with all computing components built behind the screen. Tablet computers do not have keyboards built-in. A common example of a tablet computer is the iPad.
eBook, eBook reader An eBook reader is a portable device designed primarily to present text such as books, magazines and article – i.e. make them readable in a digital format as “eBooks”. eBook readers often have some interactive and Internet capabilities, e.g. the ability to look up the definition of a word by tapping it on the screen, bookmark, annotate and highlight text. Some eBooks are simple PDF documents with text and images only; others may include video, audio, and more complex combinations of media.
augmented reality (AR) Augmented reality is the “real world” overlayed with digital content to create a multi-sensory experience. Audio tours have been described as the original augmented reality, since the user’s understanding or experience of a visual scene or environment can be “augmented” with audio heard at the same time. More commonly today, augmented reality is a location-based service delivered through a smartphone or tablet computer: the user views the object or scene in front of him or her through the camera on the device, and the screen shows that “real world” view overlayed with pertinent images or explanatory text. A common example of AR is found in directory apps that label the scene observed through the mobile device’s camera with further information about the buildings, e.g. restaurants, stores, in the nearby area, and may provide links to the businesses’ websites and contact details. In the cultural space, AR has been used to overlay contemporary environments with historic photos and site-specific digital artwork. AR depends on a location-based technology, e.g. GPS, to trigger the display of the correct content for the scene viewed through the user’s device.
GPS GPS stands for Global Positioning System. It is a “line-of-sight” location-based technology that uses satellites to identify and relay the user’s geo-coordinates (latitude, longitude, altitude) to his or her mobile device. GPS really only works with any degree of precision and accuracy outdoors, but because it requires a direct “line-of-sight’ from the satellite(s) to the mobile device, it can function less well outdoors if obstructed by tall buildings or foliage.
3D 3D stands for three-dimensions, and usually refers to digital models and assets that represent objects and environments in full three-dimensional form or space.
compass (in a smartphone) Many smartphones now include digital compasses that will indicate the bearing of the device as held by the user. This functionality can be used by apps run on the smartphone to perform and inform more complex spatial operations, e.g. help navigate the user through a space by recognizing not just where the user is, but also the direction in which s/he is heading.
geotag A geotag is the x, y, and z coordinates or latitude, longitude and altitude of a given location. This metadata can be associated with buildings and outdoor points of interest through a process called “geotagging”: collecting the geo-coordinates of the point and connecting them with relevant records or other content.
crowdsourcing A term popularized by Wired editor, Jeff Howe, in 2006, crowdsourcing refers to a collaboration with a broad user-base or ‘general public’ to accomplish specific tasks. A museum might “crowdsource” photographs or geodata of objects and locations of interest, for example, by building a mobile app that allows users to capture this content and add it to a common data set from their personal mobile phones. Although the “crowd” might have specialized knowledge, skills or interests, participants are not individually recruited for a crowdsourced activity; rather they volunteer their services and may even be anonymous or unknown, contributing via a platform provided by the sponsor/developer of the crowdsourcing project.
banner ad A banner ad is a horizontal advertisement that usually appears at the top or bottom of a web page. They are used in some mobile websites and apps to generate revenue and promote products and services.
mobile giving Mobile giving is a way of donating small amounts of money, usually $5 or $10, through text messaging (SMS) from a cellphone. The amount of the donation is added to the donor’s mobile phone bill.
network effects “Network effects” are used to describe systems that become more useful or intelligent the more participants, element or nodes in the system. A common example is telephones or fax machines, which become exponentially more useful, valuable, and used the more of them there are in a given networked system (i.e. a fax machine is not very useful if you don’t know anyone else who uses one, but cellphones have become prized possessions precisely because they enable connections to such a large percentage of the people on the planet). A system may also achieve network effects by mixing elements or nodes in the network: e.g. an app may become more useful, effective and used if it links to a mobile version of a museum’s website for certain features, and is in turn promoted by the museum’s traditional analog signage and promotional materials. In this example, the value of the whole system is greater than the sum of its individual parts.
onboard “Onboard” refers to the local memory of a device, e.g. an “onboard” app or audio tour is stored in the local memory of a personal media player and can be played back without the device being connected to the Internet. Onboard content stands in contrast to “streamed” content.
streaming “Streaming” refers to the download and playback of media in real time, without storing a copy of the content in the memory of the device. Unlike “onboard” content delivery, streamed content requires a constant Internet connection in order to play media. Quite often streaming is used when the content owner does not want users to be able to keep a copy of the content.
Web 1.0, Web 2.0 Web 1.0 is a shorthand to reference a style of content and experience design that was common in the early days of the Internet: also known as a “one-way” or broadcast model, Web 1.0 delivers messages to end users but does not “listen” or receive feedback from users. By contrast, Web 2.0 signifies a two-way communication model, with an exchange of content and messages between the author/broadcaster and audiences. Web 2.0 is generally heralded as a less formal, more conversational approach to digital (and other) content and experience design, soliciting audience response and partnership in the dialogue. Social media is “Web 2.0” in nature and concept.
Alternate Reality Game (ARG) Alternate Reality Games are participatory, multi-platform experiences that may use a wide range of media and tools, including websites, mobile devices, and ‘analog’ platforms in a physical space. Generally the narrative of ARGs is shaped if not largely developed by the game players and their actions and movements through space and across platforms.
social media Social media are platforms built on the Web 2.0 model that enable and encourage the co-creation and exchange of content, conversations and shared knowledge and experiences. Common examples include Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, YouTube and blogs. 
QR code A QR code is a kind of bar code that, because of its more complex design, can store more information than a traditional bar code. QR codes are read by dedicated apps that use the smartphone’s camera to decode the content ‘stored’ in the code’s pattern. This content is often a URL or website address, so upon reading the QR code the code reader app will attempt to display the web page at the given URL. Because of their higher content storage capacity, QR codes can also transmit up to several thousand alphanumeric characters, e.g. contact information or short texts.
alias/shortcut An alias or shortcut is an icon that enables one-click access to an application, program or document. It is possible, for example, to create an alias to a mobile website and store the link to it as an icon on the smartphone screen to provide more rapid access than typing in the website’s URL. Apps are also generally represented on the smartphone screen by icons that are shortcuts to start up the app.
interface An interface is a visual, graphic representation (also called a GUI or graphic user interface) that provides clickable access to content and services on a digital screen.
wireless Wireless generally refers to a network connection that does not require any ‘wires’ or cables other than, perhaps, to a power supply. Wifi and 3G are common wireless network access protocols.
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s