I was recently doing some research, looking at the island of Stronsay, in Orkney, when I noticed something interesting.

Using the internet for research is full of peril, fraught with misinformation and potential downfall, but it has become my principal default method, assuming I follow careful protocols…

This is a perfect example of said care. I wanted to look at a map of Stronsay, look at the outline, then the Ordnance Survey map, then a satellite image. For this I used Bing maps, as I find the satellite images to be a bit more up-to-date than others of the same area. Below I shall present these, each captured as a screenshot, in reverse order.

Perils of using the internet for research - a satellite image of Stronsay.
Satellite image of Stronsay, Orkney. This is a useful method of looking at the land, as features such as shallow water and tidal areas are visible. The smaller island to the north east is Papa Stronsay — home to a community of Transalpine Redemptorist monks.

 

Another research tool — ordnance survey maps, this one from Bing.
This is the Ordnance Survey (whom I love dearly) map of the same area. If you scroll back up you can see some of the low tide marks in the satellite imagery — but you can’t see the detail of the shallows, for example. Using different resources in research is essential. O/S maps are wonderful, packed full of wonderful things and promising adventure and exploration opportunities.
Another research tool - Bing road map - missing Papa Stronsay.
Finally, this is the Bing road map view of Stronsay. Being as it is only a small island, there is not much detail here at all – even the edges of the island do not seem to line up neatly with the O/S map, or the satellite imagery. But the biggest difference should appear obvious…

So there we go. A disappearing island full of monks… This does sound a little like a Famous Five story, or perhaps something from the X-Files, or the Twilight Zone?

Amy Liptrot, author of The Outrun (a book I shall be discussing here in the future), has written about digital nomads and ghosts, here. In The Outrun she talks of the Holm of Papay, and the south-east corner, itself cut off, disappearing from Google Maps. The above screenshot is another prime example of a digital ghost, and I cannot help but wonder why Papa Stronsay has disappeared on this map. Is it a powerful monkish prayer, answered by the small gods of the internet? Or perhaps a more ancient magic? Something hiding the island, like the mystical home of the Finfolk, Hildaland.

Everything is circles, within circles, encircled by still others. Connections hidden everywhere. I write this piece, linking screenshots taken recently when I was still in the far north of Scotland, researching a place in Orkney, itself a central character in Amy’s book — in which she discusses vanishing islands on the internet. The book itself is published by Canongate — a district here in Edinburgh, a place where I sit as I complete this post, a stone’s throw from the road bearing the same name. Circles. Hidden things, subtle connections. Our world is built upon these things — yet so many walk with their eyes closed, they do not look, they do not research as they should.

Yesterday we sat in George Square, and a children’s choir from England came and sat beside our table, all gathered, heads collectively bowed over their individual smartphones. This choir was from the town where I was born. And my sister, Lydia, knew one of the people looking after the children.

Circles. Smaller, larger. Connections, hidden, obvious, tenuous and wonderful. I feel that, as the world lurches and staggers, we could all do with little reminders of how we are really all one species. And that should be all that matters.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Potential Pitfalls of Internet Research

Tagged on:                                         

One thought on “Potential Pitfalls of Internet Research

Feel free to leave a response.