University of Otago Associate Prof Peter Whigham (left) and
Dr Colin Aldridge examine some of the many alternative New
Zealand flag designs generated through an internet site
they developed. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
As debate continues about possible new designs for the
New Zealand flag, people can still experiment with new
flag-related ideas using an internet site dreamed up by
University of Otago researchers.
The website, flags.otago.ac.nz, was launched at Wakari
Primary School in 2009 by then science minister and former
Dunedin North MP Pete Hodgson.
The internet site was set up by researchers at the university
information science department, led by Associate Prof Peter
Whigham and Dr Colin Aldridge, to enable school pupils and
others to join in a shared design effort.
The aim was to use public interest in the flag as a way to
''test a new technology for people to collaborate in evolving
image designs'', organisers said.
Designed to be easy and fun for all ages, the site encourages
people to take part in a ''collaborative online evolutionary
Prof Whigham, Dr Aldridge and Dr Michel de Lange undertook
the related research project, which also resulted in a
jointly written research paper which Prof Whigham presented
at a computation conference in Norway in 2008.
The project had not resulted in one overall preferred flag
design, Prof Whigham said.
But a single fern leaf had proved popular through the
''generations of the group design work'', and ''simple,
uncluttered designs'' had been apparent.
The silver fern was a possible ''iconic'' flag, but ''our
take-home message would be to ensure simplicity of design'',
Several hundred people had made use of the site, and the
exercise had proved positive and fruitful, Prof Whigham said.
''It was nice to do something where you see kids doing stuff
and getting value from it.''
His son, Tama (10), had helped by providing feedback during
the site's development.
The internet site opened up possibilities for many kinds of
learning, including about working creatively in a group.
There was still the chance to ''make some flags that are
really quite nice''.