Chance to log on and fly the flag

University of Otago Associate Prof Peter Whigham (left) and Dr Colin Aldridge examine some of the...
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,, 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 design process''.

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'', he said.

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''.

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