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OpenLearn Live: 9th August 2016

Updated Monday 8th August 2016

The Brazilian who reclaimed native plants for tropical gardens; what went wrong with the Australian census; and mapping cyclists data. Free learning from across the day.

OpenLearn Live brings together the things that matter to you, and the world of learning and research. This page will be updated across the day.

Yesterday, we caught up with FutureLearn and asked why Peep Show treated racism and disablism differently

See the complete collection of OpenLearn Live


Today's posts


The beauty of bike journeys

Here's something ethereal and gorgeous created out of sweat and exertion. The Urban Complexity Lab has taken data from bikeshare schemes (like the 'Boris Bikes' Ken Livingstone introduced to London) and made some visualisations:

Get into the science behind the bike


Counting Australians: What went wrong with the Australian census?

esterday evening was census day in Australia. Some sixteen million Australians were expected to complete their details - obviously, they don't know exactly how many, because if they did there'd be no need for a census.

For the first time, the census was being done entirely online.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, apart from what happens if millions of people try to log on at one?

In the run up, the New Zealand Herald eyed its neighbour and asked if they'd though this through:

More than 15 million people are expected to flood the Census site over the course of Tuesday to complete their forms and fears have been raised the great snapshot of 2016 might be end up being the great digital failure of 2016.

Not possible, Australian Bureau of Statistics' Census boss Chris Libreri told news.com.au.

He said the system had passed testing with flying colours, so was unlikely to repeat the much-hyped failure of the 2012 Click Frenzy "sale that stops a nation" that only sent servers into meltdown.

"We have load tested it at 150 per cent of the number of people we think are going to be on it on Tuesday for eight hours straight and it didn't look like flinching," he said.

"We wouldn't do it unless we were able to safely do it, we have evolved it and we are confident."

That's the sort of pride which usually comes before a 404. A few hours later, Gizmodo was reporting the fail:

According to the ABS, 16 million Australians — 65 per cent of the population, or over 6 million households — are expected to complete the Census entirely online. To do this, letters were sent to each Australian household with a unique twelve-digit code that allows a form to be completed online on the census.ABS.gov.au website. That website, at the moment, is not responding for some users as of 7:55PM tonight:

What's perhaps more annoying for the Census people is that the public had already spotted the flaw in the plan:

And even more galling is that the census didn't need to be completed yesterday at all; although it was census day, Australians had a full month to submit their details.

There had already been controversey around the digital census, with many announcing they were going to avoid it altogether. ZDNet heard from politicians worried about data security:

[P]oliticians including independent senators Nick Xenophon and Jacqui Lambie say they'll risk a possible AU$180-a-day fine, and withhold their names and addresses.

This is despite census head Duncan Young promising Australians their data will be top secret.

"Hand on heart, the security set-up in order for people to submit their information -- it's encrypted all the way through from their browsers into the ABS's internal environment," he told the Nine Network.

"Then we go through the process of separation. The information is isolated so people who can access names can't access the rest."

The ABS has collected names and addresses since 1911 -- but it will now keep data for four years instead of 18 months.

Senator Xenophon said yesterday he would introduce legislation that made giving your name optional in the future.

"The ABS has failed to make a compelling case why names must be provided, and stored for four years, and unlike any other Census in this nation's history since that first Census on the 2nd of April 1911, all names will be turned into a code that ultimately can be used to identify you," he said.

It is, of course, difficult to separate out those actively boycotting a process from those trying to participate but being locked out.

At The Conversation, David Glance explored this, the root of the first #censusfail:

The fight against the collection of names and addresses by the ABS has become a focal point for certain members of the public’s general concern about privacy. In the context of how much information is shared by the public with companies and government organisations, it is innocuous by itself.

However, it represents a background concern of loss of control over what is essentially something that is especially precious to the individual: their personal identity.

The ABS is unfortunate in that it has allowed attention to coalesce around this particular day of the collection, which amplifies the concerns of what is a relatively small number of vocal dissenters.

The good news for the ABS, though, is that past the Census date, attention of the issue is likely to quickly dissolve and it can see how successful or otherwise their attempt to capture this new data has been.

As if that wasn't enough for one census to cope with, the introduction of an option to idenify as having "no religion" has also created concerns. News.com.au reports that far-right groups were afraid this was some sort of bizarre attempt to recast Australia as a Muslim nation, via Facebook and a circulating email:

According to the Christian ethics action group Salt Shakers, an email is being circulated that asks Australians to avoid the “no religion” option.

“Bear in mind that although many Australians have no religion these days, the Muslim population in Australia will all declare that they are Muslim and this fact will be counted to ascertain what type of country we are in regard to religion,” the email states.

“Even though you may now have no religion, please consider entering the religion you were christened or born into, when answering this question.

“Otherwise in time Australia will officially be declared to be a Muslim country – because the Australian Bureau of Statistics Census will reflect this.”

At the time of the last census, 2.2% of Australians declared themselve to be Muslim. There were more Buddhists.

Explore cybersecurity


A week in Rio: Sítio Roberto Burle Marx

This week, we're walking away from the Olympics and exploring other stories of Rio, the city and the state. Yesterday, we discovered how The Queen started the work on the Rio-Niteroi Bridge. Today, we're going to a garden.

Parque Burle Marx Creative commons image Icon Paulo Roberto de Souza under Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0 license

The Sítio Roberto Burle Marx is on the tentative list to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's at the west side of the city, a fair drive from the centre. And although it's officially a museum, it's not one that has gone out of its way to be a tourist trap - appointments are encouraged; free-roaming is frowned upon; there is no catering concession or soft play area.

So, what makes the journey worth it? Well, the place is the former home of Roberto Burle Marx, and showcases his talents and passions.

Born in Sao Paulo in 1909, Burle Marx travelled to Berlin in the 1920s. He thought he had gone to become a painter, but while there a visit to the Botanical Gardens he made a discovery which would change the course of his life. The New York Times explains:

Burle Marx realized that the vegetation Brazilians then dismissed as scrub and brush, preferring imported pine trees and gladioli for their gardens, was truly extraordinary. Visiting the Botanical Garden in Berlin, he was startled to find many Brazilian plants in the collection and quickly came to see the untapped artistic potential in their varied shapes, sizes and hues.

A painter's eye and a passion for flora made Burle Marx a formidable landscape artist. He returned to Brazil and there worked on over a thousand different landscaping projects, putting the passion and colour of native plants at the heart of some spectacular displays. But his own patch, the Sítio Roberto Burle Marx, is his masterwork. It's more than just a gardener's garden; it also hosts a lifetime collection of art and artefacts:

The site is over 400 thousand square meters, hosting one of the most important collections of tropical and semitropical plants in the world. Cultivated in nurseries and outdoors, the collection features more than 3,500 plant species, including unique examples of families Araceae, bromeliads, Cycadaceae, Heliconiaceae, Marantaceae, Palmae and Velloziaceae. Burle Marx began as collecting as a six year-old boy.

Although deft at shaping human spaces - his designs were avant garde and modern - he also appreciated the value of wild spaces. He was one of the first Brazilians to campaign for the preservation of the rainforests.

Explore the Brazilian environment more deeply: Try our Adventure in the Amazon

Study design with The Open University

 
 
 

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