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A Winner for the Developers’ Challenge: Patrick Juola

Monday, July 12th, 2010

After the three judges (Geoffrey Rockwell, Michael Sperberg-McQueen, Tobias Blanke) reviewed the entries to the Developers’ Challenge, they chose a winner, and it was announced at the DH2010 final banquet, on Saturday evening , 10th July.

It was Patrick Juola (Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, Duquesne University) for his piece of software called “Once Upon a Time/Monkeying Around” — a game based on computer linguistic methods that could be applied against the WWI poetry collection, the Swift archives data and perhaps other of the textual collections that were provided in the DC datasets.  There is a bit more detail about Patrick’s submission, including the citation  from the judges, at this site’s Developers’ Challenge/And the Winner is… webpage .  We are also announcing the winner to Humanist, and through other DH channels.

Many thanks to the other contestants who contributed a number of really imaginative software ideas.  Also, many thanks to our three judges who had to sift though the submissions under a tight time pressure and select a winner, and to Dan Cohen who gladly fit time for the Developers’ Challenge into the THATCamp schedule. Finally, many thanks to our data providers who provided a rich and sophisticated range of data for our developers to play with.

Congratulations to Patrick!

… John Bradley and Gabriel Bodard.

Digital history

Monday, July 5th, 2010

As a historian who can very easily be mistaken for a philologist, I have recently been pondering the question of what technology can do for the field of history.  Digital tools have proven themselves in quite a few surrounding fields – archaeology, philology, text criticism and analysis.  But can we also use computers to help us put all this disparate data together?  Can we use computers to help us keep track of historical reasoning?  Are there any useful formal models that could be made for historical research?

If so, how do we do it?  If not, must history itself be excluded from the ‘digital humanities’?

Critical Mass in Social DH Applications

Monday, July 5th, 2010

What have you done to attract users to your (community centered / interactive / web 2.0) digital humanities application? What do you think could be done to attract users to such an application? What have you seen others do? What worked, what didn’t?

Using online social tools to bring practitioners and researchers closer together

Monday, July 5th, 2010

What: The idea is simple. We could probably use a platform for connecting researchers and practitioners that would break down the client/provider relationship currently embedded in the so-called ‘evidence-based’ practice and possibly put more emphasis on an ‘inquiry-based’ practice.

I’d be interested in talking with people about what such a platform would look like. This is is possibly related to: but with some differences (see below)

Background assumptions: There are broadly three stages to research: A: conception/formulation; B: conduct/completion; C: publication/dissemination. There are many digital and other avenues for distributing the results of research (C): viz academic journals, conferences, lectures (all of them with or without the e- prefix), websites. One might argue, that in this respect the digital is slowing overtaking analogue.  In this area, the social web has been most readily adopted. There are fewer but still sufficient digital resources for the conduct of research (B): surveys, digital archives, other storage, websites where experimenters can seek participants, websites where subjects can take part in experiments. But many of the techniques and ideas of participatory social research have not really been implemented in a digital manner. This holds even more true for the formulation of research aims (A). There are many digital tools to assist the researcher in the formulation of her research objectives but most of them remain rooted within the academic community which makes them logistically but not pragmasemantically accessible to practitioners and stakeholders.

The relevance of humanities and social science research to practitioners is a long standing point of contention. Many attempts (e.g. responsive evaluation, participatory social research, etc.) have been made to remedy this massive disconnect. The much misunderstood (possibly even by its author) notion of the reflective practitioner was attempting to deal with just this issue. Many methods and techniques for involving practitioners stakeholders, subjects and target audiences in the research process and even in the formulation of the aims of research have been developed by these participatory approaches as well as practitioner and action research. But what is their strength in responsiveness, viz their local nature, becomes a weakness in breadth of perspective.

Some practical suggestions:

I would love for there to exist a social environment (online community(ies)) where people could work together on questions and their answers. Something not dissimilar to things like YahooAnswers could be the starting point but with a proper collaborative formulation of both the question and the answer ensuing. I envision a space where practitioners could look for answers, researchers look for questions and funders could offer microgrants.

All the foundations are there: community building tools from Wikia to Ning (or Buddypress), idea labs/incubators, Q&A platforms, microlending/funding platforms. I can see a combination of Kiva and Kickstarter with features of Ning, Delicious, Digg and Bibsonomy (or similar).

But a success would require more than just a platform (which would be easy enough to implement through Open Source tools). It would require a change in mindset both from funding and research institutions and researchers themselves. Hacking the academia, indeed.

So what am I willing to do about it? Well, I’ve bought a few domains (I think of domain buying is a sort of  self-expressive art-form – I own, for instance) that I’m willing to donate to a good cause: and and And I’ll talk to anybody who’ll listen and talk back.

I will continue my thinking on

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Living digitized archives for individuals and learning

Monday, July 5th, 2010

Being a digital media developer/programmer who has worked with museums and other organisations on various projects, I have used media such as digital/digitized photos, films and audio clips/interviews, for the process, which has been collected from (often older) people by the museum/organisation for educational/archival purposes, often for use with schools.

I am also a researcher working on a project (and planning projects) that look at the ways in which older people use/do not use/could use digital technology.  I am interested in looking at ways in which older people (who may have interesting memories) can be encouraged to create “living” archives of their own material, in order to have more direct links to those that learn from the material (i.e. the archives are written/uploaded by people who can be contacted and asked further questions, making something more of a social networking facility).

What motivates people to currently donate their time and memories for the purpose of archives and education? Will they want to personally upkeep it if permitted to via a social network? Will their continued (virtual) presence encourage learning and further inquisitiveness from students, and how will one manage decline and death, what impact will this have on those (potentially young people) that access the material? How would it be best, for students and researchers to search through the data, and browse it?

(Note, that I have omitted q’s more directly linked to older peoples’ use of digital technology from this post on purpose…)

The French Digital Humanities Manifesto

Monday, July 5th, 2010

DH Manifesto posterTHATCamp Paris, in 2010 May, wrote a Manifesto as a French contribution to Centernet Summit, to THATCamp London and to DH2010. Is this Manifesto useful for the DH future? Do you agree with it? Would you sign it? Would you promote it? Would you mofidy it? If we want DH to be an international deep movement, we need to define our aims, our values, our methods and our beliefs. Let’s discuss about The Manifesto for Digital Humanities (to be translated in 17 languages).

Create an archive/library app wish list – discussion proposl

Monday, July 5th, 2010

Following on from Alexandra Eveleigh’s call to archivists (and librarians) to herd or be herded (being heard more by the wider world would also be nice) I would like to suggest a discussion on useful new apps, in particular to discuss and create an archive or librarian app wish list. What one app would reach out and would make people more aware and/or facilitate archive/library use? Perhaps this could then inspire the developers to make it happen quickly and cheaply (because all too often archives lack the time, funds and the computing expertise to make good ideas reality).

Organising knowledge and resources online

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

One of the things I am very much interested in is how scholars find and use information on the internet. More and more the ability to effectively query online information seems to have an impact on the quality of research. I have built two academic portals with Drupal and so have some experience with organising knowledge, or access to knowledge, online for particular fields & resources (see European History Primary Sources and Yiddish Sources).

I would be very much interested in sharing experiences with others who have built online resources and I would therefore suggest a session where we discuss how to organise knowledge online and particular what issues need to be taken into account when building online resources for academic purposes.

The idea of the session could be to create some guidelines for effective webdesign for academic purposes. Some points that could be discussed:

– choice of system: what CMS to use etc.

– design issues: effective user interfaces, navigation, functionality

– what are the issues and problems we encounter when setting up a website for a particular academic field/audience?

– how can we best engage users? Does Web 2.0 functionality always make sense?

These are just some ideas so any comments most welcome!

Wikifying bibliography

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

I’m intrigued by what wikis can offer as a critical tool, as an embodiment of evolutionary bibliography. Pop-culture fandom is way ahead of the curve here, with sites such as the Buffyverse and Lostpedia tracking every bit of minutiae relating to their respective storyworlds, but there are many bodies of “classical” literature, such as Balzac’s Comedie Humaine, that could benefit from the hyperlinking and visualization capabilities afforded by the wiki format. Likewise, the ability of the wiki to adapt to new interpretations of such works (and, as importantly, to archive previous versions and interpretations for posterity) seems invaluable. Beyond that, it hits at the question of cognitive modeling and how our brains go about processing narrative and other info.

My chief illustration is drawn from the work of R.A. Lafferty, a science fiction writer with a notoriously tangled bibliography. Lafferty borrowed from Balzac in creating his vast, interconnected, shaggy universe, packed with multiple planes of reality, alternate selves, and fuzzy plotlines. For any bibliographic exercise on Lafferty to be successful, it must make sense of the totality of his created world–an enterprise impossible in print format.

Re-using Open Access data

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

I would like to propose a session to discuss (and put into practice) the re-use and repurposing of Open Access data. As a starting point, I’d take some of the Classical and other datasets made available for the Developers’ Challenge, and see how they can be exploited with text mining, searching and indexing, aggregating, disambiguating, improving, turning into Linked Data, and otherwise using in ways that the original creators might not have envisaged or intended.

We don’t need to worry so much about whether our outcomes are amazingly innovative and prize-worthy, just to see what ideas we can get out of freely available work, and what we can find to say about issues of re-use and Open Access in the meantime.