Towards monocultural (digital) Humanities?

July 19th, 2015

Domenico Fiormonte has written a nice essay on how the humanities (and digital humanities) run the risk of becoming monolingual, Towards monocultural (digital) Humanities?. The essay is a response to Greg Crane’s The Big Humanities, National Identity and the Digital Humanities in Germany and Greg responds then to Domenico here. The numbers are depressing (see the graphs from Domenico above). As he puts it (drawing on research with a colleague into DH journals):

These data show that the real problem is not that English is the dominant language of academic publications (and of DH), but that both Anglophone and a high percentage of non-Anglophone colleagues barely use/quote non-Anglophone sources in their research.

I can’t help thinking that the internet has allowed the big to get even bigger. The dominance of English in academic circles is exacerbated by the instant availability of English research. National languages don’t even have location as an advantage on the internet.

What can we do about it? Miran had a nice reply on Humanist (to the original posting by Greg Crane that was also on Humanist.) Domenico suggests that we all have to take some responsibility, especially those of us who have the “free ride” of being native English writers.

It is the responsibility of dominant languages and cultures to translate from marginal or less influential languages.

DH 2015 in Sydney, Australia

July 3rd, 2015

Digital Humanities 2015 (DH2015) is now finishing up. I have been keeping my conference notes here.

The conference was held on the lovely campus of the University of Western Sydney. I was part of a couple of events and papers at this conference including:

  • News Scholars Symposium: With Rachel Hendry, I helped organize a pre-conference event for new scholars. This was supported by CHCI, centerNet, the Kule Institute for Advanced Study and the University of Western Sydney.
  • I participated in a public panel on Building Communities and Networks in the Humanities where I talked about some of the forms of public engagement that we are trying at the Kule Institute including the Around the World Conference.
  • I helped Stéfan Sinclair with a workshop on Voyant 2.0 (link goes to current version which will soon be 2.0).
  • I gave a paper with Stéfan Sinclair on “Talking about Programming the Digital Humanities” that traced a history of the discussion about programming and tools in the digital humanities.
  • Finally, John Montague gave a paper on “Exploring Large Datasets with Topic Model Visualizations” that I was involved in. This paper discussed a visualization for exploring the results of topic modelling that you can try in prototype here.

It is hard to summarize a whole conference, but I would note some of the questions that the new scholars posed in the unconference are worth thinking about:

  • How does one learn about the field of digital humanities?
  • How does one learn skills in the digital humanities?
  • How does one teach the digital humanities?
  • What are the ethical issues in digital work in the humanities?

Exploring a World of Ideas: An Interview with Dr. Geoffrey Rockwell | By Nikita-Kiran Singh

June 23rd, 2015

Thanks to generous recommendation by Peter I was interviewed by Nikita-Kiran Singh of The Wander Online, Exploring a World of Ideas: An Interview with Dr. Geoffrey Rockwell. I wish I could live up to this.

Depositing Archives

June 12th, 2015

We have recently deposited two research archives here at the University of Alberta. One is the John B. Smith Archive. You can download bundles or the complete archive which can be found at Amy Dyrbye and I worked with John B. Smith to assemble this, document it and deposit it in ERA (the Education and Research Archive).

Another archive that we are building is a collection around Gamergate. The DOI for this is:


For this we are using Dataverse that allows us to manage the archive and publish some parts or not.

Given the work that goes into developing and documenting these archives I would argue that they should be considered scholarly work, but that is another matter.

KIAS shrinks carbon footprints “Around The World”

June 4th, 2015

The Office of Sustainibility at the University of Alberta has recognized our work at the Kule Institute for Advanced Study to develop models for sustainable research. They have published a nice story about the Around the World conference that we run with the title, KIAS shrinks carbon footprints “Around The World”. The question we need to ask ourselves is whether our academic reward system isn’t encouraging flying to conferences where other means of meeting would work. What would it mean to do sustainable research?

diyMatrix: Bertin’s Manual

June 4th, 2015

bertin machine

I have long been interested in Jacques Bertin, a pioneer in thinking about visualization. His Semiology of Graphics is a classic. I had been thinking it would be great to try or simulate his way of doing cluster analysis with physical matrices which he called “dominos”. I was therefore pleased to see that someone has recreated his matrices, see DIY Matrix.

Charles Perin, Pierre Dragicevic, and Jean-Daniel Fekete have updated the matrices and fabricated a version for a CHI’15 workshop on Investigating the Challenges of Making Data Physical (PDF).

Update: They also have a web application called Bertifier that allows you to try it virtually. This interactive allows you to choose different ways of decorating the blocks and will then also reorder them. It is fascinating to play with.


Now I have something I want to print on a fabricator.

CSDH/SCHN & ACH 2015 conference

June 2nd, 2015

This week I’m at the CSDH/SCHN & ACH 2015 conference in Ottawa. I’m keeping my conference notes here. Some of the papers being presented that I’m involved in:

“Visualizing Philosopher and Topic Frequency Data Gathered from Named Entity Recognition Tools”
Schenk, Kevin; Simpson, John; Rockwell, Geoffrey; Chartier, Ryan; and Montague, John

“Data Stewardship in the Digital Humanities”
Sapach, Sonja Christina; Rockwell, Geoffrey; and Catherine Middleton

“Characteristic Curve: Reinterpreting Early Analytics”
Rockwell, Geoffrey and Stéfan Sinclair

“#GamerGate: Distant Reading Games Discourse”
Andrea Budac, Geoffrey Rockwell, Ryan Chartier, Todd Suomela and Sean Gouglas

“Wicking Ideas”
Budac, Andrea; Rockwell, Geoffrey; Palmer, Zachary; Budac, Robert; and Stan Ruecker

Digital Demonstration: “Voyant Tools 2.0: The New, The Neat and the Gnarly”
Sinclair, Stéfan; Rockwell, Geoffrey; Sinatra, Michael; and Marcello Vitali Rosati

Digital Demonstration: “TAPoR 3.0″
Rodriguez-Arenas, Omar Isidro; Schenk, Kevin; Radzikowska, Milena; Ranaweera, Kamal; Sinclair, Stéfan; McKellar, Mark; and Geoffrey Rockwell

Digital Demonstration: “Game of Writing (GWrit)”
McKellar, Mark Pearse; Rockwell, Geoffrey; Ranaweera, Kamal; In, Aiden; Ru’Aini, Melania; Graves, Roger; Graves, Heather; and Omar Rodriguez-Arenas,


Pachinko Development Story

May 26th, 2015

Wandering around the KYORAKU company web site I came across a recruitment section including two manga that tell (dramatised) stories of the development of machines. The image above is from one of the manga that tells the story of the development of a pachinko Winter Sonata, a popular Korean soap. Pachinko machines like this are developed to attract more women into pachinko parlours as audience numbers are declining. I was struck that the team, at least as shown in the comic, has no women designers, which raises the question of whether there are any women designers?

Replaying Japan 2015

May 22nd, 2015

IMG_0882 2

I’m at the Replaying Japan 2015conference at Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, Japan. You can see my conference notes here. The conference features a keynote by the father of the Final Fantasy games who will talk on “From the Famicon to the World: The Lineage of JRPGs’ Globalization from the Perspective of the Genesis of Final Fantasy.”

Dennis Cooper: Zac’s Haunted House (A Novel)

May 22nd, 2015

Dennis Cooper has created an interesting novel of looping animated gifs called Zac’s Haunted House (A Novel). The novel is published by Kiddiepunk. I’m not sure why he deliberately calls it a novel when it has so little language, though one can think of the animated gifs as some sort of linked visual language. Perhaps animated gifs are becoming the visual equivalent of words with which we can compose.

I found this courtesy of 3QuarksDaily.