Digital Humanities 2016 in Kraków

July 20th, 2016

The week of the 11th tot he 16th of July was Digital Humanities 2016 in Kraków. This conference was, in my opinion, the best organized DH conference I have attended (and I have attended most of them since the first joint ACH-ALLC conference in Toronto in 1989.) Jan Rybicki and Maciej Eder deserve credit for a lovely conference.

My conference notes are on so I won’t go into a lot of detail here. Some of the themes worth noting include:

  • Diversity. There was a lot of discussion and sessions dedicated to diversity of different sorts. Real differences were aired that I think most people felt was good.
  • Pedagogy. Perhaps it is what I attended, but it seemed that there was a new energy around pedagogical discussions. I was impressed by the creative approaches and also by the large-scale projects like Dariah-EU working group on Training and Education.
  • Web Historiography. There were a number of talks/panels that drew on the web as evidence. I was pleased to see a discussion of the need to think historiographically about the web. What is archived? What is missing?
  • Posters. There was a great set of posters. Here is a link to photos I took of a selection.

Some of the events and papers I was involved in include:

  • New Scholars Symposium which was supported by CHCI and centerNet. I co-organized this with Rachel Hendry.
  • Innovations in Digital Humanities Pedagogy: Local, National, and International Training. I was part of a one day mini-conference on training and gave a short presentation on Visualization at the final panel on Publication Approaches Supporting DH Pedagogy.
  • CWRC & Voyant Tools: Text Repository Meets Text Analysis. I was one of three instructors on a workshop on CWRC and Voyant.
  • Curating Just-In-Time Datasets from the Web. I gave a paper on a project that is scraping Twitter that was coauthored with Todd Suomela and Ryan Chartier.
  • The Trace of Theory: Extracting Subsets from Large Collections. I introduced and gave one of the short papers on a panel of work we did as part of the Text Mining the Novel project with the HathiTrust Research Center.
  • Web Historiography – A New Challenge for Digital Humanities? I gave a short presentation on the Ethics of Scraping Twitter.

Spurious Correlations

July 12th, 2016


Spurious Correlations is a great web site that shows correlations that are spurious like this one between revenue generated by arcades and computer science doctorates. The gathered correlations show how correlation is not causation.

Thanks to Dan for this.

dhQuest: The Game

June 30th, 2016


From Twitter I learned about dhQuest – a game of digital humanities. In the game I played (with just one player) I had three characters (a researcher, a librarian, and a technologist) that I deployed to complete quests as I built a digital humanities centre. Very nicely done.

They know (on surveillance)

June 28th, 2016

They know is a must see design project by Christian Gross from the Interface Design Programme at University of Applied Sciences in Potsdam (FHP), Germany. The idea behind the project, described in the They Know showcase for FHP, is,

I could see in my daily work how difficult it was to inform people about their privacy issues. Nobody seemed to care. My hypothesis was that the whole subject was too complex. There were no examples, no images that could help the audience to understand the process behind the mass surveillance.

The answer is to mock up a design fiction of an NSA surveillance dashboard based on what we know and then a video describing a fictional use of it to track an architecture student from Berlin. It seems to me the video and mock designs nicely bring together a number of things we can infer about the tools they have.

Hokusai x Manga

June 23rd, 2016


Cover of Playboy Roasted à la Edo

The Hamburg Museum of Arts and Crafts has a well designed exhibit called Hokusai x Manga that looks at the history of comics from the first kibyōshi to current manga and videogames. The exhibit draws on an extensive collection of woodblock books and prints from the Edo period. They mix a historical approach with themes like the depiction of demons (Yokai) in print and the franchise Yo-kai Watch.

One of the earliest comic picture books that they have is Kyōden’s Playboy, Roasted à la Edo (1785). Harvard has put up a Flash version of this in English and Japanese. (Second book here, third here.) They also have a copies of Hokusai Manga (or Hokusai’s Sketches) published starting in 1814 which was a sort of manual on how to draw with lots of examples. Note that “manga” at the time didn’t mean what it means now.

There is an excellent catalogue with useful essays including one at the end on “Manga in Transition” by Jaqueline Berndt.

Shulze, S., et al. (2016). Hokusai X Manga: Japanese Pop Culture since 1680. Munich, Hirmer.




Barbie Careers Game Developer Doll: No Batteries Neede

June 19th, 2016

From Slashtdot, Mattel has released a Barbie® Careers Game Developer Doll. She has “[b]right red hair and eyeglasses are fashion-forward with techie style!” This time Mattel has been careful not to be patronizing.

A laptop (with real game code graphics), tablet (with the game she is working on) and silvery headset expand the storytelling possibilities and career opportunities.

Inspire young gamers with this doll who is at the top of her game!

Dungeons & Dragons: Satanic Panic – Video –

June 19th, 2016

The New York Times has a video series called the Retro Report. One story is about Dungeons & Dragons: Satanic Panic. It looks at the media fed moral panic that eventually lost steam. It ends by praising all the “leadership” and “moral” skills learned. Now experts are recommending “free play” and … ironically … role playing games are now the solution!

Past Visions

June 15th, 2016


Past Visions: penned by Frederick William IV is a lovely visualization of hist historical sketches and doodles. The visualization has a rich prospect view where you see miniatures of all the sketches arranged over time. You can pan in and out or use the keywords to see subsets. There is information available about each sketch (in German.)

This visualization was developed by the research project VIKUS – Visualising Cultural Collections at the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam. Thanks to Johanna for introducing it to us.

Congress 2016 (CSDH and CGSA)

June 4th, 2016

As I get ready to fly back to Germany I’m finishing my conference notes on Congress 2016 (CSDH and CGSA). Calgary was nice and not to hot for Congress and we were welcomed by a malware attack on Congress that meant that many employees couldn’t use their machines. Nevertheless the conference seemed very well organized and the campus lovely.

My conference notes cover mostly the Canadian Society for Digital Humanities, but also DHSI at Congress, where I presented CWRC for Susan Brown, and the last day of the Canadian Game Studies Association. Here are some general reflections.

  • I am impressed by how the CGSA is growing and how vital it is. It has as many attendees as CSDH, but younger and enthusiastic attendees rather than tired. Much of the credit goes to the long term leadership of people like Jen Jensen.
  • CSDH has some terrific keynotes this year starting with Ian Milligan, then Tara McPherson, and finally Diane Jakacki.
  • It was great to see people coming up from the USA as CSDH/SCHN gets a reputation for being a welcoming conference in North America.
  • Stéfan Sinclair and I had a book launch for Hermeneutica: Computer-Assisted Interpretation in the Humanities at which Chad Gaffield said a few words. It was gratifying that so many friends came out for this.

At the CSDH AGM we passed a motion to adopt Guidelines on Digital Scholarship in the Humanities (Google Doc). The Guidelines discuss the value of digital work and provide guidelines for evaluation:

Programs of research, which are by nature exploratory, may require faculty members to take up modes of research that depart from methods they have previously used, therefore the form the resulting scholarship takes should not prejudice its evaluation. Original works in new media forms, whether digital or other, should be evaluated as scholarship following best practices if so presented. Likewise, researchers should be encouraged to experiment with new forms when disseminating knowledge, confident that their experiments will be fairly evaluated.

The Guidelines have a final section on Documented Deposit:

Digital media have not only expanded the forms that research can take, but research practices are also changing in the face of digital distribution and open access publishing. In particular we are being called on to preserve research data and to share new knowledge openly. Universities that have the infrastructure should encourage faculty to deposit not only digital works, but also curated datasets and preprint versions of papers/monographs with documentation in an open access form. These can be deposited with an embargo in digital archives as part of good practice around research dissemination and preservation. The deposit of work, including online published work, even if it is available elsewhere, ensures the long-term preservation by ensuring that there are copies in more than one place. Further, libraries can then ensure that the work is not only preserved, but is discoverable in the long term as publications come and go.


Replication as a way of knowing in the digital humanities

May 5th, 2016
Poster for Replication Talk

Poster for Replication Talk

At the end of April I gave a talk at the University of Würzburg on Replication as a way of knowing in the digital humanities. This was sponsored by the Dr. Fotis Jannidis who holds the position of Chair of computer philology and modern German literature there. He and others have built a digital humanities program and interesting research agenda around text mining and German literature. The talk tried out some new ideas Stéfan Sinclair and I are working on. The abstract read:

Much new knowledge in the digital humanities comes from the practices of encoding and programming not through discourse. These practices can be considered forms of modelling in the active sense of making by modelling or, as I like to call them, practices of thinking-through. Alas, these practices and the associated ways of knowing are not captured or communicated very well through the usual academic forms of publication which come out of discursive knowledge traditions. In this talk I will argue for “replication” as a way of thinking-through the making of code. I will give examples and conclude by arguing that such thinking-through replication is critical to the digital literacy needed in the age of big data and algorithms.