KIAS shrinks carbon footprints “Around The World”

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

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

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

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?

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

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.

Why empathy is the next big thing in video games

CBC Spark with Nora Young had a segment on Why empathy is the next big thing in video games. The category seems to map onto “persuasive games” or “art games.” Some of the games mentioned:

  • RIOT – a forthcoming game where you experience being in riots
  • Spirits of Spring – about a “young native in a mythical land”
  • Papo and Yo – about alchoholism

Ian Bogost talks on the segment and makes the argument that in empathy games one feels a different type of empathy than in narrative media. When you make the choices you have something at stake. He also made a point about empathy with systems that I didn’t quite get. He talked about systems oriented game design where you get exposed to a different system or environment and learn about it through playing. The idea is that by playing someone running a fast food chain you learn about the system of fast food. You learn to empathize with the fast food mogul in order to understand the constraints those systems are under.

The size of the World Wide Web


Reading a paper by Lev Manovich I came across a reference to the web site which graphs the size of the World Wide Web. The web site searches Google and Bing daily for different words from a corpus and then uses the total results to estimate the size of the web.

When you know, for example, that the word ‘the’ is present in 67,61% of all documents within the corpus, you can extrapolate the total size of the engine’s index by the document count it reports for ‘the’. If Google says that it found ‘the’ in webpages, an estimated size of the Google’s total index would be 23.633.010.000.

In the screen grab above you can see that the estimated size can change dramatically over time.  Hard to tell why.

Ted Hewitt speaks at University of Alberta

Text Hewitt spoke today on “The Perils and Prospects of Digital Scholarship in the 21st Century Canada: Tri-Agency Research Data Initiative” at our Research Data Management week. Some of the things he talked about follow.

Canada is not leading on data stewardship. We need to catch up so that we can take advantage of what the world has to offer and we need to offer what Canada has to the world. Data management capacity is increasingly linked to Canada’s international competitiveness.

We used to do a literature review when starting a project. Now we also look for data sets that we can use so we aren’t re-searching to create useful data.

Continue reading Ted Hewitt speaks at University of Alberta

Around the World Conference


Last week we held our third Around the World Conference on the subject of “Big Data”. We had some fabulous panels from countries including Ireland, Canada, Israel, Nigeria, Japan, China, Australia, USA, Belgium, Italy, and Brazil.

The Around the World Conference streams speakers and panels from around the world out to everyone on the net. We also edit and archive the video clips. This model allows for a sustainable conversation across continents that doesn’t involve flying people around. It allows a lot people who wouldn’t usually be included to speak. We also find there are technical hiccups, but that happens in on-site conferences too.