Topic Modeling and Gephi

Veronica Poplawski has posted a nice blog essay on Topic Modeling and Gephi: A Work in Progress : Digital Environmental Humanities. She walks through a project she did on 358 Environmental Humanities documents related to a workshop I was part of in the Fall (see my conference report here.) First she used Mallet to generate topics and then she created an XML file to bring the topics and associated words into Gephi for visualization. Nice work!

Scopeware Vision Professional

I was reading about the Yale Lifestreams project which may have been one of the first life-tracking projects. Lifestreams was developed by Eric Freeman (it was his 1997 PhD project) and David Gelernter. They had some interesting ideas about how the computer should organize your data into streams rather than you having to file stuff. The streams could take advantage of the flow of your life. Here is how lifestream is defined:

A lifestream is a time-ordered stream of documents that functions as a diary of your electronic life; every document you create and every document other people send you is stored in your lifestream.

Freeman and Gelernter tried to commercialize the ideas through Scopeware released by Mirror Worlds. If you search Google Images for Scopeware you can see a number of screenshots that give an idea of how the interface organized files into streams.

Many of their interface ideas seem to have reappeared in things like Apple’s Cover Flow and Time Machine which explains why Mirror Worlds sued Apple (unseccessfully).

The idea is supposed to have come from Gelernter’s semi-philosophical book Mirror Worlds: Or the Day Software Puts the Universe in a Shoebox…How It Will Happen and What It Will Mean (1991) in which he reflects on the change from small personal software to large networked software that “mirrors” the world. Google Street View and all the virtual surrogates available on the web would seem to prove him right, though he may have been imagining more of a VR type implementation. (Admission: I haven’t read the book, just reviews.)

What intrigues me is the focus on time and the move away from representations of time as a line that traverses from left to right. In streams you are in time and can swim back like driving down a road to the past.

Around the World Conference


Today we are running the Around the World Conference from the University of Alberta. This year’s topic is privacy and surveillance in the digital age. The Kule Institute for Advanced Study is hosting this online conference. Here are some of my opening comments,

I would like to welcome you to our second Around the World Conference. This year’s conference is on Privacy and Surveillance in the Digital Age.

The ATW conference was the idea of the Founding Director of KIAS, Jerry Varsava. The idea is to support a truly international discussion around a topic that concerns us all around the world.

This year we have speakers from 11 countries including Nigeria, Netherlands, Japan, Australia, Italy, Israel, Ireland, Germany, Brazil, the US, and of course Canada.

This ATW conference is an experiment. It is an experiment because it is difficult to coordinate the technology across so many countries and institutions. It is an experiment in finding ways to move ideas without moving bodies. It is an experiment in global discussion.

International Ethics Roundtable 2014

Last week I was at a great little conference, the International Ethics Roundtable 2014. My conference notes are at Information Ethics And Global Citizenship. I gave a paper titled, “Watching Olympia”, about the CSEC slides that showed the Olympia system developed by the Communications Security Establishment Canada. You can see the blog entry that my paper came from here.

Text classification tool on the web


Michael pointed me to a story about how Stanford scientists put free text-analysis tool on the web. The tool allows you to pass a text (or a Twitter hashtag) to an existing classifier like the Twitter Sentiment classifier. It then gives you a interactive graph like the one above (which shows tweets about #INKEWhistler14 over time.) You can upload your own datasets to analyze and also create your own classifiers. The system saves classifiers for others to try.

I’m impressed at how this tool lets people understand classification and sentiment analysis easily through Twitter classifications. The graph, however, takes a bit of reading – in fact, I’m not sure I understand it. When there are no tweets the bars go stable, and then when there is activity the negative bar seems to go both up and down.

Interpreting the CSEC Presentation: Watch Out Olympians in the House!

The Globe and Mail has put up a high quality version of the CSEC (Communications Security Establishment Canada) Presentation that showed how they were spying on the Brazilian Ministry of Mines and Energy. The images are of slides for a talk on “CSEC – Advanced Network Tradecraft” that was titled, “And They Said To The Titans: «Watch Out Olympians In The House!»”. In a different, more critical spirit of “watching out”, here is an initial reading of the slides. What can we learn about how organizations like CSEC are spying on us? What can we learn about how they think about their “tradecraft”? What can we learn about the tools they have developed? What follows is a rhetorical interpretation.

Continue reading Interpreting the CSEC Presentation: Watch Out Olympians in the House!

HedgeChatter – Social Media Stock Sentiment Analysis Dashboard

HedgeChatter – Social Media Stock Sentiment Analysis Dashboard is a site that analyzes social media chatter about stocks and then lets you see how a stock is doing. In the picture above you can see the dashboard for Apple (APPL). Rolling over it you can see what people are saying over time – what the “Social Sentiment” is for the stock. I’m assuming with an account one can keep a portfolio and perhaps get alerts when the sentiment drops.

To do this they must have some sort of text analysis running that gives them the sentiment.

NSA files decoded: Edward Snowden’s surveillance revelations explained

The Guardian just published a wonderful essay with embedded video on the NSA files decoded: Edward Snowden’s surveillance revelations explained. The essay provides an overview of what the Snowden revelations tell us about the NSA and its collection of metadata. The essay has short video clips embedded from interviews that play as you scroll down. There are panels with redacted slides from the NSA and there are panels with documents. The essay has 6 parts ending with “What Now?” which speculates on how the courts or Congress will respond.

Supporting Digital Scholarship

The Tri-Council Agencies (Research councils of Canada) and selected other institutions (going under the rubric TC3+) have released an important Consultation Document titled Capitalizing on Big Data: Toward a Policy Framework for Advancing Digital Scholarship in Canada. You can see a summary blog entry from the CommerceLab, How big data is reshaping the future of digital scholarship in Canada. The document suggest that we have many of the components of a “well-functioning digital infrastructure ecosystem for research and innovation”, but that these are not coordinated and Canada is not keeping up. They propose three initiatives:

  • Establishing a Culture of Stewardship
  • Coordination of Stakeholder Engagement
  • Developing Capacity and Future Funding Parameters

The first initiative is about research data management and something we have been working on the digital humanities for some time. It is great to see a call from our funding agencies.