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  • Jeff Edelstein 8:11 pm on February 19, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: data sharing, datasets, digital humanities   

    Cultural Change in the Digital Humanities: Balancing access, participation, and security 

    I attended this talk at Columbia today (as did Noreen), given by Arienne M. Dwyer, Professor of Linguistic Anthropology and Co-Director of the Institute of Digital Research in the Humanities at the University of Kansas and currently a visiting professor of digital humanities at the CUNY Grad Center.

    Dwyer covered many of the issues that came up in our class discussion, particularly how the humanities continue to value publication of analysis (results) over sharing of datasets. Datasets, she said, should be redefined as having value in and of themselves, counted as a type of result, considered as “research products.” Her focus was on sharing of data rather than open-access publication, which is a different aspect of digital humanities work.

    Among reasons data is not being shared in the humanities, she noted (1) it sounds too quantitative; (2) it is often the result of, or is a basis for, collaboration, which has not been the way humanists work; (3) repurposing others’ data can seem like replication of their work; and (4) humanities fields do not yet reward it.

    A principal example she used, that of the controversy over the publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls, had particular resonance for me, as at the time, in the early 1990s, I was the project editor of an encyclopedia of archaeology in the Near East, out of which a separate encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls emerged. There was considerable outrage at the time that scholars outside the group who had been given scholarly control over the material published facsimiles of the scrolls, though this was in large part due to the fact that the main group of scholars had been working for 40 years without publishing their findings. The story has considerable more intrigue than this because of the personalities and actions of some of the individual scholars involved, but at the time, the idea that material should be shared, even if the work was ongoing, was deemed radical, and a lawsuit resulted in the affirmation of the original group’s “ownership” of the intellectual content. Even if the humanities has a long way to go in sharing work that is in process, it seems to me that we have already come a long way from that model of 20 years ago.

    Another example Dwyer presented focused on the contributions of those outside academia proper: Gunnar Janning, a career diplomat from Sweden, had a longstanding interest in the Uighurs. He was able to publish his work without being dependent on the academic system for his career advancement and standing, acting out of a desire to share with others what he had learned. (His material is now at Lunds University.) A more open digital humanities environment could allow for greater participation by nonscholarly experts like Janning.

    Among the ways forward Dwyer put forth are (1) creating incentives for humanists to try self-publishing, which allows for nimble and rapid response to peer and user review; a project she worked on was able to take comments into account to publish a second edition soon after the first. (2) Increase on-campus initiatives in alternative peer review, not just for articles but also for datasets. (3) Create new consortia for establishing discipline-specific data repositories. Sharing costs and workload burdens for ongoing maintenance is a significant factor in making such projects viable after initial publication.

    Among the topics raised in the discussion that follows was the obstacle of perfectionism. Scholars are hesitant to publish work in process for fear that they will elicit negative comments from reviewers and that this could have a negative impact on their professional careers. But a positive way of looking at this is that scholars can take such comments into account in improving their manuscripts and addressing criticism prior to formal publication; their own analysis and direction can change in light of such feedback.

    I would like to see examples of how datasets that have been shared have then been used by other scholars. Are they using the data for very different purposes, or are they covering similar topics but providing their own analysis and interpretation?

  • A. Rhonemus 8:20 pm on February 2, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: digital humanities, funding, science   

    This article is not specifically about Digital Humanities but it accords so nicely with what I took away from the discussion this week that I wanted to share it here.


    I was irked by the distinction between science and the humanities in Borgman but I can reluctantly admit that science’s Big Data is bigger and perhaps not coincidentally, science also has bigger funding. This excerpt from Edward Carr’s response to Bill Gates annual foundation letter sums up what I think is a more pressing difference between science and the humanities.

    The problem is not that people don’t understand the need for serious evaluation – I honestly don’t know anyone making that argument. The problem is creating a space in which that can happen. This is what you should be doing with your annual letter, and with the clout that your foundation carries.

    Failing that (or perhaps alongside that), lead by demonstration – create an environment in your foundation in which failure becomes a tag attached to anything from which we do not learn, instead of a tag attached to a project that does not meet preconceived targets or outcomes.

    The expectation that learning is the value of a project rather than a specific outcome is stronger in science and science funding sources and this is where I think science has the advantage over humanities. Science is stronger in evaluation only because it is less focused on preconceived results, aside from learning. Initial funding is easier to acquire on this basis and it also lends itself to continuing funding from 1.0 to 2.0 since funding won’t necessarily stop once the expected outcome is reached. That’s my guess why eScience is bigger than Digital Humanities.

  • Carolyn Li-Madeo 12:33 am on February 1, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , digital humanities,   

    Here’s a Nova clip on the unicorn tapestries:

    Also interesting is a Q & A session with Tom Morgan, who talks about building the super computer:

  • Jeff Walloch 3:56 am on February 3, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: dance, digital humanities, motion capture, movement   

    Motion Capture and Digital Humanities 

    There is more going on in the world of motion capture and digital humanities than I originally thought. Here is some information and examples of projects:

    Documenting Dance: A Practical Guide at the University of Texas, Austin

    Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) Graphics Lab Motion Capture Database

    Motion Capture projects in the U.K.

    Preserving Intangible Culture – Digital Humanities Center for Japanese Arts and Cultures at Ritsumeikan University

    “Motion Capture Lab” – Image Systems Laboratory (aka Hachimura Laboratory)

    Dr. Kozaburo Hachimura seems like he is at the forefront for research in digital humanities and motion capture.

    Digital Archive of Traditional Performing Arts

    • Carly Bogen 3:42 am on February 9, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      This is really fascinating. When you mentioned this in class it made me think about the difference between text mining, and the use of that information as data, and interpreting cultural objects. I know this is kind of out-there, but it’s where my thinking went, so I thought I’d share. Like dance or performance, objects cannot “catalog themselves” in the same way that a book can by simply mining it for its text – a librarian (or other person) must insert his or her interpretation into the catalog entry, and that becomes data – this text is not inherent to the object in many cases. But what if there were a program, like motion capture, that could “feel” or “sense” objects and gather data about them in the same way that a text can be mined, or that a dance piece can be motion captured?

      • Jeff Walloch 9:14 pm on April 5, 2012 Permalink | Reply

        Yes, it seems that motion capture could capture data points from the movement of the dancers and create a dance notation. It could be a useful tool for choreographers.

    • Jeff Walloch 9:20 pm on April 5, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      When I first mentioned motion capture in class, I bought up Eadweard Muybridge and his studies in movement.

      This is an great digital library on E. Muybridge:


      The Pratt Library in Brooklyn has 3 rare books by Muybridge:
      Animal locomotion, 1887
      The Human Figure in Motion, 1901
      Animals in Motion, 1918


    • Christina Meninger 7:58 pm on April 26, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Jeff! Awesome! Thank you so much for the Eadweard Muybridge find. When I have more time (after finals are over), I am going to have fun exploring that site.

  • Chris Weller 7:59 pm on February 5, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: digital humanities, TEI, Tibet   

    When the course started, I was interested in researching the digitization and preservation of Tibetan cultural heritage, but I seem to have found a paper that already covers the issues well. I’m looking for something else instead, but I think there’s two great issues this paper brings up: TEI and Access


    Tibetan culture is on that has been in a state of crisis since 1949. Many westerners and Tibetans have worked to digitize texts as much as possible. Because the words themselves are considered more sacred than the teachers (which is saying a lot if you look at how the Dalai Lama is revered) there is no room for error. At the same time, OCR is difficult when you are working with 60-100 year old paper leaves with printing that bleeds through on both sides.

    The two most interesting points for me are

    1)TEI, while it is a wonderful standard, still does not cover everything that would be important for preserving Tibetan materials (the vast vast majority of which are religious and philosophical texts). Melodies, hand gestures, ritual objects, visualizations, etc. are an important part of many texts. Without those, the text is pretty much a script without stage directions.

    2) There are issues of access when it comes to some materials. What if some parts of a culture’s literary heritage require permission from the holder to access?

    A quote from that paper:

    In this endeavor, it is important to respect the control that indigenous scholars have over their own textual heritage. A textual heritage is a cultural property that can speak to the world, but it should be maintained by the people whose ancestors created it. If there are traditional rules about access to certain texts, digital technologies should not bypass these rules. Digital technologies should not be used to appropriate the world’s textual riches or simply to add inventory to western digital archives. The model of broad “access” that often motivates western digitization efforts does not apply universally, and may in some cases go directly against the indigenous textual tradition. This issue comes up with regard to Tibetan texts, because some of these texts are esoteric texts, reserved for advanced meditators. It is generally presumed by western scholars that increased access to texts is better. But this presumption is not shared by Tibetan scholars, who deal with texts that require special permission and instruction from a qualified teacher before they can be read, studied, chanted or memorized.

    • chrisweller 8:36 pm on February 5, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      It might be interesting to create a profile of schemas that could be combined to cover all the TEI-related issues (such as svg for diagrams of hand gestures and imagery, something for music, etc.).

  • Graduate Assistant 3:13 pm on March 9, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , digital humanities, knowledge organization systems, , ,   

    The Past's Digital Presence: Some Reflections, Part II 

    After last week’s class discussion, I thought it appropriate to post more on the Yale conference, particularly session IV, Theorizing the Digital Archive, as most of the presentations were at least peripherally-related to issues that got brought up in our class discussion on semantic KOS for cultural heritage. 

    Regarding the idea brought up in class about the artists that resist categorization (be it from situating themselves as anti-establishment or as thinking of their work as something other than “art”) and the choice to include them or not in a  cultural or art ontology: I think I may have vaguely mentioned one of the PDP presentations as relevant.  In fact, it was Stewart Campbell‘s “Eugène Atget & The Digital Archive.”  His basic premise: MoMA canonized Atget’s photographs as art photography by selecting only limited number of the works in its Atget collection for its digital collection and thus creating a selction bias–flawed works are not represented, e.g., animal photographs criticized by Berenice Abbott.  Furthermore, Atget produced his work for commercial purposes, and did not position himself as an artist.  Further information can be found in Campbell’s abstract (scroll down).

    Related to our discussion of ontologies last week was Alexandre Monnin’s session IV presentation, “What is a Tag: Digital Artifacts as Hermeneutical Devices.”  Those curious about the relationship of philosophy to the Internet, specifically ontologies, may want to check out Monnin’s thesis proposal.  At one point referencing George Lakoff in the idea that classification is intimately related to power, Monnin examined the idea and function of the tag and an its application as an interpretive device.  He began by defining a tag as a “digital equivalent of a real-life tag–a blank space with digital string attaching it to an item.”  This definition in place, he continued to argue that many tags on the Web aren’t tags, but keywords or authorized vocabularies–an interesting point to us library types who typically do strive to use such applications in a more standardized and consistent way.   Richard Newman’s MOAT (Meaning of the Tag) ontology was also discussed, as was Dbpedia, and commontag.org.  More information and links can be found on Monnin’s webpage.

    • Cristina Pattuelli 5:00 pm on March 9, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      great stuff! you might want to bookmark some of those links via delicious. thanks!

  • Graduate Assistant 4:47 pm on March 2, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , digital humanities, ,   

    The Past's Digital Presence: Some Reflections, Part I 

    I’m finally getting around to posting on the Yale conference. Between myself, Genevieve, and Meghan, I think we were able to canvas nearly all the topics touched upon during the day. In the interest of brevity and specificity, I’ll focus this post on the third session that I went to, and save some of the other topics for posting about later.

    I had pretty high hopes for session III, “Finding the Words: The Digital Linguistics Database,” thinking the topic of the Semantic Web and the challenges (e.g., compromised meaning, level of nuance, etc.) of creating and mapping language ontologies might come up. I guess my hopes were a little too specific, because ontologies were never really touched upon. Suffice it to say, I think it should be something those outside the fields of computer and information sciences should be thinking about, and those with subject specializations (particularly linguists) should be writing about this. (Also, if you happen to know of someone who is writing about it from such a perspective, can you point out their stuff to me?) In fact, the University of Georgia audio archiving project was a bit disappointing even; when queried about metadata standards during the Q&A the presenter, Paulina Bounds, seemed to indicate that the metadata being generated for the project was primarily for internal use, and did not even seem to be aware of metadata standards as a means of making resources share-able.

    However, some of the presentations were rather interesting, and as you can see, I liked the handout from the “Digital Kiksht” presenters. And it highlighted the challenges of digitizing obscure languages–the lack of UNICODE for some of the characters used in the alphabeticized transcriptions of a language that has no original written form (it was originally recorded by a linguist using a precursor to IPA, the American Phonetic Alphabet).

    Unfortunately the first speaker seemed to rush through her presentation, which made it difficult to follow–although the bits I was able to gather were interesting. Eugenia Kelbert’s “Menage a trois, or a General Theory of Communication,” (http://twitpic.com/14diau) focused primarily (it seemed) on a particular Russian school of communication theory. Although she also mentioned Claude Shannon–a fond little reminder of LIS 653. Her talk was also rather quote-heavy. However, one that I liked:
    “…the disclosure of art’s nature as a communication system can effect a revolution…”
    I believe is can be attributed to I︠U︡riĭ Mikhaĭlovich Lotman, The Structure of the Artistic Text.

    I think I will leave it there for now, with further reflections to come.

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