Digital Humanities 2011

Digital Humanities 2011

My report from Digital Humanities 2011 is below. If anyone wants any more information about the various sessions I attended, I’m happy to try and dredge my memory for a recollection of my impressions. Otherwise the book of abstracts is available. Most of the interesting things were really in between sessions and in the evenings, in talking to people about possible future projects, advertising InfoDev services, etc.

Friday 17 June 2011

Sebastian and I took an afternoon flight to SFO where we were attending the Digital Humanities 2011 conference. I was lucky enough to get a row to myself, but Sebastian kept to his assigned seat rather than join me and be tormented by my cackling at juvenile films. I watched four films, the only one of which I’d recommend is Submarine whose screenplay and direction was by Richard Ayoade. Sebastian’s estimate of c.250 is a bit off, there were about 375 registered participants with various other hangers-on according to the organisers.

Saturday 18 June 2011

Sebastian and I woke early (thank you jetlag) to teach our Introductory TEI ODD workshop at 8:30am. Unfortunately, nothing on campus that serves anything which even vaguely resembles food opens until 8am on a Saturday. The course materials are at: and we had about 15 participants. We went perhaps a bit too fast, and talked too long, but most of them made it through the first exercise. Some had difficulty with the idea that we weren’t teaching the stated prerequisite of TEI and XML but the TEI’s customization language instead. It really would have been better to do it as a full day workshop.

Afterwards a Craig Bellamy and I drove (in a mustang he had rented) down to Santa Cruz and ate a burrito on the beach. It was better than the ones I get here in Oxford and was not dissimilar to the real thing. We also went to look at UC Santa Cruz where Craig had spent some undergraduate time, a truly bizarre campus. Craig is responsible for setting up the Australasian Association for Digital Humanities see and which is seeking to join ADHO (Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations) alongside ACH, ALLC, and SDH-SEMI. Much of our conversation related to this topic and the AHDO Steering Committee meeting the next day. (Boy, don’t we know how to spoil a beach!) We returned to Stanford and met up with various other DH conference goers for ‘food’ and ‘drink’ in the local student’s union.

Sunday 19 June 2011

I intended to go swimming this day, but the lane swimming wasn’t open until the afternoon, so instead I rented a bicycle. I purchased a variety of items to put in the huge fridge that was part of the full-sized kitchen (with stove, sink, dishwasher, microwave, etc.) that was in my room. Sadly the kitchen didn’t come with anything useful to, you know, cook or eat with. It didn’t come with anything at all. Since Sebastian also had a bicycle we cycled to the Stanford Shopping Centre, where we looked around at things we could possibly buy, had lunch, and eventually cycled back to the residences. The conference’s opening plenary was by David Rumsey talking about “Reading Historical Maps Digitally: How Spatial Technologies Can Enable Close, Distant and Dynamic Interpretations” but partly seemed to be demonstrating the proprietary Luna Browser ( servlet based image viewer) which I didn’t like at all. At the reception afterwards there was much pleasant conversation.

Monday 20 June 2011

I attended a morning session consisting of the following papers:

  • Maciej Eder & Jan Rybicki “Do Birds of a Feather Really Flock Together, or How to Choose Test Samples for Authorship Attribution “
  • Jan Rybicki “Alma Cardell Curtin and Jeremiah Curtin: The Translator’s Wife’s Stylistic Fingerprint.”
  • David L. Hoover “The Tutor’s Story: A Case Study of Mixed Authorship”

And then one with:

  • Yves Marcoux, Michael Sperberg-McQueen, & Claus Huitfeldt “Expressive power of markup languages and graph structures “
  • Gary F. Simons, Steven Bird, Christopher Hirt, Joshua Hou, & Sven Pedersen “Mining language resources from institutional repositories”
  • Thomas Eckart, David Pansch, & Marco Büchler “Integration of Distributed Text Resources by Using Schema Matching Techniques”

Of these the one by Yves Marcoux on OO-TexMECS was the most interesting (though Eckart’s showed some promise). However, I fundamentally disagreed that breaking XML is necessary for recording the majority of the graph data-structures he was presenting. TEI-style basic fragmentation, or even basic stand-off linking seems to do the trick in 99% of cases. It is an interesting discussion for markup geeks interested in the theory behind markup languages, but solving a problem that I feel isn’t really a problem for the majority of work we do here.

After lunch I went to a bit of:

  • Reinhild Barkey, Erhard Hinrichs, Christina Hoppermann, Thorsten Trippel, & Claus Zinn “Trailblazing through Forests of Resources in Linguistics “
  • Michele Pasin ” Browsing highly interconnected humanities databases through multi-result faceted browsers “
  • Alan Galey “Approaching the Coasts of Utopia: Visualization Strategies for Mapping Early Modern Paratexts”

before nipping off to the location where the posters were to be displayed and put up my Wandering Jew’s Chronicle poster as well as Sebastian’s Claros poster both right in front of the doors where you walk in, ensuring maximum throughput of people to look at them. The poster session was quite busy, shortly before I took photos of all the posters, however, this is on the camera which later went missing. There was a reception that followed this, but I was so busy talking to people about the poster that I seemed to miss it. Luckily someone brought me a drink (and we arranged a tour of SLAC for the next day).

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Sebastian woke up extra early to go on a punishing ‘fun run’ up huge mountains, whereas I slept in. From 08:30 we interviewed a
potential ePub and/or OpenData intern via skype). Since we’d missed the beginning of the sessions (and from the abstracts of them I didn’t feel cheated), while Sebastian went off to catch the end of the sessions, I cycled to the nearby B. Gerald Cantor’s Rodin Sculpture Park and looked at a bronze cast of Rodin’s “The Gates of Hell” see

Afterwards I caught one of the next sessions, specifically the one of a panel discussing “The Interface of the Collection”
consisting of: Geoffrey Rockwell, Stan Ruecker, Mihaela Ilovan, Daniel Sondheim, Milena Radzikowska, Peter Organisciak, & Susan Brown.

Over lunch, instead of nattering away to people about visualization Mike Toth had arranged a visit to the Stanford Linear Accelerator Complex now ‘SSRL’. He had done work here in xray fluorescence to uncover the archimedes palimpsest and they wrote up a glowing press article about our visit.

We can,indeed, use real science tools to help digital humanities.

After this I ate some lunch in the back of the following session:

  • David Beavan “ComPair: Compare and Visualise the Usage of Language “
  • Trevor Muñoz, Virgil Varvel, Allen Renear, Kevin Trainor, & Molly Dolan “Tasks vs. Roles: A Center Perspective on Data Curation Needs in the Humanities “
  • Deborah Anderson “Handling Glyph Variants: Issues and Developments “
  • Scott Weingart & Jeana Jorgensen “Computational Analysis of Gender and the Body in European Fairy Tales “
  • Hiroyuki Akama, Maki Miyake, & Jaeyoung Jung “Automatic Extraction of Hidden Keywords by Producing “Homophily” within Semantic Networks”

Later we went to the Zampolli Prize Lecture in the Dinkelspiel Auditorium and listened to the winner, Chad Gaffield tell us
about “Re-Imagining Scholarship in the Digital Age”. This was a very motivational session by the president of the SSHRC funding body. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had got everyone up and singing praises, but the auditorium was far too hot for that kind of thing.

Wednesday 22 June 2011

This morning I went to the panel on “Integrating Digital Papyrology” featuring Gabriel Bodard, Hugh Cayless, Ryan
Baumann, Joshua Sosin, & Raffaele Viglianti.

After a break I attended “The “#alt-ac” Track: Digital Humanists off the Straight and Narrow Path to Tenure” featuring Bethany Nowviskie, Julia Flanders, Tanya Clement, Doug Reside, Dot Porter, & Eric Rochester . Partly I attended because I have an article (as the last word) in the open access book they were launching

After lunch there was a panel on Funding Digital Humanities, with funders from the USA and Canada. There was not a UK, European, Australian, Japanese, or Mexican funder represented. Still, was good to hear what they said.

After this there was the closing plenary by JB Michel & Erez Lieberman-Aiden who had worked with Google to produce the Google ngram viewer. The long ‘s’ problem in OCR’ed data clearly visible by looking at ‘best,beft’ from 1700 to the modern day in (Something I tweeted about a couple days after its launch but using presumption vs prefumption.) Unlike Chad, who seemed to be celebrating what Digital Humanities had done, these two seemed intent on telling us quite obvious things that DH as a community should be doing… most of which I’m pretty sure we already are doing or striving to do. Because it was so hot during Chad’s talk on the way there I stopped to get a mango smoothie which made the talk more tolerable.

Following this there was a banquet at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. The food and drink were so-so, the company was excellent, the museum was fairly usa-centric in its outlook.

Thursday 23 June 2011

While most people went on organised tours to Silicon Valley or the Sonoma Wine Country, instead Craig Bellamy (with his mustang) and Peter Organisciak and I drove up Highway 1 stopping off for delicious mexican food, beaches, and crossing the golden gate bridge. In S.F. we walked around fisherman’s wharf and some other places, before returning to Stanford. There was

simultaneously a meeting on the curation of digital humanities data which I followed via twitter.

Friday 24 June 2011

I was flying home in the evening, so accompanied by Raffaele Viglianti I went to S.F. on the train, where we met up with some
other people, wandered up and down the hills of china town, had some dim sum, and eventually I caught a shared van to SFO to
catch my flight. This time I got a seat in the much smaller ‘upper deck’ of the plane, but still didn’t capitalise on it and watched several more films. Arrived back Saturday midday horribly jetlagged.

Posted in Conference | 2 Comments

2 Responses to “Digital Humanities 2011”

  1. Dot says:

    “Unlike Chad, who seemed to be celebrating what Digital Humanities had done, these two seemed intent on telling us quite obvious things that DH as a community should be doing… most of which I’m pretty sure we already are doing or striving to do.” Yeah, I come across this a lot with computer programmer types who don’t bother to take the time to find out what’s actually going on in the community. Oh well. It’s certainly not all of them, but enough of them to be annoying. Thanks for the report James!

  2. Mike says:

    “…computer programmer types who don’t bother to take the time to find out what’s actually going on in the community.”

    Yep, this is a critical program management piece that seems to be missing with many DH studies: Defining the needs of the users. It’s not just the technology, but how technologists and scholars can effectively work together to develop and apply digital technologies to real-world user needs.

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