I spent the last couple of days in (well, technically: in the area of) Heidelberg, at the European Molecular Biology Laboratories EMBL. You might ask:  What kind of business does a humanities researcher have there? Becoming a certified Software and Data (and Library) Carpentry Instructor, of course! The Carpentries are a world-wide community of volunteers with diverse academic backgrounds that teach foundational programming and data skills to fellow researchers of all fields! Originally mainly target at STEM researchers, The Carpentries are attracting more and more social sciences and humanities researchers, especially from digital humanities. The Carpentries have also local – or regional – hubs, with lots of activities and a substantial group of instructors, helpers, and learners; here in Oslo, we have, at least according to what I hear through the grapevine, one of the largest European hubs. The Carpentry@UiO Initiative is responsible for numerous Software and Data Carpentry events since at least 2016 and I have been part of that group since then.

The Carpentries instructors are very well trained teachers and The Carpentries have their own instructor training workshops that are offered world-wide and usually quite sought after! Doing an instructor training enables one to teach official The Carpentries workshops. Note: anyone can use the materials for the lessons, they are all licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution licence. One can teach whatever lesson, parts of lessons or the entire course, anywhere, anytime. And even charge a workshop fee for it. You are just not allowed to flag these activities under the official The Carpentries logo. So, if you want to improve your lessons by using The Carpentries material, do so! However, it’s not just for becoming a certified instructor so you are allowed to advertise your programming and data skill workshops using an official brand – what makes the instructor training such a valuable experience is that you actually learn how to teach technology, computational thinking and programming, and data analytical skills. You will learn how to design lessons, how to assess learners motivation and prior knowledge, how to help them stay motivated during the courses, how to help them help themselves explore and become confident in coding for their research; you also learn about teaching techniques and principles of learning and teaching; evaluation, feedback and self-improvement as a teacher. And community building!

The two days were packed with knowledge and hands-on practice and the crowd of almost 40 instructors-to-be was buzzing! For me, a key motivator for engaging with The Carpentries is meeting people with a completely different academic background than me and finding out how much we have in common! And of course meeting people for future collaborations. As an immediate result of the instructor training, I have made plans teaching a workshop on git and GitHub together with a fellow instructor trainee next spring in Germany. And I will engage much closer with the European The Carpentries community than I have been able to before.

What comes next is to finish the instructor training by completing three additional tasks: Improving lessons or related material from both Software and Data Carpentry (to become certified to teach both!); participating in the instructor discussion lists and doing a short trial teaching episode with peer-evaluation. I’m looking forward to “checking out” as a certified instructor and the official acknowledgement of my work with and enthusiasm for The Carpentries! In the meantime, I will be helping with a couple of Carpentries workshop here in Oslo, namely the 1day workshops on “Databases and SQL” (Oct 17) and “git” (Oct 24). Additionally, I will teach a lesson on GitHub (under development) at the DH Seminar at the Norwegian University of Sciences and Technology (NTNU) in early November as well as at the National Library of Norway in mid November. The plan is to teach a 1day workshop with a combination of Software Carpentry and Code Refinery at the DHN2019 conference in Copenhagen as well. And I am currently developing a workshop on Complex Network Analysis for Digital Humanities Researchers based on The Carpentries lesson template and teaching method!

So, if you’re into sharing your knowledge and skills in programming, coding, technology or data analysis, consider becoming an instructor and join the awesome community of The Carpentries!

05. August 2016 · Comments Off on VR is here! Digital Humanities Conference in Kraków, July 11-16, 2016 · Categories: Conference Report, Digital Humanities · Tags: , ,

It’s been 4 years since my last annual international DH conference (in Hamburg), so it was about time! Kraków seemed reasonably close and affordable, and even though I had not submitted a proposal for a presentation myself, the preliminary programme and this year’s ‘hot topics’ were intriguing enough to give it a ‘participation only’ go! Also, a DH international conference is a great way to meet all the people I usually interact with online only live and in person!

Even though I had been entertaining the idea of immersing myself in stylometry and computer aided/assisted textual analysis, I ended up with a different choice of topic: High End Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality / 3D Modelling – with a number of sessions spread over 2 days on a variety of projects. Since I am planning a large(r) scale project in VR/AR myself, it seemed wise to check out the field and see what others are up to, what tech they use and have experience with, and how their projects are and were received by the DH and non-DH scientific community.

I was most impressed by the following presentations:

  • The Evolution of Virtual Harlem: Bringing the Jazz Age to Life (presented by Brian Wilson Carter) – more about the project, that has been started in 1998 and is constantly being developed, here.
  • Contested Memories: The Battle of Mount Street Bridge. Problems, Perspectives, and Challenges (presented by Susan Schreibman and Constantinos Papadopoulos) – their project can be viewed here.
  • OVAL: A Virtual Ecosystem for Immersive Scholarship and Teaching (presented by Bill Endres, Matthew Cook, Will Kurlinkus).
  • Using Computer Numerical Control Techniques to Prototype Media History (presented by Tiffany Chan)
  • An Augmented Reality Mobile Application for Intergenerational Learning and Critical Connection (presented by Tamar Gordon)

The most impressive, I have to say, was the Virtual Harlem Project! I will review this project thoroughly as well as take a closer look at the different approaches and alternative solutions to problems of visualization in other projects when I map out my own ideas.

Apart from the engaging content, I had the opportunity to catch up with old friends and colleagues as well as meet new ones, make plans for collaborations and pitched some DH ideas, promoted the upcoming DHN conference in Gothenburg and gathered people for an informal lunch meeting of friends and members of DHN!

And since the DH conference was going on in the same week the now viral augmented reality game Pokemon Go was released, of course me and a couple of friendly technophiles teamed up to ‘catch ’em all’ – right in the foyer of the venerable Jagiellonian University, our most hospital and welcoming host institution :)

Rare Appearance of Three Digital Humanists Trying to Catch a Drowzee That Spawned in the Foyer of the Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland

Rare Appearance of Three Digital Humanists Trying to Catch a Drowzee That Spawned in the Foyer of the Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland

18. March 2016 · Comments Off on Digital Humanities in the Nordic Countries – 1st Conference, Oslo, March 15-17, 2016 · Categories: Conference Report, Digital Humanities · Tags: , ,

DHN2016_bag

I am exhausted but ever so happy that the first conference of the Digital Humanities in the Nordic Countries Association (DHN), held at the University of Oslo and the Norwegian National Library from March 15 to 17, 2016, was such a great experience and success at various levels! Let me say – again – a big THANK YOU to all the busy organisers and assistants, to my colleagues in the program committee and fellow board members of the DHN, to the keynote speakers and panelists, and not least to all of the 232 (!!!) participants that made this event into a truly memorable ‘kick-off’ of our Nordic collaboration and cooperation in the “meeting place” that Digital Humanities can and shall be.

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“Textkritik som analysemetod” (textual criticism as a method of analysis) was the title of this years conference of the Nordic Network for Edition Philology (NNE), held in beautiful Gothenburg in the first week of October. The NNE gathers bi-annually editors, edition philologist, book historians and literary scholars from all the Nordic countries to discuss developments in recent research and editorial method, and present scholarly editions.

This year’s conference was the 14th in a row of successful gatherings in the North and the 20th anniversary of the NNE – with 60 participants (and an amazing 50/50 gender distribution!) and 12 talks in three languages (Swedish, Norwegian & Danish) on various subjects more or less closely tied to this year’s topic. The talks will be published in the NNE-book series and made digitally (XML-TEI P5 encoded!) available afterwards.

What became obvious in the discussions and debates not only here at the NNE meeting but generally in edition philology, is, that the scholarly editions we editors prepare in a very sophisticated manner and with a special eye for detail are not really suited for computer aided corpus analysis like topic modeling, text mining, stylistics etc. The issue is not under-complexity of the (digital) scholarly editions, but rather their complexity and depth of encoding and enrichment. In a corpus of 100.000 books, a textual error is statistically insignificant – no need to make the effort of emendation or provide an explanation and possible rectification. – I think it has to ‘sink in’ that especially quantitative (digital) literary or text studies ask very different questions from those commonly anticipated by edition philologists (that is: those of traditional literary studies). And since editions are not an end in itself but user oriented, what do we have to change in order to meet the needs (also) of those literary scholars who are interested in quantitative, corpus-based analyses & distant reading?

[a little out of the ordinary, this bloggage is in German]

Am 24. Juli war ich zum Expertengespräch und Workshop im neuen Digitalisierungs- und Editionsprojekt Narragonien digital der Universität Würzburg, welches im Rahmen des Würzburger Digitalisierungszentrums Kallimachos gefördert wird, eingeladen. Anlass war eine erste Orientierung sowie Sondierungs- und Konsultationsgespräche in Vorbereitung der Digitalisierung und editorischen Bearbeitung der für das Projekt ausgewählten Narrenschiff-Drucke. Gemeinsam mit zwei weiteren externen Kollegen (aus der Latinistik und der Romanistik) fand der Workshop im kleinen Kreis mit den Projektleitern und -mitarbeitern in informellem Austausch statt. 2009–2011 hatte ich mich bereits umfänglich mit der sog. editio princeps (Basel 1494) des Narrenschiffs von Sebastian Brant unter druckanalytisch-medienhistorischen Gesichtspunkten sowie programmatisch zu einer Neuedition im und für das digitale Medium geäussert, und es war schön zu sehen, dass in einem so groß aufgestellten Projekt wie Narragonien digital meine Überlegungen zur Wahl der Editionsgrundlage, zur Transgraphierung und zu den editorischen Beigaben Eingang finden werden (vgl. hierzu: A.R.: Sebastian Brants »Narrenschiff«Kritische Würdigung vorliegender Editionen und prinzipielle Überlegungen zu einer Neu-Edition. In: editio 25 (2011), p. 42–73).

Narragonien digital fokussiert vor allem auch die Übersetzungen, Übertragungen und Bearbeitungen des Narrenschiffs um 1500 (in verschiedene deutsche Druckersprachen, aber auch ins Lateinische, Französische, Englische), die bisher von der Forschung eher vernachlässigt worden sind und auch keine editorische Aufbereitung erfahren haben. Darüber hinaus versucht das ambitionierte Projekt, eine OCR (optical character recognition) für Frühdrucktypographie zu trainieren, die zuverlässig Drucke der in Frage kommenden Offizinen, in Antiqua- und gebrochenen Schriften, erkennen – und die Texte damit auch maschinenlesbar zugänglich machen – kann. Eine funktionierende und in ihren Resultaten zufrieden stellende OCR für gebrochene Schriften (der Frühdruckzeit) ist seit langem ein Desiderat und es bleibt zu hoffen, dass im Rahmen des Würzburger Projekts hier signifikante Fortschritte gemacht werden, von denen die community der Frühneuzeitforscher und -editoren – auch und vor allem in kleinen und Kleinstprojekten – wird profitieren können.

Meine Beschäftigung mit dem Narrenschiff war und ist zunächst druck- und buchgeschichtlich, genauer: typographiegeschichtlich. Vor diesem Hintergrund würde ich mir vor allem wünschen, dass die OCR nicht “nur” den Text möglichst fehlerfrei erkennen kann, sondern auch die jeweiligen Schriftklassen: für eine computergestützte Analyse der Typenverteilung im Narrenschiff-Erstdruck wäre dies enorm hilfreich und könnte wesentlich dazu beitragen, den Satz und die Korrekturfolgen der editio princeps für alle Bogenseiten zu rekonstruieren (mir war dies im Rahmen meiner Studie nur für die Lage E möglich). Die Buch- und Druckforschung, insbesondere die Inkunabelkunde, könnte hier in der Breite neue Erkenntnisse zur Frühdruckzeit gewinnen und gesicherte(re) Schlüsse aus dem überlieferten Material auf dessen Herstellung sowie die Verbreitung und den Handel mit Drucktypen ziehen!

Nach dem Workshop und den vielen intensiven Gesprächen plane ich, meine Arbeiten an der causa Narrenschiff-Erstdruck in naher Zukunft wieder auf zu nehmen und stelle diese gerne dem Narragonien-Projekt als Addendum der digitalen Edition sowie zur Weiterarbeit zur Verfügung.

03. June 2015 · Comments Off on Software Carpentry – Or: What You Can Learn About Learning & Teaching DH · Categories: Conference Report, Digital Humanities · Tags: , , ,

A few days ago I had the pleasure to take part in my first Software Carpentry hands-on workshop at the Realfagsbibliotek at the University of Oslo on June 2–3, 2015. It was a last-minute decision – a colleague from computer science suggested the event to me since I wanted to learn some Python (and SWC’s workshop was offering that, among other things…).

Basically, the course was meant to provide an introduction to and hands-on work with Unix Shell (i.e. using the command line and thus interacting with your computer without using a graphical interface), GitHub for version control and Python, incl. using iPython notebook and TextWrangler.

I’ve participated in my fare share of technology and programming workshops over the past years and I have to say: I was awestruck! I was the only humanities person there (well: the only one who ‘outed’ themself), without much prior knowledge (of either Unix Shell, GitHub or Python). And I didn’t really know what to expect – but it was fantastic. The instructors were wonderful, the ‘mode of teaching’ (especially using the sticky-notes for trouble shooting and keeping track with where people are where they got stuck) was working refreshingly well with quite a heterogenous group of learners, and the overall atmosphere was friendly, helpful, encouraging and explorative.

As I learned, SWC has an instructor training (they’re always looking for people who want to become teachers) and pays special attention to the pedagogy of teaching ‘scary computer stuff’ and programming skills to researchers with all kinds of disciplinary backgrounds. – Apart from learning some / getting comfortable teaching myself Python (which was my personal goal), I also took the workshop to observe and evaluate it from a digital humanities point of interest. I asked myself: Would the SWC-format be of use in a DH-context. At the University of Oslo? Who would be the intended audience from SWC’s point of view and who would think they could use this workshop from the Faculty of Humanities? Would their needs and wants be met? (And what would those be?) Would an SWC ‘standard’ courses meet the needs or be too far from what a humanities researcher’s day-to-day work looks like?

After the workshop I talked to one of the teachers, Lex Nederbragt, about SWC, its outreach, the humanities, and UiO. He was, too, much interested in the matter and suggested to investigate a little further. I’m not going to provide results of an extensive search on the web, however, I will link to some posts I found that specifically made a connection between SWC and Digital Humanities.

What I found out was:

  • Most of the workshops (it were only a few in number) that were targeted at DH folk had been held in the US (as far as I could see), often within some bigger workshop event or a THATcamp or HASTAC thing. Those schooling events are quite common and well received in DH and thus a good entering point.
  • The overall experience of the learners was positive with few suggestions on how to tailor the SWC workshop program to meet the specific needs of DHers even better. However, as a first step, those needs have to be pointed out (from the DHers)!
  • SWC itself went out to gather suggestions for workshops specifically targeted at DHers and wanted to know what to expect from humanities folk who want (or should) take one of their workshops.
  • What they learned was: you have to first know the DHers tech-background, familiarity with the command line and their computers files system, with using a database and programming etc., starting then perhaps with a very basic workshop that teaches “getting used to using your computer”, as, for example, suggested by Fiona Tweedie when asked by SWC.
  • However, this by no means is to suggest that humanities researchers are less computer savvy than natural and social sciences people (they’re also often not that experienced and fluent in tech and informatics), but that their exposure to technology is discipline-specific and data-specific and thus often quite different from “the sciences” who make up the usual participants of an SWC workshop. (Meaning: where they will ‘get lost’ during a workshop setting might be unexpected by the instructors as well as some of the questions and issues might be surprising.)
  • It was suggested that it might be useful for SWC to have amongst their teaching staff either humanists or digital humanities people who know the needs, wants, and requirements of (digital) humanities researchers, their ‘data’ and research methods as well as their habitual attitudes towards technology, computer science, and programming.

I particularly liked what I found on Audrey Watters Tumblr about SWC and teaching programming and basic computer skills to non-tech and non-natural sciences people:

“I focus more on some of these questions surrounding how do we create learning environments for non-programmers to learn programming […] by helping train scholars in new tools (and, as such, in new methodologies); learning to work with technologists; coming to terms with the ways in which storage, processing, interactivity, data, and so on might enhance teaching, research, and their dissemination”

Perhaps, SWC’s local UiO instructors and the Digital Humanities Network in Oslo could stick their heads together and see if they could come up with some suggestions for a basic, introductory hands-on workshop especially tailored to (digital) humanities researchers!? I would very much appreciate this and consider taking the instructor training with SWC for some of the technologies commonly used in a DH context: XML and the other X’s (XSLT, XPath, XQuery, eXist database), HTML, Python, and (My)SQL.