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.
As a generally curious person – and as a Digital Humanities networker at UiO – I like to explore new fields and places, sideways, and the lesser-travelled paths. I also like to meet new people. A little while ago, a friend and colleague introduced me to an DH-affine researcher who just finished her Ph.D. in comparative literature and was visiting Oslo. We met, because I wanted to find out more about what she was working on and because meeting literary studies people with a strong DH-angle is always fruitful (and we are a small, sworn community, where it is actually possible to know almost everyone involved which makes communication and collaboration so much easier!). The social meeting, to which both of us invited a colleague, turned out to be very nice – and I met another Oslo-based fellow traveller: this one geographically much closer but disciplinary quite far from where I’m at home: from informatics, especially: information and knowledge modeling. Well, not that far when you take a step back (I study communication; they do, too), but quite far when you believe in the ‘traditional’ distinction between ‘the humanities’ and the ‘natural sciences’ (and their respective ways of thinking). The conversation got me very interested in what is going on at the informatics department at UiO and I invited myself for a coffee and a tour!
Last Tuesday I took a stroll from the humanities campus (south of the Oslo city metro-line) to Forskningsparken (north of the metro-line), where the computer and tech people live (and a couple of drones, too!). Here I met with Sasha Rudan and – briefly – Dino Karabeg, who told me about their research and projects and ideas and plans and I did the same. As it turned out, we had a lot to discuss regarding collaboration, the process of (scientific) knowledge production and distribution, creativity, and sharing. They’re working on an impressive project called CollaboScience
CollaboScience is a platform and a paradigm for practicing collaborative scientific research and dialogue, designed (and developed) by ChaOS and Knowledge Federation (it is part of our Open-Systemic Design initiative)
and KnAllEdge, that does
general knowledge mapping (topics, relations, …), broadcasts knowledge and dialogue
I have to admit: I have yet to find out – or rather: explore! – the full dimension and capability of these. But I see an adaptive idea developing in my mind which I will keep tossing and turning until it is ripe to be tested within my current research on scholarly communities, their (published) communication, esp. their (discipline-specific?) modes of reasoning, their argumentation, and negotiation – not so much of truth claims but rather of the scholarly ‘how to…’ and the (implicit) normative assumptions and presuppositions of their research.
Dino and Sasha have invited me to collaborate on their project using CollaboScience and engaging in an explorative process that started at their Tesla and the Nature of Creativity event in Belgrade, April 2015. Today was the ‘barn raising’ event via GoToMeeting (a virtual conferencing tool) and DebateGraph (the virtual working environment) and a rather large and geographically wide-spread group is working on the project for one week, while KnAllEdge maps what we’re doing in real-time…! I’m excited! I suggested to take the role of an observer (I still feel a bit too unfamiliar within this framework, but I’m open!), and I will see to do some learning by doing and developing my ideas into something I can make use of – and of course: they can make use of within their project.
I also see this involvement as a first step to open to DH network at UiO to the informatics side (we are ‘digital’ anyway) and I believe both sides (of the devided-by-the-Oslo-city-metro-line campus) will profit from this one way or the other. A first step could be a presentation of KnAllEdge (and CollaboScience as a use case) within the Digital Humanities Forum in the fall semester.
Puh! DayofDH2015 is long over now – thank goodness! That day was crammed with non-work related stressful appointments and my neat schedule eventually turned into a chaotic mess…
Well! In the meantime, I made some progress regarding the projects I had to-do-listed for Day of DH 2015:
- I edited the #NordicDH conference call for papers; the program committee is about to finalize it and we hope to get it out by end of May / start of June 2015. Time schedule and budget are also in their final editing stages!
- I outlined the Ph.D. seminar Academic Blogging for Early Career Researchers. An Introductory Seminar and Hands-on Workshop, including a budget, schedule etc. and submitted it to the Ph.D. program board. Hopefully, I’ll get funding from the Faculty of Humanities at UiO to do the one and a half day seminar. If so, it will be a great learning and teaching experience and there will be awesome academic bloggers who ‘talk out of school’ and do the practical, hands-on intro! The seminar will also be part of the Digital Humaniora Forum seminar series at the University of Oslo and is (roughly) scheduled for mid-September 2015.
- Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend the #DHOslo steering committee’s monthly meeting, however, there will be another course of seminars in the DH forum series in the fall semester 2015 (probably monthly, on Tuesdays) at UiO. I prepared an internal report on DH Forum; in my judgement, the series went really well, we covered a broad spectrum of topics and humanities disciplines and attracted a diverse audience (and a small group of hardcore DHers who attended almost all of the seminars, regardless of topic and specialization). Audience sizes varied between 15 and 40, which is quite large, considering that the series is a local, small-scale initiative, held on a weekday between 2-4pm.
- I accepted the invitation to the Wolfenbütteler Arbeitsgespräch and hinted a topic I would like to tackle (and that the ones who invited me would like me to elaborate on). If everything goes well, I’ll be re-visiting the wonderful Herzog August research and special collections library in Wolfenbüttel, Germany, in November 2015. It would also be great to spend some additional days there to do some critical editing and descriptive bibliography for the Ethica Complementoria-edition in my digital edition of the works and writings of baroque poet, journalist, historian, and entrepreneur Georg Greflinger (1620-1677).
- I successfully transferred my old MS-Word project bibliography into Zotero. It was, however, more manually than semi-automatically. A very common (and very frustrating) characteristic of my field of research is, that a lot – if not most! – of the articles are not journal articles but articles in collections, conference proceedings, anthologies etc. And since my work – at least partially – deals with (modern) history of philology, they are also OLD, but, unfortunately, not old enough to be already out of copyright, digitized, and neatly catalogued with clean metadata, so that ‘picking’ them with the Zotero-button in the browser is easy done in 2 seconds. What adds to the frustration is that Zotero, unlike Citavi (and maybe other reference databases, I don’t know), is designed for disciplines that heavily rely on (digital) journal articles and for some reason does not feature an in-built connector for single articles in collections and the collection (and its editors, publisher, place, date…) itself! Which basically means that one has to type all the crucial information for each and every article of the same collection every single time. (OK: if you already know there is more than one you want to add, you can use the “duplicate this entry”-function. However, if you’re adding a lot of entries this is prone to failure (page ranges get duplicated as well as tags and other stuff you don’t want to have…) which leads to still a lot of manual editing and typing (or in my case: dictating & spelling… oh, those names and those fancy titles… how I hate them!)) – I did it, though, and will transfer some other MS-Word bibliographies as well as a number of pdf-scanned ones when I feel up to it ;)
- Apart from this: I really, really love Zotero! I will probably teach another Zotero intro course in the fall semester at UiO and try to convince my humanities colleagues of the many advantages of using a database instead of text-file bibliographies.
So, even though my (first) Day of DH wasn’t very representative of my usual days at work and also not very DH-ey, at least I got some work done afterwards and a couple of DH-projects are on their way! Looking forward to the fall semester at UiO!
(Since the official DayofDH2015 website
is was down due to traffic I’ ll posted this one instead here and reblog later…)
Today is #DayofDH2015 – and I’ll be blogging and tweeting along…!
On the agenda today are:
- polishing the Call for Papers for the upcoming, 1st Nordic Digital Humanities conference and constitutive meeting of the association for Digital Humanities in the Nordic Countries in Oslo, March 15–17, 2016
- outlining (and budgeting) a one-day (or one and a half day) hands-on workshop on academic blogging for (early career) researchers at the University of Oslo, Faculty of Humanities in September 2015
- preparing an application for the ‘Norwegian Academy for Young Researchers’
- ordinary monthly meeting of the steering group of the Digital Humanities research network at the University of Oslo. Today’s topics: #1 DH forum seminar series (recap of spring semester, plans for the fall semester), #2 founding of DHN and DH conference in Oslo 2016, #3 general information and discussion
- lunsj with fellow PhD candidates at the Department for Literature, Area Studies and European Languages
- responding (positively) to an invitation to join the famous “Wolfenbütteler Arbeitsgespräche” on a topic that might also include DH
- semi-automatically transferring my older (but substantial) MS Word-bibliography on my dissertation topic into my newer Zotero-bibliography (estimated items when done: 7000)
- interacting with DHers around the globe!
On 24. and 25. February, the Digital Humanities Forum at the University of Oslo hosted two half-day seminars focussing especially on digital textual studies. The first instance was a joint seminar with the newly established Digital Humanities Center at Gothenburg University and the Digital Humanities Lab Denmark. Gathered under the topic “litteraturforskning og digitale verktøy” (literary studies and digital tools), Jon Haarberg (University of Oslo), Jenny Bergenmar, Mats Malm and Sverker Lundin (Gothenburg University) shared their experiences with digitisation, digital editing, electronic literature and textual analysis. Among the presented projects were the digital edition of Petter Dass’ catechism songs, Språkbanken and Litteraturbanken (Swedish), the Women Writers Network and poeter.se, the largest Swedish online platform and archive for modern poetry and writing. Bergenmar and Malm also presented the new DH center at Gothenburg University and their future plans for a master programme in DH. The Swedes startet a seminar series on DH in the fall semester 2014 that will continue in 2015.
The second half-day seminar on 25. February was dedicated to textual analysis, especially topic modeling: “Kulturens tekster som big data. Om å analysere tekster digitalt” (Cultural textual heritage as big data. On analysing texts digitally). Starting with a presentation by Peter Leonard (Yale University Library & Digital Humanities Lab) titled “Topic Modeling & the Canon. Using curated collections to understand the ‘Great Unread'” that served as a thorough introduction to topic modeling and showed some great case studies in the end (e.g. Robots Reading Vogue). After lunch, Jon Arild Oslen from the Norwegian National Library presented their long-term digitisation project that started in 2006 wherein their complete holdings will be digitised (image & text recognition & text encoding) and made available to the public. This will include ca. 375.000 books (from as early as 1790), 3.2 mio newspapers (i.e. single issues), 42.000 periodicals (summing up to 2 mio single volumes). The project will be finished in 2018. Arne Martinus Lindstad (Norwegian National Library) talked about the library’s n-gram project while Lars Johnsen presented topic modeling with the National Library’s text corpus.
After a lively discussion with the audience, this time’s DH Forum host Anne Birgitte Rønning and I proposed a hands-on workshop for topic modeling to be held at the University of Oslo in the near future, and the current vice dean for research, Ellen Rees, announced the re-animation of the interdisciplinary research group “tekstutgivelse” (text editing & publishing) that will serve as a link between the National Library’s digital corpus and the Department for Linguistic and Scandinavian Languages’ corpus-based research and teaching and hopes to stimulate digital textual analysis endeavours.
I also did some live-tweeting during the seminars: #DHOslo
The Future of the Humanities (at the University of Oslo) Is Digital. Or Isn’t It?
A little while ago, I have been interviewed for a piece on digital humanities: at the University of Oslo and ‘in general’. Although I am not a 100% happy with the article, I heard back from a number of people who either liked it and thought it to be informative or thought it would make a good starting point for further discussion. This interview is the latest in a series of articles about dh (here, here and here), and thus gives reason to believe that dh is becoming more and more visible.
The dh network at UiO – founded in June 2013 and officially going public in April 2014 with a wide-range dh project presentation – started a series of events in September 2014: the DHF (dh forum) with bi-weekly meetings, hosted by the university library; a DH Lunsj in the alternating weeks; and a weekly DH reading group, hosted by the Ibsen Centre.
More and more researchers, technical staff, and students enlist in the official mailinglist of the dh network (we are now 2 subscribers short of 100 members), the number of conferences, seminars, workshops, project presentations etc. that are announced and distributed via the mailinglist increases steadily. As does the collection of links to dh projects at UiO and to the people who run them.
With the forthcoming election of the new dean of the faculty of humanities, dh and the possibility of a dh centre is now also a political topic: both candidates, Jens Erland Braarvig and Arne Bugge Amundsen and his team highlighted dh and pointed out that this topic has to be taken seriously if Norway’s largest humanities faculty is to continue to be among the highest ranking, nationally and internationally. UiO and the faculty of humanities have at the moment three dh ‘services’, the EDD group (Unit for Digital Documentation), the DMLF group (a specialised group at the IT-department) and Tekstlab (the Text Laboratory) which very recently have been evaluated – with a very disappointing conclusion. However, the dh network composed a commentary that, among other things, emphasised the need for a dh centre: a waking call to the current and the new leadership.
Even if the notion of the “digital future” of the humanities is disputable – it should go without saying that there will be digital humanities, whether they will incorporate or assimilate the ‘traditional’ humanities, or complement them, or just be an alternative mode of doing humanities research & teaching. One of the many challenges in the next years here at UiO will be the discussion not of the ‘if’, but of the ‘how’ to deal with dh in a future, that will be both, analogue and digital.
Alas! This fall starts the Digital Humanities Forum or digital humaniora forum (DHF) at the University of Oslo. Initiated by two members of the steering committee of the Digital Humaniora research network at the Faculty of Humanities and supported by the DH network at UiO, there will be a series of six events, each under a specific topic; with short presentations of projects, tools, services, and best practice.
September 9: Maps and Visualizations I: Geographical, Temporal, Social Networks
Christian-Emil S. Ore: Internet maps
Janne Bondi: Dialectal maps
Federico Aurora: Inscriptions of Linear B and Greek papyri
Jens Erland Braarvig: Euclid & Aristotle: Maps
September 23: Maps and Visualizations II: Geographical, Temporal, Social Networks
Frode Helland: Ibsen maps
Helge Jordheim: Historical Stemmata
Ida Jahr: Visualizing Historical Social Networks
Line Esborg: Folkeminne-collection
October 7: Digital Editions and Digital Philology
Tor Ivar Ostmo
October 21: Lexicons and Bibliographies
Espen Ore: Norsk Ordbok 2014
Stephan Guth: Arabic Etymologies
Annika Rockenberger: Project Bibliographies for Everyone: Zotero
November 4: Datalinguistics
November 18: Digital Humanities in Research and Teaching
Anne Birgitte Rønning, Espen S. Ore: Moderation
Jan Engh, Andrea Gasparini, Federico Aurora: Plenary Discussion