Nov 232013
 
photo of book bag

Today I have been liveblogging – by invitation no less – at the Society of Young Publishers Conference 2013 in Oxford, and EDINA is proud to sponsor the event through my participation. The event in entitled “Life in Publishing: It’s more than just books (and Tumblr)“, it’s theme being the future of publishing into the digital (and the inspiration for the name coming from this Tumblr blog).

My notes from the day can be found over on the SYP blog, Press Forwardhttp://thesyp.org.uk/syp-conference-2013-liveblog/

You can also view tweets from the event on #SYPC13.

Anyone interested in data, app development, digital publishing or disruption should find something of interest in there… and for me it has been a fun and informative day! And if you have been at the conference and are interested in what EDINA does around publishing and publishers I would recommend taking a look at the UK LOCKSS Alliance, CLOCKSS,  The Keepers Registry, and The UK Access Management Federation.

 November 23, 2013  Posted by at 5:18 pm Events Attended, LiveBlogs Tagged with: , ,  No Responses »
Nov 112013
 

This afternoon I am attending “A digital humanties workshop in four keys: medicine, law, bibliography and crime“, a University of Edinburgh Digital Humanities and Social Sciences event. I will be liveblogging throughout the event and you can keep an eye on related tweets on the #digitalhss tag. The event sees four post doctoral researchers discussing their digital humanities work.

As usual this is a liveblog so my notes may include the odd error or typo – please let me have your thoughts or corrections in the comments below!

Alison Crockford – Digital articulations: writing medicine in Edinburgh

In addition to the four keys we identified we also thoughts about the four ways you can engage with the humanities field more widely. And in addition to medicine I will be talking about motions of public engagement.

Digital articulations plays on the idea of the crossover of humanities and medicine. So both the state of being flexibly joined together and of expressing the self. The idea came from the Issecting Edinburgh exhibition at Surgeons Hall. Edinburgh has a very unique history of medicine when compared to other areas of the UK. But scholars don’t give much consideration to the regional history and how medicine in an area may be reflected in literature. So you get British texts or anthologies with may be one or two Scottish writers bundled in. Edinburgh is one of the most prominent city in the history of medicine. My own research is concerned with the late 19th century but this trend really goes back at least as far as the fifteenth century. As an early career researcher I can’t access the multimillion pound grants from the ESRC you might need… So digital humanities became a kind of natural platform. I wanted to build a better more trans historical perspective on literature and medicine, would need input from specialists across those areas, I would also need ways to visualise this research in a way that would make sense to researchers and other audiences. I was considering building an anthology and spoke to a colleague creating a digital anthology. I chose to do it this way with a tool called omecca, in part because of its accessibility to other audiences. Public engagement is seen as increasingly favourable, particularly for early career researchers I’m interested in tools to foster research but also to do so in digital spaces that are public, and what that means.

I don’t have a background in digital humanities and there doesn’t seem to be a single clear definition. But I’m going to talk about some of the possibilities, what drives a project, how does that influence the result, etc. I will take my cues from Matthew Kirshenball’s 2002 essay on digital humanities and English literature. He sees it as concerned with scholarship and pedagoguey being more public, more collaborative, and more connected to infrastructure.

I was reassured to know I am not alone in looking at this issue and to have questions, there was a blog post on HASTAC – the humanities, arts, science and technology alliance and cOllaboratory. This was looking at the intersection between the digital humanities and public engagement, despite that organisation being already active in that space. I get the sense that this topic comes up as being there, but perhaps only recently ave there been deliberate reflections on the implications for that.

The digital humanities manifesto 2.0 which talks about increasingly public spheres. There’s a kind of deprivation in kirshenberg’s take on digital humanities and public engagement. I’m not sure public engagement deserves such derisive treatment, even though I am concerned about how public engagement and similar values judgement is increasingly chipping away at the humanities. But there is more potential there…

Many digital humanities tools are web based apps, they are potentially public spaces, and there are implications on our perspectives on any digital humanities, or indeed any humanities work. For instance the Oxford digital humanities conference last year, lookin at impact, nonetheless talked about public engagement as something more than just dissemination, but also something richer. Thinking about the participation of your audience, their needs and interests, not just your own.

Bowarst states that humanities scholars may risk letting existing technologies dictate their work, rather than being the inventors and designers of their tool. Whilst we may be more likely o be adopters I do not think that it is always the case nor neccassarily a problem. Working as Wikipedian in Residence at NLS I have been impressed with the number of GLAM collaborations embracing a range of existing kit: flickr, WordPress, Omeka, Drupal.

Omeka is designed for non technical users, it is based around templates and editable content. It is about presentation of materials. They are designed for researchers, those already interested… Who will SE it as a tool fr their research but not for wider audiences (e.g. Digitising historical serialised fiction and depictions of disability in nineteenth century literature). But these can look samey as websites, there are limitations without design support. However looki b at Lincoln 200 or Indeed George Arthus Plimpton rare book and manuscript page vs treasures of the New York Public Library website which is more visual and appealing. So I am interested in having the appeal of a public orientated website with the quality of a scholarly tool.

So looking At Gothic Past we see something that is both visual and of quality. You can save materials. The ways these plugins, opportunities for discourse etc. in Omeka etc. one up public engagement in richer ways…

Returning to medical humanities.. I think it has inherent links to public engagement, it helps enhance understand perceptions of health and illness. It’s impact can be so universal. Viewing medicine through the lens of literature enables a massively diverse audience who have their own interest, experience and perspectives to share. Giving a local focus also connects to the large community interested in local history. And designing the resource for that diverse audience with these many perspectives will help shape the tool. Restricting a resource to researchers

Q&A

Q) really interesting oaicularly the problems of digital humanities and research… Could yo say more about Omeka and how you plan to use it?
A) I have a wish list for what I want to make from Omeka. I would like logins, the ability to save material, and to have user added content and keywords to drive the site, so that there is input from other audiences, not just researchers but also public audiences. For instance exhibitions around digital patienthood. I hoe to be a good customer. If you don’t have the technological skills, you still have to put in the time to understand the software, to create good briefs, two months in I’m still working with the web team to create a good resource. I want to be a good customer so that I get what I want without making the teams life hell!

Q) what do you think being a good client means for our students. Bergson mentions that the more we rely on existing technologies, the harder it becomes. Think outside the box.
A) I think some f those coming up behind me have a better nderstanding of things digital… But those are the corporately driven websites, but they don’t neccassarily look. Eying that. Maybe you need something akin to research methods, looking at open source materials and resources. But realistically that may not be possible.

Q) I wanted to ask abut the way the digital humanities is perceived as a thing. In your public engagement work is that phrase used?
A) I think largely people think that these are the humanities and these are digital tools. There are parallel conversations in humanities and in the cultural contexts… The ideas of the digital library just being the library. So this doesn’t seem to be specific to academia, it is a struggle fr others to work out how to incorporate the digital into your experience.
Q) we are alread post digital?
A) kind of… The ideas of a digital resource from a library being a different tool doesn’t really seem to be what you actively consider, you see a cool tool.

Q) do you think the schism between research and public engagement exists in the cultural sector?
A) they have a better potential chance to do that. They must provide materials for research and also public engagement and public audiences. We think about research and sharing further but these organisations think inherently about their audiences, but the resources are great for research, for instance the historical post office directory research. The sector is a good place to look to to see what we might do.

Chen Wei Zhu – Rethinking property: copyright law and digital humanities research

Chen Wei did his research on open source but spen much of that time at the British Library.

I will be doing a whistle stop tour of copyright law, mainly drawing on the non digital. Just to set the scene… When did the digital humanities staRt? 1946 is a convenient start date, an Italian Jesuit priest tried to index the massive work of Thimas Equinus, they were digitised, put onto CDROM and now online. But at that time the term wasn’t digital humanities but “humanities computing”. I tried Googles n-gram viewer and based on that corpus you see that “humanities computing” comes in in the 1970s but “digital humanities” emerges in the 1990s. Humanities computing is still hugely used but will be interesting to see when “digital humanities” becomes dominant or bigger. A health warning here… Best between 1820s and 1922. 1922 in the US marks the beginning of copyright, but in Europe materials published before then were already in copyright. And another Heath warning… oigkes scanning kit isn’t perfect before 1820s because of print inconsistencies and changes. E.g. “f” instead of “s”. It fell out of use after times newspaper dropped the long f/s in 1893. So much data to clear up.

So what are the digital humanists opinion and understanding of copyright. I feel that digital humanities scholars are quite frustrated. E.g. burdock et al 2012 sees it this way. Cohen and Rosenzweig 2005 see it as an issue of Things never being fixed? [check this reference]

The US copyright office is shutdown… The US federal government closure included the copyright office being shut down. It is still saying it is shut… There will be a huge backlog for registering copyright.

So how did copyright law begin? What is the connection between the loch ness monster and copyright? The story goes that st columba is not only the first sighted of Nessie, and the first person engaged in copyright dispute. There is a mythical connection too…

The first copyright dispute is sometimes called the patron saint of copyright, huge misunderstanding, he is more the first pirate, copying a manuscript without the permission of his tutor. When he was caught secretly copying the book of psalms st finnian was very angry, he wanted to restrict the copy. The idea “to every cow belongs her calf, therefore to every book belongs its copy”. So this was the first copyright case. Columba had the decision go against him, and he rose up against the king s he led something of a bloodbath.

Now in this case there was no clear author of either finnian or columba. Ad no publishing planned r taking place. SL skip forward to 12th century china we see Cheng Sheren, the first publisher to register their copyright. We see a picture like Pre 18th century England, where the publisher has copyright. In china as in 16th and 17th century England is all about censorship not copyright in any other sense.

The Statute of Anne 1710 is the first copyright act, which brings in the rights of authors and does not include censorship clauses. The first modern copyright law. But author based copyright didn’t really take off until the early nineteenth century, think this was another ethos. Only as authors are seen as romantic genius in the romantic age does this model takes off. Publishers recede to the background to manage economic aspects and authors move to the forefront.

Enter stage left the authors guild. So Authors Guild vs HathiTrust (2012). The Authors Guild has around 8000 members at present. The authors ar encouraging decision that the distinct judge recognised a fair use defence for HathiTrust Trust to digitise copies of texts. The judge argued two types of transformations: full text search, and accessibility of text. That is very very important as an aspect of the ruling. And the judge was convinced of fair use defence. Some humanities scholars submitted, matthew jocker did an analysis of the use of digitised text.

Where we are… We started from the year 1550 and ended in 2012. The meaning of copy has changed. Is digitisation the same as copying by hand? And for digital humanist and copyright lawyer we have to reimagine the role of copyright and the role of the author in copyright. Could see authors as intellectual property owners. We didnt see intellectual property as a term emerge until 1960s when we saw an influential book and the IPO set up, but that idea does change our thoughts of copyright to some extent. But we also see open source, coined in 1988.. There are parallel growth there… We are more a steward and custodian rather tha exclusive intellectual property owner.

Q&A

Q) just to be a pedant here… Your discussion of the romantic author… I think you got it reversed… The law precedes the author by a distance. In the 18th century original works, poems, epic poems like the work of alexander pope etc. for the sake of erectile, their rank of gentlemen, and royal sponsors made books of vellum, extremely expensive.. The way the publishers got around the need to publish these expensive texts was to republish out of copyright works, recycled materials (including shakespeare), etc. cheap material on recycled rag paper. When new works appear, when paper costs drop, then you see new types of writing replacing old writing and publishers have little say… And in the early nineteenth century you see authors assert power. Profit and capitalisation of ideas in republishing of works is so crucial to current Authors Guild debate is important.

A) I’m glad you mentioedn Alexander pope, he is quoted in 1771 case. Almost all cases in 1710s onwards are between publishers but pope actually sued his publisher in that time. That is a gradual change… Going o the nineteenth century.

Q) us versus uk
A) divergence of law… In 1922… Us copyright act was a 56 year act. In 1978 that was in place… Anything Pre 1922 Out of copyright. UK it is 70 years after authors death. Canada 50 years, sheet music sites in Canada. Stuff out of copyright in Canada but not in the uk. But you can access in the uk. Definitely territorial but internet access is not.

Q) interesting you raised music, a whole other complicated history there.
A) absolutely, very complex. For instance Stravinskys work was very difficult for him to copyright because of Russia’s take on property.

Q) the ease of violating copyright law… Working fr Wikipedia and Wikipedia UK… It can be twisted around. The NLS we frequently have conversations about releasing digitised materials. In the uk unlike the us new digitised material has new rights attached. But we have just been putting content out there.
Comment) the British library lets you use copies of less that 3000 copies but if you have an ebook contract you have to pay huge sums for an image.
Q) it costs more to enforce copyright and fees. The NLS have a non commercial clause for digitised materials, usually we won’t charge if the come and ask us. But cost of enforcement can be higher than perusing. Is this unique to digital?

Gregory Adam Scott – The digital bibliography of Chinese Buddhism as a research and reference tool

Gregory is a digital humanities post doctoral fellow at IASH, his doctorate looked at printing and publishing in early Buddhist cultures. His talk has a new title “building and rebuilding a digital catalogue for modern Chinese buddhism”.

I chose this title inspired bynjorge Louis borges’ “the library of babel” containing the sum of all possible knowledges, versions with all typographic mistakes, the catalogue itself… I evoke this to represent the challenge we face today in looking at mountains of data, whilst the text may be less random we still risk becoming lost in our own library of babel.

My own work looks at a more narrow range of data. I began studying the digital catalogue of Chinese Buddhism cataloging texts from 1866 and 1950. But first a whistle stop tour of printing and religious printing in china. A woodblock print edition if the diamond Astra from 886 CE remains the earliest printed text that records the year of printing. In ore modern east Asian print history religious texts we some of the most frequently printed texts. The printing blocks of the Korean buddy canon was an enormous undertaking in terms of time, cost and political support. Often the costs were supported by ideas that contributing to publishing religious works would be something of a merit economy, bringing good things to you and to your family, which can then be gifted to others – s these texts often include a credit to donors in which they dedicated the texts to loved ones.

Yang Wenhui (1837-1911) and his students published hundreds of texts, thousands of copies and was a hugely influential lay Buddhist publisher. As we see the introduction of movable type and western printing processes this was hugely important, more work was printed in a thirty seven year window than in the previous two thousand years. This is great interma of accessing primary sources but problematic for understanding printing cultures. We see publishers opening up. The history of modern china is pepped with conflict and political and cultural change. And religious studies were often overlooked in the move towards secularisation, this is now slowly changing. And libraries were often free from key religious texts and it can be particularly hard to track the history of print in this time because of variance of names, of contributors, of texts, and of cataloging.

So I wanted to go back to original sources to understand what has been published. S I started with five key sources who had created bibliographies based on accessing original materials rather than relying on primary sources. There were still errors and inconsistencies. I merged these together where appropriate. I wanted to maintain citations so that original published sources could be accessed, that the work could be understood properly.

I did this by transcribing the data. I used a simple bare bones methods with XML. Separating the data and the display of the data. If someone wants to transform the data this format will allow them to do that. This is used simply, tags and descriptions are as human readable as possible. I want future researchers to be able to understand this. I also used Python for some automated tasks for indexing some of these texts.

Looking at the web interface that I put online, it uses Php, the same stack as Omeka. The database runs on SQL. There is a search interface where you can enter Chinese keywords and eventually you will be able to search by year or pairs of years. It returns an index number, title, involved author etc. simple but helpful information. It includes 2328 entries whe the spike at the golden age of china in 1902 is very evident. And then each item has its own static HTML page. That is easy to cite and includes all information I know about this text. S far I think this resource has been useful to produce data t pint the way towards future work… Less the end f research, more the beginning. This work has let me see previously undiscovered texts, you can also look across trends, across connections, the relationships to the larger historical picture. It could also be applied to other disciplines regions.

All of my input to this project is provided under creative commons (non commercial). Bibliographic data isn’t copyright able as it is lucid knowledge but the collection of that could be seen to be original work so I’ve said it is my work that I am happy for others to use.

The reason there is such a spike in 1902, where a date is not known it is assigned to that date free which all texts will have a date.

This catalogue is different from book suppliers data as the purpose is so different, my research use is not for purchase in the same way. I want to add features and finesse this somewhat but my dream is if doing what I’d call “Biblio-Biographies” to see the appearance of text over time, seeing nowhere it appears in publishers catalogues… and how the pricing and presentation changes. For instance looking at the Diamond Sutra we see different numbers of editors, one offers a special price for 1000 copies. I used bibliographic sources but there are so many more forms and formats that I will need to consider, each source will be treated differently. Adverts may appear for publications that were never produced. Have moved from bibliography, to catalogue to something else.

Q&A

Q) why not use existing catalogue tools
A) didn’t have anything with the right sort if fields, very different roles of authors, editors, etc. not in a standard format, consider MARC but it wailed be relatively easy to transform the XML to MARC.

Q) are you thinking about that next stage, about having ways for more people to contribute.
A) I have been involved in the wiki based dictionary of Chinese buddhism, we opened it up to colleagues and nothing happened. But only us, the co-editors contributed. Big issue is about getting credit for your work which may be the issue for contribution.
Comment) have a look at the website Branch on nineteenth century literature, have asked for short articles and campaigned for MLA bibliographies inclusion and that helps with prestige. Just need big names to write one thing…

Q) could you say something more about other sources
A) there are periodicals, a huge number of the,. A lot of these focus in on ocular printings of texts, some include advertisements, etc. so these texts point off to other nodes and records.

Q) you talked about deliberately designing your catalogue for onwards for transformation, and whether you’ve thought about how you will move forward with the structure for the data…
A) I’m not sure yet but I will stick to the principle that simple is good and reusable, and transform ale are good.
Comment) you might want to look at records of music and musical performance.
A) I’ll keep that in mind, Readings of these texts are often referred to as performances so that may be a useful parallel.

Louise Settle – Digitally mapping Crime in Edinburgh, 1900-1939

Louise is a digital humanities post doctoral fellow at IASH and her work builds upon her PhD research on gender and crime in the nineteenth century.

I want to talk about digital technologies and visualisation of data, particularly visualisation of spatial data. I will draw upon my own research data on prostitution. And considering the potential fr data analysis.

My thesis looked at prostitution in Scotland from 1892 and 1939. The first half looked at the work of reformers, and the second half looks at how that impacted on the life of women at this time. S why do crime statistics matter? Well it sets prostitution in context, recording changes and changing attitudes. My data comes from the borough court records, where arrests took place, where police looked for arrests, and the locations of brothels at this time. Obviously I’m only looking a offences, so the women who were caught, and that’s important in terms of understanding the data. Because these were paper records, not digitised, I looked at four years only coinciding with census years, or the years with full data nearest census years.

I used Edinburgh Map Builder, developed as part of the Visualising Urban Geographies project led by Professor Richard Roger who helped me use this tool, although it is a very simple tool to use. This allows you to use NLS historical maps, Google Maps and your own data. There are a range of maps available so you pick the right map, you can zoom in and out, find the appropriate area to focus on. To map the addresses, you input your data either manually or you can upload a spreadsheet and then you press “start geocoding” to have your records appear on the map. You can change pin colours etc. and calculate the difference between different points. Do have a look and play around with it yourself.

The visual aspect is a very simple and clear way to explore your subject, and the visual element is particularly good for non specialist audiences, but it also helps you spot trends and patterns you may not have noticed before. So looking at maps of my data from 1903, 1911, 1921 and 1931. The maps visualise the location of offences, for example it was clear from the maps that the location changed over time, particularly the move from the old town to the new town. In 1903 offences are spread across the city. In 1911 many more offences particularly around the mound. In 1921 move to new town further evident. By 1931 the new town shift is more evident, some on Calton hill too.

The visual patterns tell us a lot, in the context of the research, about the social geography of edinburgh. Often old town is seen as working class area and new town as a middle class area. Prostitution appears to move towards to centre but that is also the grin statistician, the shopping areas, the tourist areas. This tells us there is more work there. They keep being arrested there but that does not deter them. Small fines and prison spells did not deter. Entertainment locations were more important than policing policies. You can see that a project that is not neccassarily about geography has benefitted from that spatial analysis aspect.

If you have spatial information in your own research then do have a look at Edinburgh Map Builder. But if you have data for elsewhere in the UK you can use Digimap which includes both contemporary and historical maps. There are workshops at Edinburgh University, and the website on the bottom there. That’s UK-wide. And a new thing I’ve been playing with is HistoryPin – this uses historical photography. You can set up profiles, pictures, paints, etc. you can plot these according to location. You can plot particular events, from your computer or smartphone. Yo can look at historical images and data. So I have been plotting prostitution related locations such as the Kosmo Club, the coffee stalls on The Mound. You can add your data and plot them on the map. Very easy to use site and this idea of public engagement, this is a great tool for doing this.

Q&A

Q) I was quite interested in those visual tools and the linking of events tying them to geographical places. And there are other ways to visualise social network maps, I wonder how it would be to map those in your work, there must be social connections ther. Social network analysis can look very similar… I wanted to know if you have considered that or come across that sort of linkage.
A) I haven’t but that sounds really exciting.

Q) I wanted to ask you about the distribution and policing. If one were to return to the maps. Some marked differences in the number of offences – arrests? – how much detail did you take out of it? You said they were going back and were not deterred. In 1911 markedly different numbers. But even at the times when there was actually more policing towards the old town, the police were just sticking to the main routes. So was the old town a lawless zone at that time? Police not wanting to venture into dark alleys. And how long does Edinburgh’s tolerance zone persist. And it’s curious o see that without Leith too! As now the city operates a more direct reflection but perhaps before the amalgamation of the authorities perhaps there wasn’t such a direct deflection affect?
A) in terms of Keith it was occurring there. The argument is coming from the suggestion that it was informally tolerated in the old town… I don’t disagree that it happened in the old town but my arguement is that it is also happening in the new town and measures there don’t stop it when they should. And my research also sees the police not always caring and judges and juries moving for reform rather than harsher sentences. Cafes and ice cream parlours were a cause of concern in Glasgow in 1911 which may impact the figures then. The 1903 records are not correct, it may be an outlier as the general trend is of decreasing offences over time…

Q) about the visualisation tool, you have tremendous amount of interest in those maps, are this emails important for research design, for research questions. Or would you wish for a tool with more possibility for contextualisation. Fr instance statistics from authorities etc, to interpret your findings. What possibilities for researchers to have these tools yield more stuff?
A) the maps are interesting, they are more appealing. But these need to be used with tables, charts, statistics. If just presenting on the work I would have included those other factors. So in 1903 you lose some density when all dots are in the same place. But an interactive tool to do that would be great.

Comment) what is so attractive of visualisation is speed and efficiency but that also means there is a risk in concluding too quickly, of not necessarily reflecting reality of prostitution – the reader may read your map of offences in that way, that will be easy to do but the methodology can be dull to people and that can mean misunderstandings.
A) absolutely. This needs to be in context.

Q) could you have layers comparing income against offences etc. if you’d found any projects that were developing more complex…
A) the big project is the Edinburgh Atlas, there is a mini conference on hidden histories and geographies of edinburgh on mapping crime, it’s on the IASH mailing list, there are others doing that.

Q) you talked about women seduced by foreigners in edinburgh?
A) in edinburgh there was concern about Italians at ice cream parlours, brazilians were the concern in Glasgow. And in edinburgh there was also a German Jewish pimp of concern as well.

Discussion more widely…

Comment) I’m primarily a learnin technologist and I send my life trying to get people to start from the activity they want to undertake, and not starting with the tools. I found it refreshing tat you all started with your data and looking for tools with the right affordances. How did you find you were helped with that search for a tool.
Louise) it was human contacts. I saw a lecture from professor Richard roger.
Ally) it was similar for me, I found a software through a contact but found it hard to find what else was out there. It basically came down to Omeka or Drupal that the web team knew about. but it would have been great to know what was out there, what the differences are, what resources there are. Even looking through DHNow and DH Quarterly there isn’t a sense of easily identifying the options for the tools. That can be a bit of an issue.
Greg) I used the tools colleagues were using to build my own…
Comment) HCI has the notion of affordances, what it easily enables you to do and what else it could enable yo to do. Is there something there about describing affordances for the humanities. My sense is that often they are pitched towards the sciences, sometimes terminology varies event, so understanding affordances varies.
Ally) sometimes developing your own tools is good, but even a little knowledge and terminology let’s me get better results from these tools, if. Come to these tools end these colleagues with no knowledge then I will not have a successful outcome. I want to really explore Omeka so that I feel confident and able with it.

Question) have the tools changed your research questions or ways of working?
Louise) not me
Ally) for me the have. I was introduced to the 19th century disability reader digital anthology and knowing what was capable with the tools changed what I wanted to d with my project. It did to some degree. By the basic aim was I want to know more about late nineteenth century medical history hasn’t changed. But the project has
Wei Chen) I find the legal documents, creative commons licenses etc. most useful, I was able to be involved in the first version of the Chinese Creative Commons license.
Greg) it hasn’t changed my questions but the scale of work possible and how I might explore it has changed for me.

Question) what advice would yo give for people thinking about digital tools for research
Greg) don’t be afraid to just try things out, work out what’s possible…
Louise) do ask for help, do take advantage of courses…

Question) I was struck with the issue of time when you gave your presentations. Have you reflected on the process of the use of time. How to use jt creatively and consain it. And how that use of time perhaps changed your view of get, of hard copy materials.
Ally) with digital projects you can find you go with the additional time used. Yo should not underestimate the time neccassary. But at the same time I would spend hours and hours leafing through texts to answer a research question. I want t use this tool to reduce the time to find the data I need, to access it, to interpret it. But this project is about developing this oll to benefit myself and others later. You need to be realistic, step back, and be realistic about what is possible.
Louise) that’s part of the issue of digital humanities. My work will be in a traditional book format but the Historypin work, very engaging, but not counting towards career, towards a job. That’s a challenge fr digital humanities and for early career researchers, it’s why our scholarships are so good.
Wei Chen) and there is the distant versus close reading difference. Close reading still has a role but that distant reading allows us to interrogate that reading, to find that resource, etc.
Greg) nothing we are doing are unrecognisable research but we are able to perhaps examine more material, or to do things more quickly. We are not doing everything differently but using new tools in our work.

Question) do you think this investment in tools is changing humanities as a result f this temporal and labour investment in tools. Ally you talked about putting off other work…
Ally) well I am song research, You always have to manage many projects at once. And ther will be an impact. But. Chose the digital path because time and financial limitations changed what was possible. It could have been done another very expensive way. So I’m not putting off research, I would probably be spending years collating information… Instead I am setting something up to facilitate my own research in the future. The relationship between distant and close reading. That divide isn’t as fiery as it appears.
Comment) the superficial view of the digital is happening in teaching. Universities jump on the digitisation bandwagon in a way that changes how humanists are employed, how software are copyrighted and licensed. All these tools help universities save money. One can overreact… Ealignments f labour and resources makes not so positive inroads…
Ally) it’s a huge problem, I have huge concerns about the University’s MOOC programme. There was discussion of open access individuals to talk about what these means…
Louise) not sure but I know colleagues are concerned.
Wei Chen) open access is about economic growth, not hardcore humanist values. Humanist values should be at the core for digital humanists, there will be an increasingly curatorial role fr all formats of material
Comment) abit critical engagements

Question) one of my concerns about this sort of work, and the work in geography in ways of making and curating an archive. I was wondering about the length of time an archive is available after a project. There was a BBC project to save our sound and it finished and the map is no longer accessible… So who looks after and preserves data.
Greg) I think it’s hard to “lose” data, it’s abit implementation not methods.
Ally) I think it’s about how digital humanities adopt tools, about reflecting on project aftermath. When looking into project funding you don’t want that tool lost. It’s not an issue f methodology or individuals but it has implications for future archiving.
Comment) which is why Greg’s work in XML matters
Me) and the use of research data management plans and research data repositories to help ensure planning and curating of data at the outset, and to ensure lon terms access and sustainability.

Nov 072013
 

Today I am connected to one of a new series of JISC and ALT (Association for Learning Technology) Digital Literacy webinarsMultimodal Profusion in the Massive Open Online Course – Jeremy Knox, Sian Bayne. 

I will be taking notes throughout the session and hopefully catching many of the questions etc. As usual this is a liveblog so my notes may include the odd error or typo – please let me have your thoughts or corrections in the comments below!  

:: Update: the recording for this session is now available here ::

According to Lesley Gourley’s introduction these sessions are all being recorded and being made available online via the ALT website. These webinars are based on forthcoming papers in Research in Learning Technology – Special issue on Scholarships and Literacies in the Digital Age. Beyond practice and into greater overarching change. This will be out towards the end of the year.

Lesley is introducing Jeremy and Sian. Sian’s research interests are related to teaching and learning online, particularly around post humanism and multimodal academic literacies. Jeremy is working on a PhD on critical post humanism in open educational environments.

We are beginning with Sian: We will be building on work we have done in our E-Learning and Digital Cultures MOOC and looking at how we can theorise what we have encountered there.

The E-Learning adn Digital Cultures MOOC has just begun it’s second run. It initially ran in early 2013 with around 27,000 students and is running again, launched this week, with around 19,000 students. And we have tried to see this as going beyond the classic MOOC lectures. Instead we have curated open educational resources, web essays, etc. alongside theoretical work and educational thinking. And we then encourage participants to blog their thoughts. We have discussion forums but we also encourage them to use Twitter (#edcmooc), to blog their experience… influenced by the cMOOC design than by the conventional xMOOC design. And we saw before – and are seeing again – a real sense of community development. We see very active Facebook group (4500+, G+ group (3800+) etc.

Jeremy: For me one of the ways in which this sort of massive participation seemed to manifest was in the submission of final assignments to the EDCMOOC. We had over 1700 artefacts submitted. We asked them to create something that commented on one or all of the course themes, something creative designed to be experienced on the web. What was really interesting to me was that in that requirement to make the digital artefact public… we initially did that so that we could use peer assessment – using the peer assessment module – and in order for that to work, and to mirror the public open pedagoguey we were trying to use. But as a result this digital creativity began to be collected and curated on the web. So this image we see on the screen – a Padlet page of 330 artefacts – but you get this profusion of digital creative work. That’s significant because not only is assessment usually hidden, it is also usually private. But this is really open and collaborative as an experience.

And that really led to us thinking about this as “sociomaterial”. This is emerging in some educational research (Fenwick, Edwards and Sawchuk 2011) and encompasses ANT, Complexity Theory, Cultural Historical Activity Theory and Spatial Theory. So we wanted to think about this as a way of percieving relationships between humans (the social) and non-humans (the material). The relation is all important here as this perspective is about disregarding form before the relation, instead seeing the relation between these things as the key focus. I like the idea of Karen Berad who talks about “inter-action” but if we talk about “intra-action” we talk about those things without having to regard them as pure forms.

So why the sociomaterial? Well it counters what can be seen as an over-emphasis on human agency, particularly in digital literacy discourse. The idea that technology is just there to achieve educational goals – an approach that overlooks the role of technology and the change or influence it can have. And it also responds to the idea that online environments are “virtual” or somehow “immaterial” – we are moving to a place where the web is something real and tangible. And when we get to the idea of things being tangible we can get to a place where we see things as situatable to education events. And it offers an alternative way of understanding knowledge – what it is and how it comes about. This isn’t too philosophical but part of the day to day work of educators and the sociomaterial has some profound insights here. And it allows us to acknowledge ways that software and algorithms co-produce digital work (rather than being simple “tools” for human use).

Sian: At this point we thought it might be useful to say what we mean by digital artefacts, those created with a sort of sociomaterial literacy. So I thought I would show a few examples. Firstly “Twitterchat by cikgubrian” on YouTube which brought together and aggregate an assemblage of impressions of the EDC MOOC. Next up “My Scottish MOOC by Willa Ryerson” – another animation about the experience of the Scottish MOOC. Finally “Our #EDCMooc Experience: Class? Network? Something Else?” a “Haiku Deck” using images and text comments. Now Jeremy will do a more detailed reading of some of these artefacts.

Jeremy: I want to provide more of a detailed overview of how these might be looked at as sociomaterial objects. firstly “World Builder: a crowd-sourced tag heart” by John O’Neill. This was created with a tag cloud tool. What struck me was that this was submitted as a piece of work to be assessed for representing a theme of the course. It is put forward as a stable contained piece of work. But I want to look at the processes to produce it… which question it’s source and finality. It’s a sociomaterial reading that enables us to do this. So this text was produced in the responses to a video used in the course called “World Builder” about an idealised virtual world for someone apparently in a coma in hospital. So this text is from around 85 posts in a forum thread from about 75 identified participants. So it was this participant who took this text from the forum. A number of the responses addresses specific questions that we as a teaching team put forward, so our text not only informed that discussion as well. so the distributed elements were not just discursive but there were technological and algorithmic elements that shaped these texts. There are a number of automatic process that take place on this text. Several interesting variables come into play here. The scale of font to relative frequency is adjustable. The tightness regulate how tightly the words fit into a shape. But there are also factors that are automatic algorithmic changes – like removal of small words, combining of tenses, sometimes plurals. These are encoded into the software. And there is the heartshape as well… which determines location and proximity of words. So this seems to embody the symbolic from the material in this. It is a hybrid object, a continuity of matter and culture here. Social and material are not distinct. And as significant as the contesting and blurring of origins, also it’s stability and finality of the object is under question… it was submitted as a Flickr image, also in a Wallwisher, also on Tagxedo website. On the latter website each word is a hyperlink. That really blurs the status of the object as final for me.

And the second example is “E-Learning and Human 3.0” by Nick Hood, created by VideoScribe. It’s a presentation software using text and an animated hand. Once again this presentation has come about from some really interesting and layered process. So the user inputs text and positions it within a sort of whiteboard space. And select from some existing images. And you choose a sort of “preferred limb” for writing. This represents an archetypal black box of digital creation. A tension between software accessibility and usability – this software is clearly both accessible and usable – and on the other hand a kind of openness and user agency. The user doesn’t have fantastic control. That tension is also about absence and presence… the hand is a sense of presence, the spatial aspect of the classroom that draws on the idea of whiteboard. But the surface layer conceals non human agencies at play.

So firstly I wanted to touch on the idea of the image of the hand. So this is a screen capture of the video options – the limb or writing implement – you’d like to animate your presentation with. Most are arms, some are instruments, one is a foot. So you enact a teaching body different from the author – you are distributing the teaching body. And also the hand is animated with the software that preceeds the software. The teaching body is performed by this really complex assemblage of bodies codes, and texts. These are co-constituantly non symbolic. The teacherly body is human and non human at once.

The other thing is this straight forward way of simulating the classroom space. this was submitted via YouTube, where the video has algorithmically generated suggestions. And it will consider the viewer currently watching as well as other viewers of this video – and what they have looked at. This is complex and ongoing algorithm of human interaction that persistently changes that page and that video. Elements are rearranged, reordered, constantly reproduced by humans and algorithms. Human, body, algorithm and non human actor are all present and interacting.

Sian: so I guess we want to end with implications – what does this all mean? Jeremy picked on two of thousands of artefacts to think about how they fit into code, algorithms and agency. Some themes here:

Non-representationalism – seeing knowledge not as something re-produced or re-created outside of a situation (the human min) but instead knowledge is within and part of enacted relational process. Does the artefact convey the intentions of the author? It is about a more complex performance involving both the person and the alogorithmic elements. A new way to understanding that.

Anti-anthropocentrism – the decentreing of a human or human author as the authentic single author of a digital work, it is problematised, this idea of technology in our service… instead it is about decentring the subjtec allows to move beyond an instrumental view of technology and simplistic ideas of empowerment. It helps us interact criticism. So for instance that tool used by Nick presents all limb options as white, forcing us to think critically about that. So we have fundamental issues to consider here.

Both artefacts are i nteresting, we could have spoken about hundreds of examples. Our overarching point is to see digital literacy as something other than technical mastery, instead theoretical areas that decentre human intention.

Jeremy: So some conclusions to add to some of that. I find it interesting that in much digital literacy work you see this emphasis on skills training and future proofing. The idea of training, especially in schools, to enable students to be competant citizens for the futrue. Interesting to consider that in the context of anxiety and fear in relation to technology. Perhaps this may be a response to the loss of stability and authority in digital space.

We see the digital artefacts of the EDCMOOCs as a demonstration of complex, contingent, specific and relational sociomatierla practices.

The resulting knowledge might be considered a collective enactment of human and non-human agencies. Context matters here.

And this perspective gives us a new way to look at digital literacies. We see technology as having a role that expands further to the wider social, cultural and technological contingencies which shape work produced in educational contexts.

Q&A

Q1) Are YouTube videos on any channels?

A1 – Sian) We can share a list of the videos included here. I can also send around some sites where MOOC students have tried to crowdsource and curate these.

Q2) Interesting interpretation: how close is your relational-sociomaterial stance to Siemens and Downes’ Connectivism

A2 – Jeremy) Siemens and Downes are doing good work updating the social constructivist view of MOOCs up to date. For me it’s about how technology is perceived. A lot of the connectivism work slips into an instrumentalist view of technology as there to inform connections. Sociomaterial perspectvies takes a more nuanced views. Siemens has talked about “non human devices” so there are some interesting cross overs. But the view of technology is where they don’t quite correlate.

A2 – Sian) Connectivism making some great work and shifts in terms of pedagogical design but yes, still about being anthrocentric, less focus on the materiality of those networks. That is the slight difference for me than the sociomaterial approach we’ve taken here.

Q3) Why Collaborate rather than Google+ Hangouts

A3 – Lesley) ALT’s preferred method due to numbers.

Q4 – Nick) Is there any aspect of your research that considers the teacher as assessor and how aligned the teachers digital literacy has to be with the student’s digital literacy. Some students submit work that could be challenging to assess in terms of what parts of that work are the students’ own work versus the choice of tool use, to be able to interpret what the students content is?

A4 – Sian) Such an important question. Partly about teachers knowledge and understanding. Partly about what the tool can do. But it also troubles the notion of assessment. And it troubles the frameworks of assessment in particular – those are grounded in textual history, but this is much more about interpretation and the interpretation of the teacher. We are as much taxing our interpretation as the students skills. It questions intentionality.

A4 – Jeremy) A great question. The sociomaterial reading really questions if we can really assess the skill of the author or the skill of the algorithm. The YouTube recommendation algorithm… we don’t need to work out exactly what it’s doing, not the point, but it’s about showing it as entangles and enmeshes, the algorithm isn’t a purely material form, you can’t separate out the intention of the author. And that really troubles identifying and assessing achievements. Interpretation is an interesting way to move that forward.

Q5)  What criteria do you use to assess the students artefacts or creations?

A5 – Jeremy) These were peer assessed. We defined some criteria within the course and asked students to peer assess each other’s work. Students submitted the URLs. the software allocated the URLs to three students for feedback and grading. We were really experimenting with peer assessments. We weren’t trying to impose a sociomaterial assessment, these are a response to that process.

A5 – Sian) We drew on experience of peer assessment from the MSc of eLearning. The criteria wasn’t sociomaterial exactly. There is another aspect of form here, ideally we would respond in the same form as the submitted artefact.

Q6) Is the Edinburgh MOOC a cMOOC? And I’m not clear on the difference!

A7 – Jeremy) A cMOOC is a connectivist MOOC, the likes of Siemens, Downes and Cormier who were experimenting with open content and assemment. They were the original courses called MOOCs. Later Coursera, EdX etc. created platforms called MOOCs, called xMOOCs to distinguish from cMOOCs. So cMOOCs more radical and distributed. xMOOCs hosted centrally, usually established universities, high profile. I’m not sure we were either. Not convinced either is a valid way to talk about MOOCs. When xMOOCs first emerged… the first wave contained video lectures and quizzes in the first wave but actually things are moving on – Sian has been doing some work on this – but we weren’t really either. We wanted to combine interest in experimentation with Coursera platform.

A7 – Sian) Myself and Jen Ross have been doing some work for the UK HEA about MOOC pedgogies. No-one really talking about xMOOCs or cMOOCs so much anymore. One message out of that is that in the UK only really hybrid pedagogies in the UK.

Q8) In terms of digital literacy… perhaps the issue is that we are not sure what literacy means in any context.

A8 – Jeremy) Robin Goodfellow has done some great work on what we mean when we say “digital literacy”. We were taking a slightly different approach and rethink the idea of the human at the centre. See Sue Thomas’ interesting work on the complexities of literacy, of transliteracies. The complexities and factors here. Again that work for us… that still has the idea of the tool as something separate from the person using it.

A8 – Sian) I’d agree that literacy is an increasingly problematic term – Robin has done good work here but we have terms like “emotional literacy” etc. Some real muddiness not for researchers

Q9 – from me) In terms of critiquing digital literacies how much of what you critique of the instrumental approach is actually grounded in pragmatic needs of policy makers, funders, etc? Whilst skills based approaches are problematic, they are actionable for those decision makers. How would more sociomaterial approaches be actionable in terms of policy, in terms of ensuring critically skilled students/individuals?

A9 – Sian) I think you are right, skills based approaches can be addressed by policies but they construct literacies as deficits, so it’s about rethinking about literacy as capacities. To think again about how technology plays an active partnership in the way meaning is constructed. Hard in terms of policies but lets us move away from the idea of deficits and competencies…

A9 – Jeremy) Great question. It makes me think about the issues of literacies as a driver for MOOCs, efficiency gains etc. For me that question is great because it points to much wider institutional and political factors at play and the wider discourse around elearning.

Q10) Will you run the same course again?

A10 – Sian) We intend to offer it three times. We have made small changes this time and possibly again… but after that… well MOOCs are moving so quickly. I’m sure we’ll want to ride whatever waves are coming next…

A10 – Jeremy) There was a particular MOOC moment and I feel priviledged to have been teaching in that moment. As a team we would be interested in working at the critical edge of what is happening, not sure MOOCs will be in the near future. To add to what Sian said we had a lot of feedback on teh first MOOC. Around 60% of the first wave students worked in education and we have used their feedback. We shall do that again. But we also like to surprise people so we look forward to the third MOOC!

Q11) Seeing how different and personal those artefacts are for each learner, is it possible to define any sort of ‘common’ digital literacy, or would it be different for each person?

A11 – Jeremy) Yes, I think it really questions that idea… that distribution of agency and creativity. So many people were involved in creating that word cloud, including us as teachers. Of course the author plays a significant role in that particular coming together. But yeah, it definitely questions that.

A11 – Sian) I’d agree with that. That’s whats exciting about these academic forms, that can’t be flattened like traditional academic forms. And questions what we do when we assess academic work.

Q12 – Nick) I was just wondering about the different knowledge that participants arrive with… the issue of literacies and how they change, it moves all the time

A12 – Sian) It does really move, really question assessible terms

A12 – Jeremy) That relates to the earlier question. It is so situationable. It is not assessable to generalisable criteria really. if we think about these as singularities it is tricky to see how you might understand them and how important the situation they come about through.

Q13 – Lesley) I’m interested in what you’ve been talking about in terms of representation, assemblages and how they may be critiqued. The loss of some sort of shared code. When we think of masters or postgraduate level works, how do you engage critically with say that heart shape word cloud.

A13 – Jeremy) for me the sociomaterial reading is a way to be critical about what happened in order to understand how that artefact came about. It is about recognising the author and the decentering of that author… not a flattening out of considering what’s important and powerful and not represented, just a way to think about what is important, what is powerful in that coming together.

A13 – Sian) I think lesley and others may be interested in the ESRC Seminar Series that Jeremy and I are involved in around code in educational practice.

And with that we draw to a close with thanks to the speakers and facilitators.

See also:

 

Nov 062013
 

Huge thanks to Tony Hirst (via Peter Burnhill) for flagging up a new set of Infographic Guidelines from the Office for National Statistics. You can read more about the guidelines, and their origins in Matt Juke’s Infographics Superhighway post on the ONS Digital Publishing Blog.

Screen capture from the ONS Infographics Guide

Screen capture from the ONS Infographics Guide (ONS, 2013)

Whilst these guidelines are specifically intended to address the branding needs of the ONS they also address visual storytelling and are a really useful reminder of the importance of conveying clear and useful messages through infographics. Matt Jukes’ post talks about the importance of ensuring that any infographic carrying the ONS logo is credible and uses statistics well. I’d heartily endorse that sentiment for any academic or organisational use of these sorts of visual information, particularly as not all visualisations are created equal.

David McCandless, whose handcrafted visualisation work is highly regarded and tells important stories brilliantly, has received criticism for the accuracy of his depictions. In telling a story it can be hard to represent information as precisely as desired whilst also ensuring the reader knows the key messages, and understands the implications of the data – and of the way the data has been interpreted (the classic example here being the potential bias of map projections for instance). Tools like Textal, Voyant-Tools and visualisations created by City University’s giCentre – and the exciting and highly interactive journal Vectors – are attempting to bridge the gap between beautiful and useful. There are sure to be further initiatives appearing in this direction as the role of visual storytelling becomes better understood and appreciated – and more important in an era of increasingly big data.

I am in the middle of teaching my Social Media module for students on the MSc in Science Communication and Public Engagement at the moment and one of the recurrent themes is the difficulty of getting that balance right between being fun and eye catching and being credible and authoritative.

Infographics and memes (e.g. LOLCATs, the What I think I do/What My Parents Think I do… type images) are a brilliant tool for engaging your audiences if they are done well – analysis of social media sharing and the continued growth of Pinterest confirms that images and video content can make a huge difference to how frequently posts are viewed and shared. However, done poorly they can be misleading and turn off audiences – particularly those that have a longer term relationship with an organisation and value your authoritative status.

One of the things I find fascinating about memes that bubble up – for instance one of the most recent Tumblrs and image memes has been Ryan Gosling Biostatistics (see below) – is the challenging potential they offer. In some ways there could not be a less authoritative or appropriate way to convey information than by creating sharable posters co-opting others’ images but, at the same time,  these are fun mediums and can allow you to juxtapose highly accessible imagery with arcane or inaccessible topics. They are also popular – important if you buy into Henry Jenkins’ “If it doesn’t spread it’s dead” concept – and shows a credibility and understanding of the social media space, for instance the Ryan Gosling Biostatistics meme plays on an already-successful meme, the Ryan Gosling NPR Tumblr.

Screencapture from the Ryan Gosling Biostatistics Tumblr

Screencapture from the Ryan Gosling Biostatistics Tumblr, in this case advertising an American Statistical Society 175th Anniversary event.

The Gosling meme is playful and work well because it relies on the audience’s knowledge and interest in a very specific subject matter. It is also inoffensive unlike some of the popular meme images which relies on racial stereotyping (in imagery and language) for humour. These semi-formal images are perfect for some messages – public health messages can work well in informal spaces for instance, and the Gikii law and technology conference thrives on LOLLamas. But even a great biostatistics meme image is not the sort of imagery appropriate to an organisation as authoritative and formal in it’s brand as the ONS. With social media decisions over the best way to communicate are always a trade off of organisational branding and goals, with your audience/s desires and expectations.

The ONS Infographic guide won’t be right for all organisations/contexts – it is as much about their specific brand guidance as it is about structuring infographics well – but it is a great reminder of the usefulness of guidance, style guides, and of the need to have consistent and accessible organisational approaches to engaging audiences through social media, preferably with strong visual elements.

Useful Links:

Some useful visualisation creation tools:

  • Creately | https://creately.com/ – quick free online flow chart building tool.
  • D3.JShttp://d3js.org/ – for the more code-minded this is a powerful JavaScript library for creating interactive data visualisations.
  • FigShare | http://figshare.com/ – share your research data, including the ability to share and create graphs and visualisations via this innovative site. These are visualisations based on real data so very much fit in with the ONS’ call for quality although you would need to consider how best to turn images and interactives generated into a story for a true infographic.
  • Google Maps | http://maps.google.co.uk/ – Maps are pretty much the original visualisation tool. Tools like EDINA’s own Digimap – and various GIS tools and softwares – enable creation of geospatial visualisations of academic research data, whilst Google Maps offers an accessible option for any map fan to play with. Login, click “My Places”, and “Create Map” or use Google Docs (Insert > Gadget > Add a Gadget > Maps) to create a map.
  • ManyEyes | http://www-958.ibm.com/software/data/cognos/manyeyes/ – a lovely tool for creating visualisations of data that you upload. It takes a while to use well but produces some great visualiations.
  • Prezi | http://prezi.com/ – very engaging flash-based online presentation tool which can also work well for visualisations. Looks great but takes some time to get used to.
  • Textalhttp://www.textal.org/ – like Wordle but designed, by UCL Digital Humanities experts, to enable researchers to create credible visualisations of textual data as well as analysing that text.
  • TimeToast | http://www.timetoast.com/ – create a timeline from your data
  • Simile Widgets | http://www.simile-widgets.org/ – enables you to create a visualisation, timeline or new way to browse your data – you may need to become familiar with some code to use Simile well/successfully.
  • Visual.ly | http://visual.ly/ – free visualisation tools which, whilst mainly used for silly/fun infographics (definitely not ONS appropriate), can be used in more series ways or for informal visualisations and storytelling around your data.
  • Voyant Toolshttp://voyant-tools.org/ – free online interactive visualisations of textual research data. Really useful if your texts are appropriate in terms of IPR and ethics for sharing in this way.
  • Wordle | http://www.wordle.net/ – plugin interview transcripts or other texts for an instant overview of content. Not perfect but a good starting point into data.