Event: THATcamp Kansas and Digital Humanities Forum

The THATcamp Kansas and Digital Humanities Forum happened last week at the Institute for Digital Research in the Humanities, which is part of the University of Kansas in beautiful Lawrence. I had the opportunity to be there and give a talk about some recent stuff I’ve been working on regarding digital prosopography and computer ontologies, so in this blog post I’m summing up a bit the things that caught my attention while at the conference.

The event happened on September 22-24 and consisted of three separate things:

  • Bootcamp Workshops: a set of in-depth workshops on digital tools and other DH topics http://kansas2011.thatcamp.org/bootcamps/.
  • THATCamp: an “unconference” for technologists and humanists http://kansas2011.thatcamp.org/.
  • Representing Knowledge in the DH conference: a one-day program of panels and poster sessions (schedule | abstracts )
  • The workshop and THATcamp were both packed with interesting stuff, so I strongly suggest you take a look at the online documentation, which is very comprehensive. In what follows I’ll instead highlight some of the contributed papers which a) I liked and b) I was able to attend (needless to say, this list matches only my individual preference and interests). Hope you’ll find something of interest there too!

    A (quite subjective) list of interesting papers


  • The Graphic Visualization of XML Documents, by David Birnbaum ( abstract ): a quite inspiring example of how to employ visualizations in order to support philological research in the humanities. Mostly focused on Russian texts and XML-oriented technologies, but its principles easily generalizable to other contexts and technologies.
  • Exploring Issues at the Intersection of Humanities and Computing with LADL, by Gregory Aist ( abstract ): the talk presented LADL, the Learning Activity Description Language, a fascinating software environment provides a way to “describe both the information structure and the interaction structure of an interactive experience”, to the purpose of “constructing a single interactive Web page that allows for viewing and comparing of multiple source documents together with online tools”.
  • Making the most of free, unrestricted texts–a first look at the promise of the Text Creation Partnership, by Rebecca Welzenbach ( abstract ): an interesting report on the pros and cons of making available a large repository of SGML/XML encoded texts from the Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) corpus.
  • The hermeneutics of data representation, by Michael Sperberg-McQueen ( abstract ): a speculative and challenging investigation of the assumptions at the root of any machine-readable representation of knowledge – and their cultural implications.
  • Breaking the Historian’s Code: Finding Patterns of Historical Representation, by Ryan Shaw ( abstract ): an investigation on the usage of natural language processing techniques to the purpose of ‘breaking down’ the ‘code’ of historical narrative. In particular, the sets of documents used are related to the civil rights movement, and the specific NLP techniques being employed are named entity recognition, event extraction, and event chain mining.
  • Employing Geospatial Genealogy to Reveal Residential and Kinship Patterns in a Pre-Holocaust Ukrainian Village, by Stephen Egbert.( abstract ): this paper showed how it is possible to visualize residential and kinship patterns in the mixed-ethnic settlements of pre-Holocaust Eastern Europe by using geographic information systems (GIS), and how these results can provide useful materials for humanists to base their work on.
  • Prosopography and Computer Ontologies: towards a formal representation of the ‘factoid’ model by means of CIDOC-CRM, by me and John Bradley ( abstract ): this is the paper I presented (shameless self plug, I know). It’s about the evolution of structured prosopography (= the ‘study of people’ in history) from a mostly single-application and database-oriented scenario towards a more interoperable and linked-data one. In particular, I talked about the recent efforts for representing the notion of ‘factoids’ (a conceptual model normally used in our prosopographies) using the ontological language provided by CIDOC-CRM (a computational ontology commonly used in the museum community).

    That’s all! Many thanks to Arienne Dwyer and Brian Rosenblum for organizing the event!


    A copy of this article has been posted here too.

    2 thoughts on “Event: THATcamp Kansas and Digital Humanities Forum

    1. It sounds like that was a really good event! I’m particularly intrigued by Michael Sperberg-McQueen talk… What did XML have to do with Kant’s definition of enlightenment, in the end? Curious!

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