Digital Humanities 2012 conference

Digital Humanities 2012 was, one of the best conferences which we have attended in 2012. Organizers managed to gather more than 500 attendes from all around the world. Conference was held at the University of Hamburg, which is a really great venue to host more than 200 sessions (5 parallel tracks of the main conference plus various workshops and tutorials) during the 5 days starting from Monday 16 of July.

As a summary of the conference we would like to bring your attention to a few very interesting projects and tools which were presented there. If you are interested in getting more information about them, you may check conference website, because all the lectures were filmed and videos are available online for free.

First project on our list, a “Programming historian 2” it is an effort which aims at creation of a second edition of a textbook which shows how programming tools like Python can be used by digital historians in their research. It sounds like a very ambitious and interesting task. Project is a collaborative effort, it consists of lessons which lasts from 30-60 minutes and tries to show what and how can be done using modern programming tools.

One of the most interesting project from user interface point of view was Neatline. It is a set of plugins for Omeka digital library framework. Neatline allows to creae a visually rich presentations of e.g. helps users to tell a story using timeline and map (example exhibitions about Battle of Chancellorsville). Tool itself is very nicely done, apart from normal fully-fledged version it’s also mobile ready – really worth trying out.

Next interesting project that was introduced at the conference was Pelagios. The name of project stand for ‘Pelagios: Enable Linked Ancient Geodata In Open Systems’. It is a collection of online ancient world projects (ie. Google Ancient Places, LUCERO and many others) used to find information about ancient places and visualize it in meaningful way. To achieve this purpose they use common RDF model to represent places reference and align all place references to the Pleiades Ancient World Gazetteer. As authors says project now focuses on ancient world, but it is only first step on building Geospatial Semantic Web for Humanities.

Among many other interesting things project named “Visualizing the History of English” introduced by Alexander Marc was one of the best project at the conference. Alexander Marc presented method to visualize English vocabulary by treemap chart from different time periods. For this purpose uses huge database of the Historical Thesaurus of English (793 747 entries within 236 346 categories). I truly recommend to have a look at the video from this presentation.

There was also few very exciting projects related to different aspects of history and geography. One of the best example was The MayaArch3D Project that combines art history, archeology with GIS, virtual reality for teaching and research on ancient architecture. The current prototype is a virtual searchable repository of Maya city located in Copan of western Honduras. One of the purpose of this paper is to analyse the visual and spatial relationships between built forms and landscape elements. Project was developed in Unity3D game engine in combination with PHP and PostgreSQL.

QueryArch3D Demo Film from Jennifer von Schwerin on Vimeo.

This is of course not all, below you can find a list of a few interesting tools, named in various presentations during the conference:

  • Stanford NLP group publishes results of work of NLP group from Stanford University. Website offers access to multiple tools which can be used for Natural Language Processing.
  • Apache Open NLP a machine learning based toolkit for the processing of natural language text.
  • Alchemy API – it helps to transform text info knowledge. Alchemy is a cloud-based text mining platform providing semantic tagging to over 18,000 developers. AlchemyAPI provides the most comprehensive set of natural language processing capabilities of any text mining platform, including: named entity extraction, author extraction, web page cleaning, language detection, keyword extraction, quotations extraction, intent mining, and topic categorization.
  • A few presentations during the DH named Open Calais an semantic enrichment API powered by Thomson Reuters. Now in 4.6 version, a very interesting project available since quite a while, nice to see that it is widely used.
  • D3.js – Data-Driven Documents is a very nice JavaScript library for manipulating documents based on data. It helps to bring data to life.
  • OKF annotator, developed by Open Knowledge Foundation allows to annotate virtually any resource on the web.
  • GeoStoryteller is one of the tools used during the German Traces NYC project. It is an educational tool that allows you to create stories about physical places. Users can take a walking tour and engage with the GeoStories you have created using their mobile phone.

Last but not least links to two interesting documents Research Infrastructure in the Digital Humanities (from European Science Foundation) and an inventory of FLOSS dig_hum tools.

authors: Piotr Smoczyk, Adam Dudczak

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