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Digital Humanities Summer Institute

Conference notes from the University of Victoria Digital Humanities Summer Institute. This institute is one of the best training institutes for digital humanities skills.

Note this is being written as it takes place. It is, therefore, rough.

Architectural Modeling - Lisa Snyder

Lisa Snyder of UCLA gave the Institute Lecture on Wednesday, the 28th. Lisa is interested in architectual history so she tends to work with higher-end modeling environments rather than things like Second Life. She showed the Herodian Temple Mount project. The very act of modeling raises questions so the process becomes iterative. The model raises questions which then takes you back to the sources to see if there is a hint, now reading them differently. I was struck by how creative they get looking for source evidence. I was also struck by how Lisa walked us through the modeling process from simple models to more and more detail as questions are answered. Modeling lets you consolidate evidence. The challenge is that you often have to resolve questions without enough evidence. The visual representation makes it hard to show what is a guess. Nicely rendered images hide the choices. Verisimilitude lies.

These virtual reconstructions are used for interpretation (as in on-site intepretative centres which help tourists understand what it would have looked like) and for teaching (to give students a holistic sense of the space.

She closed by showing us here current project on The World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 which was brought to life for me by the novel, The Devil in the White City. I would have loved to be able to walk through the model when reading the story.

Ray Siemens, who organized the Institute, asked what the final test of success was for a model? Lisa's answer pointed to a user's response - do they find the model interesting? Would an expert understand it?

Synergies and the Changing Face of Digital Humanities in Canada - Michael Eberle-Sinatra

Michael Eberle-Sinatra talked about the Synergies project which has recently been funded through CFI's National Platforms program. Synergies aims to provide a platform for knowledge representation and dissemination in Canada. There are two main things researchers can benefit from:

  1. Online Canadian Research Record
  2. Online Publication Services built on Érudit and OJS

It has a five nodes that will provide a distributed but searchable aggregation of research.

At its first level, Synergies consists of this five-university consortium that will provide a fully accessible, searchable, decentralized and inclusive national Social Sciences and Humanities database of structured primary and secondary Social Sciences and Humanities texts. This distributed environment is technically complex to implement, and it also represents a major political and social collaboration which attests to the project's transformative dimension for Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities research and researchers. Synergies will be a primary aggregator of research that, in providing publishing services, will allow journals editors (and other producers) to structure subscriptions and maintain revenue control.

This project could make a significant difference to the reception of online journals in the humanities as it legitimizes the development of Canadian online journals. They are proposing to develop a research portal to allow searching across all sorts of documents and distributed collections. The portal will have a public aspect allowing Canadian research to be accessible openly to a broader public. It should also allow configurations of subject specific collections for different purposes.

There was an interesting discussion after Michael's talk about how this might benefit Canada. How will such access to research to the public change policy and culture?

Tools Across the Research Lifecycle - Geoffrey Rockwell

Reflections on tools and the process of research

I gave the Institute Lecture on the last day and I looked at how tools are used across different phases of research. The paper was loosely based on Tools Across the Cycle. I framed the discussion by talking about the Now, Analyze That experiment in Extreme Text Analysis.

The final session of the Institute was when the participants showed what they were working on. The variety of text encoding projects was fascinating. It was a fast tour through different problems and possible solutions.



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