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GRAND 2014

I'm at the GRAND 2014 conference in Ottawa. GRAND is a Network of Centres of Excellence that I am part of.

Note that I am writing these notes live so they will be limited and erratic. At times I stop writing entirely, especially when thinking slowly.

PREVNet: Craig and Mishna

Two leads of the Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence network presented the opening keynote on cyberbullying.

  • Kids are using social media younger and younger. 25% of kids have cell phones by 4!
  • An important issue is what is cyberbullying. Many who say they aren't bullying or being bullied will none the less describe activity that fits academic definitions. The issue of definition is complicated - is it just an extension of regular bullying or is it different? Are regular and cyber bullying definied in comparable ways?
  • Girls will often talk about online "drama" that could be called bullying. Boys will talk about "trash talk" which often involves homophobic talk that is bullying. It seems that some of these behaviours are taken for granted.
  • Often it is friends that do the bullying. Appearance is important. Differences are too.
  • Many don't talk to adults about the cyberbullying. Disclosure comes with all sorts of problems - it can be risky. They are afraid that the technology that will be taken away, which is their social life. There is a fear of retaliation if you tell. Adults don't always follow through or can't do anything. Shame is a big problem.
  • Kids who are cyberbullied are at a higher risk of a whole host of mental health issues from drunkeness to suicide.
  • We need to worry also about the bullies - those who bully others hang with other bullies and tend to be influenced by their peers which reinforces behaviours. There is a tendency to more and more aggression.
  • An interesting fact is that those who bully (but are not bullied) tend to be popular and do well.
  • PREVNet is looking at nuerological responses. They are looking at what happens cognitively.
  • Bullying seems to actually affect gene regulation which could be related to brain development which in turn is related to long term physical and mental health problems. Kids who spend a lot of time stressed by bullying will have poor outcomes because brain functioning. In many ways physical pain lasts less long than bullying.
  • They are trying to figure out what defenders are like. How can we develop more defenders. Defenders have empathy and have high efficacy - they believe they can make a difference. Defenders are very aware of what they can do.

They ended with what we can do? They think a partnership with GRAND can make a difference. They hope we can create online tools. They graphed family dinners against negative effects. Families that eat together can support kids so that they can deal with other relationships. Dinners are times to model relationships, intimacy, and all the good things. It is a time to talk about digital citizenship. Kids whose parents do a high level of monitoring tend to be much safer.

I was struck by the point that Greenwald makes about Snowden in No Place To Hide about how he got his ethics from gaming. Can we study the presentation of ethics online?

I was also struck by the difference between the tenor of this talk and the keynote by Valerie Steeves at GRAND 2012. I probably don't get the nuanced differences, but it seemed to me that her research suggested that kids thought cyberbullying was being exaggerated.

2 Minute Madness

We then had a session where each project presented what they are doing in 2 minutes. I presented on Dighum so I didn't take a lot of notes. The full list of projects is here. Some of the projects that have interesting overlaps into the digital humanities include:

  • EXPERT is looking at how one can crowdsource answering questions.
  • ENGAGE is looking at games and learning with special attention to bringing girls into game design. I'm part of a subproject on Japan with Mia Consalvo.
  • BIELIEVE2 is doing really neat work on believable computer generated narratives, characters and scenarios.
  • CREATE is working on creating new interactive ideas. They had a slide about interactive widgets.
  • INDIEGANE is looking at the indie game sector and how to incubate independent game development.
  • SHREXP looks at affordances for collaboration.
  • NEWS2 is about online, mobile, participatory, and interactive news. There is a interesting overlap between the news visualization tools they are building and what we build in the digital humanities.
  • PLATFORM2 is interested in algorithms and tools with a focus on big data, planning and simulation. Dighum is a partner.
  • PROTECT is a project about privacy and security.
  • SENSE-I is a project to make sense of big data. They have a subproject with the great name "Ubilytics" or ubiquitous analytics. Subproject Explain is about better explanations of big data results.
  • KNOW follows on NAVEL and MIEOW. They are looking to systematize knowledge dissemination. They will study GRAND - how we are a community of practice - and they maintain our infrastructure the GRAND Forum. KNOW is also looking at digital infrastructure for knowledge and the related policy issues.
  • SYNTHIUS is working on synthesizing a believable human.


We had a number of meeting sessions.

  • I led the DigHum project meeting where we went over what we wanted to do and how to help with the renewal. We concluded that we have three general themes:
    • Cultural analytics and visualization
    • Citizen engagement
    • Scholarly infrastructure
  • I sat in on BELIEVE2 because it seemed there might be a nice link between what we are doing in text mining the novel and . BELIEVE2 is interested in generating believable stories, characters, and scenarios. In the digital humanities we are interested in recognizing, classifying and interpreting stories, characters and scenarios. How can we connect projects?


Bill Buxton talked about the first human centred design work in the early 1970s at the NRC. Buxton first encountered different interfaces through them and through arts projects. Nestor Burtnyk, Ken Pulfer, and Marceli Wein were recognized for their pioneering work on computer animation.

Burtnyk started by talking work he did between 1968 and mid-1970s. He was doing graphics and computer animation in a kitchen-sized computer with 24 kilobytes of memory. He worked with the National Film Board on early pioneering animations like La Faim - Hunger.

Then Wein talked about how lucky they were to join the National Research Council at a time when they supported basic research. They were also lucky to have to not have to share computers as the sort of work they were doing needed full systems. Finally there was the partnership withe the NFB that let them apply their work in ways that were seen.

Ken Pulfer's wife talked about his family life (as he has passed away.)

The Buxton introduced Nancy Knowlton and David Martin who founded Smart Technologies building a business around touch technologies for education. Their company has supported research and built on a passion for education.

The last award went to Barry Wellman. Buxton described how Barry taught him that it is not about man/machine interaction or human/computer interaction, but person to person interaction. Barry Wellman brought sociology into HCI. Barry Wellman has been working in the field for decades. We used to call the issue "groupware", "telepresence" and now "social networking." He has a book out " | Networked: The New Social Operating System]].

Gilad Lotan of betaworks

Gilad is the Chief Data Scientist at betaworks which is an early investor company starter. They have started a number of neat media and data dashboards/analytics. He talked about what they are doing with big data.



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