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Future-Focused Communicator, Analyst, Researcher

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National Digital Forum (NDF) Conference 2016 – Day 1

NDF Conference 2016

Annual Conference of National Digital Forum (NDF)
November 22-23, 2016
Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand (Wellington, NZ)
Conference program PDF
Twitter feed #NDFNZ
Recordings of sessions on NDF YouTube channel

Cool Things to Check Out:

Stand-out Presentation:

The stand-out talk was Takerei Norton’s discussion of his work on the Ngāi Tahu Cultural Mapping Project, which now has over 4,000 Māori place names on the South Island mapped onto Google Earth, complete with references from Māori communities. This will enable countless Digital Humanities research projects and was so interesting and inspiring to learn about.

The following are my notes from the sessions I attended on day 1 of the NDF Conference. Most sessions were recorded and are available on the NDF YouTube channel. [If any errors, let me know.]

Day 1 – Tuesday, November 22

On Day 1, there was first a breakfast put on by DigitalNZ. Their big announcement was that they just launched Stories which is an easy way to put together images and text using historical material or your own material.

Then the conference opened and it was announced that they had over 300 registrations, which was the most they’d ever had. This number later was specified as 320 registrations.

Opening Address – Richard Foy (Department of Internal Affairs)

Richard Foy gave a fabulous opening address. He was funny, understandable, and relatable, and he used great images. He connected it with the personal/human element by showing images of his daughter Lucy and his grandmother. He said that we need to be people-first (rather than cloud-first, etc.).

It was pleasing to hear him make several science fiction references right off the bat, a big one being The Core science fiction movie. He humorously explained his attachment to this not-ranked-very-highly movie and encouraged us to please rate it on IMDB – it deserves better than a 5.4!

Foy then gave a hilarious overview of digitization – how we make PDFs and put them in the ‘cloud’ and then burn the rest of the leftovers. This has precedent! Actually, the Gibbons fire in New Zealand led to the Archives Act 1957. This kind of digitization is not best practice, obviously.

Foy next discussed time and memory. Our memory allows us to inextricably link our past with our present and our future. When we lose some of that memory, our memories tend to fade away. That can lead to a much darker future. We’re not accountable for things that have gone by in the past.

We’re moving from physical information to digital information and need to figure out how we manage those. Unlike Pokemon Go, we don’t want to catch it all. Some of it we don’t need and don’t want to remember. He said that copyright in the digital era is ripe for disruption! And he also gave a shout out to Digital Humanities – these are the things these guys are begging us for! We also need to make information useful and available for machines to be able to deal with it for us.

What would happen if we created the reading room on the web in the 21st century? But what if there were nothing to read? We have to make sure we preserve things for the future.

Keynote: Memory Institutions as Knowledge Machines – Eric T. Meyer (Oxford Internet Institute at University of Oxford) @etmeyter

Meyer is at the Oxford Internet Institute and has been there for 15 years, since 2001. He started by asking What does social informatics mean? He described the term “Socio-Technical” and how his book editors kept trying to take out the hyphen but he insisted on it. What social informatics does is to examine the hyphen – how do people interact with technology. He has an article about it: “Examining the Hyphen” (2014). Science and Technology Studies tends to look at the first side” of the hyphen (people), then add the technology later. Computer Science tends to look at the second side of the hyphen (technology), then add the socio/people thing just at the end.

Wired magazine tends to be quite focused on technology determinism. The Internet causes this, makes people dumber, etc. But actually, technology allows people to make certain choices.

Working with his colleague Ralph, whom he doesn’t often agree with, means that every sentence is carefully thought-out because they have to work hard to convince the other person of their position. (Benefit of co-writing rather than sole authorship)

No one used to care about data. Then after Snowden, now ‘big data’ draws larger crowds.

Do you indicate that you used a digital resource when building your list of references? Basically students use them but then delete because of academic standards.

He discussed marine biology research on humpback whales. There are many scientists around the world looking at their own populations, but it’s good to find a way to share that data with other scientists so they can build a map and estimate the numbers of whales in the world, rather than just one area. Another problem is that we don’t know how long they live, but they could live over 100 years. So how do scientists make sure that the scientists after them can use that data?

He discussed a ‘big data’ project on dementia ( Funders insisted that they use the word big data in the title, even though it really wasn’t that big of a data. (Big data is seen as sexy though.) How do we change the incentives in medical science to make it so they not only want to create data but want to make it accessible to others and share it? How many people have worked with a scientist who comes to the end of the project and hasn’t thought about what to do with the data and just wants to shove it into a repository to meet the requirements of founders? There is a need to get them thinking about data earlier in the process (this is what librarians in universities are working on).

An example of big data that could be used to help out in the health care realm but raises ethical questions: Tesco grocery store chain has a loyalty card that can pick up on shopping habits of someone coming down with dementia (like narrowing shopping choices or buying the same item day after day). But how ethically would they be able to share that data with health professionals? There are other issues with big data. RFID chips are used to track things. Meyer said that if he goes to a conference and they have a chip in the id badge and they can’t tell him what they’re doing with the data, he rips it out. He also gave the example that made the news about how Target knew a teenage girl was pregnant before her dad did (see article in Forbes), started sending her coupons, etc. for baby stuff. This shows how scary big data can be – they know more than our own families do. Also, the problem with loyalty shopping cards is that it is all proprietary data protected under no disclosure agreements that medical researchers, really anyone can’t get access to.

He finds Internet Archive Wayback Machine and other web archives frustrating because you can only look at URLs one at a time. The search function isn’t very good because they can’t crawl the data as fast as they need. You can’t look at broader information. Historians in the future will want to know what was going on today, on the web, because that is where things are mainly happening in our world.

‘Academics quite like to link to themselves.’ He showed a chart of how the subdomains link to each other (.co, .gov, .ac).

He discussed a Digital Humanities project where a Thomas Pynchon wiki was set up to annotate his book Against the Day and it only took a few months, whereas previously it had taken years. This is a new way of doing a humanities task, such as annotating a novel, and can be done by the crowd. It was done by a non-academic, a fan, who ran the server from his own computer. Weisenburger’s Rainbow (first annotation) was bought and stored by libraries, but there is no plan to preserve this person’s wiki project. It raises questions about how to proceed in future with this kind of humanities project.

Re: Humanities Browsing and Searching vs. Physical Sciences Browsing and Searching
Lots of people use Google search and Google Scholar but also rely on a lot of other resources. Over the last 20 years, libraries have gotten to be too good at being invisible. He said that when physical scientists have been asked about their library use, they don’t even realize where they are getting their online journal articles! On the one hand it’s good that libraries are less visible because it means the experience is smoother, but on the other hand, they are not being appreciated or noticed. It used to be very difficult to find information, but now it just takes a few clicks. So that has changed the nature of how things work. We’ve moved from information to analysis.

He mentioned Blockchain and Ascribe and the discussion around whether these can help artists get paid.

He finished by discussing a student project where they were asked to make films using nothing but an iPad. “Bottling Inspiration: Shoot Smart Swindon Final Project Report” (2014) It unleashed a lot of creativity among their students. Instead of separating out roles like camera person, editing person, it allowed everyone to collaborate and comment.

A round up on the latest inspirations and examples of tech in exhibitions around the world – Emily Loughnan (Clicksuite) @suitey

Loughnan presented a whirlwind tour of really innovative museum exhibits in the world. The interactive version of Hieronymous Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights” painting inspired her to think about if they could make something that would allow others to do the same with their artworks and objects. Curio ( came out of Mahuki, the Innovation Hub at Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand.

Museums are moving from being story-tellers to co-creators. Virtual Reality (VR) can allow people to create something for themselves. Check out the Tilt brush from Google. Yet 5 million people are going through the museum, so there are issues of through-put in terms of being able to offer augmented experiences like VR. It also takes a lot of staff work and there are health issues with the helmet having just been on someone else’s head. There are also tripping, bumping, and other hazards. (Ex: Ghostbuster exhibit in NY) One solution: swivel stools so you don’t worry about stumbling into other people. Another one: turning a bus into a VR experience (“Field Trip to Mars” on Vimeo) shows how a school bus was transformed into a VR experience without the use of headsets.

In the Rain Room at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, it feels like you have a super power (back off rain!). Rain is everywhere except on you. At the Digital Waterfall in the Connected Worlds exhibit at the New York Hall of Science, you can divert the water into 5 or 6 different worlds. Boys come in and immediately dam the water and all the worlds are starved for water. Loughnan tried cutting down a bunch of trees in the rainforest and was actually saddened to see that they didn’t grow back. [I can see the potential for environmental education.]

Digitising the divide: Who’s in, who’s out? – Robyn Hunt (AccEase, Arts Access Aotearoa)

Hunt is from Arts Access Aotearoa and offered a challenge to the hype about digital by discussing disability issues. She said there is a certain group that doesn’t have access to all the digital stuff. Nearly one-quarter of New Zealanders are disabled. Older people are 14% of New Zealanders and growing.

Some digital solutions to disability issues are: accessible web sites, accessible devices, and closed captioning on YouTube (although it can be quite bad). But smart phones are more expensive with the accessibility additions so might be out of reach for disabled people. She mentioned BlindSquare, which is an app for the vision-impaired.

Digitally sculpted artworks for blind people are being done in the U.S. so they can then experience the world’s greatest paintings and art in a new way.

Hunt issued a challenge for everyone to Incorporate universal design into all of their projects. It should not be special – it should just be part of the way things are done.

She also brought up that what a nation chooses to remember is important and she is glad that Te Papa has started to document disabled soldiers in WWI.

Re-imagining Rutherford’s Den – Caroline Fenton (Communications Manager at The Arts Centre, Christchurch)

Rutherford’s Den is in the Christchurch Arts Centre. One good thing to come out of the earthquake damage has been that they had a chance to redesign the space. There is a time lapse on their website (change from a heritage space to the space that it is today with interactive exhibits). Their blackboards are actually screens, so you are tricked into thinking you walked back in time but there is actually a lot of digital material and technology that you can’t experience until you walk into the space. The exhibit has appeal to both Arts and Science people.

Getting it Done – Matariki Williams and Nina Finigan (TUSK Emergent Culture) @TUSKCulture

Tusk was launched in 2015 as an online platform for people entering GLAM institutions to contribute constructively, in their own voice, to the sector. They want to contribute to strengthening the cultural sector from the ground up. They mentioned LitCrawl (website; @tweetlitcrawl) then moved on to the ‘Trumppocalypse’ and millennial voting map (it was misleading because it actually was from a Survey Monkey survey done in October, but hopefully data people figured that out). They said the hamster wheel of short-term contracts in the Arts sector wasn’t working. They needed to fail in the traditional way so they could think laterally and get beyond the idea of funding being the primary goal. They wanted their online platform to be loose, reactive, and relevant to their generation. But this involves not always being taken seriously by the usual crowd. They said divergence and departure are the natural state of the Internet, and they wanted to be able to take advantage of this. The spirit of generosity helps when collaborating. They believe that those who have platforms need to use them; our voices need to be heard. We shouldn’t be restricted to what we’re doing as a day job. We should be active, engaged citizens. They asked: How do we avoid being an echo chamber? How can we bust down the doors and bring what we have to those outside of our circles?

Papers Past – A Redesign Case Study – Michael Lascarides (National Library) @PapersPastNZ

Lascarides discussed a new user experience for Papers Past. It was a well-liked service, so they didn’t want to change what people liked and what was working. Their Google Analytics says that there are 1200 different screen sizes per month being used to access their site. Google has started penalizing sites that aren’t mobile-friendly. A few years ago making it device friendly and responsive was a nice-to-have, but now is a must-have. They got rid of the search button on the home page. This was a bit radical. Now there are just 4 buttons for people to click and choose what they want to look at. They also changed their URLs (http://). They previously had very 1997 URLs so they redesigned them so they are a lot better. Now they use format, publication, year, month, day, page which is easy to understand and easy to parse with Google.

Learning to COPE with Galleries at Auckland Museum – Gareth de Walters (Auckland Museum) @gdewalters

Walters discussed how to use 3-D scanning technologies to bring objects to students and researchers, etc. They made a virtual laser scans of the old exhibit (unique permanent record) when it came time to renovate their long-standing Centennial Street exhibit. Ideally, they would be able to recreate it from storage if they wanted to. They worked with architects to make these plans. They also did photo stitching in the gallery. One of the goals was to make a digital tour (an interactive online collection). Matterport is a new technology that offers a relatively cheap and quick means of scanning galleries. It supports VR out of the box.

Regarding the Origins Gallery, they found that the gallery space wasn’t conducive to noisy kids (kids love dinosaurs!). There was a move to student-centered learning with teacher as a guide rather than an authoritative voice telling them what to know.

Shaping Knowledge: How can 3D Technology by Used in Libraries to Make New Knowledge Available? – Jason Hansen (National Library)

3D seems like a natural fit for museums, but it might not seem like something that fits in a library. They don’t hold that many 3-D objects. Hansen said that he would make the case that there is a reason to do it even if just because it is an emerging part of the technology in the world we’re living in. At this point, the conversation is just about 3D printing as a novelty (like printing chocolate) rather than about the potential for information storage, discovery, and dissemination. Libraries are still stuck in a 2-D model of scanned documents on screens. But, for example, a photograph of the parchment of the Treaty isn’t the same as having more details about the object. This is where 3-D that has more fidelity to the original object could be useful.

3-D printing could completely change the supply chain. Just like you might download music instead of getting CDs now, 3-D printing could do this to other objects that we buy. It could cut down on transport costs. What this means for libraries is that they would have a reason to collect the designs or 3-D models that may have some kind of cultural impact and to retain them in a repository to be made available later.

Hansen discussed Lightfield technology (mixed reality) and Magic Leap. [Reminded me of more Minority Report style of moving around data instead of needing a tablet since it is an overlay on the real world.] There was a YouTube video of a child showing their dad their Mount Everest project. Developing digital literacies was mentioned. The Rekrei (Project Mosul) was able to recreate some of the destroyed museums in Iraq. Semantic nodes (Augmented Reality and 3-D tech) allow ways of interacting with the world in ways that weren’t possible before. It blurs the line between physical and digital. It broadens the role of these tech as we use our role as learning facilitators.

Grisly Explorations into 3-D Models and 360degree Tours – Meredith Rigger (Nelson Provincial Museum & Relive360)

 The Nelson Provincial Museum didn’t have the same support as Auckland Museum, so it had to do 3-D stuff with 13 full-time equivalent staff just learning on their own. Rigger started off by telling a short history of Murder at Maungatapu: “Let’s meet some bandits shall we?” Later she explained how back in the day, a dentist took plaster casts of the heads of those executed for the now-famous murder because phenology was a hot topic at the time. They have 3 of these death casts at the museum. They took photos of them and then fed the photographic data into VisualSFM, Meshlab, Meshmixer, and Cinema 4D (some freeware, some not). They then created a 360-degree view in PanoTour software. She advised that text that looks good on a wall may not look good on a screen, so things may have to be adjusted for different locations.

The 2020s called: They want workers to be digitally literate – Kara Kennedy (University of Canterbury) @DuneScholar

[This was my presentation about how digital literacy needs to be incorporated into higher education. I discussed why there is a need for change away from just assigning traditional academic essays to assess learning, and how Digital Humanities offers a good way of accomplishing this through assignments that hone different skills. Examples include: blogging, editing Wikipedia, creating digital editions, working with digital archives, using map visualization tools, making multimedia assignments like videos, using textual analysis programs, working with databases, and digitizing images.]

Internet Arcade – Greig Roulston (National Library of New Zealand)

Roulston described the creation of a homemade video game arcade station and how surprisingly, it is not that complicated to make. It is now in the National Library in Wellington.

Crowdsourcing & how GLAMs encourage me to participate – Siobhan Leachman (Volunteer/Citizen scientist) @siobhanleachman

Leachman had three suggestions for a crowdsourcing project. 1. Be generous with content. Allow me to reuse what I helped to created. If I transcribe something, I want to be able to download it. If I’m tagging, I want to be able to use the images in Wikipedia or a blog. If you’re lucky, your volunteer will reuse your data in ways you never thought of. It’s a competitive market out there for volunteers. 2. Be generous with trust. We will not read the instructions until we hit a problem. Plan for this. Have easy tasks for beginners. Have challenges (like a game) to allow me to level up. 3. Be generous with time. The most successful crowdsourcing projects engage with their volunteers. Spend time cultivating. Think about what you can do for the crowd, not just what they can do for you. It’s about collaboration, which requires communication. Links from talk are available here:

A new type of audiotour – Tim Jones (Christchurch Art Gallery)

The Christchurch Art Gallery hadn’t really thought of the place of audio in galleries before. But as a result of the earthquakes and Civil Defence putting in good wi-fi, they were able to do some new things with an audio guide in their space.

What I learned about massive branded projects from editing Wikipedia – Mike Dickison (Whanganui Regional Museum) @adzebill

Dickison said that the Radio NZ Critter of the Week for endangered species initiative to improve and create pages on Wikipedia has become quite popular and successful. What are MBPs? Massive branded projects like Te Ara, New Zealand Birds Online, and the New Zealand Plant Conservation Network. They also always have a nice logo and are well-funded, well-designed, and well-thought out. They are usually an excellent resource. The downsides are that they are slow to start, slow to change, and slow to update. They become hungry for money or time and are often doomed to wither away or become zombies (where the site looks like it’s alive, but if you look too closely, it will eat your brain!). [In other words, they might not have been updated in years.] He proposed an alternative, that being to start small. An example is the NZ Organisms Register; however, that is also now a zombie site after losing funding. He called for people to embrace open editing and build on open resources like Wikispecies. Wikipedia projects can occur in a healthier way than traditional GLAM projects.

Social media struggles and sub branded communities – Holly Grover (Auckland War Memorial Museum)

Grover’s discussed how to empower employees and create social leaders. She said to consider sub-branding and fragmentation and to make sure to do social media audits to evaluate effectiveness.

See the forest, not the trees: free data visualisation tools – Paul Rowe (Vernon Systems) @armchair_caver

Rowe talked about how to take raw data and clean it up and do stuff with it. There are new tools evolving, like IBM’s Watson Analytics. Remember: Data is your friend!

Unauthorised audio tours: Theatricality in new technologies – Joel Baxendale and Ralph Upton (Binge Culture)

Binge Culture offered probably the most unconventional presentation which involved a clapping demo and then a video of their ‘Unauthorized audio tour of Te Papa’.

Keynote: Insights from Data – Dave Brown (Microsoft Research)

Brown began by giving an overview of Microsoft Research. It was founded in 1991. It is like a Computer Science faculty at a university but bigger and has published more than 10,000 peer-reviewed publications. He said that if research shows we remember and process data better in 3-D as opposed to 2-D, maybe the next wave of the Internet will make the current website experience seem medieval. Sometimes visualization of data can prompt new questions. [This is one of the benefits of Digital Humanities research. You find things you didn’t even know to look for or ask about.]

Brown showed a couple examples of technology. One was of seismic activity in 3-D where you could see the angle of the fault line under the earth. This was definitely more interesting and engaging than a spreadsheet for most people. It’s called “Holograph” on the Surface tablet (but works on other platforms too). Another one was of the annual rainfall in the U.S. mapped onto the map, where the blocks could be stacked into histograms. It’s not only pretty but actually shows a lot of context. It shows how the data they are looking at is related, and allows you to look at multiple times (using scroll function to move between time) rather than just snapshots.

He then did a demo of the HoloLens (Microsoft mixed reality offering) and asked us, “What will a world with holograms enable us to do?” [Couldn’t help myself with this tweet: Communicate with Sith lords?] The HoloLens was reminiscent of Pokemon Go where there are things on screen, but in his case he was looking at the U.S. maps shown earlier or the globe. It provides context and will be more memorable than other ways of looking at the data, he said.

He mentioned the Bing Translator that can be installed on your phone. It’s fast enough that you can have a conversation with someone who speaks a language you can’t understand. He spoke about empowerment for under-resourced communities by giving them Microsoft Translator Hub. [This raised some ethical questions for me, in terms of Western culture offering ‘solutions’ to people in other countries.]

Notes from Women’s Studies Association NZ Conference 2016

The following are my notes from the sessions I attended at the Women’s Studies Association (NZ) Pae Akoranga Wāhine Conference on September 1-2, 2016, at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. The conference theme was Re/generation: New Landscapes in Feminism and Women’s Studies and the hashtag was #wsapaw16. There was a strong Māori presence throughout – I have never been to such a conference with so many songs (!) (in both Te Reo and English) as well as traditions and another language integrated smoothly into the proceedings. It was a welcome and uplifting experience, and it showed the power of relaxing some of the traditional academic stiffness and embracing bodily voices and movement. The conference is biennial so this will likely be the only one I am able to attend (I also presented a paper on science fiction: “Beyond the Womb: Imagining Life Without Pregnancy”), but it had a good vibe and supportive attendees. Kia kaha e hoa mā!

Day 1

Wahine Kia Mau: Reflections for Re/generation by Professor Ngahuia Te Awekotuku

On the first day, after the Mihi Whakatau / Welcome, there was a keynote from Professor Ngahuia Te Awekotuku. She provided a historical overview of her experience with feminism in New Zealand and offered sincere reflections about issues of biculturalism. She said she used to fret and worry about whether Māori women were in the room but now feels bad about this guilt-tripping of pakeha women. She said she is more mellow now and understands that Māori women have their own heroines and their own things to do, and that it is alright if they don’t always want to come to events. Apparently women’s groups have been harassed by engineering groups since the 70s, so it’s nothing new, and she was reprimanded by a senior female academic for publishing a piece on lesbianism, even though the person was a lesbian. She showed a headline from New Zealand Truth from May 4, 1982: “Lesbians Plan to Take Over NZ Town”. She mentioned Broadsheet, the collective, and Cherry Raymond, and she discussed when sexual violence became a big issue. She showed some examples of Pasifika Women’s Community texts: Tai: Heart of a Tree, Fast Talking Pt, Sai Figiel, Tail of the Taniwha, and Dream Fish Floating. She recommended the television show Transparent and asked the question: Would we benefit from Hilary Rodham Clinton or Helen Clark being elected? She discussed how institutional women’s studies was hijacked by the neoliberalism of the 1980s. But feminism is about community, and feminist scholarship and studies is an essential strategy and one to be proud of. Her final positive thought was that we (Māori) are no longer invisible. In response to a question about where does multiculturalism fit in a multicultural NZ going forward, she said that instead of the deficit talk (about jobs lost, etc.), she looks optimistically to the future at examples like Hawaii, where she did her PhD, where white people are in the minority.

Rape in New Zealand Newspapers: 1975-2015 by Ange Barton (Victoria University of Wellington)

Barton’s supervisor is Jan Jordan, whose project is Marsden-funded and who will be publishing a book on women’s experiences reporting rape to the police. Barton is searching through newspapers—New Zealand Herald, Dominion Post, The Press, Otago Daily Times, Sunday Start Times, Taranaki Daily News, and The Southland Times—looking at how women are represented and constructed in the articles regarding their relationship with the offender and the differences between newspapers’ accounts. Other aspects being looked at are what is gained from constructing women in this way, and what are the possibilities for action from this discourse. The project involves very laborious searching through microfilm. Also, keywords only come up in the feature articles, not the more minor crime reporting ones. Challenges in researching this kind of sensitive topic involve nightmares, loneliness, and mental and physical tiredness. Someone told her supervisor that if the research is so traumatising, then don’t do it, but this can be seen as the ultimate silencing technique. The National Sexual Violence Collective’s work on media in 2012 was mentioned as well.

Sexual Violence in Ethnic Minority Communities in New Zealand: Findings from Two Honours Project by Shannon Kumar and Setayesh Rahmanipour (University of Auckland)

Out of 56 countries, New Zealand rates the third highest for sexual assaults. The New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse shows that ethnic women had a lower rate of reporting an assault compared to European women. The Campaign for Consent based in Hamilton was mentioned. One challenge was there is no one definition of sexual violence. Western women might define it very differently from a non-Western women. Ex. catcalling. They discussed the need for education and awareness-raising within the wider community. Talking about sexual violence shouldn’t be discouraged. The major challenge is that there is a lack of data on ethnic women in New Zealand. Most studies are from the US or UK, or if from New Zealand, there is no information on ethnic women specifically. Wording is a big issue too. Using sexual violence is a strong term that women might not want to be associated with or own. It can be disempowering.

Sexual Violence in Ethnic Minority Communities: An Exploration of the Discourses of Violence and Vulnerability by Setayesh Rahmanipour (University of Auckland)

Rahmanipour mentioned there were three key themes in talking to women in ethnic minority communities: double silencing (in mainstream and by community), migrant defensiveness (maintaining cultural traditions), and discrimination (stereotypes and representation). Sexual violence is a silenced issue so a profile is difficult to establish, and it is under-reported even though rates are increasing. Sexual violence is often framed from a dominant or male gaze. Because there is no statistical evidence that there is a problem or funding for research to find out, it is not given funding or priority for government to address. There are issues of stigma, shame, and honor, as well as fear of community gossip (people understandably want to maintain their community reputation). But holding onto their culture can lead to being fundamentalist in their perception because they have little else to hold on to (white schools, friends, values, etc.). A defensiveness may emerge. Rahmanipour found it eye-opening that women sometimes are forced to marry their rapist because their family fears that they won’t be able to get married otherwise because they have ‘lost their virginity’. It was hard to believe it was happening in New Zealand but the interviews revealed that it was indeed happening.

Soapbox Session

The following six presentations were offered in a Soapbox session of shorter presentations by young women, some still in high school. The room was standing-room only and ‘Soapbox’ was talked about the rest of the conference because it was so enlightening, enjoyable, and refreshing to hear from such passionate, young feminists from all over the Pacific region.

The Prevalence and Impact of Intimate Partner Sexual Violence on Women in America and New Zealand, and the Barriers to Escaping and Reporting Intimate Partner Sexual Violence by Eliza Melling

The stereotype is that ‘real rape’ is the stranger in the darkened alley, rather than the often intimate partner violence that occurs in the U.S., New Zealand, and elsewhere. Why this matters is that it influences how the police view situations. Most victims know their offender. Melling referenced Themkin and Krahe’s (2008) Sexual Assault and the Justice Gap. She made a poster with a white bed ruffled with text of a rape myth on top (it’s impossible to be sexually assaulted by your intimate partner) and then the reality below (51.1% of sexual assault against women is perpetrated by an intimate partner or ex-partner). The bedroom is a private space so it is a powerful and controversial image. One of the audience members raised the issue of threats to animals being a barrier for women to leave or report. Also, there are threats with gun violence.

Ethnic Ambiguity: A New Beauty Myth? by Naomi Simon-Kumar (University of Auckland)

Simon-Kumar discussed how Caucasians are praised when they take on ‘ethnic’ characteristics like plumper lips and bigger butts, but ethnic women do not receive the same social benefits or are maligned for them. One poignant quote was: “Whiteness is the template on which desirable ethnic traits can be imprinted”. This occurs rather than celebrating hybrid identities. There were some questions about cultural appropriation versus cultural appreciation. And Te Awekotuku made a comment about skinny women not being valued in Pacific cultures, yet there being high rates of anorexia among Maori and Pasifika girls.

A New Generation of Feminists by Ander Alrutz-Stierna (Auckland University of Technology)

Alrutz-Stierna has lived in many different countries and so witnessed all kinds of issues around gender. She said it is about privilege. One positive about New Zealand is that it has the smallest wage gap in the world. We no longer live in a Neolithic era, she said, so it does not make sense to go back to the biological, testosterone argument. Women can be creative too. She noted that the question we should ask ourselves as feminists today is: How can I change the world around me to create a better global community?

R. Tui discussing Samoan culture

She discussed some aspects of gender performance in Samoa, such as that it is acceptable for men to act like women (special term for this: fa’afafine) but not for women to be lesbians. In Samoan culture, daughters are sacred, so sons can get away with dropping out of school or sleeping around, but if a daughter is a lesbian, it is damaging to honor and pride. The religion teaches that God created a man and a woman. In the question time, there was a discussion about how British colonization changed cultures that previously had accepted same-sex relations (possibly Samoan, and African). Someone mentioned Betty Seal (sp?) (Samoan lesbian feminist in politics).

E. Ikiua discussing Pasifika customs

She discussed some customs in Pasifika culture, such as that the men are supposed to go first, which some in the audience couldn’t believe. Even smart women are expected to submit to their male relatives and stay quiet. She questioned the idea that the culture must remain static. It’s not the 1950s anymore. But the consequence for speaking out is that one would bring shame not only on themselves but on their family. Te Awekotuku commented that certain cultures do have ways of shaming and calling out men for their mistakes, though this may differ between Māori and Pasifika cultures.

C. Destrieux discussing stereotypes and new visions

She said she took it upon herself to educate herself about feminism and found it odd that other women she knows said they weren’t feminists. Stereotypes about bra-burning and hairy armpits were still present. She said that social media provides a great forum for women to talk and rant to other women, through blogs, etc. She then asked the audience about Emma Watson’s HeforShe campaign and whether they thought men can be or should be feminists. That sparked some lively discussion and debate, with some agreeing and others disagreeing.

Panel: Gender, Generation and Care

Chair: Associate Professor Christa Fouche (University of Auckland)

Women of LiLACS NZ: Life and Living in Advanced Age, a Cohort Study in New Zealand by Professor Ngaire Kerse (University of Auckland)

Kerse is doing a longitudinal cohort study of advanced ageing to establish predictors of successful ageing for Māori and non-Māori. She shared several slides of statistics and explained some of the findings. Older women are very likely to be living alone and unmarried. Men tend to be married. There are hardly any Māori women living in retirement villages. Over 70% of Māori women own their own home (a little higher than for non-Māori). Despite health issues, older women still have relatively high independence in instrumental activities of daily living (shopping, traveling, going out, cooking, etc.).

Mai Te Wairua, Ko Te Reo Aroha: Māori Kaumātua End of Life Care by Dr. Tess Moeke-Maxwell (University of Auckland)

Moeke-Maxwell showed a clip from a film about end of life care. She said there is a strong Māori cultural imperative to provide care at end of life and after death (body not left alone). One gay, single man ‘threw a tantrum’ about having to care, said that he would not have had to do it if he were straight. Heterosexual men seem to avoid the responsibility. Interestingly, at the end when care gets too difficult, men transfer care to women or residential care facilities. She said the palliative care sector should recognize that Māori cultural customs mean that the family want to provide 24-hour end of life care and facilitate this.

Gender & Class in New Zealand Care/Work Regimes by Dr. Katherine Ravenswood (Auckland University of Technology)

Ravenswood referenced a Huffington Post article on men spending more time caring for pets than for children [may be this one: “There’s No Gender Gap in Caregiving for Pets. So Why Is There a Gap for Child Care?”]. She said gendered norms of care work are deeply held and enduring. The New Zealand Police Force won an award for a campaign to encourage women to join the force by highlighting the caring work that police do. If capitalism is about what you can sell in the labor market for money, then care work was outside of this system and considered something that women did naturally at home, not in the factory.

During questions, there was one for Kerse about what she and her colleagues are doing as a result of what they have found in their cohort study. She said that they are providing information to the District Health Boards, but that as academics it is hard to do anything else and it isn’t their responsibility to do more, that other groups are working on this. It was disappointing to hear this, because there are limited resources for other groups (especially not-for-profits) and academics often have the knowledge and/or resources that others lack. Someone asked if there were any care facilities she would recommend or not recommend, and she says she tries to avoid recommendations, but she tells people that you’ll know as soon as you walk in the door, like if people are smiling and talking. Usually in life, in the places where good things are happening, there are always people there because they want to be there. Another person raised the issue of immigrant women being low-paid and taken advantage of, and that New Zealanders bear some responsibility for this because they gave care over to the private sector. They believed that people need to get angrier and raise this issue at the next election. The day then concluded with singing.


Day 2

The second day started with a panel on justice, which covered some contentious issues around the law.

Panel: New Directions in Justice

Feminist Knowledge and Legal Discourse by Professor Rosemary Hunter (Queen Mary University London) 

Hunter discussed her work on the feminist judging project. She mentioned the concept of ‘femocrats’, or women driving change from within government bureaucracy, which was especially prevalent in Australia and New Zealand in the second-wave.

Mary Jane Mossman’s article “Feminism and Legal Method” (1987) said that legal methods’ elements are categorization, precedent, and statutory interpretation (legislation). She argued these were impervious to a feminist argumentation or understanding. Carol Smart’s book Feminism and the Power of Law (1989) said that legal discourse is powerful and productive. It does not just prevent things, but actively produces its subjects. Who is the woman of law that the law produces? Part of the power of law is its ability to trump other accounts of law, like a feminist one. Sandra Burns’ book To Speak as a Judge (1999) saw judging as a particular type of performance and authority. It was impossible to have judgement and feminist speech. Feminist judgement was an oxymoron in a sense.

Hunter’s own book on Domestic Violence (Domestic Violence Law Reform and Women’s Experience in Court: The Implementation of Feminist Reforms in Civil Proceedings (2008)) looks at how the law does not view it in the same way that we as people understand it. It sees it as discrete events that have to be categorized. Even if we have feminist law reform, it ends up being administered by the usual legal personnel (still male-dominated field), which is a problem. And many of these people have no interest in deviating from business as usual and can make their own interpretations still. Example: discrimination law. The Feminist Judgments Project is about not waiting 200 years to see what would happen if there were more feminist judges. It was invented by a group of Canadians.

One question was how do you protect feminists against the retaliatory exclusion that this kind of project might elicit? For example, men basically blacklisting activist feminists from becoming judges. The conclusion was that feminists might need some kind of protection beyond the informal network of support.

Behind the Wire: Maori Women and Prison by Associate Professor Tracey McIntosh (New Zealand’s Māori Centre of Research Excellence)

This was a similar presentation to the one McIntosh gave at a previous conference [see notes from Trans/forming Feminisms]. Two interesting things mentioned were that besides war, mass incarceration is one of the most effective government social programs of our time, and that it is important to work with like-minded as well as unlike-minded people to be able to learn.

Re-thinking Feminist Informed Criminal Law Reform by Associate Professor Elisabeth McDonald (Victoria University of Wellington)

McDonald first gave a warning that she would be talking about rape in her presentation. She said she is working with Rosemary Hunter on the Feminist Judgments Project. In New Zealand, the Court of Appeals has a rape band which includes a traditional rape definition as well as other forms. She is trying to get the government to allow sexual assault support advisors to be at the victim’s side throughout the process of the criminal justice system. The victim might be more comfortable disclosing details to that person, and that could become part of the record. She mentioned the case of Mr. Bourke in the Waikato region who was acquitted within an hour! There is a problem with prior sexual experience not being allowed to be argued, because this rule can also be used when prior experience might actually help support the victim’s case (ex. virginity, normally would not do certain things, being lesbian, etc.). There needs to be more nuance in the law or interpretation.

There was a question about if having a gender continuum rather than a binary (to be more inclusive of trans-women, for example) will mean that women’s issues and oppression might be lost. McDonald said that we have to ask ourselves what are we giving up by going down the gender-neutrality track and what kind of outcomes do we want. McIntosh later asked why it is that people with the least power are seen as the most dangerous, whereas judges with privilege and power say their hands are tied and they cannot do anything.

Growing up with Hardcore: Exploring the Meanings of Pornography in the Digital Age by Samantha Keene (Victoria University of Wellington) 

Keene discussed some of the challenges with doing research on the controversial topic of pornography, including the fact that there isn’t much research on it in New Zealand and that those who do research it are sometimes seen as deviant or dodgy. Virtual reality pornography now exists (through wearing a headset) and POV shot style pornography is rapidly becoming popular. What was once usually in written or magazine form has adapted to changing technology. She noted that the ‘sex wars’ over pornography in the second wave feminist movement are still going on today, and there is still fierce debate in the scholarship – either very anti- or pro-. There is a Netflix documentary “Hot Girls Wanted” exploring amateur pornography industry in the U.S. Three pornography sites sit within the top 100 websites in the world, as well as New Zealand. One in five young New Zealand women access pornography, so it is not just a guys’ thing. Her study aims to understand what people construct as pornography, the meanings that people attribute to it, and the gendered differences in those meanings. The encrypted, anonymous messaging platform Kik is being used, and there have been ethics issues regarding criminal activity. But this is something that criminologists often have to face, because people won’t be honest if they know they are incriminating themselves. It’s not unique to research on pornography.

Freddie Montgomery, Matrixial Trickster: Representing The Feminine in The Narratives of John Banville by Michael Monaghan (Dublin City University)

Monaghan presented an analysis of some of the work of John Banville, an Irish writer who is very popular at the moment in Ireland. He discussed ekphrasis, which is “a verbal representation of graphic representation” (Heffernan, 1991, pg. 299), Judith Butler’s “Bracha’s Eurydice” (2006), and The Matrixial Borderspace (2006) by Bracha Ettinger, an Israeli visual artist, philosopher, psychoanalyst, and writer. In simplified terms, one of Banville’s male characters kills a woman and then tries to come to terms with this through art. There is the issue of the male gaze (common in film, literature, and art). The takeaway appears to be to stop aestheticizing one’s view of women and one might be able to represent them in a better, less invasive way. One can then see a woman as a whole person, rather than an amazing specimen, for example.

Disrupting Misogyny on Social Media – A BYOD Workshop by Jenny Rankine (University of Auckland)

For this workshop, Rankine provided a brief overview of how social media can be used to build a media advocacy campaign within feminist and other activist groups, then advised participants to choose an issue and brainstorm ideas for funny memes that get a certain message across. The first step in setting up a campaign is to look at the themes in whatever you are upset about and unpack it, looking at the assumptions and worldview behind it. The second step is to develop a response. It needs to be funny if you want it to be shared. This could mean being whimsical, ironic, sarcastic, or parodic. You should focus on the contradictions because every dominant discourse has them and it is the best place to drive a wedge and make people think twice. The third step is to post it on lots of social media platforms and come up with a hashtag if it is on Twitter. Finally, you should evaluate whether it made a difference. This involves looking at the average likes and retweets for your platform so you can measure whether you were successful. You can also use Google reverse image search to see which ones were shared the most. It is a good idea to use non-copyright images (through free image sites like,,, and Wikimedia Commons) or try meme generators. The max size is 600 x 600 pixels for Facebook and Twitter. The key is to be effective in a small space with few words.

Margot Roth Inaugural Lecture:
Feminist Futures in the Anthropocene: Sustainable Citizenship and the Challenges of Climate Change and Social Justice by Professor Priya Kurian (University of Waikato)

Kurian opened by defining the Anthropocene for those who were not familiar with the term. It is a term that was coined by biologist Eugene Stoermer in the early 1980s and popularized by chemist Paul Crutzen in 2000. It is the age where humans have become a destructive and disruptive force of conquering nature. Kurian also used other rich vocabulary like capitalics, which is “a politics fuelled by global capital” (Munshi and Kurian, 2005; 2009) and inchoate and knotty. She noted that New Zealand received “The Fossil of the Day Award” at the UNFCCC Conference in Paris in December 2015 for being among the worst performers of climate action. This surprised her students, who have the perception that New Zealand is one of the good ones. With the current hegemonic focus on things like climate change, it can lead to a muzzling of democratic avenues, as happened in Canterbury in the name of urgency. She acknowledged Rachel Carson from the 1960s as one of the women at the forefront of dealing with environmental degradation. All of the advice to use eco-friendly light bulbs, drive less, etc. tells us nothing about collaborative political action. An environmental group interrogated a political candidate recently for her personal choices on whether she drives and other environmental issues, without providing for context. A single mother, for example, might have reasons for why she has to make certain environmental choices. Kurian emphasized that sustainable citizenship is an active citizenship. She closed strongly by saying that we need messy democratic and egalitarian politics, because this will lead to feminist futures for all of us.

Notes from aaDH Digital Humanities Australasia Conference 2016

Notes from aaDH Digital Humanities Australasia Conference

June 20-23, 2016
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Conference abstracts PDF
Twitter #DHA2016

DHA 2016 poster

DHA 2016 theme: Working with Complexity

The following are my notes from the Digital Humanities Australasia conference (June 20-23, 2016), the third conference of the Australasian Association for Digital Humanities (aaDH), held in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia). These are not comprehensive notes but rather what caught my attention in relation to my continually developing understanding of DH.

Although it is interesting to see the wide spectrum of presentations at DH conferences—from easily understandable/accessible ideas all the way to more technical descriptions of programs and methodologies—the highly technical ones seem to lose a fair portion of the often interdisciplinary DH audiences, which can include more traditional humanists, the GLAM sector, and computer scientists. Pitching to the right level may not be a resolvable issue because of this, but it is probably safer to assume that everyone isn’t familiar with programming complexities. There is a sense that people are not following when the Twitter feed dries up and no one asks any questions. Something else that was mentioned was making sure that Twitter handles are in the program. I have endeavored to include handles and affiliations when known (as well as authors listed in the program but not present), but if there any corrections that need to be made, please let me know.

Jump to:
Conference Day 1
Conference Day 2
Conference Day 3
Conference Day 4

DHA Conference Day 1 (June 20, 2016)

The first day began with a free workshop on regular expressions by Aidan Wilson (@aidanbwilson) from Intersect. For those of us who were unfamiliar with this ‘search on steroids’, it was an interesting and very useful session. I was particularly glad that a Shakespeare play was used as one of the examples, since I have been thinking about Digital Humanities pedagogy in relation to literature courses for the past year or so and think there is potential here.

The conference opened with a Welcome to Country. Then the rest of the first day was a series of short Provocations focused on three main points (Professional Recognition, Research Infrastructure, and Redefining Digital Humanities) and presentations on e-research infrastructure and Gale Publishing.

Provocations session

Sydney Shep (Victoria University of Wellington) discussed some of the issues in New Zealand. At her university, student numbers are set to double by 2030, presenting both opportunities and challenges. Interdisciplinary work is not rewarded by the PBRF (Performance Based Research Fund) system. She suggested that instead of us being boundary riders in DH, we should be edge walkers and take advantage of our positioning in the system.

Simon Musgrave (Monash University) asked questions, including What is a reasonable process of validating work so people will take it seriously? What kind of peer review is needed (and how much time is it going to take)? Will I have to look at corpora of colleagues, for example?

Paul Turnbull (University of Tasmania) said he spends a lot of time writing letters of support for younger scholars, because he feels that we should lead by example by helping them out to obtain recognition. He addressed the critical need for defining and embedding digital literacy in the undergraduate curriculum, because it can’t wait. He also asked who should be driving big infrastructure projects: we as academics or big consortiums, or communities that need the projects and access. Who should ultimately be in charge? Are big infrastructure projects like Bamboo what’s best for the future of DH?

Christina Parolin (Australian Academy of the Humanities) said that we need to articulate what we need in order to transform our disciplines. Do we need a long-term strategy and plan for the sector? This could help prioritize investment and effort over a longer term period, address diversity of scale and sustainability, and address skills and capabilities needed for DH in the future. She said that we need to engage, advocate, and lobby, especially outside of the department. This includes institutions, state and regional governments, as well as international bodies (many postgraduate students in China are using Trove, for example – are their needs or potential funding pools being investigated?). Should there be a DH research infrastructure alliance?

Sarah Kenderdine (University of New South Wales) discussed Artificial Intelligence and its potential for DH. She mentioned that Google just opened its AI research institute (machine learning) in Zurich. Rembrandt’s paintings were put into machine learning and a robot painted something that seems very similar to a real Rembrandt painting. [NPR article on it]

Camellia Webb-Gannon (Western Sydney University) said that the humanities must attend to the coming apocalypse. She asked how can we in DH be addressing things such as environmental issues, discard studies (gadgets and e-waste sent overseas), and poverty studies. She quoted Tara McPherson and asked about racial violence and DH. She showed a Postcolonial DH cartoon by Adeline Koh about the new Digital Divide. It’s not that projects that take these issues into consideration aren’t already taking place, but maybe we should do more to mainstream them in our projects. Let’s use DH to pursue a just and inclusive humanities.

One response to the first part of the Provocations session was that we must also address training needs – many Humanities researchers are poorly trained in new methodologies. It was also said that it’s not just training, that it actually fundamentally changes how we practice the humanities. And if we don’t embed that in our undergraduate courses, we are missing out. [Yes!!] When it comes to better digital literacy, we’re part of making that happen.

eResearch Infrastructure session

Lyle Winton (Deputy Director, Research Platforms for NeCTAR [National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources Project]) discussed NeCTAR and its 12 virtual laboratories in Australia with over 10,000 users.

Sarah Nisbet (Marketing Manager for eRSA) discussed examples of infrastructure for humanities and social sciences.

Ingrid Mason (eResearch Analyst for Intersect) discussed how she acts as a translator to communicate the needs of humanities and social sciences to infrastructure builders. She’s written several case studies so far and sees a gap in the understanding of data needs and issues.

Deb Verhoeven (Project Director at Deakin University for HuNI [Humanities Networked Infrastructure]) offered questions like How can we remake the world from the perspective of the people who live in it (research infrastructure build from below, not top-down)? How can museum, for example, look at its collections from the perspective of the people? It’s not necessarily always about building infrastructure, but maybe about puncturing the infrastructure, being more critical. She noted that one of the challenges in the humanities is that we haven’t had experience in team-driven research and individuals’ research often gets lost or overlooked compared to other projects. We need the humanities to have a seat at the table when these decisions are being made about research infrastructure. She discussed the draft Humanities Research Infrastructure Alliance Statement which aims to be a kind of white paper that will discuss needs and issues and that can be shared with parties outside academia.

During the question/discussion period, Shep asked about what it means to rethink infrastructure across national boundaries. aaDH seeks to position itself in Australia, NZ, and the Pacific, but so far the emphasis has been on Australia. There was discussion around if something is funded by the Australian government, does that limit which researchers can access it? The answer was not necessarily because it is not currently a requirement to be Australian or doing research on Australia to access certain resources.

Verhoeven responded to a question about how it is good that libraries get rid of things eventually and make decisions (How do we think about data? What about sunsetting — getting rid of data because it costs money to store and things must be prioritized?). She said that researchers might think more about these things if they had taken a first-year History course or were more knowledgeable about these kind of issues.

Mason noted that the biggest problem in the last five years has not been technical issues but rather communication issues. Verhoeven agreed, saying that interoperability on the technical side is not the most problematic; it is often things like getting universities and other bodies to communicate. Some in the audience believed that collaboration should be a key component of eResearch infrastructure (issues when groups won’t use Google, for example, because of data concerns). Mason discussed liking the Zoom conferencing tool.

Verhoeven said that we talk a lot about making data accessible, etc., but we don’t talk about the researchability of the data very much. She also noted that she and Mike Jones wrote an article for the Conversation (“Treasure Trove: Why Defunding Trove Leaves Australia Poorer” and it got picked up by the Australian Labor Party and into their platform about Trove, so we should be doing more like this for impact in public eye. The session closed with discussion of payment for data storage – no one wants to pay for it, but we all need it.

Gale and the Digital Humanities – by Craig Pett (Research Collections Specialist from Gale, a part of Cengage Learning)

Pett gave an overview of Gale’s work, noting that its best known collections like ECCO and State Papers Online are only a fraction of the things it has digitized. He anticipated concerns over free access and said that although the ideal is that public organizations (like government) will fund all digitisation projects for historical documents and then everything will become freely available through our national institutions, the reality is that not all governments can or will do this. This is where Gale and other companies come in, fund the project, get it done, and get it out to the world. Otherwise, you could be waiting for 10, 50, forever years for digitization to be done. Gale sells the collections at the institutional level (like the library) so that the end user (student, academic) gets ‘free access’ at least. [Problem is that this means there is a barrier of needing to be associated with academia to do research. It is hard to be an independent researcher.] He discussed Gale’s word association tool which helps facilitate humanities research breakthroughs and discoveries.

Gale realizes that metadata may in fact be more important than the primary source data and is moving in that direction. For about 18 months, Gale has put metadata on a separate hard drive and offered that to institutions for research at no cost (sending hard drives to the institution rather than putting information online). He announced exciting news about an upcoming release wherein Gale will be uploading the last 17 years of millions of metadata onto a cloud server (called the Sandbox). GoogleBooks is also supposed to be adding their metadata to this resource. The goal is to have it ready to download and work with immediately. He said this should be completed fairly soon.

DHA Conference Day 2 (June 21, 2016)

Data Trouble – by Miriam Posner (UCLA Digital Humanities) (@miriamkp)

Posner began by asking: What troubles humanists about data? For instance, humanists tend to love to hate Google’s knowledge data project. But she is hoping to develop a shared vocabulary to help us be able to talk about some of these issues. She said that the constellation of terms that we now use for the disciplines of the humanities has not actually been around for all that long. Around WWII, the definition changed to become what we now know it to be today.

The Science article “Quantitative Analysis of Cuture Using Millions of Digitized Books” was by mathematicians, scientists, linguists, and they called it culturomics. The media loved this, but humanists reacted with “almost visceral distaste”. Humanists didn’t like it, trust it, or use it. This brought to light that it was not just what humanists studied, but how they studied it and the interpretations that were essential to humanistic study. We prioritize close reading – is this why we have avoided big data projects? We don’t seem to like doing the work with large datasets. We have an aversion to positivism.

Posner mentioned the article “Literature is not Data: Against Digital Humanities” by Stephen Marche on October 28, 2012, and said, That’s true. Nothing is data until it is structured and becomes useable. She gave the example of time: we experience time in different ways, but to deal with it, we have to be able to measure it. In another example, data may present certain items as seemingly of the same nature, like the “charge/conviction” items in the Digital Harlem Everyday Life 1915-1930 project. Data visualization necessarily leaves out certain data, but this is not obvious from the final product. A dataset looks naked to a humanities scholar – it leaves out the data that weren’t thought by anyone to be important (like the paper that the poster was printed on, the other text on the poster, how it was crumbled, etc.).

You may prefer the label woman or womyn, but we need to categorize to be able to count or query the data and then visualize it. We tend to collapse labels into one data category (like a census box checked ‘black’ when person identifies as ‘African American and Germa/multiracial) but this doesn’t work when trying to work with data. [But this doesn’t mean some of these categories can’t be contested.] It seems like scientists think that what we humanists do is to fill in gaps on a timeline and sharpen our understanding of existing categories. But this is not what we see ourselves doing. We like to question and break categories.

Conference slide Posner

It seems like scientists think that what we humanists do is to fill in gaps on a timeline and sharpen our understanding of existing categories. – Miriam Posner

We also must be aware of the constructed nature of categories. For example, how Māori classify things is different from how Westerners would (like they might categorize something as being similar to a canoe but others wouldn’t).

Posner gave an interesting example of William S. Jevons’ logic piano. The keyboard represents a set of constraints, just like the piano keyboard also constrains how many sounds you can make. The musician then translates an infinite number of sounds into the tiny set of options they have in front of them. There is a sense of play involved that may be fruitful in how we as humanists think about data. Also, humanists don’t see replicability as something they should be concerned about. This could explain why librarians have been frustrated at getting humanists to deposit their data.

During the question time, Shep asked about how Posner is dealing with Joanna Drucker’s idea that the world is data, and that we can only study a small portion of it. Posner responded that she uses Drucker’s work in everything she does but finds this concept hard to explain to undergrads. Shep also asked about whether the keyboard metaphor is gendered and to think about differences in what work Māori men and women do. There was a brief discussion of issues of agency and empowerment.

The Digital Humanities in Three Dimensions – by Tim Hitchcock (University of Sussex) @TimHitchcock

Hitchcock challenged us to think beyond the one-dimensional text and embrace the benefits of 3-D. He said that as humanists, we’re not actually concerned with texts, but with the human experience. So then why are we so concerned with texts?

He discussed the history of how things that are sometimes taken for granted came to be. Geography departments in the U.S. were closed down in the early 1950s, deemed Marxist.

We think we are making our own decisions, but we are actually inheriting traditions from the Enlightenment and decisions made a long time ago. The Library of Congress digitized 18th century books through microfilm, and then these are what have become available through collections like ECCO. This is the origin of why some texts are available online and other texts like Arabic are not – because white male European culture was considered important and worth storing and saving. Basically, white male European culture dictates what is available online now; selection bias was driven by the role of microfilm. Then rich white people tend to make available the texts that humanists study (it’s a selective intellectual landscape). He referenced Verhoeven’s feminist speech at DH 2015 for men to ‘get off the stage’ and apologized for not doing so sooner, then asked, How do we move beyond that elite, Western knowledge, that privileges the male?

He then provided several examples of projects that are taking advantage of 3-D modelling to go beyond the text and look at other aspects of human experience. In another field, the Royal Veterinary College of London with its LIVE interface is using a model of a cow.

The Virtual St. Paul’s Cross Project is modelling noise and speech in a historic environment. This allows voices of the crowd and women’s voices to come through.

Oculus Rift and other new technologies are changing how we connect with historical evidence, whether that’s text or something more interesting. When you add in the oral, the haptic, etc., you get something that is beyond the white elitist history. History then becomes more than an explanation; it enables recovery of the voices of the rest of the people and is more democratic. The material world in digital allows us to follow the not-so-easy traces of those who didn’t leave scribbles on paper in the past few centuries. It leads to more inclusive history.

Founders & Survivors: Australian life courses in historical context 1803-1920 looks at the 73,000 men, women, and children who were transported to Tasmania. It helps us address the question: How do we create empathy across 200 years of silence?

Hitchcock discussed some of his experiences working on the Digital Panopticon: The Global Impact of London Punishments, 1780-1925 project. He discussed how putting a historic map overlay on Google Earth allows him to see where sunlight would hit on the streets and buildings of a certain time period. Looking at maps, pictures, and models helps create a sense of the positioning and space, including in something like a model of a courtroom. He also wants to create models of structures like houses and prisons to give people a sense of what it was like. What is it like when you walk into the dock? What was it like on a transport ship? What can space, place, and voices give us that we couldn’t get before? He believes that projects like this make the history ‘from below’ more accessible and more imaginable. It is in some ways a way around the conundrum of the limitations of the text and allows full emotional engagement with the people of the past.

Sites and Projects Mentioned: Virtual St. Paul’s Cross; Transcribe Bentham; Darwin Manuscripts Project; Jane Austen Fiction Manuscripts; The Newton Project; The Digital Panopticon

During questions, Verhoeven asked, How do we move forward as a community of scholars, given that we are proscribed by past judgments? Hitchcock responded that we are nowhere near a systemic analysis of big data or where we got the data. He said footnotes are rubbish – they don’t work anymore. We need to be able to show what we know and don’t know, the methodology, in a different way. He also mentioned that he is skeptical of ‘authentic music performances’ like of the early ballads, because a modern audience has no context or idea what the feeling was like in a street performance in the 1790s.

Using Ontologies to Tame Complexity in Spoken Corpora – by Simon Musgrave (Monash University) (@SimonMusgrave1) (also Haugh Michael, Andrea Schalley)

Musgrave discussed coding practices in research on spoken corpora. He said that people code for what they’re interested in, not just pragmatic categories. Interestingly, laughter can actually be transcribed in a high degree of detail. (Conversation analysis is a field of study in itself.) What kind of vocalic quality does laughter have? Volume, pitch, etc. What prompts us to use awkward laughter? He has used regular expressions to find examples in the data, like looking for instances of (laughs) in a transcript. One issue is that with different coding practices, data sets and results can be very different.

Shep asked, Are there pragmatics that can code for irony? Musgrave responded that it’s hard because the text doesn’t necessarily have the visual cues that we need to know irony (why people on social media have to signal *irony because otherwise a post lacks context). Someone asked about whether semantic analysis on emoticons could be used since there is already some community agreement with what they mean.

Consuming Complexity: Genealogy Websites and the Digital Archive – by Aoife O’Connor (University of Sheffield) (@Ordinary_Times)

O’Connor works full-time for Find My Past, a subscription-based website and is currently doing her PhD part-time. She has noticed that when governments fund digitization projects, they usually focus on celebrating national identity (see Ireland). Genealogy is the second most popular hobby after gardening in the U.S., the second most popular search (after pornography), and a billion dollar industry. Interestingly, censuses were considered miscellaneous documents and relatively unimportant at one time. But priorities change, and we don’t know what will be important for historians and people in the future. Someone asked a question about when genealogy websites would make it possible to search for place not just person, like for people interested in the history of their house, for example.

Analysing Reciprocity and Diversity in Contemporary Cinema using Big Data – by Deb Verhoeven (Deakin University) (@bestqualitycrab) (also Bronwyn Coate, Colin Arrowsmith, Stuart Palmer)

Verhoeven discussed how the project is looking at 300 million show times, 97,000 movies, 33,000 venues, and 48 countries. She said it’s only big data if it causes you to have an existential crisis. The case study was of The Hobbit movie screenings. In looking at a visualization of how the film appeared in theatres around the world, it haemorrhaged, didn’t move in a linear movement or travel in that way. But none of the data turned up something that the researchers didn’t already know. So they switched from looking at countries’ tendency to show films to looking up which countries had more equitable relationships with other countries, more reciprocity. That revealed potentially more interesting data to analyze further. Verhoeven mentioned The Arclight Guidebook to Media History and the Digital Humanities, which is an open access book.

What’s Going On Over There? Ventures into Digital Humanities at University of Wollongong Library – by Clare McKenzie (Manager, Scholarly Content) (@ccmcknz) and Kerry Ross (Manager, Archives) (@libinwonderland)

McKenzie discussed the University of Wollongong’s institution-wide shift in 2015 towards digital skills. A success case was the History program and Creative Arts program working together on a project to engage undergraduate students. The third-year students filled out a survey through SurveyMonkey about the portal that had been set up to help them with the project, and the responses were favorable. Ross then talked about how it is challenging to know whose realm things are in at a university. What is the library’s role? How can people cross traditional intellectual boundaries (library, academics, students, tools) with a DH project?

Conference slide Ross

How can people cross traditional intellectual boundaries (library, academics, students, tools) with a DH project? – Kerry Ross

Going forward, they see the library as a partner rather than merely a service provider. This involves a project-based rather than service-based approach and learning on the fly to be able to build capacity for an agile response that is still sustainable. They invite collaborations for more of the library’s collections. They mentioned that they used Omeka because of its ease of use, and that it empowered a History academic to curate her material.

Research Environment for Ancient Documents READ Project – by Ian McCrabb (University of Sydney)

McCrabb discussed the Research Environment for Ancient Documents READ software and its potential for scholars of these kinds of texts.

Herding ElePHaTs: Coping with complex object biographies in Early English print – by Teri Nurmikko-Fuller (@tmtn) (also Pip Wilcox, Kevin R. Page)

Nurmikko-Fuller discussed the Early English Print in the HathiTrust, a sub project of the Mellon-funded Worksheet Creation for Scholarly Analysis WCSA project. Sometimes with birth and death dates, for example, all you can say is that you are certain there is ambiguity (know someone was active in 1850s, for example). The researchers created categories for ‘precisedate’ and ‘ambigdate’ [not exact terms], so even though they had to give a date for the ambiguous one, if you know the category is ambiguous, you know that they are not sure. Sometimes you just have to put a date to have some data to work with.

Deep Mapping & The Atlas of Maritime Buddhism – by Sarah Kenderdine (University of New South Wales)

The Atlas of Maritime Buddhism project aims to help rectify the dominance of Silk Road stories over other means of exchange, such as maritime trade and monks traveling. Its theoretical basis lies in carto-criticism (critiques the Cartesian map worldview). Kenderdine discussed how the Dunhuang Caves in the Gobi Desert in China (a World Heritage site) have been photographed and enabled the creation of an augmented reality version in a type of virtual cave [more about the process]. Visitors to the exhibit use handheld devices to hover over the walls and see what is in the real cave. These devices, she emphasized, are intuitive for both grandchildren and grandparents, and meant to be a social group experience and not everyone on their own devices. One quite interesting aspect was that they filmed dancers on green screen and superimposed them on the walls of the wall experience to simulate the four dances depicted.

Paper Miner: Towards Digital Conceptual History – by Paul Turnbull (University of Tasmania)

Turnbull noted the lack of collaboration and communication between information scientists and traditional humanists. He showed the project of Paper Miner, and how far they got before the money ran out, which seems to be a common issue with DH projects. They approached Google about getting their help with automating the finding of locations in the Trove newspaper data, but Google realized what they wanted to do and wanted to charge a lot of money for helping. Paper Miner is currently tied to Trove, but there is no reason why it can’t be linked to other datasets. The challenge is that the main driver of the project has since passed away and they are left with minimal documentation, so will probably have to build it all over again. Advice for other projects is to keep better records.

The Complexity of Commonplaces: Digging into Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) – by Glenn Roe (Australian National University) (@glennhroe) (also Clovis Gladstone, Robert Morrissey)

Roe noted that before the current information overload, there was the Early Modern information overload (see Ann M. Blair’s Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information before the Modern Age). So we’ve actually been dealing with this problem since the printing press. The challenge with ECCO is that there are duplications of works (24 reeditions of Hamlet for example), dirty OCR, and a large dataset size (205,000 texts). The Commonplace Cultures project looks to find passages that were shared. The Bible also presents a challenge because there are so many common passages (so much so that they had to make a ‘Turn Bible off’ button). For a viral poem of its time, check out James Thomson’s “Spring” 1728. Roe said that they didn’t want a boring search function to come at the end of the project, but that’s what they ended up with. His passing comment about being able to look up famous figures like John Locke and Thomas Paine and see where they were referenced in EBBO and ECCO signalled potential pedagogical uses.

Ngrams Against Agnotology: Combatting Tobacco Industry Narratives About Addiction Through a Quantitative Analaysis of 14 Million Documents – by Stephan Risi (Stanford University)

Risi is a historian of tobacco and looks at Truth Tobacco Industry Documents (held at UCSF). is the resource he wishes he had had when he started his studies on tobacco. People have known they were addicted for a long time (John Quincy Adams, for example). Agnotology is the study of (culturally-induced) ignorance (see Agnotology: The Making & Unmaking of Ignorance) edited by Robert N. Proctor and Londa Schiebinger). Risi looked at the term nicotine as well as the 75 words that surround it (in order to get a sense of the context), then looked at addicted, addiction, addict, addictive in that nicotine database; he found that it wasn’t until the late 1980s and 1990s that nicotine addiction was used as a term. Smoking habit, on the other hand, was used before then. Thus arises one of the limitations with Ngram searches, that terminology and phrases change over time. When neurology became popular, as opposed to psychology and study of different types of personalities that might be predisposed to smoke, there became more evidence that things like gum, the patch, and replacements could affect the brain and be used. These terms only started being used in late 1980s and 1990s. Ngram can help find these kinds of connections or rises and falls in history. One challenge is to try to determine what was only available to tobacco industry executives and what was available to the public in things like newspapers. [My question: what happens to all of the documents stored by corporations and organizations that are not forced via subpoena to make these things publicly available?]

DHA Conference Day 3 (June 22, 2016)

Serendipity & Palimpsests: Deep Time, Spatial History and Biographical Complexity – by Sydney Shep (Victoria University of Wellington) (@nzsydney)

Shep opened her keynote with what she called a ghost story and went on to discuss the Tuatara Beer brand in New Zealand and their use of an old-school, weathered, distressed font in advertising. Buildings that have their outside walls painted over (like for advertising) are one example of a palimpsest, defined as “something that has changed over time and shows evidence of that change” or “a very old document on which the original writing has been erased and replaced with new writing” (Merriam-Webster). Shep reminded us that animal skin was scraped and used to write new text or correct scribal errors, a type of medieval recycling. Urban signage, like that discussed with Tuatara, allows the study of geosemiotics, and place is incredibly important. It speaks volumes about history and erasure. Outdoor advertising provides a window into history.

Shep talked about the tool and how it seems to show you your interests, but what if you don’t know what your interests are? Everything that it will find is already categorized in European terms and keywords that have been used in the collections it is searching. In discussing her Marsden grant work on biographies of Victorian people, she described how she ended up focusing on one man, William Colenso, and his entanglements. He’s a multifaceted biographical subject. How can biographers deal with such a polymathic personality?

She provided an interesting quote from Janet Brown’s (2009) “Making Darwin. Biography and the Changing Representations of Charles Darwin”: “Every generation of historians recasts the past.” She asked, Can there ever be biography? We make history in relation to what we want to figure out about our present. What if we recast Colenzo as my Colenzo, or your Colenzo?

She mentioned her work on The Colenso Project, Maurice Bennett’s Toast Art that originated in Wellington (where slice of white bread is the pixel unit), and Storycube & Biocube [there are printable teaching resources of these via Cube Creator]. The DigitalNZ Magic square (with help from Tim Sherrratt) can construct a biography out of various scraps from Colenso’s life, and can allow us to discover through serendipity things we didn’t think of about him. It creates a deep map that makes more complex the process of biography. Her goal is to create woodblocks and eventually sound (exhibit hopefully to be opening in November in Alexander Turnbull Library). She also wants to recreate the lost four years of Colenso’s life, and use the algorithms to do that. Often we only have one side of a correspondence, and historians already kind of make up what the other side is. This is a new way to do that.

Regarding academia, Shep says we can’t be afraid to make change if we want to push the boundaries of what scholarship is today and in the future. She submitted an electronic monograph as a key research output, and the Marsden grant provides curiosity-based funding for the humanities in New Zealand. Remix, reuse, and repurpose the past is a growing trend around the world (steampunk, for example). Interestingly, she purposefully didn’t study history in official channels because she didn’t want to have the love of history in historical fiction driven out [it is sad to think how many people would agree with some version of this; that they didn’t study a humanities subject because it would be boring or turn them away from loving it].

Enabling Evidence-Based Analysis and Implementation of Indigenous Housing Programs – by Jane Hunter (University of Queensland) (also Tung-kai Shyy, Carroll Go-sam, Mark Moran, Paul Memmott)

Hunter discussed her social science work on Indigenous housing programs, starting by saying that it is widely acknowledged that Aboriginal housing is inferior. The project’s goal is to use the most relevant and reliable datasets to then make a web portal and do analysis on the data to have a better picture of how many people are living in the housing (they might lie for official surveys, for example), quality, needs, etc. One challenge is that it is hard to reuse anonymized and non-geolocated data to get a good sense of Australian housing issues. The Midja Integrated Knowledge Base provides statistical and geographical data for researchers (not open access because of some sensitive data). Data shows that Indigenous Business Australia is giving loans to high and middle income earners and areas with only modest needs, while ignoring areas that have good potential to get loans. For example, an area like Moreton Bay is receiving lots of loans but other better positioned areas are not getting any or very few. She mentioned that government documents have a lot of data in hard to access tables in PDFs and that she is interested in finding an automatic PDF Extractor Tool to extract tabular data out of PDF publications. [A person on Twitter @drjtwit recommended trying and said he helped write some parts of it.] During questions, Shep asked about helicopter research issues, as in what responsibility does a DH researcher have when they bring Western-created tools to Aboriginal or Indigenous communities and then leave. Hunter responded that other members on her team are Aboriginal or highly respected in the Aboriginal communities around Australia. Several members go out in the field and collect stories, so that is one way of not doing helicopter research.

Ecdosis: Historical Texts on the Web – by Desmond Schmidt (University of Queensland) (also Paul Eggert)

Schmidt described the reality that although libraries’ digital first policy means virtually no new printed material is being stored, they still have kilometers of rare books and manuscripts and few usable tools to edit and publish this material. Furthermore, the boom-bust cycle of DH projects makes it so that many DH projects don’t get to the stage where they are good enough for other people to work on it (making it open source doesn’t necessary mean that it will be picked up by other programmers). He asked, Is software really that fragile? Programs from 1970s still work perfectly. It doesn’t seem to be funding that kills projects like German TextEdit, but that they are too big and bulky. Software should be designed backwards from a user’s true needs (business document systems are not designed for historical materials, either). It is false to believe: ‘build it and they will come’. He went over waterfall versus agile development. Another issue is that if you ask people what they want, they’ll say: put a button over here, make that text red, but actually none of the software is really doing what they need. In their project, they found they had to start over, essentially, and an agile approach worked better. Ecdosis is not based on XML because of its issues with interoperability, reusability, etc. and it can be searched more accurately than XML, has a dramatic simplification of markup. Schmidt discussed the The Charles Harpur Critical fArchive where you can compare different versions of poems and it only takes a second. There are different colors for changed texts (red and blue, like Wikipedia). He also discussed the TILT test in Ecdosis.

Bridging complex heterogeneous datasets, workflows, and projects in Transforming Musicology – by Terhi Nurmikko-Fuller (The Software Sustainability Institute) (@tmtn) (and Kevin R. Page)

Nurmikko-Fuller discussed and the MuSAK (music annotation kit) where they put sensors on people to record their reactions during a live music performance (heartbeat, sweating) of Wagner’s Ring Cycle. They also had a musicologist live-annotate the score using a tablet and special pen.

Beyond the Sole Author? Measuring Co-Authorship Trends in English Literary Studies – by Elizabeth Leane (University of Tasmania) (also Lisa Fletcher, Saurabh Garg)

Leane gave an interesting overview of authorship in literary studies. Literary studies is the most heavily invested in the idea of authorship, and the idea of the sole author is pretty much standard and entrenched. We as scholars are surprisingly unreflective about our own academic authorship practices. Literary studies scholars collaborate less than any others (“Coauthorship of journal articles and book chapters in the social sciences and humanities (2000–2010)” by Ossenblock, Verleysen and Engels; Stylish Academic Writing by Helen Sword). Why? How might the rise of DH affect this model? What are the implications of a change? Project looked at MLA data as data source. The 4% coauthorship rate began to increase in 2005, but this is usually due to just two authors becoming more likely. There has been a 72% increase between 2000 and 2015 in co-authorship in literary studies. It remains a minority practice but is increasing. One challenge is that Digital Humanities as a keyword didn’t exist 20 years ago. Another issue to consider going forward is the convention regarding author order – now it is usually alphabetical but this could become difficult in lead-author projects. We need to deal with this issue in the discipline. Also, if the system favors people who co-author (now, that is sciences), what does that mean for the discipline?

Time for a Cultural Shift: Academia and Wikipedia – by Kara Kennedy (University of Canterbury) (@DuneScholar)

[This was my own presentation, so I will give a summary of it and some of the questions.] I discussed the why, the how, and the what a shift in academic culture regarding Wikipedia would look like. I believe Wikipedia embodies Digital Humanities values like open access and that DH scholars should be leading the way in engaging with it. I gave a brief history of the site, problems with a lack of diversity among editors (only around 10% are women), why those in academia are better positioned to make quality contributions, and the fact that the altmetrics donut now gives 3 points for a Wikipedia reference.

Conference slide Kennedy

Academia can increase research visibility through Wikipedia; the altmetric donut gives 3 points for a reference on Wikipedia. – Kara Kennedy

I advocated for academics to make contributing part of their practice and teach their students to contribute (valuable for digital literacy). I noted that the face of DH to the wider world (the Digital Humanities Wikipedia page) receives over 5,000 pageviews a month and yet is a relatively short article with a C grade. I ended with a challenge for us to work together to raise this page to featured article status. My parting line was: “Because when it comes to Wikipedia and academia, abstinence just isn’t working.”

As often happens in discussions of Wikipedia, people have strong feelings on the topic. During questions, Turnbull expressed his frustration over interactions on the site in his area of expertise, where seemingly amateur or uninformed editors challenge scholarly content and either delete or replace it with their own. Barnett voiced a concern that I have heard others make, that sometimes you have to take a break from it because of hostility and edit wars (and there are known issues like this with a gender component currently being researched). One of my responses is that having more academics involved would help make it so one scholar is not alone in these kinds of battles, especially when it comes to sensitive, politically-charged issues. Someone else said they had success in appealing to an admin about an edit and enjoyed making a contribution. Webb-Gannon asked how one would go about referencing themselves and if it amounts to a kind of self-promotion (there is a conflict of interest policy and you would generally add a note or reference in the references or bibliography section).

Thinking through Metadata – by Tully Barnett (Flinders University) (@tully_barnett)

Barnett discussed metadata and said that it is seeping into cultural communicative processes. She talked about Metadata Games and asked, Do the benefits of metadata outweigh the negatives? One issue is that when terminology changes, using new metadata can erase the previous terms. Taking Medieval Textual Translation to the Masses – by Derek Whaley (University of Canterbury) (@whaleyland)

Whaley discussed the poor quality of digitized transcriptions of medieval manuscripts, and how he created a MediaWiki site ( to enable crowd-sourced transcriptions and translations. The wiki format presents a low barrier to entry and allows people with a variety of skill levels to contribute – translations are only one aspect of the site. Currently, many scholars end up doing this work for their projects, but it is never published (translations often not considered as important as other research output). The main pages are the document source page and the transcription/translation page.

Conference slide Whaley

An example of the Transcription/Translation Page on – Derek Whaley

The site makes medieval texts more easily found, since they are Google indexed, and can be used as a teaching resource as well.

Donating Digital Me: What Can Be Learned from My Digital Footprint? – by Katie Hannan (Australian Catholic University)

Hannan talked about the serious implications of digital data after death. There is currently no way to donate our data or metadata. So what happens to all of the data from our devices, iPhones, iPads, etc.? She interviewed 99 people on what they thought about personal data donation. Gmail, Facebook, and YouTube were the highest used services that people were concerned about regarding personal information being on there (after they pass). She brought up the issue of whether or not families should be able to know if their loved one’s body contributed to a scientific breakthrough (if it were donated to science). Then her academia part-joke, part-maybe-this-could-actually-happen went over well: Would it be considered a non-traditional research output if a scholar donated their body to science and it was used in research, and should that go in the university’s institutional repository? *audience laughter* Someone asked about, a service that sorts through a deceased person’s social media accounts to create an avatar of them.

Aligning Digital Humanities Datasets for Unified Access – by Terhi Nurmikko-Fuller (The Software Sustainability Institute) (@tmtn) (also David M. Weigl, Kevin R. Page)

Nurmikko-Fuller discussed some of the technical background on current projects (lots of acronyms, like SALT).

Fison’s Problem with Australian Aboriginal Kinship Terms: Many to one mapping of terms to meanings and how the AustKin database can help – by Patrick McConvell (Australian National University, Western Sydney University) (also Rachel Hendery)

McConvell discussed the AustKin Project, a database showing kinship and social category terminology for Aboriginal Australia. He talked about Online Digital Sources and Annotation System (ODSAS) and issues with marking up text with TEI.

Conference slide McConvell

ODSAS and handwriting issues – Patrick McConvell

He also mentioned the display of data online like in the Spencer & Gillen project. It was interesting to hear about the history of how kinship terms were originally obtained. At first a 200-question questionnaire was sent around; after this didn’t really work, then Westerners actually went to the communities and saw the genealogies drawn using sticks in the sand. Kinship terms were different than Westerner missionaries thought and also changed over time with life cycles and life stages.

Closed Access – by Tim Sherratt (University of Canberra) (@wragge)

Sherratt discussed the concepts of open and closed access, especially in relation to government documents. The idea that the public had a right of access to public records did not go uncontested, especially in the Cold War 1950s. In Australia, the closed period of commonwealth access to public records is 20 years under the Archives Act (when the Act was first passed in 1983, it was a 30-year period but was changed in 2010 to be a 20-year period). He explained that it was important to first cover a ‘potted history’ of Australian Archival History because it informs what we do. He has created a Closed Access tool to allow you to see why things are closed access. You can drill down to a list of the closed files. But since you can’t then open them, this could be one of the most frustrating searches ever! However, you can request that something be opened up by submitting a request form for reevaluation of the file. Why are files closed? National security and individual privacy are top two reasons. Files are presumed to be closed if no decision is made after a certain deadline. We’re not blaming the archives—we know people are busy—but saying that we need to be having these conversations about what gets closed, why, etc. (there could be benefits to things moving at a snail’s pace because terms might change or governments might become more liberal, but those are not guaranteed).

Drifter: Approaches to Landscape through Digital Heritage – by Mitchell Whitelaw (Australian National University) @mtchl

Whitelaw gave one of the most unique presentations, during which the audience was able to listen to recordings of frogs inhabiting a river basin, which filled the lecture theatre with the sounds of nature. He discussed John Thackara’s Bioregions: Notes on a Design Agenda (2015) and its definition of a bio-shed, that we live among watersheds, not just in cities, towns, etc. He also talked about Timothy Morton’s “Zero Landscapes in the Time of Hyperobjects” and hyper objects (like global warming, styrofoam) that are all around us. We can’t see hyper objects, but computers can help see them for us. Whitelaw brought up Bruno Latour’s “A Cautious Prometheus? A Few Steps Toward a Philosophy of Design” (2008) and asked, Where are the visualization tools for the matters of concern? Then he showed us the Drifter project site which has a map showing information while playing frog recordings that have been geolocated in various river basins. There were more interesting aspects of other parts of the website too. He closed by asking if a mashup like this could be a representational strategy for matters of concern. [Slides available]

DHA Conference Day 4 (June 23, 2016)

Digital Knowledge in the Humanities & Social Sciences – by Paul Arthur (Western Sydney University) (@pwlarthur)

Arthur provided an overview of the changes that technology has wrought in the humanities and social sciences sector, as well as a brief look at where aaDH fits into that progression. He said that particularly in this DH community we can see the changes that technology has had in our lives and our research. Regarding the Internet of Things: by 2020, there are expected to be 50 billion intelligent devices on the network participating in the global data fest and communicating with each other. It’s interesting how this world has been taken in by humans as normal and routine, though it is similar to “A shattering of tradition” that the printing press brought about. The grand narrative of state-sponsored stories and information has given way to people being able to access all kinds of information on the Internet.

Therefore, the definition of writing now needs to incorporate activities like tweeting and texting as well as traditional book-length projects. The specialist computing power that was available in the 20th century is now within easy reach of many researchers and even the general public here in the second decade of the 21st century. Raw computing power is literally in our hands, rather than in a huge room, and it is not for just secrecy anymore (networks started with defense projects).

Post-structuralist theory (Roland Barthes’ 1975 Pleasure of the Text, Foucault) seemed to anticipate the dispersed network and questioning of subjectivity. Social media has led to many-to-many networking rather than one-to-one or one-to-many networking kind of communication. Web 2.0 has helped to tighten the Digital Divide by being more accessible to lower-income people. LinkedIn was just sold to Microsoft for $26 billion; it is hard to believe how social media networks grew that fast and became so valuable.

We are now conditioned to celebrate connectivity. We check how many followers, likes, etc. Obama became the first U.S. president to tweet out news/announcements before traditional means of sharing. Mass surveillance has now become standard. Who gathers data and what they do with it are now questions but there is no clear answer. There is tension between open data and privacy protection. Now it is virtually impossible to sign up for a service without giving away the right to not be tracked and have that data used for unknown purposes. Time magazine called ‘you’ the person of the year in 2006, signalling that we were in charge of our online lives. But this is no longer the case. We are not in control of our data.

Arthur then turned to discussion of academia in particular. He discussed the tension between crowdsourced knowledge production with its open access (Wikipedia model) and traditional specialized, academic knowledge production in limited distribution. Twitter is another example of a different kind of knowledge production that can easily reach millions. Two decades later we haven’t made a huge difference in the mainstream presentation of our humanities material (e-books for example). He said that Paul Turnbull’s South Seas online was influential to him in terms of showing what you could do with materials and how you could present them. He asked, How can we capture our humanities knowledge in new ways with unlimited potential? (This includes using components like GIS frameworks.) He noted that HuNI (Humanities Networked Infrastructure) is innovative not only for technical development but as an example of collaboration (hard-won). The thirty datasets aggregated on HuNI all have their own policies and restrictions on data sharing. But it’s a success of collaboration AND a research tool.

He said that energy in this part of the world is ramping up for Digital Humanities, so it’s an exciting time. We need new ways to recognize and evaluate the DH work we do. He mentioned the DOME Lab at Western Sydney University, the 2002 Australian e-Humanities Gateway, and the eResearch Australasia Conference 2016. Interestingly, the category of DH was not reported on in the October 2014 report entitled Mapping the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences in Australia, perhaps because it spans disciplines (computer science, health sciences, humanities, creative arts). The Australasian Association for Digital Humanities (aaDH) was established in 2011, and the first conference was in 2012 in Canberra. aaDH has an MOU and organizes joint events with the Australasian Consortium of Humanities Research Centres (ACHRC) as well as with the Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS).

Arthur closed by saying that analysis of data often provides only a starting point for ideas, rather than solutions or answers. We have a remarkable chance to participate in new methods and new modes of publication, and we should remember that digital citizens and digital literacy are important. During questions, Shep asked about what our moral responsibility is when we feed the machine by in a way celebrating all of this push toward more data. Arthur responded that there are movements seeking to address some of these issues, including the low-tech movement and Postcolonial DH.

AARNet GLAM Panel: How do we leverage research infrastructure to build data bridges between GLAMs and DH researchers in universities?

The four panelists were sponsored by AARNet (@AARNet) and included:

  • Ely Wallis (Museum Victoria) (@elyw)
  • Janet Carding (Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery) (@janetcarding)
  • Richard Neville (State Library of NSW) (@RNevilleSLNSW)
  • Mary Louise-Ayers (National Library of Australia) (@MarieLAyres)

Louise-Ayers raised the issue of funding for Trove early on. She said that academics have a big problem looming that they might not be aware of. So far Trove content has been jointly funded, but only one-half of 1% is funded by universities even though academics are the ones who want to use it the most. The problem is that to get the whole corpus currently, it has to be downloaded onto a hard drive and soon they will have to start charging for it. There was 0% from research infrastructure funding to make Trove. The National Library can’t pay for it. How are researchers going to be able to access born-digital material in future when universities aren’t paying for the infrastructure?

Carding said that she thinks museums and galleries have been slower than libraries and archives to make data accessible. Also, funders haven’t necessarily been jumping on new ways of doing things, like big data. At the state level, they want to know what the benefits of digitizing things are. It should be conceived of as a citizen humanities project, and the goal should be to make a meaningful connection between people and their landscape and expressions through GLAM artifacts. She doesn’t think the solution for the next 20 to 50 years is being stuck in a room with a flatbed scanner! Someone asked about the Atlas of Living Australia, and it was not on Trove as far as she was aware.

Neville discussed how libraries’ systems are set up to capture bibliographic data, but now there is a lot of unstructured data being generated. The question is what to do with it? There is research potential to make projects around discoverability, because otherwise we are all scrambling around with massive collections that only have bibliographic data available to find. How to make it more accessible?

Wallis gave an example of how scientists in a funded project weren’t allowed to spend one cent of grant money on digitization, which caused a lot of uproar and forced them to use money to do other things.

The next questions directed at the panel were: How can GLAM & DH communities’ better leverage existing services provided and inform the development of new services? How can GLAM & DH practices be aligned so that GLAM data is quickly, appropriately and readily available to researchers using national research infrastructure services?

Neville found that students weren’t going to archives to look at real material anymore. So he started inviting students to see artifacts and manuscripts and experience the wonder of tangible objects. Libraries forget that people can’t read cards and abbreviations, and the average person can’t handle an API. How can libraries make data more accessible without using terminology or tools with specialist knowledge? Louise-Ayers noted that small-scale solutions (agile) are probably better than big infrastructure/committee when it comes to some of these issues.

Tim Hitchcock from the audience added that collaborative doctoral projects (comprising 10% now in the UK) between GLAM and DH are fruitful and establish lots of connections. Then it doesn’t become a zero-sum game of ‘who funds Trove’. Sydney Shep said that in her experience, the best research assistants are people who come out of information management, not computer scientists. They speak the language of the cultural heritage domain and the language of the subject specialist (English, History). They can translate. She mentioned summer scholarships with Digital NZ and internships. Mike Jones mentioned the McCoy project as an example of a joint venture working (it is between the University of Melbourne and Museum Victoria)

The next questions were: What advantages are there in alignment of the needs of GLAM & DH communities? Do we need to create data bridges for GLAM data to flow on and off Australia’s research data nodes for DH research? How do we build sustainable and scalable infrastructure for the long term to increase the capacity for Australian humanities researchers so they are able to search legacy archives and collections and sustain the value of data collections long term?

Wallis raised the challenge of data moving around and not taking with it information about copyright and licensing. An audience member noted that there is currently a license ref tag being developed to be able to attach to each object to address this issue. Louise-Ayers said that there’s a good list of references/licensing (Creative Commons, free-to-read) available now, but it’s hard to distribute this and explain it to the collecting institutions. There is just not enough funding for a roadshow to go around the country for two years to tell other GLAM institutions about their options. Wallis mentioned that a key challenge is how to make it so the next researcher doesn’t have to start from scratch.

Ingrid Mason read out the highlights of her notes compiled during the session, that it was about:

  • reformatting relationships
  • reconnecting those relationships and the processes that sit underneath them
  • PhD programs
  • how data is made accessible through licensing (progressing Open Access agenda when possible)
  • forum opportunities
  • how to collaborate effectively and join forces
  • how to make feedback loop occur
  • looking to NZ for their one knowledge network model (Digital NZ)
  • making a citizen humanities topic for these communities (GLAM and DH) to explore together
As Luck Would Have it: Discovery in the Digital Age – by Deb Verhoeven (Deakin University) (@bestqualitycrab) (also Toby Burrows)

Verhoeven emphasized that making connections is no longer something that we can approach in a linear fashion – we need serendipity! She gave a few examples of serendipitous discoveries, including x-rays, pacemaker, LSD, microwave, superglue, and text messaging. Also, a fun fact is that Serendip was actually a place (Sri Lanka). Serendipity is renowned as a property of innovation. She uses Twitter for serendipity; she only goes on it for certain times of the day, so she is limited to who is online at that time or what bots are tweeting at that time. King’s College London even has a code of conduct for serendipitous research opportunities! The word serendipity has become increasingly popular. (But when she gave this talk in China, they didn’t have a word for it, so it is not a concept that translates everywhere.) Google is great at telling us what we already think we want to know. But it can’t really do much to make the serendipitous connections we might want in the humanities. She said that it’s not just about making connections to increase productivity, which is what governments are often interested in, and gave a quote from Jeanette Winterson to emphasize the point: “We didn’t build our bridges simply to avoid walking on water. Nothing so obvious.”

Music, Mobile Phones and Community Justice in Melanesia – by Camellia Webb-Gannon (Western Sydney University) (@camwebbgannon)

Webb-Gannon discussed how music production has changed to embrace mobile phones and allows for more expansive music communities. will make an app to build a database (a Melanesian jukebox app). An additional benefit is that it will help address the overwhelmingly male domination in music production. She mentioned A Manifesto for Music Technology and that music was chosen especially because it is political.

Death and the Internet: Digital Legacies – by Craig Bellamy (@txtcraigbellamy) (also Bjorn Nansen, Michael Arnold, Martin Gibbs, Tamara Kohn)

Bellamy discussed some of the key issues with digital legacies: online memorials, property and privacy, and personal digital archives. The first online memorials appeared in the 1990s and were predominantly stand-alone webpages done by funeral directors. Then came Facebook. A user’s account is memorialized so that only confirmed friends can see the timeline, friends can leave posts in remembrance, and the system prevents anyone from logging into the account. It raises questions about what’s appropriate and who moderates the content (case study of Jill Meagher from Sydney, Australia). Regarding property, you need to think about: What do I actually own? Should I delete it? Or should I give it away? For example, with music you own physical copies of CDs but you don’t actually own online collections. The same goes for images and videos. Ebooks cannot be bequeathed like physical libraries. Email accounts are another issue to consider. However, mobile phone accounts are transferable, so their texts are recoverable (if worried about privacy, make sure to delete all your texts). The Google inactive account manager (or ‘death manager’) will send you an email every 6-12 months and will assume you’re dead if there is no response. Then it will carry out your wishes (including something like sending a list of your passwords to somebody you’ve chosen ahead of time).

Conference slide Bellamy

Google inactive account manager (death manager) – Craig Bellamy

You can create a digital register (which is a way of hacking non-transferability, because technically it is not legal to share your password, for example). How these issues are currently being handled do not include repurposing or remixing. The problem is the account: that’s what’s not transferable. It’s fine if you give someone your hard drive with your images, videos, etc.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Things – by Mike Jones (University of Melbourne; Museum Victoria)

Jones discussed challenges with data and information, especially in relation to search. For example, a Trove search is not as detailed as what’s available in Museum Victoria, but people might not realize there is more data on the home institution’s site. Even still, there is data that is not linked through a typical search box search on Museum Victoria. The challenge is how to show relationships and connections between things, rather than just keywords and data about the one thing. Things aren’t isolated blocks of information. Rather than a one-way flow, we might have a cycle of information that flows back on itself, especially in the GLAM sector. That way, you don’t have to look up a piece of information about, say, an explorer’s notebooks every time you look him up, especially when that information is already available at other institutions. The search box is too limited and often requires you to know the connections already.

Tending the Archive – by Louise Curham (University of Canberra)

Curham provided an examination of performance and pedagogy in the Expanded Cinema re-enactments being done by Teaching and Learning Cinema. The performance-dependent object is the connection between analog and digital. To access this material in a way you can understand relies on your experience. The project is looking at 1960s and 1970s performances. Embodiment is at the front, and it changes the paradigm. It’s about maintaining and invigorating the performances (a kind of reuse).

Evaluating Ontologies in the Context of Ancient Sumerian Literature – by Terhi Nurmikko-Fuller (The Software Sustainability Institute) (@tmtn)

Nurmikko-Fuller reviewed several aspects of a DH project involving Ancient Sumarian literature, noting that there is much richness in the literary corpora of the ancient Near East and so much potential. She mentioned the Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature (ETCSL), Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative (CDLI), and Open Richly Annotated Cuneiform Corpus (Oracc). She also discussed an ontology for cultural heritage data through the CIDOC Conceptual Reference Model (CRM); OntoMedia, which was used for capturing narrative in fiction [including science fiction]; and the Brat rapid annotation tool, which lets you mark up a text according to an ontology you have already uploaded.

Hidden Narratives: Inventing Universal History in Joseph Priestley’s Charts of History and Biography – by Crystal Lee (MIT) (@crystaljjlee)

Lee began with a list of monarchs considered to be important (like Charlemagne) and then reviewed Joseph Priestley’s New Chart of History and Biography. She then gave the audience some questions to think about, including: How would you redraw this chart today? What assumptions or arguments are you making in your own data visualizations?

Visualising the Seven Years’ War: Testing Spatial-Temporal and Visual Analysis Methods for Postgraduate Historians – by David Taylor (University of Tasmania)

Taylor expressed some of the concerns that postgraduate students encounter when becoming involved with Digital Humanities projects, namely that students are still disconnected with the growth of Digital Humanities and often lack training.

Conference slide Taylor

Problems with student led DH projects and training – David Taylor

He referenced a recent article by Katrina Anderson et al (2016) on “Student Labour and Training in Digital Humanities”. Taylor said that digital tools can seem counterintuitive to those embedded in close reading practices and pedagogies (he referenced Franco Moretti, Shawna Ross, and Mahony & Pierazzo). He said that the benefit of using DH for him was that it made him ask questions in a different way as a postgraduate historian. He urged the audience to involve students more in their digital projects.

Enhancing Search for Complex Historical Texts – by Desmond Schmidt (University of Queensland)

Schmidt continued his critique of other digital projects and demonstrated how difficult it can be to search historical texts with the search functions on offer. What’s a digital scholarly edition? It originally meant a critical edition created by scholars; now it can mean new digital versions of something like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The six challenges (or tests) he has found for search engines searching documents are:

  1. Can search engine find words split into parts?
  2. Can search engine find words broken over lines?
  3. Can search engine find deleted text?
  4. Can search engine find inline-variants in their correct context?
  5. Can search engine perform literal search?
  6. Can search engine highlight text found in the document?

The answer is often no, and it isn’t easy to find things in a digital scholarly edition beyond the basics. Thus in his assessment of search, search is pretty poor. His solution was to ensure all text is findable, and all text that can be found is actually in the document. One challenge is to search many versions without duplicate matches. He looks at his Charles Harpur Critical Archive as an example of search working better. He wrote his own search engine [Classic DH! If you can’t find something that works, build your own].

Sonorising and Visualizing Archive Records – by Nick Thieberger (University of Melbourne) (also Rachel Hendery)

Thieberger discussed languages that are in danger of being lost and ways of visualizing or hearing them through various projects. The Worldmapper has maps where countries are distended by the number of languages in them. The Pacific and Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures (PARADISEC) collection contains unique records, sometimes the only recording of a language. He spoke about giving voice to the voiceless. There is work on augmented reality, like holding a device over a trigger that then plays something (a type of Harry Potter moment where the thing you’re looking at comes to life), and Virtual Reality headsets, where your gaze rests on a language and then activates the language being played. He acknowledged that these are cute visualizations, but are they research? Well, there is little online presence for many languages in the world and these projects can help us know our own content better. Museums are increasingly looking for indigenous language content. Speakers of these languages and their descendants will likely also be interested.

The Lex Method: Visually Analyzing Cohesion in Text – by Caroline McKinnon (University of Queensland) (@Caroline_McKin)

McKinnon discussed the tool she has built (Lex) which uses latent statistical analysis (LSA) to measure cohesion in the text and visualize it.

Conference slide McKinnon

Lex editing tool – Caroline McKinnon

Each unit is a sentence. Her focus is on the process of editing, and she said that editing for coherence is very subjective and time consuming. We tend to work through a list of do’s and don’ts (like don’t have too many long sentences, etc.). But issues like incorrect grammar are actually not as problematic as a lack of cohesion. She found that there aren’t many computational tools to help with scholarly editing. Plus, following the do’s and don’ts to do something like shorten sentences isn’t the whole picture and can actually reduce cohesion. McKinnon is therefore aiming to improve on what’s on offer from her competitor. Referring back to Verhoeven’s statement, she said that if big data gives us existential crisis, maybe small data makes us go ‘hmm’ and be thoughtful on a smaller scale. She admitted that Lex is not an intuitive tool (the pyramid visualization is not easy to read), but not all visualization is designed to be easy to read nor give an instant result (if you attempt to use, it can take up to ten minutes to load, so be patient). Someone asked about Discursus and she said that her supervisor actually created that, so she is definitely aware of it.

Conference Closing

Paul Turnbull closed the conference by playing a digistory on Youtube called ‘For the Life of Him’ where historical documents are paired with a song to tell the story of a convict. Future conference ideas that came up over the course of the four days included holding it in New Zealand and having a Citizen Humanities theme.

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National Digital Forum Conference – Day 2

Here is Day 2 of the National Digital Forum 2015 Conference held at Te Papa Museum in Wellington, New Zealand, on October 13-14, 2015.

NDF Conference Day 2

Disrupt, Connect, and Co-construct – Claire Amos

An English teacher herself, Amos challenged us to re-think traditional education models, based on the research and real-life experience she has as Deputy Principal at Hobsonville Point Secondary School, a brand-new New Zealand secondary school. She said we have been forcing students through unrelated single subjects with a single teacher confined in a single-celled classroom, otherwise known as the “one size fits all” model of education. But we should we looking at the rate of change. Students need to be able to be adaptive experts and cope with constant change in their lives. If education didn’t provide a cheap, reliable babysitting service, people would vote with their feet and leave. Kids are learning outside of school, rather than in. We do have the power to change education to be what we want, but we have to do it. “Where’s the evidence?” cannot keep being an excuse – leaders create the research; followers follow the research – why can’t New Zealand be the leader? NCEA and National Standard (in New Zealand) don’t prove students can survive and thrive in their future world. We should be teaching independent inquiry through authentic projects. There is a common belief that “If you aren’t coding, you’re so last year!” However, what we need to teach is more complex language and the context for why they’re learning to code. Students need to learn how to handle distractions and critically analyze all the tools available.

Schools are often designed to control students, not deliver learning for them. We need free-range learners (slides compared images of caged hens versus free-range hens). At Hobsonville Point Secondary School, there is flexible space that is responsive to learning needs. Its motto is “Innovate. Engage. Inspire.” She and others traveled and did research globally before opening. There are learning hubs with 90-minute sessions weekly and each small group stays together for 5 years. Students are learning how to learn. Teachers make contact with parents every few weeks. They value both personal and academic excellence. Integrated, connected modules have 8 overarching structures and there is joint teaching like English and Science teachers working together to teach a class. She gave a nice shout-out to Science Fiction as the beautiful intersection of English and Science! The science fiction novel Ender’s Game was looked at in connection with the gamification of war. Authentic actions and outcomes are sought after, such as having students deal with sustainability and cleaning up foreshores as an activity (real world problems).

There is a We not Me culture. But we should give them a chance to prove they can do projects, etc. Senior students can do independent research projects. The HPSS Pollinator is a space for outsiders to come in and work and then interact with students. It is trying to seize the opportunity to connect with the community and get experts to “pollinate” students with ideas. Since students haven’t been told they can’t do things yet, they can have great ideas about concepts like new games. Amos discussed allowing an Open Internet because kids can get around filters with VPNs. We might as well have a conversation about digital citizenship instead of trying to restrict their activity. The school is purposefully Brand/Platform Agnostic and not an Apple or Microsoft school. It recognizes that games are a part of life so has board games and video games in the library.

GLM sector should assume leadership because it has a lot to offer educators and students. Museums have been offering curated content for hundreds of years for people to go and learn for themselves. She called for organizations to start identifying themselves as Innovation Hubs and consider involving kids in the construction of museum exhibits that will interest them (example: Minecraft in Auckland Museum). New Zealand is small enough to do something different. Why not have labs open to students or host unconferences for the Education sector (which are already running through EduCampNZ). Currently, many educators are stuck in echo chamber, recycling the same ideas. She emphasized, Let’s go free-range together! In the age of complex communication, writing essays isn’t good enough.

How Filmmakers Use Your Stuff – José Barbosa

Barbosa elaborated on some of the ways The Naughty Bits documentary film project used sources from the GLAM sector. High-resolution images were pulled off Flickr (example: White Rock Beverage Co.). Newspaper cartoons were pulled from Papers Past (then manipulated with Adobe AfterEffects). Material was also used from NZ Archives and DigitalNZ, called a lifesaver for the project. An interesting note from the film was that when Ulysses came to New Zealand in 1967, theatres sex-segregated the audiences because it was considered so scandalous. One of the tensions around content use is the issue of protecting rights vs. obvious engagement. For example, the Old Auckland site has 20,000 followers but was asked to take down Auckland Library photos. He suggested it would help filmmakers if content released on sites had timecodes that matched the original video. Also, it should be more clear what file format/codec the content is in so filmmakers know how much time and money to budget to format it in the version they need.

Panel Discussion on Wikipedia – Sara Barham, Mike Dickison, Courtney Johnston, Stuart Yeates

Yeates said that Wikipedia is trying to be a tertiary source, so it is important to have conflicts of interest listed on user page. He says he has created most Māori biography pages besides ones about sports heroes.

Dickison tried to change attitudes toward use of Wikipedia at the University of Canterbury and got it into assignments in conjunction with essays. He mentioned WikiWednesday and needing strategies to recruit editors. There was a Wikipedian-in-residence for 6 weeks at Wanganui because the Council realized that most people in the world were learning about the city through Wikipedia and that it was mostly about gangs and negative stuff. Now an edit-a-thon is being organized.

Barham discussed the Matariki Humanities Network and Marsden Archive at the University of Otago. One issue was how to address the question of whether the sources could be used on Wikpedia because they’re primary sources.

Johnston talked about how craft history is not taught at NZ universities so making pages for women craft artists from New Zealand’s past was a nice way for her to use her Art History degree for once. There was a kind of feminism-a-thon on the blog. One conflict of interest was that the artists were depending on the coverage so had a bias in what they wanted the articles to say. Johnston realized that others who might be more neutral didn’t have the knowledge and ability to make pages. Editing on the low-risk areas of Wikipedia meant fewer trolls (since New Zealand craft history not as important or popular as, say, Star Wars). She used sentence-by-sentence referencing and direct quotes when she wanted to use descriptive/aesthetic words and language that otherwise isn’t allowed as being too subjective.

Other things discussed were that the appearance of a conflict of interest can be as important as actual bias. You can’t say something (for example, the well-known head of an LGBT Studies department being gay, even if you know) unless it is referenced somewhere. There is a known issue with Wikipedia not being able to accommodate other ways of knowledge, like oral history, which apparently it is looking into how to incorporate. The entire primary, secondary, tertiary source concept is written-based. There is a lack of diversity in editors. Ultimately, the crux of the argument is: what is an encyclopedia? Kate Hannah (another presenter at the conference) brought up implicit bias and her work on women in science in New Zealand projects.

How to Make Literary Webseries – Claris Jacobs, Elsie Bollinger, and Minnie Grace (The Candle Wasters)

These ambitious 18-22-year-olds decided to make a literary vlog series based on Shakespeare and went viral. A vlog is a video blog, usually around 3 minutes. They have now done two: Nothing Much to Do and Lovely Little Losers. One inspiration was The Lizzie Bennet Diaries which ran from April 2012 to March 2013 and was based on Pride and Prejudice. Their audience is 94% female. They promoted it on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Over 50% of visits from the U.S. Their characters also had other social media accounts and commented on other characters’ videos (added to world-building effect). There are now fan fiction and offshoots like fan art, socks, tea, and songs. Their Kickstarter campaign to make the second series raised over $22,000! And they recently got funded for $100,000 through a New Zealand organization.

Finding All the Books – Greg Roulston

Dune poster

Roulston learned a lot by attending Kiwi Pycon 2014, including elastic search, and found out a lot of what he didn’t know before. He mentioned the Sublime text editor, Flask. And he was the one with the sweet Dune reference complete with slide and “fear is the mindkiller” quote, urging us to not be afraid to try new things with technology. Humans like data visualization. Nailing technology is a natural high. One question we need to ask is what kind of access are we happy with? If Amazon or other organization has it digitized, is that enough?

Revitalization of Indigenous Knowledge – Steven Renata

Renata opened with the Māori language to bring the language of the people into the room. He said there are over 7,000 languages in the world with merely 85 top languages spoken by most people. Language is the DNA strand of culture, part of society. But every two weeks a language is lost. Technology alone will not save it; it has to be passion. If not spoken in the home, language will die (even if it is taught in school). The company he is with, Kiwa Digital, makes digital book apps and uses the neurological impress method for literacy, digitally mimicking that effect in software (child hears you say word and intakes it). They started at the Chevak School in Alaska. A 48-hour book project was great for students and community engagement. Here in New Zealand, Ngāi Tahu is putting a lot of resources into language, including their creation story. Kiwa’s research has shown that young kids like female voices, and boys like graphic-style and violence rather than still images. When trying to work with Arabic language in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), they found it was very difficult to go right to left and with cursive script. The biggest cost is audio.

Assumption, Attention, Articulation – George Oates

Oates’ company is Good, Form & Spectacle, which is making exploratory interfaces for data and collection. Search is the dominant paradigm, but humans are not built to do this in a social context. Museums are good at facilitating wandering in physical space but not online. Humans are built to wander like in old cities (Florence) vs. cities designed for cars (Atlanta). There is a false assumption that people know what they’re looking for when they come to collections. Excuses for bad interfaces include that they’re “just for researchers”, but even researchers appreciate good design! Sector should look for bigger audience who might be interested (proto-researchers) or researchers who are looking for new connections or ideas. She gave the example of her godson who is now interested in geology after receiving gems as a gift from her when he was little. This gift enabled him to want to learn more about the field. Sector should enable wandering.

We are now spending our attention in continuous partial attention. It is hard to do deeper reading online or offline. Not using a phone now stands out in a crowd (picture shown of an elderly woman not on a phone while everyone else has their phones out and over their heads snapping photos and videos of something). Apple has entirely captured our attention with products and keynotes.

She mentioned the Wall Street Journal article “Museums Open Up to Power of Wiki” and monthly edit-a-thons to improve pages about art and what museums know about. Sculptures meant to be outside now are inside, encased in glass, against their purpose. Humans operate more on networks than a search function; can’t web accommodate that? Web 2.0 brought us live images that move, but we’re still stuck in broadcast mode (one-way). How can we articulate collections better and not just through search boxes and lists? She used the term “spelunking” (cave diving) for a project at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Get rid of search box; use data visualization not just words. It is quite frustrating to have to click multiple times to get to an image, and then it’s small. Give images more real estate! Can objects be internetually curious? (and hear what’s being said about them across the internet). One technique is to acknowledge stereotypes and issues openly (example of posters in a library saying: What’s in the Library? Mostly white guys. Come and find out and use our new tool.). About 80% of institutions have <10 staff.

She elaborated on a Small Museum project with rotating displays each day. For one object originally from Easter Island, when placed in one circle, sound played of what it might sound like if it were on Easter Island in its original habitat, and then when placed in another circle, what it sounds like when it is at the British Museum (silence or noisy kids, etc.). The project also explored how items made the journey to the museum (acquisition history). They can be so out of context in static cases. Calling it a museum calmed people. One user left a comment that “I learnt more here than I have in the British Museum”.

National Digital Forum (NDF) Conference – Day 1

The National Digital Forum (NDF) 2015 Conference held at Te Papa Museum in Wellington, New Zealand, on October 13-14, 2015, was very good and, since almost everything was related to a local New Zealand context, dare I say even better than the Global Digital Humanities Conference in Sydney this past July. The keynotes were great, the presentations were great, and I met new people and came away having learned a ton and picked up ideas for future projects and teaching opportunities. The enthusiasm of the attendees and presenters and the occasional debates made it a very engaging two days. I gained insight into the wonderful digital initiatives taking place in the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) and related sectors. Plus, I met several science fiction fans and was treated to a full-on Dune reference (with accompanying slide of a fan poster) in one of the sessions. It seems no digital-related conference is complete without a good dose of science fiction!

That being said, I took a lot of notes because so much was interesting. Here are some of the highlights of the presentations I attended (I believe all were recorded and are available on YouTube for those who want to watch them).

NDF Conference Day 1

Welcome Remarks – Andy Neale

If it’s not online, it’s like it doesn’t exist. If kids can’t find a moa skeleton online, will they just choose an emu? Where are the New Zealand collections? How is GLAM helping?

People, Communities, and Platforms: Digital Cultural Heritage and the Web – Trevor Owens

Owens emphasized that LAM are sites of community memory. Viewshare is a free platform for digital collections. In looking at video games, the discussions in forums about the games are actually more interesting than the game itself. Regarding ethics: companies are now controlling our online community spaces; we need to think critically about the future of this trend. Software is ideological, enacts ideology. It has a point of view and perspective and shapes the way things work. He gave the example of a beach that can only be accessed via one road that goes under a bridge. If the bridge is built too low for buses, bus riders (i.e. low-income folks) can’t get to the beach. The decisions made in building the bridge will shape the access. Reference was made to Matthew Fuller’s Behind the Blip: Essays on the Culture of Software: “software constructs a way of seeing, knowing, and doing”.

Regarding cognitive extension, he explained that expert Tetris players actually move pieces more because it takes less mental energy to see and not think about manipulating the shapes. Reference was made to Andy Clark’s Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension and the “Extended Mind” cartoon. Owens then discussed collective intelligence and the shaming that happens when someone asks a question that could have been looked up online. They might be told, “Let me Google that for you” because Googling is considered digital literacy now. PhpBB and bulletin boards have been outshone by the turn toward social media, but the language used to talk about online communities has also changed from hosting to managing/owning. Users are seen as commodities for managers to extract value from and need to have their behavior controlled. He called for us to enable people to be a community in contrast with Silicon Valley’s vision. LAM needs a seat at the table in the digital infrastructure of community memory.

There is the prospect of One Big Library. David Lee King has asked: What’s the most visited part of your library? (often the website!) Are you staffing it adequately? The focus is still on the physical rather than enduring digital sites. There is an opportunity to curate all Creative Commons works, but also provide entry point for collections (continuous flowing of Web > LAM  > Web > LAM). Chronicling America hosts digitized newspapers from 1836-1922. Owens discussed how when he shared life on Mars pictures on Pinterest as part of a project, it generated a lot of responses from people and was even picked up by news sites. Ultimately, sharing the research process and not just giving something that’s done allows people to do their own research and contribute [this reminded me of the research on problem-based learning vs. traditional lectures]. If Pinterest closes, wouldn’t it be better if we had our own purpose-built tools and resources? For now, we can use ready-built tools like Pinterest, but we should think beyond them. If we want to avoid the bleak future of Silicon Valley’s casino-mindset where social networks try to get people while they’re hot and use them up as if they were commodities, we have to take the chance to change that by enabling community memory. He wondered why Google was able to get libraries together to digitize content but they weren’t able to do that themselves: Take ownership!

How Crowdfunding is Changing the World – Jackson Wood

Pledgeme is looking into crowdlending next. Instead of getting little in a savings account, people could invest in non-companies and get repaid either in better interest or products like burritos. It would open up opportunities for NGOs, nonprofits, etc.

Problem with Gutenberg – Baruk Jacob

Jacob described the current age as a post-literacy one (digital culture) still trying to reconcile the previous pre-literacy age (oral culture) and book age (book culture, also known as the Gutenberg parenthesis). In oral culture, storytelling and making were the norm. Rather than reading a book, you would do something or hear a story. In digital culture, communication and learning are prioritized. These two non-book ages have commonalities. In fact, he said that while you’re using a literate format during texting, you actually are operating more in an oral format where grammar/syntax don’t matter as much as getting the message out immediately. He asked, How do we use makerspaces to develop postliteracy skills and how do we measure? Today most measuring is still literacy-based or numbers-based.

The Perfect Face, Tim Sherratt

Sherratt discussed the genetic testing done by and how can do gender, race, age, and expression facial analysis. There are potential issues with Australia’s “The Capability” facial recognition and Facebook’s DeepFace technology which are becoming highly accurate. Faces create a feeling of connection. With, you can learn how to camouflage yourself from recognition software. Consider that one outcome of these programs is that we become what they can measure; with measurement comes the power to control. But identifiers are not the same as identities.

Social Media: Do You Have an Exit Plan? – Adrian Kingston and Amanda Rogers

Te Papa Museum did an audit of social media usage and accounts. They determined that there were ones where it was unclear what the purpose is or who is contributing; basically, a lack of strategy. Things like TripAdvisor need to have a policy for how to respond to reviews. A project mentality of “deliver and walk away” doesn’t work in today’s world. If you do shut down an account, make sure to archive use/followers/screenshots for historical record. Do a health check on underperforming accounts. In the U.S., the NMAH did a survey and found out useful information. Tools to check out: Hootsuite, IFTTT, FollowerWork, GoogleAlerts. Have ongoing review and set periods to review performance. Use LeanCoffee to find and prioritize issues. Above all: avoid ghost towns!

Evolution of a Facebook Page – Janine Delaney

Facebook isn’t an archival site and it’s hard to find stuff as it falls down the page or in comment threads. The West Coast New Zealand group is outgrowing this platform and crowdfunding for  a Recollect site ( It realized that Facebook Group content can’t be archived. Eventually an IT person made a script and was able to save most of the content. Facebook is good for capturing the spontaneity of people having conversations. Potential issues with the West Coast site are a perceived threat to cultural institutions: threat to revenue, challenge to professional standing, and personality clashes. However, site is very popular: 9,882 visitors in September 2015 with over 61,000 page views.

Our Collective Connections: How We Built a Collections-Led Social Media Game (#OneThread) – Gareth De Walters, Zoe Richardson, Rebecca Loud

The goal was to engage people more with collections at the Auckland Museum. The project used its existing network for contributors, including NDF, other museums, and Emerging Museum Professionals. Staff brainstormed ideas and needed collection literacy to get a good variety of object clues. They also used Trello to look at photos and collaborate with other contributors. Twitter has a good free analytics package. They have moved from people’s passive likes to engagement with the museum.

Collaborative Community Repository – Fiona Fieldsend

Kete is an open source tool for digitizing content. It partners with DigitalNZ to have community portals for people to contribute stories.

Talking to Each Other and Making Sense – Kate Hannah

Hannah is a cultural historian in a physics department. She notes that the terms STEAM or GLAM to those outside of academia are unfamiliar, or sound like punk rockers. A “public lecture” might seem public to us used to the academic environment, but it won’t be perceived that way by others. Public engagement is about more than school visits and guest speakers. There are multiple publics beyond schoolkids and those already familiar with universities/students.

Carrots and Sticks: Legal Deposit of GLAM Digitization Projects – Amy Joseph

This session raised awareness of the ability for the National Library to legally deposit digitized resources. The draft collections policy is that digitized resources are considered public documents for legal deposit and may be collected (principle no. 5). Research depositories like the University of Canterbury Research Repository are also included. Potential issues include a skewing of usage stats and reporting if resources are available in multiple places.

Cartography and Linked Data – Chris McDowall

The newly-formed Auckland Data Poets’ Society discusses visualizations and interesting insights. Mental scaffolding is useful. Having someone show you where all the points a human would touch the metadata really demonstrates how a user would use the system. McDowall advocated for making rough graphics and explaining them to each other; this is a really useful tool for thinking through ideas.

Faces and Failures – Ben O’Steen

He said NDF is nice because it is not like the “White paper-itis” in Europe where people come to give a paper but don’t really care what other people think. British Library Labs works with researchers on their specific problems and tries not to presuppose. Lab means experimentation and it has an annual competition. He said to try not to establish someone or a project as good or bad because of their affiliation. Although we often give names to a collection based on who paid for it or who found it, this is not necessarily relevant to the collection. He elaborated on common farce-inducing words which have so many meanings, when you use them people come away with completely different ideas: Collection, Access (“my favorite bugbear”), Content, Metadata, and Crowdsourced.

Due to paltry amount (too small, too big, other reasons) of material, there is a skewed digital corpus compared to overall holdings (bias in digitization). Reference was made to Allen B. Riddell’s “Where are the novels?” There are also peaks due to inferred dates/rounded-off dates (like 1815, 1820, etc.). Black boxes of algorithms are used to draw conclusions without context of the data. For example: a Google search of paintings of flowers will look through images, not necessarily just those keywords. We need to be skeptical of sentiment analysis and tendency to believe the labels. Reference made to @VictorianHumour and which tracked Chartist meetings through mining digitized newspapers and maps and organized actual walks around the city for people to learn the history. Keyword search fails miserably and bulk access is an issue. Simple data structure would help. Everything should have a URL and a descriptive page, be machine-readable, and enable access to all the data (images, XML, etc.).

The British Library has science fiction sets of images. Stripping context can stimulate research with the illustrations themselves. If fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything. He mentioned Cory Doctorow and the fact that ebooks are actually licensed, not bought. There was a digital maps Halloween tagathon in Octobeer 2014 at the British Library. Google’s AutoAwesome can stitch together multiple photos (and choose only happy, smiling faces). Will AIs be changing history as they decide what a photo should be? Reference made to Robert Elliott Smith. Only mimicking the physical may not be the best idea. Nowadays, wanting access to everything is the default. Things don’t have to be catalogued or perfect to be useful to people.

~Something noted at one of the sessions: charging for images can actually lose money when staff time is considered.~

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