Previous Colloquia Series

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Colloquium Series for Winter 2011

Kirsten C. Uszkalo, Practicing the Craft: Alternate Models of Academic Inquiry into the Malefic

February 17th, 4pm, Arts 112

The study of witchcraft and witch-texts has evolved over the last decade as print material has reemerged in the digital sphere. Large commercial publishers such as Proquest, working with the University of Michigan’s Text Creation Project, have digitized and made searchable over 100 ephemeral publications which were hitherto only available on microfilm and in archives. University scholars can access and re-access this expansive corpus of witch-texts, enabling a wide-view angle of witchcraft which was impossible in early modern England. Technology affords scholars the ability to dynamically look inside the large volumes of early English populous texts and study how print culture affected the evolution of understanding of the everyday malefic across text and time. While scholars can tell the wicked, terrible, and sometimes banal history of the witch textually, digital visualizations can also be used to articulate the role of this figure within her community and within English print cultures.
This talk explores the work being done in the Witches in Early Modern England (WEME) project (http://witching.org). Witches were defined as a spiritual and cultural threat in early modern England. However, the supposed efficacy of their magical methods (familiar magic and instrumental magics) was offset by occurrences of counter-magics (scratching, swimming, searching), suggesting that the fear of witches was brutally but easily alleviated with blood, water, and inquiry. The WEME visualization, Throwing Bones, argues in form and function, that tangled patterns of witching and un-witching, as seen in ephemeral print, complicate the idea of who was doing magic to whom. The twisting of these patterns likewise happens over time and over geography. The concurrent evolution and spread of witch-beliefs will therefore also be demonstrated with the WEME digital Witch-Map. This GIS marks the influx of witchcraft narratives, from the southern counties of England (close to and including London as a publishing center) in the mid-fifteenth-century, and from more northern counties in the seventeenth century. The Witch-Map is a visual argument on how print culture can be studied and plotted to demonstrate the mutating memes of witch-beliefs as they spread across English soil. Holding up multiple mirrors to maleficium allows scholars to invoke inquiries which could not even be imagined in the era of the English witches.

Milena Radzikowska, Not Just Pretty Pictures: Design for Digital Humanities

February 28th, 4pm, Arts 112

Design elements describe the fundamental structure of any visual composition. They are not optional in design; without them, design does not exist. In contrast, design principles govern the relationships created between the elements used within a design. Each element can be chosen, structured or organized well or poorly. Design principles are meant to be used to organize the visual composition as a whole, to create a sense of order, harmony, purpose, belonging, visual interest, and appropriate hierarchy. In this talk, I will discuss the principles and elements of design as applied to digital humanities, using examples from my own work and the work of others.

Russell Cobb, Maureen Engel, Daniel Laforest, and Heather Zwicker: Edmonton Pipelines: Narrating Digital Urbanism

March 7th, 3:30pm, Arts 112

The Edmonton Pipelines project is the grounding project of CIRCA’s new “Digital Urbanism” collaboratory. Pipelines aims to lay the groundwork for the creation of a digital interactive map of the city of Edmonton, capitalizing on the city’s recent commitment to make its data “open”: that is, to make its non-confidential data freely available in multiple, non-proprietary formats. Pipelines begins from the humanistic commitment that a city is a “place” rather than simply a “space,” or a data set. We are interested in the thick representation of the urban, one that narrates history, conflict, culture, and community via textual, auditory, visual and mixed media. The relationship between the urban and the digital is not nearly so flat though, where the digital simply represents the city as object. The widespread availability of digital mapping, cloud-based information storage, social networking and mobile devices has constituted a sea change in the way people manage their everyday existence within the city, and especially the way they relate to the very act of narrating and creating memories. As a cross-disciplinary team of professors, scholars and practitioners in the humanities, we aim to explore the possibilities for an interpretative tool that would bring together those as-yet separate realms of urban information and representation.
Since we are at the earliest stages of this project, our talk will necessarily be speculative and interactive. We hope to share some examples and inspirations, to elaborate on our plans and aspirations, and to engage in conversation. While we’ll principally be focused on the Pipelines project, we’d also welcome conversation about the larger collaboratory and where it might develop in the future.

Kevin Kee: It's the end of serious games as we know them, and I feel fine

March 15th, 4pm, Arts 112

The Serious Games Initiative at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars was launched in 2002, garnering attention (and resources) for researchers exploring the use of gaming strategies and technologies to teach "serious" content. Nine years later, it's time to take stock: what have we learned? In this brief presentation I'll venture several conclusions, making reference to history "serious games" that I have developed (including games in virtual worlds, isometric environments, and mixed-reality and augmented-reality environments (including a heritage tour/game for the iPhone)). I'll explain why I think we should stop using the term "serious game", and why I think the playful use of mixed- and augmented-reality is rich with potential for historians and other humanists.

Colloquium Series for Fall 2010

Richard Fletcher: GIS in Archaeology: Perspectives from Italy, Greece and the Levant

October 28th, 4:00pm, Arts 112

There are many challenges for the GIS specialist in archaeology, not least the fact that few archaeologists actually understand what GIS is and what it may be used to do. But beyond such general concerns and the resistance one can often encounter, there are problems specific to the field – particularly in the Mediterranean – and yet there are a great many prospects. The prospects are an absolute wealth of data, acquired over 150 years of very meticulous recording – just waiting for a computer and a willing researcher. The problems, however, are still there: 1. Acquisition of data; 2. Putting that data to use in a GIS framework; 3. Determining and defending a methodology; and 4. Publishing results. While this may appear to be a normal set of problems in any academic environment, GIS and Computer Applications have their own very particular, very vexing, set of obstacles to overcome in the archaeological world.

DorkBot Edmonton, First Meeting

November 4th, FAB 2-7D from 7-9PM

What is a dorkbot? Why are we starting one in Edmonton? Find out here, http://interactives.tapor.ualberta.ca/?p=64 .

Derek Pennycuff: Prioritizing performance optimization for higher education websites

November 17th, 4:15pm, Old Arts 550 (Note New Room!)

Website performance optimization takes time. But the time invested is multiplied many times over and returned to site users a few milliseconds at a time. In this research presentation I examine the pros and cons of 12 website performance optimization strategies that were selected from an initial list of 25 published by Google. The selection and subsequent evaluation were carried out by testing home pages of the 13 community colleges in the Tennessee Board of Regents system. Of the 12 strategies I examined, 4 were found to result in negligible gains, 2 to result in minimal improvement, 3 to result moderate gains, 1 to result in strong gains, and the final 2, “Combine external CSS” and “Parallelize download across hostnames,” topped the list in my “wow” category. In order to prioritize these practices this research discusses the cons as well as the pros. For example, to “Combine external Javascript” requires very little time to implement and maintain but provides only modest performance gains in tests performed for this research. On the other hand, the recommendation to “Leverage browser caching” performs impressively in testing but presents significant challenges both in terms of initial set up and long term maintenance. The purpose of this research is not to provide easy answers, but to provide a framework by which more informed choices may be made.

Chris Fletcher: Cultural perspectives on knowledge flows in an Dene community: A case study on property and propriety

November 25th, 4:00pm, Arts 112

In this presentation I will discuss a community-based research project in which Dene medical knowledge and practices are being documented. Specifically the focus will be on how notions of property inflect the research process and how a culturally-informed approach moves us from simplistic notions of intellectual property to nuanced practices of inter-personal propriety.

Ofer Arazy: Theory-Driven Design in Information Systems

December 2nd, 4:00pm, Arts 112

The advent of information technology (IT) has had a profound impact on business and society, especially in collaborative work processes, where humans and computers work jointly to attain organizational goals. In order to better understand such complex techno-social systems, a bridge must be built between theories of human behavior and principles of IT design. The overriding theme of my research is to link the area of information systems engineering with theories of human behavior from the fields of psychology and sociology, and in the past few years I’ve been developing a framework for theory-driven design. In this talk, I will introduce my approach to system design and use the design of social recommender systems as an illustration.
This talk is based on a paper at http://aisel.aisnet.org/jais/vol11/iss9/2/

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Mind the Gap: Public Talks (May 2010)

MIND THE GAP is a week-long workshop on the uses of High-Performance Computing in the humanities with the goal of coordinating a research agenda at the intersection of HPC and the digital humanities. MIND THE GAP combines invited talks and time for training and development. For more information see MIND THE GAP web site.

The invited talks are open to all and include:

Robyn Taylor: Exploring Human Computer Interaction through Performance Practice

May 11th, 9:30am, Telus Centre, Room 236-238

Our research team conducts practice-based research into human computer interaction using my work as an interactive artist to probe and explore the way people interact with ambiguous interfaces in public spaces. We have adopted a pragmatic strategy of addressing technologically mediated participatory performance in order to use collaborative performance as an investigatory tool in the exploration of user behavior. By taking a holistic view of the evaluation of the interplay between the designed artefact (the performance content) and the people who interact and relate to it, we extract insights from the performance with the intention of informing the process of designing interaction mechanisms for more conventional public interfaces. This presentation will describe the interplay between creative practice and investigative research to illustrate how a multidisciplinary approach can help explore new problem domains.

Robyn Taylor is a member of the Advanced Man-Machine Interface Laboratory at the University of Alberta, Canada. Her research and creative interests combine her two great loves: music and technology.

Patrick Juola: Computers, Conjectures, and Creativity

(or How we can get the computer to do the heavy lifting for us)

May 11th, 2:30pm, Telus Centre, Room 236-238

Computers and massive databases have made literary research much easier; you can have literally millions of books at your fingertips. At the same time, this has made literary research much harder; if you don't know exactly what you're looking for, you can't possibly read "literally millions of books." This paper explores some of the implications of a new method of reading --- more accurately, a new method of avoiding reading --- using automatic hypothesis generation. Discussed are some of the intellectual precursors such as exploration of the mathematics of graph theory, a new system for generating and testing hypotheses via supercomputer, and some of the potentials for interpreting and using computer-generated "facts" to achieve human understanding.

Patrick Juola is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Duquesne University. He has worked on authorship attribution and on text analysis.

Paul Lu: Cloud Computing and HPC

May 12th, 2:30pm, Telus Centre, Room 236-238

Cloud computing is gaining a lot of attention. We will try to define and discuss the different forms of cloud computing (e.g., software as a service, platform as a service, and infrastructure as a service) and how they can be used to support research. We will also compare and contrast cloud computing with WestGrid's approach to high-performance computing.

Paul Lu is the current University of Alberta member of the WestGrid Executive. WestGrid (www.westgrid.ca) is the high-performance computing consortia in Western Canada. He is also an Associate Professor of Computing Science with research programs in parallel and distributed systems, virtual machines, and bioinformatics.

Stephen Ramsay, Knowing It When You See It: Humanistic Inquiry in the Age of Big Data

May 13th, 9:30am, Telus Centre, Room 236-238

Large-scale data repositories -- of which Google Books is a striking, though not exclusive example -- are prompting humanists to ask questions like "What do you do with a million books?" and to propose new tools and techniques for analyzing cultural heritage materials at scale. For Stephen Ramsay, such questions and proposals underscore long-standing cultural anxieties about humanistic inquiry and computing. He suggests that radical changes may need to be made in the way both fields conceive of themselves methodologically, and points out some ways in which present debates about technology reflect older forms of concern about classification, preservation, canonicity, and interpretation.

Stephen Ramsay is an Associate Professor of English and a Fellow at the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He has written and lectured widely on subjects related to software design for the humanities and critical theory. His book, Reading Machines: Toward an Algorithmic Criticism, is due from the University of Illinois Press later this year.



Colloquium Series for Winter 2010

The Canadian Institute for Research in Computing and the Arts and TAPoR are sponsoring a Humanities Computing Research Colloquium at the University of Alberta. Here is the Winter schedule. Locations, Titles and Abstracts will follow.


Willard McCarty: Computers and Reading

Dr. Willard McCarty of King's College London is a University of Alberta Distinguished Visiting Speaker from April 7th to April 13th. He is giving a series of talks on Computers and Reading. His public talks are:

April 7th, 7:00 - 8:30 pm, Telus 236 - A Pisgah-Sight of Readers and Texts
April 8th, 11:00 am - 12:00 pm, Arts 326 - The Profits of Anxiety and Failure: Critics and Computing 1949-1991
April 9th, 2:00 - 3:00 pm, Arts 326 - Emergent Theory: Writing a Recent History for the Present
April 12th, 2:00 - 3:00 pm, Humanities Centre 2-37 - Excitement Elsewhere: Cybernetics and Complementarity
April 13th, 11:00 am, Arts 326 - The Future: What's Going On? What's To Be Done?

March 19th, 4:00pm - 5:30pm, Arts 112

Title: A Platform for Visualizing and Sharing Collective Cultural Information by Dr. Shinya Saito and
Constructing a Global Portal for the Study of Japanese Cultures through Digital Humanities by Mitsuyuki Inaba

On March 19th CIRCA is organizing two short talks by researchers visiting from Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto. There will be time for questions after each talk. This is a chance to meet colleagues from the Digital Humanities Center for Japanese Arts and Culture.

February 26th, All Day

HuCon 2010: Current Graduate Research in Humanities Computing This is a full-day conference. See the web site at http://huco.arts.ualberta.ca/~hucoconf/

February 4th, 3:00pm, Arts 112

Peter Baskerville University of Alberta

Title: Worth of Children and Women: Life Insurance in Early Twentieth Century Canada
Abstract: In the late nineteenth century life insurance came of age in Canada. Indeed one contemporary believed that he lived in an era that exhibited a “mania for life insurance”. While historians know something about growth trends and the major companies involved in that business—although not nearly as much as we might wish—, we know next to nothing about the people who bought life insurance. This is especially true for women and children even though a special insurance called Industrial insurance emerged in this period largely to satisfy the demand for children and womens' insurance needs.
Who insured children? Who were the women who took out insurance? This paper argues that cultural and economic differences underlay decisions to purchase industrial insurance in early twentieth century Canada and that these purchases contributed to and were markers of changing gendered behaviour in the public sphere.

Colloquium Series for Fall 2009

The Canadian Institute for Research in Computing and the Arts and TAPoR are sponsoring a Humanities Computing Research Colloquium at the University of Alberta. Here is the Fall schedule. Locations, Titles and Abstracts will follow.


September 24th, 3:00pm, Arts 112

Teresa Dobson and the INKE Research Group University of British Columbia

Title: The Role of Multimedia Literature in Critical Literary Education
Abstract: It is arguable that some of the most innovative text experiments online—ones that truly push the boundaries of established conventions of writing, and that work to explore the particular affordances of digital media—have occurred in creative contexts where the literary and design communities converge with a view to generating alternate, innovative, multimedia forms. One such form is electronic literature, which is defined by the Electronic Literature Organization as a class of “works with important literary aspects that take advantage of the capabilities and contexts provided by the stand-alone or networked computer” (ELO, 2006, n.p.). E-literature includes genres such as hypertext fiction, reactive poetry, blog novels, Flash fiction and poetry, generative art, installation, code poetry, and so on. This presentation considers the features of multimedia literary forms through an examination of two examples and contemplates the value of these innovative texts for critical literary education.

October 9th, 4:00pm, Arts 112

Mark Davies Professor of (Corpus) Linguistics, Brigham Young University

Title: Using robust corpora to examine genre-based variation and recent historical shifts in English
Abstract: We'll use data from a number of different corpora that we've created to look at change and variation in English. The corpora include the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA: 400+ million words, 1990-2009+), the TIME Corpus of Historical American English (100 million words, 1920s-2000s), the BYU-OED Corpus (37 million words; Old English - Present Day English) and the BYU-BNC Corpus (UK, 1980s-1993). We'll look at the range of queries afforded by these corpora (lexical, semantic, morphological, and semantic), as well as how they are made possible by the corpus architecture. We'll also briefly consider some design issues, such as genre representation and copyright issues.

November 20th, 3:00pm, Arts 112

Sandra Gabriele

Title: Visual Differentiation in Look-alike Medication Names: Evaluating design in context
Abstract: The aim of this study is to evaluate ways that visual communication design, and more specifically, typography, can be used to help combat the problem of medication errors that occur during the medication process due to the confusion between pairs of look-alike (orthographically similar) medication names. Methods and results from a smaller study were revisited to inform the design of this larger study.
Nursing and pharmacy participants will help determine the effectiveness of changing the visual appearance of part of a look-alike name to help distinguish it from its look-alike counterpart. Names will be evaluated with in contexts that simulate situations found in a hospital setting – shelf labeling, electronic patient charts and medication labeling – thus making the results useful to current practices in healthcare.

December 10th, 3:00pm, Arts 112

Robyn Taylor

Title: Exploring User Experience through Participatory Performance
Abstract: We have adopted a pragmatic strategy of addressing technologically mediated participatory performance in order to use collaborative performance as an investigatory tool in the exploration of user behavior. By taking a holistic view of the evaluation of the interplay between the designed artefact (the performance content) and the people who interact and relate to it, we can extract insights from the performance with the intention of informing the process of designing interaction mechanisms for more conventional public interfaces. This presentation will describe some of the participatory performances we have created, and explore our observations of design issues which occur when interactive technologies are deployed in public spaces.

Thanks to Sean, Stan and John for helping organize this.