Category: Okategoriserade (Page 1 of 2)

A Digital Approach to Global Intellectual History: Text Mining UNESCO

Benjamin G. Martin, Department of History of Science and Ideas, Uppsala University

Alexander Calder’s sculpture “Spirale” (1958) at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. Photo credit: UNESCO / H. D. Berendt.

Recent years have seen a burst of interest in “global intellectual history.” Practitioners debate the precise meaning of this phrase, but it evidently reflects an ambition to take a more inclusive approach to the history of ideas around the world—beyond the Western European core on which the field has traditionally focused—paying attention in particular to the cross-cultural contacts that are so important to our globalized present. [1] The last decade or so has also witnessed growing interest in what could be called digital intellectual history. This trend is characterized by the application of tools and methods from the digital humanities to approach questions in the history of science and ideas. Intellectual history’s digital turn is less well established than its global one, but it seems likely to continue and to grow in scale. [2]

These two trends in intellectual history -— the global and the digital —- seem to have a lot to offer one another. But so far they have developed as it were on parallel tracks: both moving forward but with little contact between them. There are several reasons for this. But one particular challenge to using digital methods as part of a global approach to intellectual history has to do with sources. Locating historical source materials that give us access to a “global” realm is hard enough by itself. Few scholars can handle more than a few languages, and studies of the transnational movement and reception of ideas have often tended “simply to multiply the frame of national history.” [3] Locating sources that are global and amenable to digital analysis is harder still. Most of the big text repositories that intellectual historians have used -— like Eighteenth-Century Collections Online, used in the historian Peter De Bolla’s recent book The Architecture of Concepts —- are national in character. [4] Newspapers, another source in which to follow language use and, perhaps, concept development over time, are likewise almost always national. Moreover, the historical sources that get digitized have so far tended to be from wealthy countries in the global north, with their large, well-financed libraries and expensive digitalization facilities. So far, then, an intellectual historian’s effort to go digital would appear to be at odds with the aspiration to go global.

There is, however, one major arena in which, for the last half-century or so, representatives of nearly every country on earth have regularly met and interacted, and about which a growing mass of digitized historical source materials is available: the world of international organizations. As the historian Sandrine Kott has observed, bodies like the United Nations, the World Health Organization, or the International Olympic Committee can be studied not only as actors in their own right, but as “open social spaces through which we can observe exchanges and circulation” —- including exchanges and circulation of ideas.[5]

This is the point of departure for the research project International Ideas at UNESCO. In this study, researchers and systems developers at Uppsala University and at Humlab (the digital humanities center at Umeå University) apply cutting-edge tools of digital text analysis to a selection of texts produced by this international organization. Founded in 1945 to promote “peace in the minds of men,” UNESCO has debated and acted on matters of particular interest to intellectual historians: the organization and dissemination of knowledge, the role of cultural expression in human communities, and the power of communication across national, ideological and cultural boundaries. Since the early 1960s, when the organization was joined by many newly independent post-colonial states, it has handled these matters as a truly global forum. In recent years, the organization has undertaken an ambitious digitalization project, rendering large quantities of its publications and archival documentation available to the public. In fact, many of these texts still require a good bit of curating before they can be analyzed with digital methods; that curating is what we are working on now! As we move forward, our hope is that new methods of digital text analysis, sophisticated enough to chart conceptual relations and development, will offer exciting ways to explore the global discourse captured in these sources.

Can intellectual history’s digital and global turns be brought together in a way that benefits both? At its most ambitious, International Ideas at UNESCO is an effort to find out.

[1] See for example Samuel Moyn and Andrew Sartori, eds., Global Intellectual History (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013); and the journal Global Intellectual History.
[2] See the discussion of this trend in: Dan Edelstein, “Intellectual History and Digital Humanities”, Modern Intellectual History 13, 1 (2016): 237-246; Mark J. Hill, “Invisible Interpretations: Reflections on the Digital Humanities and Intellectual History”, Global Intellectual History 1, 2 (2016): 130-150; and Jennifer London, “Re-imagining the Cambridge School in the Age of Digital Humanities”, Annual Review of Political Science 19, 1 (2016): 351-373.
[3] Christopher L. Hill, “Conceptual Universalization in the Transnational Nineteenth Century”, in S. Moyn and A. Sartori, eds., Global Intellectual History (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013), 135.
[4] Peter De Bolla, The Architecture of Concepts: The Historical Formation of Human Rights (New York: Fordham University Press, 2013).
[5] https://zeithistorische-forschungen.de/3-2011/4563

On human remains and immersive experiences: A few remarks and concerns

Dr. Agiatis Benardou
Digital Curation Unit, ATHENA Research Center and Department of Informatics, Athens University of Economics and Business


Despite reservations expressed sporadically about the applications of digital methods and immersive technologies (3D modeling, artificial intelligence, augmented and mixed reality) in enhancing, complementing and augmenting human remains for educational or similar purposes in the context of museum exhibitions, historical sites or even television popular culture, it is evident that immersive experiences considerably attract wider audiences, expand potential stakeholder groups and enhance visitor experience (Ynnerman et al. 2016).

The application of digital methods to human remains concerns researchers and specialized practitioners. The ability of 3D modeling to quickly collect high-quality data from anthropological specimens has had wide-reaching implications, from conservation and restoration, to public engagement, to the production of replicas and increased accessibility of digital data (White, Hirst, and Smith 2018).

The latter accelerated the adaptation, adjustment and eventual transformation of these methods in order for digital human remains to be exhibited, often in interactive environments, to the general public.

Some notable examples of immersive technologies for the display of human remains are the interactive visualization and digital anatomy of the Gabelein Man at the British Museum and the immersive experience of the Grauballe Man at the Moesgaard Museum in Denmark, where visitors can activate animations of votive ceremonies (Asingh and Linnerup 2016).

On a more controversial tone, in 2019 BBC1 aired the ”Jack The Ripper – The case reopened” in which a number of experts tried to shed new light on the modus operandi of the famous serial killer by using new technologies and virtual reality. Through a combination of archival records with autopsy simulations, the end result raised concerns about the privacy of the victims and that of their relatives or descendants (Benardou 2019).

While major cultural organizations such as the British Museum regularly review their policy and regulatory framework (Fletcher, Antoine, and Hill 2014), issues still raised by the application of immersive technologies to the public display of human remains remain unresolved; what are the ethical concerns around these practices and in which cases do these concerns revolve just around the remnants themselves rather than around the sensitive narratives that frequently accompany them? Are digital surrogates the answer in cases of unpublished anthropological material and its exhibition to wider audiences? And what are the restrictions (licensing, curation, reuse) of “human remains as data”? The answers will be provided gradually, as the irreversibly ever-evolving immersive technologies are being applied to an increasing number of human bodies of the distant or recent past.

References

Asingh, Pauline, and Niels Lynnerup. 2016. “Bog Bodies: The Grauballe Man.” Technè. La Science Au Service de l’histoire de l’art et de La Préservation Des Biens Culturels 44: 84–89. https://doi.org/10.4000/techne.1134.

Benardou, Agiatis. 2019. “Πόσες φορές ακόμα πρέπει να «ζωντανέψουν» για χάρη της ψυχαγωγίας τα θύματα του Τζακ του Αντεροβγάλτη;” LiFO, April 6, 2019. https://www.lifo.gr/articles/tech-sciences_articles/232727/poses-fores-akoma-prepei-na-zontanepsoyn-gia-xari-tis-psyxagogias-ta-thymata-toy-tzak-toy-anterovgalti.

Fletcher, Alexandra, Daniel Antoine, and JD Hill. 2014. “Regarding the Dead: Human Remains in the British Museum.” The British Museum. .

White, Suzanna, Cara Hirst, and Sian E. Smith. 2018. “The Suitability of 3D Data: 3D Digitisation of Human Remains.” Archaeologies 14: 250–71. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11759-018-9347-9.

Ynnerman, Anders, Thomas Rydell, Daniel Antoine, David Hughes, Anders Perrson, and Patric Ljung. 2016. “Interactive Visualization of 3D Scanned Mummies at Public Venues.” Communications of the ACM 59 (12): 72–81. https://doi.org/10.1145/2950040.

Video: Enriching metadata – Enriching Research (June 2020)

Recordings from Enriching metadata – Enriching Research are now available online!

The webinar series was organized by The Swedish National Heritage Board in collaboration with DH Uppsala and with support from the Europeana Research Grants Programme.

The event, which was held in June 2020, was aimed at researchers, students and professionals working with museum and archive collections, digitalization and/or research strategies. The aim was to provide examples and advice on using metadata for research and outreach, inform about standards and practices regarding metadata, and highlight the benefits of heritage institutions collaborating with Academia in enriching collection metadata.

Read more here and here.

You can view the whole series through this youtube-playlist – and the introduction is embedded below:

Death in a Digital World: the (re)construction of a Bronze Age tomb from Ayios Vasileios, Greece, using Virtual Reality

Yannick de Raaff, Groningen Institute of Archaeology, University of Groningen

In this blogpost I would like to illustrate how and why we have applied digital techniques (photogrammetry and Virtual Reality) to solve a specific archaeological problem. Our study concerns the architecture of a Bronze Age (early Mycenaean; ca. 1700-1420 BCE) tomb from the North Cemetery of Ayios Vasileios, Lakonia, Greece. This particular tomb (called Tomb 21) is roughly rectangular in shape (inner dimensions ca. 2.26 x 1.33 m), and was filled to the edge with a large mass of some 200 stones, evidently the remains of a roof (figure 1). However, even after the complete removal of all the stones, careful recording and the excavation of inhumations underneath we were unsure about the original shape and construction of the roof. How would this hodgepodge of stones once have formed a cover, and how had it collapsed? Rebuilding the roof in real life was not possible, since the tomb had been backfilled after the excavation was completed. Therefore, we decided to address this issue by using digital techniques.

Fig. 1 The mass of stones found inside the tomb. Presumably these form the remains of the original roof of the tomb prior to its collapse.

With the financial help of several grants we started working together with the Virtual and Augmented Reality experts from the Reality Center of the University of Groningen. A VR-environment was created in Unreal Engine using a surface model of the empty tomb, and 3D models of the collapsed stones were made and added to it. Both the interior of the excavated tomb and the stones were modelled with Structure for Motion (Sfm; also called photogrammetry). The VR-environment offered us three main advantages. Firstly, we could scrutinize the still standing walls of the tomb from any angle, even after completion of the excavation. Secondly, by carefully studying the various photographs and videos of the collapsed stones as they were being excavated, we could approximate their position within the tomb and place them in that position within the VR-environment. That allowed us to better understand the relative position of the various stones within the tomb and vis-à-vis each other, and thus the collapse (figure 2). Lastly, the stones could be restacked interactively in an attempt to recreate/approach the original appearance of the tomb’s roof and explore which types were likely and which were not. 

Fig. 2. Several slabs have been placed back into the tomb. Their position has been approximated through the careful examination of excavation photos. Note how several slabs have a highly similar gradient. 

After the modeling, programming and the gathering of parallels of contemporary tombs, it was finally time to put on the VR-goggles, strap on the controllers, and start with our life-size three-dimensional puzzle. Weeks were spent in the virtual tomb, labouring under a virtual Greek sun, grabbing stones with the controllers, moving them around, putting them in place, pressing the ‘save’ button, and trying again. After many attempts, we were able to confidently refute a number of designs – most likely, the tomb was first covered by a series of beams on top of which were placed first the largest slabs (these were found deepest inside the tomb and must therefore have fallen down first), and then the remainder of the stones were placed on top, creating a cairn (figure 3). Judging by the way the stones had fallen down, it seems likely that the beams broke and caused first the slabs and then the rest to tumble inwards. Instead of merely hypothesizing about the tomb’s cover and its collapse, the digital techniques have made it possible for us to test hypotheses in a structured and argued manner. Virtual Reality was in a way used to perform experimental archaeology in a digital environment.  (For further information, see the embedded video below.)

Fig. 3. We think it is most likely that the tomb was covered with wooden beams laid across the widths, which in turn were covered first by the slabs and then the remainder of the stones. 

The project is included in the DIG IT ALL-exhibition of the University Museum (University of Groningen), and so is the video added below this blogpost. More information on the exhibition can be found on the website: https://www.universiteitsmuseumgroningen.nl. The exhibition is part of the centennial celebrations of the Groningen Institute of Archaeology and includes various other archaeological projects that have included innovative digital techniques. Our project has been presented so far at various conferences (click link for PowerPoint presentation), and a scientific article will appear in the proceedings of the Lakonia conference.

The excavations at the Ayios Vasileios North Cemetery are directed by Sofia Voutsaki, as part of the Ayios Vasileios Project, directed by A. Vasilogamvrou, Director Emerita of Laconia Ephorate, and carried out under the auspices of the Archaeological Society at Athens. Our thanks go out to the Groningen Institute of Archaeology (GIA), the Ammodo Foundation, the Institute of Aegean Prehistory, the Mediterranean Archaeology Trust and the Centre of Digital Humanities. This reconstruction project was a collaboration between archaeologists from the GIA (Yannick de Raaff, Sofia Voutsaki, Theo Verlaan and Gary Nobles) and staff of the Centre for Information Technology, interfaculty V / AR hub (Gert-Jan Verheij, Frans van Hoesel and Pjotr Svetachov. 

“Digital Ayios Vasileios”. Video of the reconstruction.

Working across philology, landscape archaeology, and digital humanities

Below the 5th century BCE inscription of Darius the Great at Bīsutūn, Iran, in August 2018

I started out as an Assyriologist*, specializing in the world of cuneiform, a script in broad use across much of the Middle East from c. 3,300 BC until c. 100 AD. Not too many are studying it, and relatively few of that exclusive lot were doing much with a computer. Later, for my doctorate, I ventured into landscape archaeology, a field which had next to nothing to do with cuneiform, something my doctoral supervisor gently pointed out to me when he said that I had committed quite a career suicide by coming over. At least in the short term. For the first year, I locked myself into a basement trying to learn the basics of GIS and remote sensing, with a whole bunch of nerds who knew nothing whatsoever about cuneiform, but very much about exotic abbreviations such as GPS, GCPs, CRS, LIDAR, UAV, and DEMs, and compound curiosities like georectification, least-cost-pathways, viewscapes, panchromatic, and shapefile. I found myself constantly returning to my supervisor’s office half a day after each meeting we had, to say that we fundamentally misunderstood each other concerning whatever interface between philology and landscape archaeology we had last discussed.

Gradually, however, I also realized that each of those meetings produced something genuinely new because, being so wildly unfamiliar with common knowledge in each other’s fields, we constantly found ourselves asking new questions, addressing new issues, seeing new perspectives in matter otherwise all told and accounted for. A lot of this came straight out of the elementary yet stimulating challenge of how to integrate data and knowledge from very different fields of research within a common frame. And that’s what I found so immensely fascinating about digital fora in an academic setting, then and now. That subtle ability of a shared methodological or technical forum to bring different perspectives, different minds, different disciplines together, oftentimes for purposes that were rarely immediately clear to anyone involved. Thus, my doctoral dissertation came to deal with a very novel combination of quantitative approaches to data contained in a couple of thousand administrative texts – and settlement patterns as derived from spatial data sets that the nerds in the basement had been playing around with for years. The core argument was that, when properly scaled within a formal and coherent analytical frame, ancient texts could indeed be brought to bear on conclusions derived from satellite imagery and site mapping at a regional level. In my case casting some decent, and empirically solid, light on the material size of early state economies.

Draft distribution map of close to 250,000 cuneiform texts ordered by genre from c. 200 archaeological locations across the Middle East

My current work at Uppsala University, and my engagement with Digital Humanities Uppsala, is very much a result of those early exposures to very different ways of studying and approaching the past. Our brand-new research project at Assyriology, funded by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond and called Geomapping Landscapes of Writing, or GLoW for short, aims to trace the distributional and compositional outlines of a discrete historical record, namely the cuneiform corpus, in its entirety. Counting perhaps half a million known texts, spanning a temporal transect of some 3,000 years, and traversing a geographical area reaching from the central Mediterranean to the eastern deserts of Iran, this corpus offers an opportunity to study the role of writing in early human history, its material distribution and composition, from a birds-eye perspective. Such an undertaking would have been unthinkable a decade ago, and its methodology owes as much to landscape archaeology as it does to cuneiform studies. Related ideas underpin the research network TextWorlds: Global Mapping of Texts from the Pre-Modern World, another new initiative that I am involved in, funded by CIRCUS, which will bring together philologists, archaeologists, and historians from across the university to discuss and explore shared traits between written corpora from around the world. A crucial basis for such initiatives is the ability to work from a shared, read digital, methodological platform able to capture vast amounts of data from seemingly disparate disciplines, each with their own way of approaching and studying the past, and oversee it within a shared frame of scholarly inquiry. So, over the next three years, I am looking forward to spending even more time lingering over applications, programs, and code with researchers from across the humanities and social sciences, debating, experimenting, and discovering new ways of fusing together our various specialties. From past experience, I would say that fora like Digital Humanities Uppsala are perfect for that sort of activity.

* Don’t worry if you don’t know what that is. Back in the pre-digital age, one of my teachers had been enrolled at Psychology for most of his undergraduate years because the university administration didn’t know either.

Digital diasporas: an overview of the research areas of migration and new media through a narrative literature review

By Dr. Kerstin B Andersson, Dept. of Linguistics and Philology, Uppsala University / Swedish Council of Higher Education

I’m a media anthropologist and Indologist, currently working on the Indian diaspora and communication. During the last couple of years, I have focused my research on the distinct field of migration and the use of new media and social media, a growing academic field. 

The impact and importance of the new technologies for migrants is well established. Appropriation of ICTs and new media environments have become a ubiquitous feature of everyday life in migrant groups. The development of the research field is closely related to the expansion of ICTs and new media. The first studies dealing explicitly with the field of migration and new media appeared in the end of the 1990s. Now, it has become an established academic research field. 

Academic research in the field of migration and the use of new media is interdisciplinary, drawing on approaches from a number of subject areas, such as anthropology, migration studies, media and communication studies, studies in new science, Internet studies, sociology, and cultural studies. The research area is understudied, characterized by rapid changes and shifts, and is shaped by the changing structural conditions of migrants and the proliferation of forms of media. For example, the 2015 European refugee crisis led to a number of studies on the impact of new media on forced migration.

In a recent article, I provide a comprehensive overview of the rapidly expanding academic field of migration and the use of new media. So far, the research field has been characterized by an increasing number of empirical case studies on the use of new media in migrant groups. Through a review of the existing literature in the field, I provide an inclusive narrative synthesis of the academic field. The result is presented in the form of a narrative literature review, where I elaborate on the status of the research field, the primary themes and topics of research interest, the theoretical and conceptual issues under investigation, and the methodological approaches to research in this field. 

Link to the full article: https://humantechnology.jyu.fi/archive/vol-15/issue-2/digital-diaspora

Kerstin B. Andersson

Digital Humanities at Oxford Summer School 2019

By Amalia Juneström, Department of ALM, Uppsala University

My name is Amalia, and I’m a PhD student from the Department of ALM at Uppsala University. Thanks to a grant from Riksbankens Jubileumsfond – The Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences – which allows researchers to attend the annual summer school for the digital humanities at Oxford University, I had the privilege of participating in the week-long summer school in Oxford earlier this summer.

When I left for Oxford, I had already been involved in the planning of our own new international and interdisciplinary digital humanities master’s programme, which will start in our department this autumn. It has been an enjoyable experience, and I was looking forward to participating further. However, although I was well aware of the increasing role played by tools and techniques from the digital humanities field within my own discipline, my relationship to them had so far been tangential. To tell the truth, my own experience of many of the new computer-based techniques used within both my own field and the digital humanities had been one based on a mixture of fascination and trepidation. In short, I felt an urgent need to broaden my understanding of this knowledge domain; the opportunity to participate in a one-week introduction course was therefore much appreciated.

The summer school offered a variety of strands providing insight into different domains of knowledge within the digital landscape. In order to improve my general understanding of the digital humanities, I chose the strand ‘An Introduction to Digital Humanities’. In terms of participant numbers, this strand turned out to be by far the largest within the summer school, and it was well suited for those who, like me, wanted to better acquaint themselves with the tools and methods found within the interdisciplinary field of the digital humanities. Unlike the other workshop-based strands, which offered hands-on practical training in the techniques and tools of each course, the strand that I chose was mainly lecture based, making it well suited to beginners. By drawing on expertise from many different fields, the lectures offered insight into a range of research approaches embraced by the digital humanities.

During the five days of the summer school, we checked out a selection of research scopes such as text mining, digital archiving and musicology. I think that everyone who participated found it useful to go through such a wide variety of topics, digital tools and methodological spheres of application. All in all, I found the selection of themes and topics at the summer school very well organised and rewarding. Also, I am truly convinced that location and setting can have a great impact on the outcomes of learning, and what location could be better for acquiring new knowledge than Oxford, one of the world’s most famous centres of learning? But even if you don’t believe there’s a connection between location and successful learning, the historical setting made the experience highly memorable, and I really appreciated our accommodations in the romantically Victorian red-brick Keble college, whose historical atmosphere was reminiscent of Brideshead Revisited.

By attending the summer school, I definitely acquired a better understanding of some of the research methods and techniques which are important within my own research field and which are of interest to my own academic journey. I would like to thank Riksbankens Jubileumsfond for the opportunity to take part in the summer school, and I encourage everyone who has an interest in the digital humanities to check out the programme for next year’s summer school and apply!

Amalia Juneström and the famous “Oxford Dodo”
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