I am an assistant professor (UD) at the User-Centric Data Science group at the Computer Science department of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU). I am also a senior research fellow at Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision. In my research, I combine (Semantic) Web technologies with Human-Computer Interaction, Knowledge Representation and Information Extraction to tackle research challenges in various domains. These include Cultural Heritage, Digital Humanities and ICT for Development (ICT4D). More information on these projects can be found on this site or through my CV .

The Benefits of Linking Metadata for Internal and External users of an Audiovisual Archive

[This post describes the Master Project work of Information Science students Tim de Bruijn and John Brooks and is based on their theses]

Audiovisual archives adopt structured vocabularies for their metadata management. With Semantic Web and Linked Data now becoming more and more stable and commonplace technologies, organizations are looking now at linking these vocabularies to external sources, for example those of Wikidata, DBPedia or GeoNames.

However, the benefits of such endeavors to the organizations are generally underexplored. For their master project research, done in the form of an internship at the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision (NISV), Tim de Bruijn and John Brooks conducted a case study into the benefits of linking the “Common Thesaurus for Audiovisual Archives(or GTAA) and the general-purpose dataset Wikidata. In their approach, they identified various use cases for user groups that are both internal (Tim) as well as external (John) to the organization. Not only were use cases identified and matched to a partial alignment of GTAA and Wikidata, but several proof of concept prototypes that address these use cases were developed. 

 

For the internal users, three cases were elaborated, including a calendar service where personnel receive notifications when an author of a work has passed away 70 years ago, thereby changing copyright status of the work. This information is retrieved from the Wikidata page of the author, aligned with the GTAA entry (see fig 1 above).

A second internal case involves the new ‘story platform’ of NISV. Here Tim implemented a prototype enduser application to find stories related to the one currently shown to the user, based on persons occuring in that story (fig 2).

The external cases centered around the users of the CLARIAH Media Suite. For this extension, several humanities researchers were interviewed to identify worthwile extensions with Wikidata information. Based on the outcomes of these interviews, John Brooks developed the Wikidata retrieval service (fig 3).

The research presented in the two theses are a good example of User-Centric Data Science, where affordances provided by data linkages are aligned with various user needs. The various tools were evaluated with end users to ensure they match their actual needs. The research was reported in a research paper which will be presented at the MTSR2018 conference: (Victor de Boer, Tim de Bruijn, John Brooks, Jesse de Vos. The Benefits of Linking Metadata for Internal and External users of an Audiovisual Archive. To appear in Proceedings of MTSR 2018 [Draft PDF])

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Developing a Sustainable Weather Information System in Rural Burkina Faso

[This post describes the Information Sciences Master Project of Hameedat Omoine and is based on her thesis.] 

In the quest to improve the lives of farmers and improve agricultural productivity in rural Burkina Faso, meteorological data has been identified as one of the is key information needs for local farmers. Various online weather information services are available, but many are not tailored specifically to tis target user group. In a research case study, Hameedat Omoine designed a weather information system that collects not only weather but also related agricultural information and provides the farmers with this information to allow them to improve agricultural productivity and the livelihood of the people of rural Burkina Faso.

The research and design of the system was conducted at and in collaboration with 2CoolMonkeys, a Utrecht-based Open data and App-development company with expertise in ICT for Development (ICT4D).

Following the design science research methodology, Hameedat investigated the requirements for a weather information system, and the possible options for ensuring the sustainability of the system. Using a structured approach, she developed the application and evaluated it in the field with potential Burkinabe end users. The mobile interface of the application featured weather information and crop advice (seen in the  images above). A demonstration video is shown below

Hameedat developed multiple alternative models to investigate the sustainability of the application. For this she used the e3value approach and language. The image below shows a model for the case where a local radio station is involved.

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Testimonials Digital Humanities minor at DHBenelux2018

At the DHBenelux 2018 conference, students from the VU minor “Digital Humanities and Social Analytics” presented their final DH in Practice work. In this video, the students talk about their experience in the minor and the internship projects. We also meet other participants of the conference talking about the need for interdisciplinary research.

 

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Big Data Europe Project ended

All good things come to an end, and that also holds for our great Horizon2020 project “Big Data Europe“, in which we collaborated with a broad range of techincal and domain partners to develop (Semantic) Big Data infrastructure for a variety of domains. VU was involved as work package leader in the Pilot and Evaluation work package and co-developed methods to test and apply the BDE stack in Health, Traffic, Security and other domains..

You can read more about the end of the project in this blog post at the BDE website.

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André Baart and Kasadaka win IXA High Potential Award

Andre and his prizeOn 19 June, André Baart was awarded the High Potential Award at the Amsterdam Science & Innovation en Impact Awards for his and W4RA‘s work on the Kasadaka platform.

Kasadaka (“talking box”) is an ICT for Development (ICT4D) platform to develop voice-based technologies for those who are not connected to the Internet, cannot not read and write, and speak underresourced languages.

As part of a longer-term project, the Kasadaka Voice platform and software development kit (VSDK), has been developed by André Baart as part of his BSc and MSc research at VU. In that context it has been extensively tested in the field, for example by Adama Tessougué, journalist and founder of radio Sikidolo in Konobougou, a small village in rural Mali. It was also evaluated in the context of the ICT4D course at VU, by 46 master students from Computer Science, Information Science and Artificial Intelligence. The Kasadaka is now in Sarawak Malaysia, where it will be soon deployed in a Kampong, by Dr. Cheah Waishiang, ICT4D researcher at the University of Malasia Sarawak (UNIMAS), and students from VU and UNIMAS.

André is currently pursuing his PhD in ICT4D at Universiteit van Amsterdam and still member of the W4RA team.

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Presenting the CARPA project

The ICT4D project CARPA, funded by NWO-WOTRO had its first stakeholder workshop today at the Amsterdam Business School of UvA. From our project proposal: The context for CARPA (Crowdsourcing App for Responsible Production in Africa) lies in sustainable and responsible business. Firms are under increasing pressure to ensure sustainable, responsible production in their supply chains.. Lack of transparency about labour abuses and environmental damages has led some firms to cease purchases from the region

.With an interdisciplinary partnership of local NGOs and universities in DRC, Mali, and South Africa, this project aims to generate new evidence-based knowledge to improve transparency about business impacts on responsible production.

Co-creating a smartphone application, we will use crowdsourcing methods to obtain reports of negative social and environmental business impacts in these regions, and follow them over time to understand access to justice and whether and how remediation of such impacts occurs. Data integration and visualization methods will identify patterns in order to provide context and clarity about business impacts on sustainability over time. A website will be developed to provide ongoing public access to this data, including a mapping function pinpointing impact locations.

The project will be led by Michelle Westermann-Behaylo from UvA, with the research work on the ground being executed by UvA’s Francois Lenfant and Andre Baart. Marcel Worring and myself are involved in supervisory roles.

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A look back at UCDS at ICT.Open2018

Two weeks ago, ICT.Open2018 was held in Amersfoort. This event brings together Computer Science researchers from all over the Netherlands and our research group was present with many posters and presentations.

We even won a prize! (Well, a 2nd place prize, but awesome nonetheless). Xander Wilcke presented work on using Knowledge Graphs for Machine Learning. He was awarded the runner-up prize for best poster presentation at ICTOpen2018. Congrats!

 

Ronald Siebes presented work in the ArchiMediaL project on reconstructing 4D street views from historical images.

Oana Inel presented her work on Named Entity Recognition and Gold Standard critiquing. She also demonstrated the Clariah MediaSuite.

Anca Dumitrache talked about using crowdsourcing as part of the Machine Learning life cycle.

Tobias Kuhn talked about Reliable Granular References to Changing Linked Data, which was previously published at ISWC2017.

Cristina Bucur introduced  Linkflows: enabling a web of linked semantic publishing workflows

I talked myself a bit about current work in the ABC-Kb Network Institute project

All in all, this was quite a nice edition of the yearly event for our group. See you next year in Amersfoort!

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An Augmented Reality App to Annotate Art

[This post is based on the Bachelor project by Jurjen Braam and reuses content from his thesis]

The value of Augmented Reality applications has been shown for a number of different tasks. Most of these show that AR applications add to the immersiveness of an experience. For his Bachelor Project, VU student Jurjen Braam researched to what extent AR technology makes sense for the task of annotating artworks.

To this end, Jurjen built a mobile application which allows experts or laypeople to add textual annotations to artworks in three different modes. One mode doesnt show the artwork, but allows for textual input, the 2nd mode shows the work in an image and allows for localised annotations. The last mode is the AR mode, which projects the artwork in the physical space, using the device camera and screen.

Three modes of the Application (Text, 2D, AR)

Jurjen evaluated the three modes through a small user study, which showed that immersion and enjoyment was highest in the AR mode but that this mode was least efficient. Also, participants indicated that for annotation tasks, larger screens would be preferable.

User evaluation in action

This research was a unique endeavour combining a proven technology (AR) and well-known task (Annotation) which identified interesting possibilities for follow-up research.

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W4RA work featured in BBC article

Screenshot of the bBC article
Screenshot of the bBC article “‘Siri, will talking ever top typing?’ By Padraig Belton”

A BBC web article “‘Siri, will talking ever top typing?’ By Padraig Belton features our W4RA work done on voice interfaces for farmer information in Northern Ghana.

Francis Dittoh talks about the need for specific information for farmers in their own language and discusses ongoing research into our Kasadaka system. Anna Bon talks more about the web of voices. Very nice to see our work recognized by international media!

Read more at http://www.bbc.com/news/business-43409952

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Field trip to Ghana, feb 2018

As part of the ongoing W4RA efforts, the VU ICT4D team visited West-Africa once more. This time, we visited Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana. I personally went to Ghana to talk to external PhD candidate Francis Dittoh and his colleagues at the University of Development Studies (UDS) and the SARI institute in Tamale, in Northern Ghana. Francis and myself talking to a shea-butter guideAfter first flying to Accra, I first was able to have a short meeting with my good friend Nana Baah Gyan, who is now an ICT for Development expert in that city. I then flew to Tamale,. where we met up with Francis to talk about his PhD work on information systems for rural farmers.

After colleagues Anna Bon and Hans Akkermans arrived from Burkina Faso, we met with UDS vice-chancellor as well as the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering to  discuss the ongoing collaboration of W4RA and VU with Prof Saa Dittoh, and Francis. We hope to formalize these collaborations in a Memorandum of Understanding between the two universities. We also discuss the ambition of UDS to set up a curriculum in software engineering as part of the undergraduate programs. Such a programme would include a yearly community service courses, where students go into the field. This is very interesting for us as it aligns well with the goals of the ICT4D course at VU. The programmes also include a French language course to allow for smoother cooperation with other Sahel countries (specifically Burkina Faso).The UDS mission statement

We also visited the Savanna Agriculture Research Institute (CSIR-SARI). The situation is comparable to that in Burkina. SARI governs the use of hybrid seeds, which cannot be reused year by year but result in a higher yield. SARI is interested in educating farmers on how to handle these seeds (fertilization, planting etc). There are three classes of seeds: 1) breeder seeds – grown at research institutes, 2) foundation seeds and 3) certified seeds – produced by ~1000 farmers monitored by ~10 seed companies, and certified by an external agency.SARI research institute

Potentially interesting for us is their connection to rural farmers. SARI now mostly does this through extension workers from the ministry of Agriculture. However, because of budget cuts, these are now reduced to roughly 1 extension worker to 2,500 farmers. Therefore, SARI is open to the idea of commucating with farmers directly, for example through a voice-based system. An interesting opportunity could be two-track strategy with a smartphone app for extension workers to allow them to do their work better and a companion voice app for farmers. SARI is very much interested in developing applications in a co-creation process. This would match the research proposal that Francis has submitted to SARI and UDS.

A personal highlight was the 10hr road trip that Francis offered me to join instead of taking a flight back to Accra. Ghana is a beautiful country that changes before your eyes on such a trip. My sincere hope is that the proposed collaborations will lead to many more visits to this great country. 

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