Two weeks ago, I visited the 2023 edition of the Digital Humanities Benelux conference in Brussels. It turned out this was the 10th anniversary edition, which goes to show that the Luxembourgian, Belgian and Dutch DH community is alive and kicking! This years gathering at the Royal Library of Belgium brought together humanities and computer science researchers and practitioners from the BeNeLux and beyond. Participants got to meet interesting tools, datasets and use cases, all the while critically assessing issues around perspective, representation and bias in each.
On the workshop day, I attended part of a tutorial organized by people from Göttingen University on the use of Linked Data for historical data. They presented a OpenRefine and WikiData-centric pipeline also including a batch wikidata editing tool https://quickstatements.toolforge.org/.
The second half of that day I attended a workshop on the Kiara tool presented by the people behind the Dharpa project. The basic premise of the tool makes a lot of sense: while many DH people use Python notebooks, it is not always clear what operations specific blocks of code map to. Reusing other peoples code becomes difficult and reusing existing data transformation code is not trivial. The solution of Kiara is an environment in which pre-defined well-documented modules are made available so that users can easily, find, select and combine modules for data transformation. For any DH infrastructure, one has to make decisions in what flexibility to offer users. My hunch is that this limited set of operations will not be enough for arbitrary DH-Data Science pipelines and that full flexibility (provided by python notebooks) will be needed. Nevertheless, we have to keep thinking on how infrastructures provide support for pipeline transparency, reusability and cater to less digital literate users.
On the first day of the main conference, Roeland Ordelman presented our own work on the CLARIAH MediaSuite: Towards ’Stakeholder Readiness’ in the CLARIAH Media Suite: Future-Proofing an Audio-Visual Research Infrastructure. This talk was preceded by a very interesting talk from Loren Verreyen who worked with a digital dataset of program guides (I know of similar datasets archived at Beeld and Geluid). Unfortunately, the much awaited third talk on the Distracted Boyfriend meme was cancelled.
Interesting talks on the first day included a presentation by Paavo Van der Eecken on capturing uncertainty in manually annotating images. This work “Thinking Outside of the Bounding Box: A Reconsideration of the Application of Computational Tools on Uncertain Humanities Data” and its main premise that disagreement is a valuable signal are reminiscent of the CrowdTruth approach.
A very nice duo-presentation was given by Daria Kondakova and Jakob Kohler on Messy Myths: Applying Linked Open Data to Study Mythological Narratives. This paper uses the theoretical framework of Zgol to back up the concept of hylemes to analyze mythological texts. Such hylemes are triple-like statements (subject-verb-object) that describe events in text. In the context of the project, these hylemes were then converted to full-blown Linked Open Data to allow for linking and comparing versions of myths. A research prototype can be found here https://dareiadareia-messy-myths.streamlit.app/ .
The GLOBALISE project was also present at the conference with presentation about the East-Asian shipping vocabulary and a poster.
At the poster session, I had the pleasure to present a poster from students of the VU DH minor and their supervisors on a tool to identify and link occupations in biographical descriptions.
The keynote by Patricia Murrieta-Flores from University of Lancaster introduced the concept of Cosmovision with respect to the archiving and enrichment of (colonial) heritage objects from meso-America. This concept of Cosmovision is very related to our polyvocality aims and the connection to computer vision is inspiring if not very challenging.
It is great to see that DHBenelux continues to be a very open and engaging community of humanities and computer science people, bringing together datasets, tools, challenges and methods.