Kickoff meeting Mixed Methods in the Humanities projects

Last week, the Volkswagen Stiftung-funded “Mixed Methods’ in the Humanities?” programme had its kickoff meeting for all funded projects in in Hannover, Germany. Our ArchiMediaL project on enriching and linking historical architectural and urban image collections was one of the projects funded through this programme and even though our project will only start in September, we already presented our approach,  the challenges we will be facing and who will face them (our great team of post-docs Tino Mager, Seyran Khademi and Ronald Siebes). Group picture. Can you spot all the humanities and computer science people?Other interesting projects included analysing of multi-religious spaces on the Medieval World (“Dhimmis and Muslims”); the “From Bach to Beatles” project on representing music and schemata to support musicological scholarship as well as the nice Digital Plato project which uses NLP technologies to map paraphrasing of Plato in the ancient world. An overarching theme was a discussion on the role of digital / quantitative / distant reading methods in humanities research. The projects will run for three years so we have some time to say some sensible things about this in 2020.

 

 

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EVENTS2017 workshop at SEMANTiCS

An important role in the interpretation of cultural heritage collections is played by ‘historic events’. In the SEMANTiCS workshop Events2017: Understanding Events Semantics in Cultural Heritage, to be held on 11 Sept 2017, we will investigate and discuss challenges around identifying, representing, linking and reasoning about historical events. We invite full papers (8p) as well as short papers (4p) on this topic.

The call for papers is out now.  You have until July 10, 2017 to submite your contribution. Contributions can include original research papers, position papers, or papers describing tools, demonstrators or datasets. Accepted contributions will be published on the CEUR-WS website (or equivalent).

More information at https://events2017workshop.wordpress.com/

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Dutch Ships and Sailors SPARQL handson exercises

I made some exercises a while ago but keep re-using them for SPARQL tutorials and hands on sessions. I now moved them to a new webpage. This page presents SPARQL queries in increasing complexity that one can copy-paste into the interactive query field of the Dutch Ships and Sailors live triple store.

Have fun with these Handson SPARQL excercises (updated May 2017)

Below you can also find the slides I used this tuesday for a workshop around Linked Data, Dutch Ships and Sailors and SPARQL, which form the introduction to the handson session.

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[Reading club] Dance in the World of Data and Objects

This is a first post in a new series on VU Semantic Web reading club. During this weekly reading club we discuss a research paper related to Semantic Web, Human Computation or Computer Science in general. Every week, one group member selects and prepares a paper to discuss. This week it was my time and I chose a paper from 2013: “Dance in the World of Data and Objects” by Katerina El Raheb and Yannis Ioannidis (full citation and abstract below). The paper presents the need for (OWL) ontologies for dance representation. A quite nice slide deck supporting the paper is found here.

‘Dance’. CC-By (Teresa Alexander-Arab) 

Computer-interpretable knowledge representations for dance is something I have been thinking about for a while now. I am mostly interested in representations that actually match the conceptual level at which dancers and choreoraphers communicate and how these are related to low-level representations such as Labanotation. I am currently supervising two Msc students on this topic.

The paper by El Raheb and Ioannidis and our discussion afterwards outlined the potential use of such a formal representations for:

  1. Archiving dance and for retrieval. This is a more ‘traditional’ use of such representations in ICT for Cultural Heritage. An interesting effect of having this represented using standard semantic web languages is that we can connect deep representations of choreographers to highly heterogeneous knowledge about for example dance or musical styles, locations, recordings, emotions etc. An interesting direct connection could be to Albert Merono’s RDF midi representations.
  2. For dance analysis. By having large amounts of data in this representation, we can support Digital Humanities research. Both in more distant reading, but potentially also more close analysis of dance. Machine learning techniques could be of use herer.
  3. For creative support. Potentially very interesting is to investigate to what extent representations of dance can be used to support the creative process of dancers and choreographers. We can think of pattern-based adaptations of choreographies.

 

Citation: El Raheb K., Ioannidis Y. (2013) Dance in the World of Data and Objects. In: Nesi P., Santucci R. (eds) Information Technologies for Performing Arts, Media Access, and Entertainment. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 7990. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg

Abstract: In this paper, we discuss the challenges that we have faced and the solutions we have identified so far in our currently on-going effort to design and develop a Dance Information System for archiving traditional dance, one of the most significant realms of intangible cultural heritage. Our approach is based on Description Logics and aims at representing dance moves in a way that is both machine readable and human understandable to support semantic search and movement analysis. For this purpose, we are inspired by similar efforts on other cultural heritage artifacts and propose to use an ontology on dance moves (DanceOWL) that is based on the Labanotation concepts. We are thus able to represent dance movement as a synthesis of structures and sequences at different levels of conceptual abstraction, which serve the needs of different potential users, e.g., dance analysts, cultural anthropologists. We explain the rationale of this methodology, taking into account the state of the art and comparing it with similar efforts that are also in progress, outlining the similarities and differences in our respective objectives and perspectives. Finally, we describe the status of our effort and discuss the steps we intend to take next as we proceed towards the original goal.

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DIVE+ Submitted to LODLAM

Here’s the submission to the annual LODLAM challenge from the DIVE+ team. In this video, we introduce the ideas behind DIVE+ and take you for a exploratory swim in the linked media knowledge graph!

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Web and Media at ICT.OPEN2017

On 21 and 22 March, researchers from VU’s Web and Media group attended ICT.OPEN, the principal ICT research conference in the Netherlands. Here over 500 scientists from all ICT research disciplines & interested researchers from industry come together to learn from each other, share ideas and network. The conference featured some great keynote speeches, including one from Nissan’s Erik Vinkhuyzen on the role of anthropological and sociological research to develop better self-driving cars.  Barbara Terhal from Aachen University gave a challenging, but well-presented talk on the challenges regarding robustness for quantum computing.

As last year, the Web and Media group this year was well represented through multiple oral presentations with accompanying posters and demonstrations :

  • Oana Inel, Carlos Martinez and Victor de Boer presented DIVEplus. Oana did such a good job presenting the project in the main programme (see Oana’s DIVE+@ICTOpen2017 slides), through the demo and in front of a poster that the poster was selected as best Poster in the SIKS track.
  • Benjamin Timmermans, Tobias Kuhn and Tibor Vermeij presented the Controcurator project with a demonstration and poster presentation. In the demo the ControCurator human-machine framework for identifying controversy in multimodal data is shown.
  • Tobias Kuhn discussed “Genuine Semantic Publishing” in the Computer Science track on the first day. His slides can be found here. After the talk there was a very interesting discussion about the role of the narrative writing process and how it would relate to semantic publishing.
  • Ronald Siebes and Victor de Boer then discussed how Big and Linked Data technologies developed in the Big Data Europe project are used to deliver pharmacological web-services for drug discovery. You can read more in Ronald’s blog post.
  • Benjamin Timmermans and Zoltan Zslavik also presented the CrowdTruth demonstrator, which is shown in this short demonstrator video.
  • Sabrina Sauer presented the MediaNow project with a nice poster titled MediaNow – using a living lab method to understand media professionals’ exploratory search.

 

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Speech technology and colorization for audiovisual archives

[This post describes and is based on Rudy Marsman‘s MSc thesis and is partly based on a Dutch blog post by him]

The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision (NISV) archives Dutch broadcast TV and makes it available to researchers, professionals and the general public. One subset are the Polygoonjournaals (Public News broadcasts) that are published under open licenses as part of the OpenImages platform. NISV is also interested in exploring new ways and technologies to make interaction with the material easier and to increase exposure to their archives. In this context, Rudy explored two options.

Two stills from the film ‘Steegjes‘, with the right frame colorized. Source: Polygoon-Profilti (producent) / Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid  / colorized by Rudy Marsman, CC BY-SA

One part of the research was the autonomous colorization of old black-and-white video footage using Neural Networks. Rudy used a pre-trained NN (Zhang et al 2016) that is able to colorize black and white images. Rudy developed a program to split videos into frames, colorize the individual frames using the NN and then ‘stitch’ them back together into colorized videos. The stunning results were very well received by NISV employees. Examples are shown below.


Tour de France 1954 (colorized by Rudy Marsman in 2016), Polygoon-Profilti (producent) / Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid (beheerder), CC-BY SA

Results from the comparison of the different variants of the method on different corpora
Results from the comparison of the different variants of the method on different corpora

In the other part of his research, Rudy investigated to what extent the existing news broadcast corpus, with a voice-overs from the famous Philip Bloemendal  can be used to develop a modern text-to-speech engine with his voice. To do so he have mainly focused on natural language processing and the determination to what extent the language used by Bloemendal in the 1970s is still comparable enough to contemporary Dutch.

Rudy used precompiled automatic speech recognition (ASR) results to match words to sounds and developed a slot-and-filler text-to-speech system based on this. To increase the limited vocabulary, he implemented a number of strategies, including term-expansion through the use of Open Dutch Wordnet and smart decompounding (this mostly works for Dutch, mapping ‘sinterklaasoptocht’ to ‘sinterklaas’ and ‘optocht’. The different strategies were compared to a baseline. Rudy found that a combination of the two resulted in the best performance (see figure). For more information:

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ArchiMediaL proposal granted by Volkswagen Stiftung

Volkswagen stiftung letterI received a good news letter from Volkswagen Stiftung who decided to award us a research grant for a 3-year Digital Humanities project named “ArchiMediaL” around architectural history. This project will be a collaboration between  architecture historians from TU Delft,  computer scientists from TU Delft and VU-Web and Media. A number of German scholars will also be involved as domain experts. The project will combine image analysis software with crowdsourcing and semantic linking to create networks of visual resources which will foster understanding of understudied areas in architectural history.
From the proposal:In the mind of the expert or everyday user, the project detaches the digital images from its existence as a single artifact and includes it into a global network of visual sources, without disconnecting it from its provenance. The project that expands the framework of hermeneutic analysis through a quantitative reference system, in which discipline-specific canons and limitations are questions. For the dialogue between the history of architecture and urban form this means a careful balancing of qualitative and quantitative information and of negotiating new methodological approaches for future investigation.

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The Role of Narratives in DIVE

[This post is based on Maartje Kruijt‘s Media Studies Bachelor thesis: “Supporting exploratory search with features, visualizations, and interface design: a theoretical framework“.]

In today’s network society there is a growing need to share, integrate and search in collections of various libraries, archives and museums. For researchers interpreting these interconnected media collections, tools need to be developed.  In the exploratory phase of research the media researcher has no clear focus and is uncertain what to look for in an integrated collection. Data Visualization technology can be used to support strategies and tactics of interest in doing exploratory research

Dive screenshotThe DIVE tool is an event-based linked media browser that allows researchers to explore interconnected events, media objects, people, places and concepts (see screenshot). Maartje Kruijt’s research project involved investigating to what extent and in what way the construction of narratives can be made possible in DIVE, in such a way that it contributes to the interpretation process of researchers. Such narratives can be either automatically generated on the basis of existing event-event relationships, or be constructed  manually by researchers.

The research proposes an extension of the DIVE tool where selections made during the exploratory phase can be presented in narrative form. This allows researchers to publish the narrative, but also share narratives or reuse other people’s narratives. The interactive presentation of a narrative is complementary to the presentation in a text, but it can serve as a starting point for further exploration of other researchers who make use of the DIVE browser.

Within DIVE and Clariah, we are currently extending the user interface based on the recommendations made in the context of this thesis. You can read more about it in Maartje Kruijt’s thesis (Dutch). The user stories that describe the needs of media researchers are descibed in English and found in Appendix I.

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CLARIAH Linked Data Workshop

[This blog post is co-written with Marieke van Erp and Rinke Hoekstra and is cross-posted from the Clariah website]

Background
Linked Data, RDF and Semantic Web are popular buzzwords in tech-land and within CLARIAH. But they may not be familiar to everyone within CLARIAH. On 12 september, CLARIAH therefore organized a workshop at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam to discuss the use of Linked Data as technology for connecting data across the different CLARIAH work packages (WP3 linguistics, WP4 structured data and WP5 multimedia).

Great turnout at Clariah LOD workshop

The goal of the workshop was twofold. First of all, to give an overview from the ‘tech’ side of these concepts and show how they are currently employed in the different work packages. At the same time we wanted to hear from Arts and Humanities researchers how these technologies would best suit their research and how CLARIAH can support them in familiarising themselves with Semantic Web tools and data.

The workshop
Monday afternoon, at 13:00 sharp, around 40 people showed up for the workshop at the Boelelaan in Amsterdam. The workshop included plenary presentations that laid the groundwork for discussions in smaller groups centred around the different types of data from the different WPs (raw collective notes can be found on this piratepad).

Presentations
Rinke Hoekstra presented an Introduction Linked Data: What is it, how does it compare to other technologies and what is its potential for CLARIAH. [Slides]
In the discussion that followed, some concerns about the potential for Linked Data to deal with data provenance and data quality were discussed.
After this, three humanities researchers from each of the work packages discussed experiences, opportunities, and challenges around Linked Data. Our “Linked Data Champions” of this day were:

  • WP3: Piek Vossen (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) [Slides]
  • WP4: Richard Zijdeman (International Institute of Social History)
  • WP5: Kaspar Beelen and Liliana Melgar (University of Amsterdam) [Slides]

Discussions
Marieke van Erp, Rinke Hoekstra and Victor de Boer then discussed how Linked Data is currently being produced in the different work packages and showed an example of how these could be integrated (see image). [Slides]. If you want to try these out yourself, here are some example SPARQL queries to play with.hisco integrated data example

Break out sessions
Finally, in the break out sessions, the implications and challenges for the individual work packages were further discussed.

  • For WP3, the discussion focused on formats. There are manynatural language annotation formats used, some with a long history, and these formats are often very closely connected to text analysis software. One of the reasons it may not be useful to WP3 to convert all tools and data to RDF is that performance cannot be guaranteed, and in some cases has already been proven to not be preserved when doing certain text analysis tasks in RDF. However, converting certain annotations, i.e. end results of processing to RDF could be useful here. We further talked about different types of use cases for WP3 that include LOD.
  • The WP4 break-out session consisted of about a dozen researchers, representing all working packages. The focus of the talk was on the expectations of the tools and data that were demonstrated throughout the day. Various persons were interested to apply QBer, the tool that allows one to turn csv files into Linked Data. The really exciting bit about this, is that the interest was shared by persons outside WP4, thus from persons usually working with text or audio-video sources. This does not just signal the interest in interdisciplinary research, but also the interest for research based on various data types. A second issue discussed was the need for vocabularies ((hierarchical) lists of standard terms). For various research fields such vocabularies do not yet exist. While some vocabularies can be derived relatively easily from existing standards that experts use, it will prove more difficult for a large range of variables. The final issue discussed was the quality of datasets. Should tools be able to handle ‘messy’ data? The audience agreed that data cleaning is the responsibility of the researcher, but that tools should be accompanied by guidelines on the expected format of the datafile.
  • In the WP5 discussion, issues around data privacy and copyrights were discussed as well as how memory institutions and individual researchers can be persuaded to make their data available as LOD (see image).

wp5 result

Closing
The day ended with some final considerations and some well-deserved drinks.

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