Preparing for workshop tomorrow

March 27, 2012 in Home, Night, Teaching, Writing

I should go to bed as my eyes are getting sticky, but I have postponed preparing for my Voyant workshop tomorrow. So … I spent some time go over text analysis tools other than Voyant.

The thing that is new with this workshop is that I asked that it take place over two sessions a week apart. This way participants could play with Voyant, get frustrated, and come back with questions and/or wishes. It remains to be seen if this happens.

We have been teaching Voyant (formerly Voyeur) for some time and have a workshop coming up at DH 2012. I’m convinced that workshops work better than documentation to help people get it. They also put a face on tools so that people (I hope) feel free to ping us when Voyant is down.

I’m also going to introduce TAPoR 2.0 for the first time tomorrow. T.2 is in beta, but it will be the place to go to find out about tools.

Reflecting on the Day of DH

March 27, 2012 in About Day of DH, Blogging, Evening, Home, Project Work, Reflecting

As my Day of DH comes to an end I find myself thinking about the project and what can be done to improve it and so on. Some thoughts in no particular order:

  • As some will have noticed, this is now a centerNet initiative. centerNet is an international organization of digital humanities centres and they have encouraged international participation. I’m pleased to say that we seem to have more non-English folk participating this year, though we won’t know until the dust settles. We also seem to have a lot of students, but again, I may be looking for them.
  • More importantly, the time has come to hand the Day of DH project off to another centre. The Canadian Institute for Research Computing in the Arts organized it and now the time has come for this to migrate to another centre. This is where centerNet will take leadership as this project is now a shared project that we can all use to build community. Is your centre interested?
  • A lot of good stuff is happening on Twitter under the #dayofdh hashtag. We need to find a better way of integrating the two. Perhaps we should think of the project not as a particular technology, but as a harvesting problem. How could we design it so that people use whatever they like, but enhance it so that we can find the posts and aggregate them? Would this make the project too diffuse and abstract for new folk?
  • My sense is that the Day of DH, like a theme park, is a lot more fun for people new to it. It is a project that builds community, especially for people newish to DH or people isolated where they are. It does so without falling, as we often do, into a rhetoric of DH vs. the “traditional” disciplines. For people who have been in the field for a while or people who have an audience, this project may be too dispersed and unfocused.
  • We always have to guard against the project become just navel gazing. We have conferences for that. Fortunately the new participants bring an enthusiasm and seriousness to this that helps us avoid the worst. Perhaps we should introduce themes so that people can focus on issues rather than just themselves.
  • Speaking of conferences, it also strikes me that this format would work as an alternative form of online conference. It doesn’t force people to attend at a particular moment. Everyone gets a voice. You can pick and choose what to listen to. Would thematic versions work?
  • There is no doubt that the Day of DH is not an “objective” account of what we do. We all perform differently when presenting ourselves and documenting what we do. I certainly reflect more. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t help us understand what we do better.
  • I’m tempted to say that the Day of DH is an antidote to Stanley Fish’s blog posts that we are just the next pseudo-revolutionary theory. He reads us as another postmodernism, but he is reading what he recognizes as text. Reading the Day of DH feed I hope a different picture would emerge that shows us as practicioners in community.

Dining at Commons

March 27, 2012 in About Day of DH, Evening, Meeting

I just finished dining in Commons at Trinity. It is one of the privileges of being a Fellow of the Long Room Hub, but I hadn’t taken advantage of it until today. The visiting research fellows of the Hub all gathered and went over. One thing I discovered (too late) is that you can ask for a mug of Guiness and it comes in a silver Trinity mug. I felt a little silly taking a picture, but the Day of DH justifies silliness.

Beer mug at Commons

One thing we are missing in the digital humanities are traditions like those of the older universities. Perhaps the Day of DH will become a tradition, but I doubt it. Traditions, of course, have to be presented as traditions not as the new new thing. In DH, by contrast, we present things (even if traditional) as the new new thing.

Coffee with Geoffrey

March 27, 2012 in Afternoon, Coffee House, Communication, Meeting

Where we meet for coffee

One of the things I’m doing here at Trinity is called “Coffee with Geoffrey.” The idea was to set up two afternoons with a bunch of half hour slots for anyone who wanted to meet up and talk about digital humanities projects. This afternoon I met two students and have one later.

I’ve been surprised how well it has worked (at least for me.) I’m learning a lot about projects here (both from faculty and graduate students) and I hope I’m being of help to the participants. It also allows me to be helpful to the M. Phil in Digital Humanities and Culture students and the PhD in Digital Arts and Culture students without having to prep. I’m guessing that this only works if you have someone from outside who comes and listens. Could it be run over Skype? And … it is the listening with questions that seems to make a difference.

Dictionary of Words in the Wild

March 27, 2012 in About Day of DH, Afternoon, Office, Project Work, Research, Visualization

Directions to the Wax Museum in Dublin

I’ve taken a moment to start uploading the 60 odd photos I have of public textuality to the Dictionary of Words in the Wild. I tend to do this in spurts and self-conscious days like the Day of DH encourage me to do it (partly so that others might find this project and try it.)

Willard McCarty, who is one of the major posters of pictures to the Dictionary, has been asking what we should do with the site when it hits 10,000 images (or words). We are getting there.

It strikes me that on the Day of DH I get more done as I feel I should be doing something useful that I can blog about. I wonder if the self-consciousness brings out the best (or most busy) in us?

How good is an emulator?

March 27, 2012 in Data Collection, Morning, Office, Research

I’m working my way through research tasks. One task I just finished was to watch the video shot by some students at the Game Archive Project (GAP) of Ritsumeikan University. In the Fall I was hosted by Ritsumeikan for three months with support from the Japan Foundation looking at Japanese game culture and game studies. The Game Archive Project has the only official Nintendo emulator. (See photos of the emulator and original Famicom they have.) The emulator was developed by Nintendo for GAP. Professors Hosoi (the director of GAP), Nakamura, Suominen and I decided that it would be interesting to ask how you evaluate an emulator. How do you know how good an emulator is? We therefore have students playing games on the emulator and various alternatives (the original, the Wii emulations of the games, and so on). They are being videotaped so those of us far away can watch how the experiments go. Watching 20 minutes of Donkey Kong and Mario Bros isn’t that interesting, but there do seem to be differences, especially between the original and the Wii emulation. I’m wondering if we could do a sort of Turing test where we would hide the machine being used from an experienced player and they would try guess if it was the original Famicom or one of the emulations.

Walking in to Trinity

March 27, 2012 in Morning, Office, Outside, Travel

I took my time walking in and stopped in to Marsh’s Library behind St. Patrick’s as I hadn’t been there this trip. It is a lovely little library founded in 1701 and the first public library in Ireland. Mind you, “public” meant gentlemen and scholars back then. The library wasn’t open but the librarian let me in and gave me a short tour. I couldn’t take pictures inside, so I took one of the entrance. I also took some photographs of text in the wild for the Dictionary of Words in the Wild.

I then picked up a sandwhich for lunch and a big coffee to make it through email. The picture above is my office in the Long Room Hub. You can see the lovely wood used throughout. You can also see that I don’t have many books on the shelves. Such is the life of a visiting fellow!

Back in Alberta I walk to work, as I do here, and I find it is a good time to order all the things I have to do in my head.


broaDHcast – sharing announcements

March 27, 2012 in Home, Morning, Programming, Project Work, Research

Today I’m testing the production instance of a new collaboration widget that we have developed at the University of Alberta. The idea of broaDHcast is an announcement sharing or broadcasting service. The idea is that you get an account, which gives you a widget to put on your site like the one on my blog, and then you can post announcements that will show up in your widget and that of others. This way digital humanities projects can post announcements that are broadcast across friendly sites. The Javascript widget looks like this:

As the widget is Javascript it doesn’t work inside this post (hmmm …), but it does work in the pipeline for a WordPress site or other type of CMS. The service is almost ready to go – you can’t get an account yet as we need to test it a bit. I’m hoping it will be a simple way to share announcements among online journals, project sites and so on.

This service was developed by the kind folks at the Arts Resource Center Karl Anvik and Omar Rodriguez-Arenas. We had support from SSRHC for this.

Start of the Day

March 27, 2012 in About Day of DH, Blogging, Email, Home, Morning

My day of digital humanities is starting in Dublin, Ireland. I’m here as a Visiting Research Fellow at the Long Room Hub of Trinity College Dublin. I’ll be here for a couple more days and then it is back to Alberta where it probably isn’t as balmy.

Of course I didn’t sleep that well last night worrying about the Day of DH site and whether it would go down so the first thing I did was to check email and check the Activity feed. Everything seems to be working and we have over 270 participants. The system Peter Organisciak set up is working well. (He is brilliant and deserves much praise for making Day of DH happen.)

I came across a post by  where he linked to a YouTube of Vonnegut visualizing plot structure. (See Lapham’s Quarterly has a longer text version of Vonnegut’s take on visualization at

The only events I have today are “coffee with Geoffrey” meetings with DAH (Digital Arts and Humanities) students and then dinner at commons with the other Long Room Hub fellows.

About Geoffrey Rockwell

March 26, 2012 in About Day of DH, Afternoon, Blogging, Office

Dr. Geoffrey Martin Rockwell is a Professor of Philosophy and Humanities Computing at the University of Alberta, Canada. My personal web site is at I blog at and have a wiki at I am one of the team that organizes the Day of Digital Humanities event.

From 1994 to 2008 I was at McMaster University where I was the Director of the Humanities Media and Computing Centre (1994 – 2004) and led the development of an undergraduate Multimedia program. I have published and presented papers in the area of philosophical dialogue, textual visualization and analysis, humanities computing, instructional technology, computer games and multimedia including a book, Defining Dialogue: From Socrates to the Internet. I am currently the Director of the Canadian Institute for Research in Computing and the Arts and a network investigator in the GRAND Network of Centres of Excellence that is studying gaming, animation and new media.