Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The first Alfalab microtoponym expert meeting

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

On April 8th the first Alfalab microtoponym expert meeting will be organised at the Meertens Instituut. The meeting aims to discuss the wishes and demands of researchers who want to use the microtoponyms in a GIS environment. These wishes will be translated into a functional design of a web-based system that will be developed and tested in the coming year. The meeting consists of a brief introduction of Alfalab and microtoponym collection of the Meertens Instituut and a plenary discussion. For more information contact Douwe Zeldenrust (douwe.zeldenrust @

Are we coming of age?

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

We just wrapped up our 4.5 minutes presentations session. René van Horik of DANS ( kept every speaker strictly to their 270 seconds, using a annoying ‘tjing’ sound producing device. With hilarious consequences of course: people pleading and bargaining for 15 extra seconds.

In the conference room next to the usual suspects (like researchers such as Antal van den Bosch ( and Arjen van Hessen ( we had new faces, but we’re not sure who. They looked like policy makers. Well, if they were I hope we had an interesting talk. The audience seemed to appreciate our message. We lined up with me starting off with a talk about Alfalab en how we hope that will create a common interest between humanities and computational science. Anne stressed the social and usability aspects of such a move. Douwe made the concrete case about microtoponyms. Karina closed our Alfalab-interlude with an overview of eLaborate, the successful transcription and publishing framework for literary editions.

Now at lunch we’re wandering around at the World Trade Center Rotterdam ( where the conference is based, and  we’re suddenly discovering ourselves as peers amidst the guys from hard core computational science, simulation people, and robotica scientists. During earlier of such mix ups we found ourselves always a bit out of place, to be honest. We were always trying to just catch up with the real players. Now however, we seem to be quite level with what we used to call the ‘tech guys’. Are we indeed realizing an impetus for computational approach in the humanities?

Karina and Joris demonstrating eLaborate/TextLab

Karina and Joris demonstrating eLaborate/TextLab

Douwe at the same event

Douwe at ICT Delta 2010

Anne at the ICT Delta 2010

Anne at the ICT Delta 2010

Alfalab at work in the Trippenhuis in Amsterdam

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

“Building the Humanities Lab”: Alfalab at DH 2010

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Alfalab’s submission to the Digital Humanities 2010 conference, which will be held at King’s College London, has been accepted with highest scores.

“Building the Humanities Lab: Scholarly Practices in Virtual Research Environments”, written by Charles van den Heuvel, Smiljana Antonijevic and Joris van Zundert, received 98, 94 and 89 points (out of 100) from three peer-reviewers, based on evaluation of content, significance, originality, relevance and presentation. Such a score made our submission selected in a competition that the organizational committee described very high, given that only one third of all the submissions were accepted.

Considering academic rank and significance of Digital Humanities annual conferences and the Centre for Computing in the Humanities at King’s College London, the Alfalab team should be very content about this achievement.

Towards infrastructure

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Here are two (new) considerations, one from above, one from below.

Above: the Computational Humanities Programme (to be) is interested to expose parts of the existing collections of the KNAW institutes to computations that might reveal higher level patterns. This kind of research tries to aid human interpretation of materials by spotting patterns, starting by very local, low-level patterns, and climbing up to ever more semantical patterns.

Below: the BIGgrid is actively stimulating humanities people to express use cases and whishes for using the GRID. Also DANS is actively pondering how we can get hooked on the power of the GRID.

AlfaLab seems to be in the middle, where both ends may come together.


By including an abstraction layer where the following concepts operate with each other:

* physical data files

* user identities

* workflows

If every AlfaLab application will use this layer, and does not create its own data logic, we make miles in creating a KNAW collection infrastructure with added value.

Rich Internet Applications

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Today we are listening to Leen Breure who’s presenting his ideas on Rich Internet Applications (RIA). A quick and dirty description might be that RIAs represent the academic multi media and multi modal publication of research data and results. Put in buzz words a RIA is a Web 2.0 ready publication of research, instead of the same old text and picture journals we know. The reason for creating RIAs could be to enhance insight in the research and data by giving the reader? user? viewer? (Interestingly it’s hard to simply denote what a person engaging a RIA should be called.) RIAs offer a richer interface to the research.  At the same time in the process of creating concrete visualizations of the research results, the researcher tends to generate new research questions. A RIA is not the primary research tool, but it’s an interesting way of offering others the possibility of explore the research results. Some examples: The Genographic Project, Theban Mapping Project.

Aspects of the RIA do seem to resemble what is being showcases in publications of the Vectors Journal.

(Leen Breure’s slides are attached here)

The Computational Turn

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

As a combined effort of six authors related to Alfalab (Joris van Zundert, Smiljana Antonijevic, Anne Beaulieu, Karina van Dalen-Oskam, Douwe Zeldenrust and Tara L. Andrews) a paper submission was made to the workshop titled “The Computational Turn”, a one day workshop to be held on March 9, 2010. Today we got message that the paper was accepted for presentation. Smiljana Antonijevic and Joris van Zundert will present the paper at what hopefuly will be an interesting workshop.

HSN/IISH participates in Alfalab

Monday, January 11th, 2010

The Netherlands Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences has decided to grant Alfalab additional funds to add another demonstrator to its set of virtual research environments. This additional funding will allow brand new partner IISH to realize a third ‘lab’, the so-called Lifelab, next to currently foreseen Textlab and GISlab. At  the present stage of Alfalab Lifelab will concentrate on building a portal for historical population counts and the exploration of the ways of integrating data by way of ‘proof of concept applications’. The building of a well defined, open and easy access to the data of the Historical Sample of the Netherlands will be the first pilot. This will be realized by way of implementing Intermediate Data Structure which is a common platform and the first integration model for historical data on micro-, meso- and macrolevel.

Lifelab will be financed by the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), the International Institute for Social History (IISH) and the Data Archiving and Networking Services (DANS) and amounts to a total of  € 164,300. The project will be realized during 2010-2011.

Clarin WP2 workshop

Monday, November 16th, 2009

The Clarin WP2 workshop will be held in Mediencampus of the Leipzig Media Foundation in Leipzig on Thursday, November 19 and Friday, November 20, 2009. Douwe is going to attend this workshop.

Developing Alfalab

Friday, October 30th, 2009