Archive for November, 2009

Rare items from Shakespeare’s age go digital

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Experts from King’s College London and the University of Reading are currently making the largest collection of material on professional theatre and dramatic performance in the age of Shakespeare and many other leading playwrights available online.

From 25 November fascinating and rare items will be available to view free at These include the only surviving records of theatre box office receipts for any play by Shakespeare, and the 1600 contract to build the Fortune Theatre in London, listing the layout and design of the Globe Theatre, where Shakespeare’s company performed.

For more information see:

TekstLab and Community Building

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Representing TekstLab and the Huygens Institute Ronald and I are attending the ‘Interedition’ ( meeting on ‘Current Issues in Digitally Supported Collation’. Ronald and I have been presenting CollateX, a digital text collation tool that was well received by this scholarly community. Discussions were also on how larger infrastructures supporting scholarly work (or humanities in general) could be successfully conceived and implemented. The meeting yielded a number of main focuses or target areas that any infrastructure initiative should take seriously into account. They’re a sort of ‘usual suspects’ but still I think they’re also relevant to Alfalab as a sort of ‘check list’, are we paying enough attention to:

  • Institutional backing for organizing, networking and dissemination
  • Continued funding possibilities
  • Community building
  • Teaching
  • Open, light weight and distributed technological solutions for machine interfaces
  • Tangible user interfaces

I think viable infrastructure will only arise if all those topics are tended to sufficiently. But in this case I draw special attention to teaching. It’s very clear from this meeting that at least this community lacks possibilities to carry its very valuable knowledge on computational solutions over to the next generation of scholars (current students). For me that feels like all that gained knowledge and experience on computational possibilities is not finding enough momentum in a very important part of the community: the future researchers. Indeed I got some worrying signals from early stage researchers that they only got to know about initiatives like these (and Alfalab?) when they all but reached the level of post doc applications.

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.

Communication breakdowns

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Alfalab members Maarten, Joris and Smiljana talked today about communication breakdowns that sometimes occur between computer scientists  who are developing instruments for scientific research, and the researchers–particularly in the humanities and social sciences — who are the intended users of those instruments.

“There is a problem of translation,” Joris noted.

Not only those two different epistemic cultures use the same concepts to which however they assign dissimilar meaning (we came up with the term “token” as an example); also, and perhaps more importantly, their different ways of perceiving problems and solutions—as well as other conceptual, methodological, and epistemological differences—make those two groups and their collaboration easily susceptible to communication breakdowns.

What is the root of those communication problems? How can they be solved? How can the communication gap between computer and social scientists (i.e., between tool developers and tool users) best be bridged?

“Is it” Maarten asked, “that we mainly think and talk about tools, not about research problems and instruments that should address those problems?”

There is also a problem of expectations, we posit; people who are not really technologically-savvy often expect technology to “do miracles” (in social sciences it is known as the phenomenon of techno-magic).

All those issues are important and relevant for Alfalab, we concluded, so we will keep addressing them.

CATCH symposium 13 November 2009

Monday, November 9th, 2009

On Friday November 13th NWO (The Netherlands Science Foundation) organizes a symposium on the progress and future of the CATCH program. (See CATCH stands for Continuous Access to Cultural Heritage.  Since 2005 CATCH finances teams which focus on improving the cross-fertilisation between scientific research and cultural heritage. Douwe Zeldenrust will attend the symposium on behalf of Alfalab. Smiljana Antonijevic will attend the symposium on behalf of the VKS.