Archive for March, 2010

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

Alfalab at the Computational Turn

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

The Computational Turn workshop, held at Swansea University on March 9, 2010, featured keynote addresses by Katherine Hayles and Lev Manovich, and presented a set of contemporary projects and ideas in the field of digital humanities. Through stimulating presentations and discussions, the workshop participants have jointly shed light on methodological, epistemological and other questions relevant in the modern-day digital humanities endeavor.

An underlying workshop theme—what patterns may be yielded through computational analyses and how do they relate to meaning sought in the humanities—gave rise to important questions and various stances regarding the ‘computational turn’ in contemporary scholarship. For instance, in an interesting cross-fertilization of expertise, humanities scholars have highlighted the rewards of ‘distant reading’ in literary, legal and other texts, while computer scientists have brought to light the significance of ‘close reading’ related to code and software. Similarly, the well-known motif ‘what can computation do for humanities’ has constructively been rephrased into less commonly asked yet ever increasingly important question ‘what can humanities do for computing’, and in reflexive deliberation on ‘what can computation do to humanities’.

A broad spectrum of contributions from the social sciences, humanities and computer science presented at the workshop confirmed that ‘the computational turn’ largely exceeds insular focusing on computation and, instead, requires a comprehensive understanding of epistemological, methodological and socio-cultural implications arising from such a turn.

At this workshop, the Alfalab members, Joris van Zundert and Smiljana Antonijevic, presented a collaborative piece ‘Cultures of Formalization’ written by Joris van Zundert, Smiljana Antonijevic, Anne Beaulie, Karina van Dalen-Oskam, Douwe Zeldenrust and Tara Andrews.