Podcasts Online

I’m very happy to announce that podcasts of all the events at the Moving People Symposium are now online! You can find them in a variety of sub-menus under the Podcasts menu above. And be sure to check out the Program, which might help you navigate your way through the mass of materials.

We hope that these recordings will serve as a great resource in the months and years to come as we continue the conversations begun in Charlottesville.

The Pelagios project is pleased to announce a two-day colloquium on the subject of “Linked Pasts”. Bringing together leading exponents of Linked Data from across the Humanities and Cultural Heritage sector, we address some of the challenges to developing a digital ecosystem of online open materials, through two days of position papers, discussion and breakout group activity. Day 1 will tackle the themes of Time, Geo and People, and issues of Open Data, Classification Schemes and Infrastructure. Day 2 will be devoted to two parallel structured activities, one exploring Niches (space, time, people), and the other Nutrition Cycles (open data, classification, infrastructure). For details of the line up of talks and contributors, see below.

Refreshments (tea/coffee, lunch) will be provided, along with a reception on Monday evening.

The event is free of charge but places are limited. Please reserve your place through Eventbrite.

Day 1

   Welcome – Pelagios: A Linked Pasts Ecosystem?

   Keynote – Sebastian Heath (NYU), TBA

Session 1

   Time – Ryan Shaw (UNC), An Ecosystem of Time Periods: PeriodO

   Geo – Ruth Mostern (UC Merced), An Ecosystem of Places: Gazetteers

   People – Gabriel Bodard (KCL), An Ecosystem of People: SNAP

Session 2

   Open Data – Mia Ridge (OU), Trends and Practice within Cultural Heritage

   Classification schemes – Antoine Isaac (Amsterdam), Europeana

Day 2

Session 3: Towards an Infrastructure

   Rainer Simon (AIT): The Recogito Annotation Platform

   Humphrey Southall (Portsmouth): PastPlace gazetteer

   Guenther Goerz (Erlangen): WissKI

   Holly Wright/Doug Tudhope: Ariadne

Session 4

   Structured Activity 1: Niches (Space, Time, People)

   Structured Activity 2: Nutrition Cycles (Open Data, Classification, Infrastructure)

Wrap up: feedback, next steps + community actions

**Linked data goodness brought to you by elton, leif, rainer + pau**

***The colloquium is made possible by the generosity of our funders, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the AHRC***

Icelandic Religious Culture and the Environment. Margaret Cormack

My project started as a study of evidence for the cult of saints in Iceland, a continuation of my book on that topic which dealt with the period before 1400. The book focused on different types of evidence for the veneration of saints, and addressed issues such as the overall popularity of different saints at different times, possible contrasts between church dedications (reflecting episcopal control) and saint-related objects (statues, vernacular saints’ lives) which are more likely to reflect local veneration. While I commented on obvious distribution patterns, electronic mapping of this data at different periods makes it easier to observe geographical and chronological trends, including travel routes and the introduction of new cults from abroad.

The project is now expanding in a number of ways. I am seeking partners with comparable data from other countries, and hope to devise a form to facilitate the entry of such data. Sticking to Iceland, the church inventories that contain evidence for saints’ cults also contain information that is worth mapping and analyzing. Personal names are an obvious choice for inclusion, though problematic, since Iceland uses patronymics rather than last names; it can be difficult to figure out which “Jón Jónsson” donated the new psalter.  Place-names, on the other hand, can reflect not only saints’ cults but quality and use of land, in the present and in the past. (They can also be difficult to interpret. Does “Ólafsfjörd” get its name from St. Olaf or from someone who lived there?) Books can provide evidence for intellectual history; they may be identified by presumed place of origin, being described for example as “Irish” or “foreign.” The number and condition of objects may be stated, and occasionally we have receipts that illustrate how church income was being used. Information about land and livestock owned by the churches provides insight into farming practices and the economic status of individual churches and of the Church as a whole. The agricultural and place-name data will provide valuable insight into the environment of Iceland in the first half of the last millennium.

Chronologically, the project is being extended into the first century and a half of the Reformation, to observe the effects of iconoclasm (many statues of saints in fact survived, and were even repaired and/or replaced, in the Lutheran period). Merely comparing the number and locations of churches illustrates population growth and/or movement in different parts of the country. I am also hoping to connect my data with that contained in other data-bases. A number of  projects focus on mapping manuscripts containing protestant hymns (and their scribes and contents) or other types of literature; there is a database of folklore; and may soon be a data-base of locations of games (games are associated with conflict in many sagas; the Polish student working on this project hopes to find out how the locations were chosen in the first place – proximity to meeting places, to major routes of travel, to hot-springs?) I am a co-applicant for a grant which will create a basic list of GPS location points and names of farms which will facilitate linking these databases. This linkage will allow users to look for patterns that may survive or develop; do folktales traceable to saints’ lives proliferate locally, or are they carried (by what routes?) to other parts of Iceland? Do locations associated with large numbers of books before the Reformation remain centers of literary activity afterwards? Do scribes move from place to place, copying manuscripts as they go? To reach such results, we need 1) a good computer programmer, and 2) qualified individuals to enter data (i.e. graduate students in Icelandic language or their equivalent).

To play with the database, go to:


Click on “Search the Database” to play with it. Note: in order to get the maps (which are, after all, the object of the exercise!) you will need a Google Plug-in, for which instructions are (supposed to) appear when you need it, though if you already have GoogleEarth installed you may not need to do anything.

To read about the kind of results this mapping will produce, go to:

Peregrinations: Journal of Medieval Art and Architecture, vol. 3 issue 2 (summer 2011) pp. 7-37.  http://peregrinations.kenyon.edu/vol3_2/current/toc3-2.html

I am looking forwared to hearing the papers, in particular to learning how it may be possible to trace the paths of individuals through time and  space.

Oxford Digital Classics

The next talk in the Oxford digital classics series will be today, Tuesday February 24, at 5pm:
Dr Gabriel Bodard (Kings College London)
Bringing People Together: Standards for Networking Ancient Prosopographies (SNAP:DRGN)
The talk will be webcast, for which the link (live from 17.05 GMT) can be found at:
The talk looks to be very relevant to the symposium’s topics. Check it out!

Mapping Herodotus: countercartography, network graphs and bottomless maps

The past decade has seen a growing spatialization of literary studies, closely connected with the development of new geographical technologies, such as GIS, and their application to the humanities (Dear et al. 2011: GeoHumanities: Art, History, Text at the Edge of Place, New York). For example, Antiquity Á la Carte allows users to investigate the historical, cultural and geographical data produced by the Ancient World Mapping Center. Yet there is a problem with GIS applications, when applied to research into ancient geography. On the one hand, they present a pre-determined vision of the world, based on Cartesian principles and contemporary modes of thinking, into which users “plug in” data from antiquity. On the other, GIS, as a point-based geometrical package, is particularly poorly equipped to deal with the predominant primary source that preserve ancient conceptualisations of space—texts. In my contribution to this workshop, I will outline the ongoing efforts of two projects to use mapping visualisations as the means of interrogating and challenging our understanding of ancient world space (cf. Harley, J. B. 1989: ‘Deconstructing the map’, Cartographica 26, 1-20): the Hestia project, which investigates the ways in which geographic space is organised and represented in Herodotus’s Histories; and Pelagios, which uses and develops the principles of Linked Open Data to facilitate the construction of (potentially) bottomless maps.

Textual space is constructed by and through the stories told about it, where ideas such as hodology (Purves, A. 2010: Space and Time in Ancient Greek Narrative. Cambridge) and topokinesis (Turnbull, D. 2007: Maps, narratives and trails: performativity, hodology and distributed knowledges in complex adaptive systems—an approach to emergent mapping. Geographical Research 45, 140-49) provide an interpretative framework for reimagining Herodotean space. Developing the idea of ‘proxies’, we explored how individuals, social groups or even non-human agents contributed to the complexity of spatial representation in the Histories. In particular, we analysed these spatial entities in terms of their textual relatedness—whether and how places and/or proxies are linked by the author. The resulting ‘X-ray’ maps (cf. Moretti, F. 1998: Atlas of the European Novel, 1800–1900. London) seemed to offer to us alternative pathways through Herodotean space that can bring to the fore the underlying ways in which spatial understanding is constructed in terms of action and influence rather than cartographic location.

Texts, however, are only one source and means of accessing important data salient to rethinking ancient world space. In a rapidly expanding digital environment, it is now possible to gain access to primary data of all different kinds, rather than rely solely on their interpretation in print publications. But how is one able to find them and bring them to bear on one’s own research? The Pelagios project uses global gazetteer services (e.g. http://pleiades.stoa.org/) to achieve a connectivity through common references, with the result that online documents of varying nature—not only literary texts but also inscriptions, archaeological finds, museum objects, photographs, etc.— can be read in and against each other. As well as helping us to see the ancient world as being every bit as interconnected, interactive and interesting as the present (Elliott, T. and Gillies, S. (2009): Digital Geography and Classics. Digital Humanities Quarterly 3.1), this community driven initiative has the potential to transform research, while also posing the challenge of developing the tools and methods that need to be developed for that research to take place.

Shared Stories: A Mediated Model

[Posting the following on behalf of Ruth Page, one of our symposium speakers.]

In my paper at the Moving Lives symposium I will talk about a model I am developing for analysing shared stories.  Shared stories are a narrative genre that is increasingly important in the contemporary communicative landscape. Shared stories have antecedents in retellings that are found in literary contexts (adaptations), in co-constructed conversational stories and in the multiple versions of stories that circulate in the news media.  But above all, shared stories are prevalent in social media contexts where the verb ‘share’ has taken on media-specific meanings.  As John (2013) points out, ‘sharing’ has become a potent keyword in social media, where its communicative meaning (to tell) and its distributive meaning (to give away) has a particular resonance in the ability to publish and repost stories which are told and retold by many people and across many contexts.

In the biographical narratives about public figures that are told in social media contexts, the analysis of shared stories needs to take into account of the contexts in which the stories are produced and reproduced. This includes analysis of:

  • The generic context (the site and its affordances)
  • The interactional context (the ways stories are embedded in relation to other kinds of talk)
  • The multimodal context (the audio-visual content that might accompany any written text)
  • The meta-data available

The analysis of how material is shared (in terms of distribution) can benefit from ‘big data’ approaches that are able to trace patterns through the meta-data across many interactions, but often this can miss the multi-modal complexity of what is being told in the story itself.  As a case study, I will explore data taken from a public Facebook community page that marked the death of former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.

A note on tools:

Netvizz is a great, free tool developed by Rieder (2013) and his colleagues, which allows you to export publically available data from Facebook and then use tools like Gephi to explore network analysis, or transfer content into other software for further analysis.

And a note on the wider project:

I have also been applying this model of shared stories to data taken from Wikipedia and Twitter, though there will not be time to discuss this in my presentation!  I’m very happy to chat in person about the project, or to share draft work in progress.

Ruth Page

Reduced Hotel Rate for Interested Out of Town Participants

Symposium preparations are in full swing over here! The symposium is free and open to the public, and we have secured a limited block of rooms at a reduced rate at the Courtyard Marriott Charlottesville for any people a bit farther afield who wanted to join in. This weekend will be a busy one in Charlottesville, so we have reserved a block of rooms for which you would pay the favorable rate of $155 a night. The hotel is at 120 W. Main Street (walking distance from the University), and the phone number for inquiries is 434-977-1700. Interested participants will need to make a reservation by February 19; to do so, call the hotel and mention the code “moving people.” Feel free to email movingpeopleuva@gmail.com with any questions.

Biographical Data in a Digital World CFP

This workshop in Amsterdam will closely follow on our “Moving People, Linking Lives” workshop. The Amsterdam workshop will taken place on 9 April 2015. Some of us may be interested in submitting a paper, but it will also be interesting to read the proceedings. There is the potential to network and possibly collaborate with other scholars interested in large scale analysis of biographical data.

[Deadline January 31, 2015]

The digital age has changed the way academics work in every discipline. Computers allow for the processing of digital data much faster than humans can do, they are able to show patterns and statistical analyses and can detect links that otherwise would be hard to find. This workshop explores whether and how, in the field of digital humanities, biographical data are special. Biographies are interesting for analysis with computer techniques, since individuals share a set of common characteristics that can be relatively easily identified by a machine, such as a birthdate, a partner, a profession, and a network. Tools and approaches from the digital humanities can be used for both quantitative analyses of such data and for providing leads for more qualitative research questions.

This workshop aims at bringing together researchers from both the humanities and the computer sciences to exchange experiences, methods and practices with respect to ICT mediated quantitative and qualitative analysis of biographical data. What can we do already with computational methods with the huge amount of digital biographical data that is available? What will we be able to do in the future? What will we not be able to do?

We invite papers/abstracts with a maximum of 2.500 words (excluding bibliography and footnotes), which will undergo a single blind peer review process. After acceptance papers can be extended to 6.000 words.  Accepted papers will be published in online workshop proceedings at CEUR <http://ceur-ws.org/>, June 2015.

Topics which may be addressed include, but certainly are not limited to:

1) Mining biographies for structured information
2) Biographies and linked data
3) Using biographical information for quantitative analyses
4) The canonization of people and events in history
5) The use or uselessness of big data for biographical research
6) Visualizing biographical data
7) Biographical Dictionaries
8) Dealing with biographical data in heterogeneous datasets
9) Practices in digitizing and converting biographical data to a software interpretable format
10) Automatic biography generation
11) Biographies across countries and cultures
12) Standards, vocabularies and best practices for the encoding and processing of biographical data

Important Dates

Deadline for the paper submission: 31 January, 2015.
Notification of acceptance: 1 March, 2015
Workshop date: 9 April, 2015
Deadline final papers: 15 May, 2015

More information can be found here <http://www.biographynet.nl/biographical-data-in-a-digital-world/>.

Some Prosopographies Striving to Collaborate on Personae Records

SNAPDragon is Standards for Networking Ancient Prosopographies: Data and Relations in Greco-Roman Names.

They write of their project something that is surprisingly relevant to the experience of a contemporary prosopographer working with printed collections of biographies and a database of thousands of women.  How to integrate CBW’s persons with the name authorities and records that might exist in many repositories and souces such as Wikipedia?  Here’s the SNAP site’s statement:

“The general problem approached by the SNAP:DRGN project is exemplified by the inconsistency of and irregular overlap between the many huge databases of persons, names, and other personal data on the Internet. (These databases are familiar and ubiquitous, from lists of actors and creators in the Internet Movie Database or historical figures in Wikipedia, to private individuals via all sorts of social networking sites.) How does a researcher or analyst determine whether two records refer to the same person or are related in some other way, and whether other related information refers to both people equally? For this project we shall directly address these issues on a much smaller scale: there are very many historical prosopographies and onomastica (databases of persons and names), even within the relatively tight domain of Greco-Roman antiquity, and many of the same questions of identity and provenance apply. These databases can be worked on without the concerns raised by modern social network accounts: there are not the ethical and privacy concerns of working with living people; the scale, while still massive, is more tractable; there is much more academic coherence within the data, which, diverse as it is, is produced by a discipline with well-established working practices.”

The ethics and privacy issues are really worth pondering.