Tag Archives: Perth


Digital Humanities Australasia Summary – #dha2014

I have just returned from a very successful conference in Perth, the Digital Humanities Australasia, 2014. As with many conferences one comes away with a bunch of new information and contacts. Below is a quick recap on some of those significant highlights I gleaned from the past week.

Day One, Keynote One

Neil Freistat, University of Maryland “The Promise(s) of Digital Humanities”

A very welcomed provocation from Professor Freistat for the field of digital humanities, particularly as it begins to define itself from humanities studies. As I listened to Neil talk, the one thought that kept appearing was ‘definition is by way of exclusion’, in that something becomes by stating what it is not. In the past, a strong argument for digital humanities has been made as a field that utilises digital tools to assist in the study of humanities. However this has recently been criticised as being too simplistic to describe DH, with a flurry of definitions and rationales emerging (particularly as DH begins to attract research funding and appoint HDRs, ECRs, etc).

Nonetheless, debate has ensued around what DH actually is with much discussion placed on its lack of strategic vision. Freistat located his discussion in a utopianistic frame that provides futorities or promising notes, while also showing utopia’s inherent undoing in its makeup. He argued that without utopian vision there is no innovative thinking which does not lead to any turn in the field, which he notes has much momentum in the TransformDH Movement. When the utopian vision is then critiqued, a operationalised version of digital humanities is possible.

My new mantra: Less yack, more hack!

This set the tone well for the next few days, which also raised many questions around ontologies/topologies, archives/collections big/deep data, and although no one actually noticed it, the need for translation roles between different forms of expertise and knowledge.

Day Three, Keynote Three

Dr Anthony F. Beavers – “Why Computational Philosophy Belongs in the Digital Humanities”

Another interesting presentation by Anthony Beavers asked why philosophy as not been included in the digital humanities, since after all, philosophy had been using computational methods since Aristotle. By highlighting that philosophy is either  empiricist – observational, (Aristotle, Occam, Locke, Hume) or rationalist – mathematical (Plato, Descartes, Leibniz), Beaver focussed on the rationalist philosopher. His examples included truth tables from circa 1850, through to more recent methods of computational philosophy and agent based modelling. It appears maths mixed with philosophy can reveal knowledge previously not known, as demonstrated by modelling the case of the class clown – computational philosophy says one class clown is entertaining and stimulates the environment whereas two is distracting and non-productive.

Given this provocation, Beaver argued that philosophy is at home in the digital humanities. He also noted it is the DHists that are rejecting the philosophers, but rather the philosophers that are ignoring DH.

Session papers

I’ll quickly highlight a few standout papers I managed to catch:

Terea Swirski – “Young Peoples Safety and We’ll Being in Digital Culture: Affordances and Infrastructures”

  • Objects and technology and how this is changing our knowledge and understanding,
  • Bricollage as how we assemble our memories and understanding from our prior readings – intertextuality
  • Participatory design – how did it inform the methodology explicitly?
  • ‘Keep It Tame’ – young and well campaign

Sydney Shep, Esta Chiang, Maximilon Baddeley, Sara Bryan and Flora Feltham - “Visualising Correspondence Networks: William Colenso and the Victorian Republic of Letters”

  • Amazingly similar to our study although on a smaller scale
  • Highlights the importance of deep data rather than big data
  • Provided some additional tools for SNA and data collection

Toby Burrows, Deb Verhoeven - “Deploying Ontologies in the Humanities and Creative Arts”

  • HuNI is an aggregate that subverts the problems of ontology
  • Users create records via links to other data and other relationships I.e. Vernacular linking
  • Vernacular linking is the key to understanding how data connects to data beyond ontologies and folksonomies

David Carlin – “A ‘Living Archive’ for Circus Oz: investigating digital techniques to deploy cultural memory”

  • Great take on the concept of a ‘living’ archive
  • Fantastic use of video in an accessible archive
  • lovely design work from the RMIT crew

Michael Kerr Gisick – “‘The First YouTube War’: The U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as case studies in digital history”

  • Probably the best paper at the conference
  • Explores YouTube through the lens of the Afghan war soldiers
  • A very new slant on what I would call creative vernacular

Tama Leaver and Tim Highfield – “A Methodology for Mapping Instagram Hashtags.”

  • Actually this was the best paper of the conference
  • Very similar to our work except on the Instagram platform
  • We spoke about collaborating in some sense on future work

Some useful links and projects:


Accepted paper for #aaDH2014!

We’re in! We just received notice that our social network analysis paper exploring the informal policy actors of mHealth across the the Twitter platform has been accepted for the Australasian Association of Digital Humanities (aaDH) conference 2014.

Here’s the abstract we will work from:

Scholarly interest in data privacy and the regulation of mobile Internet has intensified in recent years, particularly following Edward Snowden’s 2013 revelations about Prism, the US government’s secret communications surveillance and data mining project. Much analysis has focused on the politics and architectures of data privacy regulation and network access. However the surveillance moment also invites scrutiny of academic data gathering and mining online. In open governance movements such as Occupy there has already been considerable debate about the ethics of big data research, particularly where the aim is to track individuals’ online agency around political processes and policy activism. With that context in mind, this paper examines the methodological implications of conducting large-scale social network analysis using Twitter for mobile Internet policy research.

Mobile internet is emerging at the intersection of broadband internet, mobile telephony, digital television and new media locative and sensing technologies. The policy issues around the development of this complex ecology include debates about spectrum allocation and network development, content production and code generation, and the design and the operation of media and telecommunications technologies. However not all of these discussions occur in formal regulatory settings such as International Telecommunications Union or World information Summit meetings, and not all are between traditional policy actors. Increasingly social media platforms such as Twitter and Linked-in host new networks of expertise, informal multi-actor conversations about the future of mobile Internet that have the potential to influence formal policy processes, as occurred during the January 2012 SOPA/PIPA campaigns in the US.

As part of the three year Australian Research Council Discovery project Moving Media: Mobile internet and new policy modes, this research team is mapping and interpreting the interplay between these diverse policy actors in three areas of accelerating media development: digital news, mobile health and locative media. However research into informal policy networks and processes online presents interesting problems of scale, focus and interpretation, given the increased affordances for citizen participation within the international political arenas of social media.

To better understand who these online stakeholders might be in the mobile health field, and how they operate in relation to the normative policy and regulatory circuits, we have adopted a social network analysis methodology, in order to track Twitter-based social relationships and debates. Using a series of hashtags, including #mhealth, #mobilehealth and #healthapps to track ongoing policy-related exchanges, we have begun to identify who is influential in these spaces, what they are talking about and how their input to debate may impact on mobile internet regulation.

This paper will outline that SNA approach and highlight some of the procedural and ethical concerns surrounding big data collection and analysis, which are consistent across contemporary digital humanities research. These concerns include how we can use big data harvesting and analysis tools to align quantitative with qualitative methods, how we can justify our research claims via these tools and how we might better understand and implement these innovative research methods within the academy. In particular the paper will interrogate the methodological suggestion that qualitative methods lead quantitative research, considering instead whether a more rigorous approach is to invert the quantitative/qualitative relationship.