Some ways Wikidata can improve search and discovery

I have written in the past about how Wikidata enables entity-based browsing, but search is still necessary and it is worth considering how a semantic web database can be useful to a search engine index.

This post is about three ways Wikidata could help search and discovery applications, without replacing them: 1) providing more or less specific terms (hypernyms and hyponyms), 2) providing synonyms for a search term, 3) structuring a thesaurus of topics to provide meaningful connections. I end with the real-world example of Quora.com who are using Wikidata to manage a huge user-generated topic list.

Hypernyms and hyponyms

Continue reading

A Reconciliation Recipe for Wikidata

We have a list of names of things, plus some idea of what type of things they are, and we want to integrate them into a database. I have been working on place names in Chinese, but it could just as well have been a list of author names in Arabic. This post reports on a procedure to get Wikidata identifiers — and thereby lots of other useful information — about the things in the list.

To recap a couple of problems with names covered in a previous post:

  • Things share names. As covered previously, “cancer” names a disease, a constellation, an academic journal, a taxonomic term for crab, an astrological sign and a death metal band.
  • Things have multiple names. One place is known to English speakers as “Beijing”, “Peking” or as “Peiping”. Similarly, there are multiple names for that place even within a single variant of Chinese.

There are some problems specific to historic names for places in China: Continue reading

Digital Approaches to the History of Science—workshop 2

You are warmly invited to join us at the second day-long workshop on Digital Approaches to the History of Science. These workshops are supported and co-organized by the Reading Euclid project, the Newton Project, the Royal Society, and the Centre for Digital Scholarship.

Book a place!

Digital Approaches to the History of Science

—Life out of a coffin—

When: 9:30—17:00,  Friday 23 March 2018

Where: Faculty of History, University of Oxford, 41–47 George Street OX1 2BE (map)

Access: all are welcome—see below for information on travel bursaries

Admission: free, refreshments and lunch included

Registration is required

Our second one-day workshop will showcase and explore some current work at the intersection of digital scholarship and the history of science. Visualizing networks of correspondence, mapping intellectual geographies, mining textual corpora: many modes of digital scholarship have special relevance to the problems and methods of the history of science, and the last few years have seen the launch of a number of new platforms and projects in this area.

With contributions from projects around the UK and from elsewhere in Europe, these two workshops will be an opportunity to share ideas, to reflect on what is being achieved and to consider what might be done next.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Richard Dunn: the Board of Longitude Project
  • Christy Henshaw: the Wellcome Collection
  • Miranda Lewis, Howard Hotson, Arno Bosse: Cultures of Knowledge
  • Robert McNamee: Electronic Enlightenment Project
  • Grant Miller: Zooniverse Project Builder
  • Yelda Nasifoglu: Hooke’s Books
  • Tobias Schweizer, Sepideh Alassi: Bernoulli-Euler Online (BEOL)
  • Sally Shuttleworth: Diseases of Modern Life or Constructing Scientific Communities

We have taken inspiration from William Stukely’s isolation and seek to converse, as it were, out of a coffin:

in my situation at Stamford there was not one person, clergy or lay, that had any taste or love of learning or ingenuity, so that I was as much dead in converse as in a coffin

Travel bursaries

We are delighted to be able to offer travel bursaries to enable students and early career researchers (up to 3 years beyond the award of most recent degree) to attend. If you would like to apply for a bursary, please contact co-organizer Yelda Nasifoglu on yelda.nasifoglu@history.ox.ac.uk, providing:

  • Your name
  • Your institution
  • Your level of study/year of award of most recent degree
  • Travelling from
  • Estimate of travel cost

These workshops are organized by:

 

 

Quotation:

Lukis, ed. ‘Family Memoirs’, vol. I (1882), p.109, cited in Michael Reed, ‘The cultural role of small towns in England, 1600–1800’, in Peter Clark, Small Towns in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge: CUP, 1882), p.147, via Google Books.

Images:

Tycho Brahe, Tabulae Rudolphinae (Ulm, 1627), frontispiece. Bodleian Library Savile Q 14. Edited in Photoshop by Yelda Nasifoglu.

René Descartes, Principia philosophiae (Amsterdam, 1644), ‘Cartesian network of vortices of celestial motion’, p. 110. Bodleian Library Savile T 22. Edited in Photoshop by Yelda Nasifoglu.

Radicals and Reactionaries in Totteridge, 1789: Bodleian Student Editions Workshops enter a second season

A new season of Bodleian Student Editions workshops began on 23 November. You can read more about them on our blog.

We continue to add letters to the Early Modern Letters Online (EMLO) database from correspondence in the Bodleian’s manuscript collections. The challenge is to find material that is unpublished, readable (for people without previous palaeographical experience), interesting, and in good condition, as the students work with the original documents in the workshop.

This year, as well as continuing transcriptions of the 27 letters of James, Duke of York, begun in last year’s workshops, we have also embarked upon a new series of letters written by Penelope Maitland (née Madan; 1730–1805) to her friend Charlotte West (née Perry; 1769–1860). The Maitland letters provide a wonderful insight into a fascinating family around the time of the French Revolution and the wars with France, events which were to have a deep impact on both Maitland and her correspondent.

The letters (ref. MSS. 6633) came to the Library in 2011, a very generous gift of mother and daughter, Pat and Charlotte Kinnear, descendants of Charlotte West (née Perry). They had discovered, through the Bodleian’s online catalogue, that some of Penelope Maitland’s papers were already in our collections. In fact, Maitland’s maiden name was Madan and she was related to an ancestor of Falconer Madan (1851–1935), Bodley’s Librarian from 1912 to 1919. We learn of Maitland’s remarkable connections in Falconer Madan’s account of his family (The Madan Family, 1933): she was the younger daughter of Colonel Martin Madan, MP, an equerry to Prince Frederick, and the poet Judith Cowper (1702–1781); and she was a cousin of poet William Cowper (1731–1800). Penelope Madan married Sir Alexander Maitland (1728–1820), 1st Baronet, a general in the British Army, and a younger son of Charles Maitland, 6th Earl of Lauderdale. From 1749 she formed an attachment to the Methodists and became acquainted with the Wesleys. Papers of Madan family members including Maitland, her parents, her sister Maria Frances Cecilia Cowper (also a poet), and daughter-in-law Helen Maitland were given to the library in 1967.

Maitland’s letters to Charlotte West date from the last two decades of her long life. West was nearly forty years younger and had known the older woman since she was a child in their home village of Totteridge, Hertfordshire. After completing her education in France at a Benedictine convent, West (Perry at the time) lived with her father Sampson Perry in London. In 1788 she eloped with Charles Augustus West, a page to George III, and they were married secretly at Gretna Green. A year later, the marriage was formalized at St Luke’s, Chelsea. Charles Augustus West became an army officer and was serving in Egypt and then Flanders at the time the letters were written. This gave the two women something else in common, as Maitland also had family members at war: her son Lieutenant-Colonel Augustus Maitland was killed in action in the Low Countries in 1799, while another son, Frederick, attained the rank of General. At the time of the letters, he was commanding marines at sea, and in 1796 he was appointed secretary to General Sir Ralph Abercromby, with whom he travelled to the West Indies, much to Maitland’s dismay.

The letters transcribed in the first workshop of the series all date from 1789, and are full of local interest and colour. A long letter written between 16 and 25 March 1789 gives an alarming account of a fire in the Maitland household, and discusses remedies for a daughter’s ill health (‘I gave her Calves foot Jelly every morning ½ pint — wch took Some good effect, but she receiv’d much more from Steel drops taken once a day …’). There is also a glimpse of the work of West’s father, Sampson Perry, editor of a newspaper called The Argus. Evidently anxious to support her friends’ endeavour, Maitland offers a curiously circumspect endorsement of the paper’s literary qualities:

Tell your Father, I am much flatter’d by his asking my opinion of the Argus. I really am ill qualify’d for a Critic. But as far as my very poor judgment goes, it appears a Paper preferable to any I have seen on several accounts, and if its Success Equals my wishes, it will Exceed all others in that respect also — the Paper, the Printing, are excelling any—and the Intelligence seems not at all inferior as to Quantity & as to quality, there is variety & entertainment …

There is a great deal more to Maitland’s reservations than at first appears. The conservative-minded Maitland has just begun to realize that there is something different about this paper which counteracts her desire to support it for West’s sake:

one objection have I to beg pardon for suggesting in respect of the Political Part, — I think it savours of the Opposite Party — it would Be an absolute greif to me that any of my Freinds, especially my Particular Freinds, should ever imbibe their Contagion …

The Argus was in fact a radical independent newspaper. Sampson Perry was a sometime surgeon, author, and military commander who was waging war on the government through his paper, which led to his conviction for libel. In 1792 he fled to France, only to be imprisoned by the Revolutionary regime. In 1794 he returned to England in disguise, but was arrested and sent to Newgate, an incident noted by a disapproving Maitland in a letter of 2 April 1795.

As well as her perspective on important events of her time, Maitland’s letters to West chronicle her personal tribulations: the illnesses of herself and her children, and her problems living under the eye of a rather controlling husband in their home in Totteridge. Her resilience and wit emerge in her epistolary codenames for her family. Her husband is referred to as ‘The General’ (usually abbreviated to G–l), while she calls herself the ‘Abbess’, and her daughters, also named Penelope and Charlotte, ‘the Nuns’, or ‘Vesta’ and ‘Vitula’.

Maitland’s correspondence with West adds another layer to our intricate picture of the lives of this literary family. It is particularly exciting for us to see Bodleian manuscripts, with relevance to characters from the history of the library itself, made more widely available through the combined efforts of library readers from both in and outside the University—both family members of the correspondents and students.

As with previous workshops, it was the chance to handle original manuscripts—in many cases for the first time—and discover the ‘human aspect shining through the letters’ that was the highlight for the student participants, who represented a wide range of degree courses including Chemistry, Engineering, Geography, Music, Classics, and History. Those working on Maitland’s letters were keen to compare examples of her idiosyncrasies and ‘peculiar humour’, while discussing wider questions such as the ways in which ‘different intentions and areas of interest affect what will be preserved in a transcription’. The workshops continue to show how students at different levels and in different disciplines can work with manuscript sources and digital technologies in collaboration with library and faculty staff to increase access to Bodleian collections in their scholarly contexts, and find new areas to explore.

—Mike Webb, Curator of Early Modern Archives and Manuscripts

 

Free workshop—Working with digital text: a hands-on introduction to basic computational techniques

Register by email: see below for details


 

 

What: Working with digital text: a hands-on introduction to basic computational techniques

When: 10:00—16:30, Thursday 22 and Friday 23 February 2018

Where: Centre for Digital Scholarship, Weston Library (map)

Open to members of the University

Free

Registration is required: please email Emma Stanford with your name, ox.ac.uk email address, department and study/career level

This introductory two-day workshop will help students and researchers get to grips with basic computational analysis methods. It is aimed at an introductory level and will be useful to anyone seeking to work with large amounts of textual data. The workshop builds sequentially on its sessions and attendance at both days is required.

Over two days of demonstrations and hands-on training sessions, the workshop will cover:

  • Online text corpora: What’s out there and how to use it
  • The surprising amount of text-mining you can do with Microsoft Word, Excel and Notepad
  • XML, XPath and XQuery: Textual encoding and getting answers back
  • Using statistics to avoid your own gaffes and spot other people’s
  • Beginning Python programming for the working with text at scale

Please note that catering is not provided.

The workshop is part of the Travelling Roadshow led by Gabriel Egan, Director of the Centre for Textual Studies at De Montfort University, with funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and is hosted by the Wolfson College Digital Research Cluster and the Bodleian Libraries’ Centre for Digital Scholarship.

NOTE: attendees are requested to bring a laptop with the latest version of Python and oXygen XML Editor. As a member of the University, using your Single Sign-On you can download oXygen and the required licence free of charge, via IT Services’ Software Registration and Download. If you cannot bring a laptop with you, please let us know before the day.

Registration

Registration is required as places are limited. The event is open to members of the University of Oxford only.

To register, please email Emma Stanford (emma.stanford@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) with:

  • Your name
  • Your ox.ac.uk email address
  • Your department and study/career level

Deletion is not the end: making an academic article stick on Wikipedia

Identity fusion is a concept central to a lot of research in social psychology and cognitive anthropology. So it is understandable that a member of an anthropology research group wrote an explanation of this concept for Wikipedia, explaining the idea to the widest possible audience and citing the key papers.

Unfortunately, writing an article and getting it accepted by Wikipedia are different things. The draft was rejected multiple times and eventually deleted, removing hours of work. Many academics have at least heard of a similar experience and it can be very discouraging. However, these stories can have a happy ending. We were able to get the draft back and post it as an article where it became one of the top two search engine hits for its topic. This article is about that process, and what academics can do to make sure their articles are accepted by Wikipedia. Continue reading

Free event–Making the most of digitized images: a IIIF workshop

IIIF workshopWhat: Making the most of digitized images: a IIIF workshop

Who: Emma Stanford and Tim Dungate

When: 13.00-16.00, 26 January 2018

Where: Centre for Digital Scholarship, Weston Library

Access: open to all

Admission: free

Registration: required

Learn how to use free tools to make the most of digitized library and museum images with the International Image Interoperability Framework. Want to compare Blake etchings or make your own IIIFrankenstein? In this hands-on workshop, you’ll learn:

  • how to compare and manipulate digitized images using Mirador;
  • how to save and share your comparison;
  • what to do if the images you need aren’t available via IIIF; and
  • how to remix images from different manuscripts or collections into a new sequence for research or teaching.

All welcome; no technical or research experience necessary. Please bring your own laptop if you have one. Some of the more advanced tasks will require a text editor such as Sublime Text or Notepad++, both of which can be downloaded for free.

Public lecture—Digital scholarship: Intersection, Scale, and Social Machines

David De Roure, photograph credit Angela Guyton
What: Digital scholarship: Intersection, Scale, and Social Machines 

Who: David De Roure

When: 17:15—18:15, Monday 11 December 2017

Where: Wolfson College: Leonard Wolfson Auditorium (map)

Access: open to all

Admission: free

Registration: not required
 

Today we are witnessing many shifts in scholarly practice, in and across multiple disciplines, as researchers embrace digital techniques to tackle established questions in new ways and new questions afforded by our increasingly digital society and digitised collections.

 

These methods include computational techniques but also citizen science, and the notion of Social Machines provides a lens onto this scholarly ecosystem. Looking ahead we see greater citizen engagement and increasing automation, with massive data supply through living in the Internet of Things and the adoption of machine learning. Ultimately this is about the role of the human in the future of research, and with it the ethics of responsible innovation.

 

Please join us for this public lecture and stay to continue the conversation at a drinks reception immediately following the talk.

 

David De Roure is Professor of e-Research at University of Oxford and Supernumerary Fellow at Wolfson College. Focused on advancing digital scholarship, David works closely with multiple disciplines including social sciences (studying social machines), humanities (computational musicology and experimental humanities), engineering (Internet of Things), and computer science (large scale distributed systems and social computing). He has extensive experience in hypertext, Web Science, Linked Data, and Internet of Things. Drawing on this broad interdisciplinary background he is a frequent speaker and writer on the future of digital scholarship and scholarly communications. His previous roles include Director of the Oxford e-Research Centre, and Strategic Advisor to the UK Economic and Social Research Council.

 

This public lecture is co-hosted by Wolfson College’s Digital Research Cluster, the University of Oxford e-Research Centre, and the Centre for Digital Scholarship as part of the workshop Enabling Digital Scholarship: present and future.

 

Photograph: by kind permission of Angela Guyton.

Semantic data and the stories we’re not telling

One of my earliest memories of television was James Burke’s series Connections. It was fascinating yet accessible: each episode explored technology, history, science and society, jumping across topics based on historical connections or charming coincidences. One episode started with the stone fireplace and ended with Concorde.

In a digital utopia, we would each be our own James Burke, creating and sharing intellectual journeys by following the connections that interest us. We are not there yet. Many very valuable databases exist online, but the connections between them are obscured rather than celebrated, and this is an obstacle for anyone using those data in education or research. In a previous post I described the problems that come from the fact that things have different names in different databases, and described a semantic web approach to link them together.

Building on this approach, web applications can help people create their own stories; choosing their own path through sources of reliable information, building unexpected connections. In this post I describe three design principles behind these applications. Let’s start with a story.

Continue reading

Research Uncovered—The artist sleeps and the audience performs

Book tickets!


What: The artist sleeps and the audience performs

Who: Menaka PP Bora, David de Min, and Sebastiano Ludovico

When: 13:00—14:00, Monday 27 November 2017

Where: Weston Library Lecture Theatre (map)

Access: open to all

Admission: free

Registration is required

Blending technology and performance art for new experiences in viewing Bodleian collections

This performance talk highlights a new way for people to experience and interpret visual arts collections through performance and the latest technology in mobile apps, Velapp, the ‘world’s most natural video editor’. The talk uses Velapp to explore the challenges and opportunities posed by new technology on artistic responses to heritage collections.

During the talk the audience is invited to play with a sample Velapp mobile phone app, learning to shoot film and simultaneously edit while enjoying the performance of items from the Bodleian’s collections. This technological intervention enables members of the audience to produce mobile films while they watch the performance, editing as they continue to film. The experience becomes more entertaining and immersive.

Dr. Menaka PP Bora is a multi- award winning performing artist, choreographer, ethnomusicologist, actor, and broadcaster. Besides touring her sell-out solo shows in the ‘world dance’ scene and regularly appearing as Guest Speaker on BBC Radio, she is Bodleian’s Affiliated Artist and winner of the highly prestigious Leverhulme Early Career Fellowships 2016.

 

David de Min is a Tech Enterpreneur and Founder and CEO of Velapp. David is currently working on one of the most game-changing projects for the UK technology industry which will be very high profile, hugely impact the tech sector/economy, firmly place the UK on the map as a game changer in the tech world and drive phenomenal positive social change across Europe.

 

Sebastiano Ludovico is a talented young Artist and Tech Investor belonging to the Sicilian royal family in Italy. Based in London, Sebastiano exhibited his paintings at solo exhibitions from the age of 5 years. His works of art are particularly appreciated by Hollywood stars and international pop music artists and all funds raised from sales of his work are donated directly to children’s foundations and other charities, in particular the Samuel L. Jackson Foundation with whom he has collaborated with for the last 4 years.

This performance talk is hosted by the Centre for Digital Scholarship as part of the Research Uncovered series of public talks.