DHBenelux, June 8-10, 2016, Belval, Luxembourg

DHBenelux16 This year, the DHBenelux Conference took place on the Belval campus in Luxembourg, an amalgam of futuristic and industrial scenery and of technology-based supplies from writing on the walls to automatic book scanning.

The pre-conference workshop I attended on day 1, Exploring Old Maps, brought into discussion questions related to the digitisation of old and historical maps, georeferencing and overlaying on modern maps, methodologies for text (labels) and forms (e.g. streets, buildings) recognition or for landscape change analysis, as well as viewpoints on crowd-sourced map enrichment and users’ engagement in geohumanities.

Day 2 and 3, between the two keynotes – one examining the relationship among data, algorithms and human interpretation, the other the modelling of ideas in a computational framework – included five thematic parallel sessions and a posters/demos exhibition. The parallel sessions that I could attend contained talks on Historical Research and Network Analysis, Digital Textual Analysis and Digital Literary Analysis. The presentations in these categories covered a variety of topics such as:

  • social network analysis for studying:
    • individual relationships inside institutions for intellectual cooperation,
    • relations and interactions between producers and consumers of creative goods,
    • the role of interpersonal and group ties in the so-called “survival” networks under difficult historical conditions,
    • the disambiguation of person names in modern religious history;
  • textual analysis techniques for:
    • detecting patterns in news writing,
    • measuring the popularity of newspaper articles,
    • reconstructing the rhythm and prosody of old literary texts,
    • determining authorship in historical texts;
  • critical perspectives on large textual data collections and analytic tools in order to:
    • define and formulate the limits of an “ideal” digital corpus,
    • combine scalability and annotation layers requirements for supporting retrieval and analysis infrastructures,
    • compare and evaluate the accuracy of different digital tools for narratological analysis;
  • tools building for:
    • supporting text normalisation, search and analysis of historical and literary texts from the distant past,
    • linking entities in “encyclopaedic” novels with corresponding disciplines in semantic Web repositories.

In this context, my co-authored contributions, a paper and a demo, dealt with a combination of Human Computer Interaction and digital textual analysis for interpreting usability tests responses and with a metaphorical didactic interpretation of historical writings on architecture via a model and interface for textual zooming.

One of the questions – proposed by the opening keynote speaker – discussed during the theme based lunch was (approximately): What is specific to the humanities in digital humanities, apart from content? A potential subject of reflection for the next DHBenelux 2017 in Utrecht, Netherlands.


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