It is very nearlyInternational Games Day @ your library! Here at the British Library, we are holding free game playing and making activities from 10:00 to 16:00, on Saturday 21 November 2015. Our theme for the day is Alice Adventures in Wonderland and the event co-incides with the opening of the Library's free exhibition celebrating how Alice has captured our imaginations for so many years.
You don't need to book in advance, just turn up on the day and find us on the first floor in the public area outside the Rare Books and Music Reading Room (up the escalator from the Alice exhibition and turn left). If you have not visited the British Library before, there is information with directions to the building here.
There will be an opportunity to create Alice inspired digital games usingPocket Paintand Pocket Code, so please bring along your android phones if you want to participate in this activity. To download the Pocket Code app go here. The Pocket Paint session will be 11:00-12:00 in the morning and the Pocket Code session 13:00-14:00 in the afternoon.
Image from Gyre and Gimble's "Alice and the Wonderland"
Last, but no means least, there will be a selection of card and board games, with a fine bunch of game enthusiasts from the London on Board group and Gambling Lambs bringing some of their favourite games for us to play. See you there!
P.S. Dressing up as characters from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is strongly encouraged! So dig out your top hats, rabbit ears and pocket watches!
P.P.S. You might want to follow @Alice150_BL on twitter to stay up-to-date with all the fun on the day!
The winners of the British Library Labs Awards were announced at the British Library Labs Symposium, held on Monday 2nd November 2015, at the British Library. The Awards were launched in 2015 by the British Library Labs team in order to formally recognise outstanding and innovative work that has been created using the British Library’s digital collections and content.
This year, the Awards honoured projects within three key categories: Research, Creative/Artistic and Entrepreneurship. The winner of the Research Award (2015) was “Combining Text Analysis and Geographic Information Systems to investigate the representation of disease in nineteenth-century newspapers”, submitted by the Spatial Humanities project at Lancaster University: Paul Atkinson, Ian Gregory, Andrew Hardie, Amelia Joulain-Jay, Daniel Kershaw, Catherine Porter and Paul Rayson, a video presentation from Ian about the entry is available here.
The project examines the London based newspaper The Era (1838–1900, constituting over 377 million words), which has been digitised and made available by the British Library, through innovative and varied selections of qualitative and quantitative mechanisms in order to determine how the Victorian Era discussed and portrayed disease, both temporally and spatially.
Ian Gregory, University of Lancaster
The Award was accepted at the Symposium by Ian Gregory, Professor of Digital Humanities at Lancaster University, on behalf of the rest of the Spatial Humanities project team.
Below, Ian’s guest blog discusses the award winning project for us:
Lancaster University’s Spatial Humanities: Texts, GIS, Places is a European Research Council funded project concerned with understanding how we can analyse the geographies in large corpora while remaining sensitive to the subtleties and nuances within the texts. It does this by combining techniques from Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and corpus linguistics to create a set of techniques we call Geographical Text Analysis (GTA). GIS is effectively a mapping and database technology that is typically used with quantitative sources. Corpus linguistics is concerned with analysing large textual collections using a combination of quantitative and qualitative approaches. The project has been developing these techniques and applying them to studies concerned with Lake District literature and nineteenth century social history. Doing this requires a large and highly interdisciplinary team, currently Paul Atkinson (an historian), Ian Gregory (digital humanities), Andrew Hardie (linguistics), Daniel Kershaw (computer science), Amelia Joulain-Jay (linguistics), Catherine Porter (geography) and Paul Rayson (computer science).
One of the major challenges facing the team has been incorporating the British Library’s Nineteenth Century Newspapers collection. This consists of two million newspaper pages from 49 series of papers, most of which run continuously for the whole of the nineteenth century. Our best estimate is that it contains over 30 billion words. The sheer volume of material presents significant challenges, not least that to even strip out the unnecessary mark-up to make the texts suitable for analysis requires computing power that was only practical using parallel processing on a Hadoop cluster. A second challenge is that, as with many other historical sources, they were digitised using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology in which the computer attempts to convert a scanned image into digital letters and words. Being newsprint, the quality of the original text is frequently poor thus this is an error prone process. We have evaluated a range of post-OCR correction methods and found one to be promising. We have also explored the extent to which OCR error affects analytic results. We are particularly interested in a technique called collocation, which effectively asks what words are found near to a search-term, allowing us to understand what themes are associated with other themes. We have been able to show that, with certain caveats, the OCR quality of the newspapers collection does not undermine the effectiveness of collocation analysis.
Graph: frequencies of mentions of France and Russia in The Era newspaper, 1838–1898
The diagram above shows the frequency of mentions of two countries, France and Russia, in one newspaper, TheEra. The spikes in the graph may suggest that much of the interest in these countries was driven by wars and crises such as the Crimean War in the 1850s, and the Franco-Prussian and Russo-Turkish wars of the 1870s.
Graph: collocations between ‘France’, the word ‘war’, and words associated with war (semantic class G3) in The Era newspaper, 1838–1900
Graph: collocations between ‘Russia, the word ‘war’, and words associated with war (semantic class G3) in The Era newspaper, 1838–1900
Combining collocation with semantic tagging, in which words are classed according to their meaning, allows us to test this idea. The graphs above show the collocations between the two country names and the word ‘war’, and all words in semantic class ‘G3’, words associated with war. They show that although ‘war’ does co-occur with these countries, it does so no more than 10% of the time. Further collocation analyses can be used to show what other themes are associated with the countries in these periods.
Map: place names that collocate with a range of 19th century diseases in The Era
We are interested in the representation of local places in The Era, as well as countries. A technique known as geoparsing allows us to identify place-names in the text and allocate them with coordinates. The map above shows the places – mainly towns and cities – associated with a range of common nineteenth century diseases. Being able to link between the map and the underlying text allows us to understand how patterns vary from place to place. For example, the mentions of disease in India tend to be associated with newspaper reports on the deaths of individual colonial officials and soldiers. Egypt, by contrast, is driven by personal testaments in medical advertisements by people who claim to have used a particular medicine whilst living in there.
Map: place names in England & Wales that collocate with a range of 19th century diseases in The Era
This global geography is, however, dominated by references to places in England and the map above shows this in greater detail. This spatial depiction of disease mentions not only allows us to explore the temporal geography of newspaper interest in different diseases, it also allows for a comparison with other patterns and information such as those found in official reports and statistics.
A key point of this work is that research with digital sources in the humanities is not a simple two stage process in which a source is digitised and then findings appear. Digitisation has been criticised as being expensive and producing problematic results. Both are true, however the response should not be either to give up in despair or to carry on regardless ignoring the problems. Instead, issues such as OCR quality and its impacts will present significant research challenges for many years to come. It is important that the humanities play a key role in responding to these challenges. Beyond this, effectively exploiting the content within large digital sources requires much more than simple browsing and keyword searching. Research into developing new methodologies or adaption of existing ones to make them more appropriate to the humanities is essential. These need to allow and encourage the combination of the computer’s ability to summarise patterns in large volumes of data, with the more traditional humanities skills of understanding subtly and nuance in documents written by humans. Finally, while these stages present many possibilities, they are of little use unless applied research follows at the end. Getting to the applied stage can be a long journey requiring significant investment, interdisciplinary expertise and changing working practices. If followed, however, this journey will lead to both new knowledge about how to make full use of the digital sources that are ever more pervasive, and to major new contributions to our understanding of the past.
British Library Labs launched a new annual competition in 2015 – The British Library Labs Awards. The Awards formally recognise outstanding and innovative work that has been created using the British Library’s digital collections and content.
This year, the Awards honoured projects within three key categories: Research, Creative/Artistic and Entrepreneurship. The winners and runners up were announced at the British Library Labs Symposium, held on Monday 2nd November 2015, at the British Library.
Prizes were awarded to the winners of each category, followed by special presentations given by the winners discussing their projects.
Research category Award runner up: “Palimpsest: Telling Edinburgh’s Stories with Maps”.
By the Palimpsest team: Beatrice Alex, Miranda Anderson, Ian Fieldhouse, Claire Grover, David Harris-Birtill, Uta Hinrichs, James Loxley, Jon Oberlander, Nicola Osborne, Lisa Otty, Aaron Quigley, James Reid and Tara Thomson.
Palimpsest is an AHRC funded collaboration between the University of Edinburgh’s School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures and School of Informatics, EDINA, and the University of St Andrews’ SACHI lab. The project enables the interactive exploration of Edinburgh’s rich literary history via the LitLong web interface and mobile app. The LitLong tools link to more than 1,600 locations within Edinburgh mentioned in over 47,000 literary excerpts from around 550 books.
Research category Award winner: “Combining Text Analysis and Geographic Information Systems to investigate the representation of disease in nineteenth-century newspapers”.
By the Spatial Humanities project at Lancaster University: Paul Atkinson, Ian Gregory, Andrew Hardie, Amelia Joulain-Jay, Daniel Kershaw, Catherine Porter and Paul Rayson.
The Spatial Humanities Project at the University of Lancaster and Ian Gregory one of the team.
The award was accepted by Ian Gregory, Professor of Digital Humanities at Lancaster University, on behalf of the rest of the Spatial Humanities project team. Ian’s research interests are in using geographical technologies to understand the past. His early research focussed on quantitative sources such as census and health data, including work on the GB Historical GIS and the AHRC-funded Troubled Geographies project that explored Ireland’s changing religious geographies. Recently, he has concentrated on exploring the geographies within texts, working on projects funded by the ERC, ESRC, Leverhulme Trust, Newby Trust and Heritage Lottery Fund. He has published four books and over 60 journal articles and book chapters. Learn more about Spatial Humanities’ winning project here: http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/fass/projects/spatialhum.wordpress/The project examines the London based newspaper The Era (1838–1900, constituting over 377 million words), which has been digitised and made available by the British Library, through innovative and varied selections of qualitative and quantitative mechanisms in order to determine how the Victorian Era discussed and portrayed disease, both temporally and spatially.
A video of the presentation of this award is available below:
Creative/Artistic category Award runner up: “Nix”.
By the Gothulus Rift team: Jackson Rolls-Gray, Sebastian Filby and Faye Allen.
Gothulus Rift by team Nix
Nix is an award winning virtual reality game made for the Oculus Rift wherein players explore a warped underwater environment with Beckford's Fonthill Abbey as the centerpiece. Nix was created as a response to a brief provided by Gamecity as part of their Off the Map competition in collaboration with Crytek and The British Library. The competition challenged students to use the materials featured in the British Library’s upcoming Gothic exhibition as inspiration for a game made using Crytek’s Cryengine.
Creative/Artistic category Award winner: “The Order of Things”.
By Mario Klingemann, New Media Artist.
An art work by Mario Klingemann
Mario Klingemann has a been using code and data as mediums for exploring the possibilities of computational and artistic creativity within the cultural heritage sector. He has experience in using image classification and data mining to support institutions including the British Library, Cardiff University and the New York Public Library, in the digitisation and classification of their archives. Mario’s works have been shown at the Residenzschloß Dresden, the Centre Pompidou, Paris and the MoMA New York, as well as on the internet, including "Like This", "Mona Tweeta" and "Lowpolybot". The project involves the use of semi-automated image classification and machine learning techniques in order to add meaningful tags to the images and create thematic collections of the British Library’s one million Flickr Commons images.
A video of the presentation of this award is available below:
Entrepreneurial category Award runner up: “The British Library ‘Library Wall’: The nineteenth- century ‘British Classics’ collection”.
By the Artefacto team: Sara Wingate Gray and Kate Lomax.
Library Wall by Artefacto
The British Library ‘Library Wall’ is a curated collection of digitised texts from the British Library's nineteenth-century book collection, which people are able to freely obtain, read and share through the use of smartphones or other “smart” mobile devices, such as iPads and tablets, by pointing their device at the installation. The physical installation currently exists in a designed and printed large-scale poster-type format, which is easily fixed to any blank space, such as above a desk or in a shop.
Entrepreneurial category Award winner: “Redesigning Alice: Etsy and the British Library joint project”.
By Dina Malkova, designer and entrepreneur.
Dina Malkova and her Bow Tie
Dina Malkova runs a design studio in Lewes, East Sussex. She was awarded a Chevening scholarship to attend The University of Arts, at the London College of Communication by The British Council in 2005. As part of her MA in Enterprise Management in Creative Arts, Dina completed a Creative Ventures course at the London Business School, winning the top award. Over the last 10 years, Dina has garnered experience in creating and supplying collections for a number of companies, including the V&A gift shop and the Glyndebourne Opera shop.The project has produced a range of bow ties and other gift products inspired by the fantastic illustrations of Alice's Adventures Under Ground by Lewis Carroll.
A video of the presentation of this award is available below:
Jury’s Special Mention Award: “Indexing the BL 1 million and Mapping the Maps”.
By James Heald, Wikimedia contributor.
Wikimedia Commons and James Heald
The project improves the availability of the British Library Flickr Commons images through metadata, making different parts of the content more discoverable and well-grouped, so the content can be made available via the structured schemes at Wikimedia Commons.
James Heald has been a Wikipedia contributor since 2004. In the last couple of years, his volunteer interests have turned towards Wikimedia Commons and Wikidata. As well as focusing on the map images from the Mechanical Curator set, James become the first user in the wild of Wikimedia’s new GlamWiki Toolset upload tool, with a set of 400 highlight images from the British Library.