TEACH: Database fundamentals

Having data in a spreadsheet can be fine for many types of data and projects, but when you want to start interrogating the data in more complex ways a relational database is much more powerful. There are numerous programmes around to create such a database in (MySQL is a powerful free one), but before we get to that stage it is necessary first to plan out the database, going back to first principles.

I propose covering these first principles step by step, then working our way together through a few sample datasets to think about how we would structure that data for a relational database. If you have some data you would like to go through, feel free to bring it along.

Categories: Linked Data, Session: Teach | 4 Comments

TEACH: Using Video Essays as a Research/Teaching Tool

Now that editing software is easily available and it is increasingly simple to download/rip AV content, video essays are becoming increasingly popular. Two main trends seem to be emerging:

1. Video essays that merge text, sound and visual content in an open manner that can be read in multiple ways. These normally lead viewers towards central arguments but ask viewers to engage in their own interpretations of the content. A good example is Catherine Grant’s ‘Touching the Film Object? Notes on the ‘Haptic’ in Videographical Film Studies’ (filmanalytical.blogspot.co.nz/2011/08/touching-film-object-notes-on-haptic-in.html)

2. Video essays that follow a traditional voice-over documentary format which leads viewers through specific arguments and towards direct conclusions. A good example is Arielle Bernstein and Serena Bramble’s ‘Female Sexual Agency in a World of Blurred Lines’ (blogs.indiewire.com/pressplay/video-essay-female-sexual-agency-in-a-world-of-blurred-lines)

Both types can be constructed with relative ease and are good tools for exploring and presenting research topics and/or class themes.

In this session I propose covering the basic principles of how to construct video essays with a particular emphasis on how consumer technologies such as smart phones can help produce original content to be included in the essays as well as how to use creative commons licenses in the production of video essays.

Categories: Digital Literacy, Open Access, Session: Teach, Visualization | 3 Comments

TALK: Exchanging knowledge services for data


Data collection from human subjects is always a challenge. Now that everyone and their dog is on the internet, it has become possible to collect data online. Some researchers have investigated the feasibility of doing so and have concluded that it is possible. These data can also be analysed to understand human learning, cognition, psychology, and possibly other topics of interest.

Most of the researchers seem to be paying participants small sums in exchange for the data they produce. But another alternative exists when you consider what is going on with all the data that users generate on interactive websites. Many companies mine it and sell it to advertisers, market researchers, and the like. Others use it to improve the user experience or to evaluate changes to the code base.

Proposed discussion

I’m interested in possible ways of combining the provision of useful services in exchange for collecting (mostly) anonymised data which can then be used for research. Twitter, for example, has created one of the largest corpora in history of speech-like text which everyone from computer scientists to linguists to political scientists are analysing.

Other examples include Coursera and Khan Academy, both of which collect data on human learning in exchange for a free education. Other sites, such as Human Benchmark, don’t even really offer a service, and yet manage to collect impressive data sets.

So, what I propose is a discussion about

  • what types of human data are interesting, but difficult to collect
  • what kinds of services or formats could be used to entice people to produce that data
  • what are some reasons why these types of services have succeeded/failed in the past
  • what existing platforms/projects could be leveraged to facilitate data collection and service provision
  • etc.


I have some limited experience collecting data through websites which have yielded interesting insights into vocabulary acquisition and rent pricing (yes, they are completely unrelated). I’m keen on pursuing this concept further to study the development of reading proficiency and speed in a second/foreign language.

Categories: Crowdsourcing, Data Mining, General, Research Methods, Session Proposals, Session: Talk, Teaching | 1 Comment

TEACH: What can a SPARQL endpoint do for you?

[Update: 3 December 2013]: A blog summarizing a little of what I presented at my THATCamp session can be found here: exponentialdecay.co.uk/blog/architecture-of-the-fr-org/ – Thanks to all those who attended!]

Two-weeks back I built myself a linked file-format registry. For me, one of the biggest motivations is opening up existing data and making it more queryable…

I want to share some of that experience and provide a bit of a technical background about the implementation of that work, and what a SPARQL endpoint can do for you.


  • The motivation
  • A (brief) intro to RDF / Linked Data
  • Architecture
  • .htaccess makes it fly! (hint: magic)
  • Query mechanisms
  • You… (well, what’s next)

Conclusion: The technology isn’t a silver bullet, but, make your data available on the web, and use open standards.

Further Reading…

Personal blog, covering the work: exponentialdecay.co.uk/blog/tag/the-fr-org/

A bit of an example query: bit.ly/I2xwB3 (More information on this particular query in session…)

Categories: Coding, Linked Data, Session Proposals, Session: Talk, Session: Teach | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

How do I facilitate a session?

If you’re new to the THATCamp scene, you might be wondering how to facilitate a session. This is entirely up to you, but here are a few suggestions…

Camper introductions

  • Who are you?
  • Where do you come from?
  • What do you know about the session topic?
  • What would you like to get out of the session?

Plan the session

  • How are we going to record our ideas? (whiteboard/notepads/Google docs/something else)
  • What are our session objectives? (write these down)

Go for it!

Learn, share, hack, build, brainstorm…

 Wrap up

  • What are our takeaways?
  • What this session useful?
  • Do we need more time? We could use another session to continue…
Categories: General, Session Proposals | Tags: | Comments Off on How do I facilitate a session?

TALK: who is doing what, where?

I’m really interested in learning what is happening in New Zealand relating to the digital humanities.

Some things that might be worth chatting about:

  • What questions are being investigated?
  • Are there networks that should be connected?
  • What challenges are people facing?
  • Which organisations are leading the way?
  • Where are the rich, juicy datasets.
Categories: Session Proposals, Session: Talk | 1 Comment

PLAY: Join the crowd!

Whether you’re new to the concept of crowdsourcing, or you’ve been thinking about a potential project for a while, there’s nothing like actually joining the crowd and taking part to get inspired.

Some fantastic new GLAM and Digital Humanities crowdsourcing projects have launched over the past year – I propose we spend some time contributing to a few, and then down tools to discuss what we like about them, what works well, and what doesn’t work so well.

Who’s in?

Categories: Crowdsourcing, Session Proposals, Session: Play | Tags: | 1 Comment

Less than 2 weeks to go!

12 days left

Welcome to our new campers, it’s great to have you aboard!

With less than two weeks to go until W13, it’s time to start thinking about the sessions we would like to propose and participate in.

To help you get started, check out the tips at Session Proposals

Remember, a THATCamp is what we make it!

Categories: General | Comments Off on Less than 2 weeks to go!

Visualizing THATCamp W13

Voyant Cirrus

With new campers signing up every day, I was getting curious about what this year’s THATCamp Wellington might look like. Nothing like a little word-clouding to get the big picture (campers’ motivation for attending + Voyant Cirrus = big picture).

So if new + digital + technology + humanities + data + research + people + projects = YOU…

and you haven’t already signed up…

It’s not too late! All you need to do is tell us a little about yourself and what you’re interested in right here.


Categories: General, Visualization | Tags: | Comments Off on Visualizing THATCamp W13

What do you want to learn more about?

Welcome to the the first keen bean campers, who have shared why they’re looking forward to THATCamp Wellington 2013. Perhaps you share similar interests…

  • Data visualisation
  • Social networks
  • Text mining
  • Ontologies
  • Access
  • Crowdsourcing
  • Hacking/coding for newbies
  • Hear about new projects
  • Innovation in the humanities
  • New digital tools and technologies

What would you like to add to the mix? Share your ideas when you sign up here.

W13 is being held on Thursday 28 November, in the Railway Building on Pipitea Campus, Victoria University of Wellington (Bunny Street).

Thanks to the generosity of our major sponsor InternetNZ, and the help of Victoria University of Wellington and Wai-te-ata Press, we’re able to keep registration to a budget-friendly $25. This will be collected on the day, and invoices and receipts can be arranged then too.

We’ll be rolling up our sleeves for a full day, from around 8.30am to 5.30pm, with post-match drinks to follow. The schedule is what we make it, but the day will roughly break down like this.

Once you’ve signed up, start thinking about the kind of session you’re going to propose. To help you get started, check out these tips.

Questions? Ideas? Drop me a line any time at or @thatcampwgtn

Categories: Coding, Crowdsourcing, Data Mining, General, Project Management, Social Media, Text Mining, Visualization | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on What do you want to learn more about?