Digital Humanism Networks

There seems to be nowadays a buzzing community surrounding digital humanism. There is the Digital Humanism Finland, which resides mainly in the google group .

Then there is the new Heldig community, which relates to the Heldig centre of digital humanities, , but which also has a presence in social media, via Facebook group  and a #HelsinkiDH hashtag in Twitter.

Verkkojen laskeminen jään alle.

Suomen kalastuslehti, 01.01.1915, nro 3, s. 12 Kansalliskirjaston Digitoidut aineistot


Then there are both new and old groups, which think on integrating research and practical IT (or ICT) work, like the Rajapinta , or the Agricola forum about historical topics or APISuomi for thinking of interfaces between information systems. Lots of communities and lots of opportunities to network and share experiences. Summa summarum, there exists lots of community groups, so do join in and help if you are interested to promote certain topic!

With this in mind eagerly waiting what is happening in the Digital Humanities i Norden conference, which is just starting. There are lots of participants from universities around Nordics, sharing information about new research.

Which other communities there that share information on research topics?


Digital Humanities at Liber2016

During this week in Helsinki there has been Liber 2016 conference, which is the main network for research libraries in Europe. This year it was orgPaasitorni 1908anized in Helsinki at Paasitorni, by co-operation of the National Library of Helsinki, Helsinki University Library and Finnish Research Libraries. There was record number of attendees, proposals  submitted and also a great variety in countries where the attendees came. The theme of the conference was “Libraries Opening Paths to Knowledge”, which both gave possibilities for wide range of talks, while still keeping all presentations in linked to each other.

Digital humanities, eh?

Digital humanities was visible also in Liber, as an recognized field, which requires libraries all over to adjust their services towards those who want to utilize materials via algorithms in addition to close reading. It also came about in the discussions after sessions, and also via side discussions during the breaks. Especially on Thursday there were sessions that talked about service design, where there was conscious effort to the respond to the new needs of clients of the libraries via service design, service modeling, net promoter score metrics, which might appear more in private sector. But this shows that libraries are, opening new ways to information, as the conference tagline goes, in whatever ways are available — even small things, like having people to guide students can have huge impact to the daily high and low points of an individual researcher.

Plenary: Digital Humanities in and of the Library

The plenary session of Yale University Library / Digital Humanities Lab by Peter Leonard was particularly interesting, as he went through both in theory and practice how a library can help in digital humanities. He went through the collections but also research projects, which utilize the data.

One of the aspects discussed were the special collections & DH, where the user engagement, which some might call, crowdsourcing, is a way to both enrich the data, but also to get awareness of the materials increased.  This first example talked mainly about the fascinating Transcribe-project , where Cherokee language could be transcribed via unique font set by the volunteers, who know the language. As mentioned in Twitter, this approach of targeted crowdsourcing, is similar to the well-known Fenno-Ugrica project.

Enriching options

The second case of enriching was done via kinds of crowdsourcing tagging of original materials. From the digital materials, for example from books, volunteers draw bounding boxes to surround significant terms, e.g.  the characters, writers, or titles. One of the demos shown had then a network analysis of works, artists and their content.

Analyzing materials

Then for a different kind of example, the final example was about Vogue journal, where the content itself was restricted, but the lab had sought ways to still utilize the materials in an image-based analysis. For example we saw how the front page of the journal changed over the years and how the hue and brightness varies. From the vogue materials there was also made “frequency counts” of terms which were visualized in a timeline. Via topic modelling it was then also possible to let the content to speak to the researchers, as that created groups of terms which seem to appear close to themselves and thusly created groupings of terms, themes, which then researchers can dig deeper. The access controls were utilized as the system provides also the full text of articles for those who have access to the restricted content, others have to work on the aggregate level. This is bit similar to the NLF’s Aviisi-project goals, where access control has been a key thing to develop, in order to increase availability to the more recent materials.


It was understood by library people that “writing software” is one of the key skills, which a researcher might need. Actually in the discussion of the Yale’s plenary session there were considerations that how goal-oriented those skills should be? The comparison given was related to e.g. language courses, they might be taken at some point, but even if the learner doesn’t have passable language skills for everyday discussion, it still can be seen as valid learning as e.g. culture and other knowledge is got.

Especially in programming the software stacks, languages,  different toolings, arise and fall quite rapidly and one of the core skills could be just to juggle with many possible programming language, in the selection of the most suitable tool for a job. As mentioned in Liber2015 in prof. Tolonen and Dr Leo Lahti, there should be reproducible workflows from data, to code and to results.

For example in the open science portal there just came text reminding of citing software, computer programs should be done, which is talked more, for example in the Force11 software citation principles . Personally, I’ve always liked if a github repository contains also the citing instructions directly, because then it is relatively convenient to just copy the given format. For example, Mike Jackson lists examples how to get citation from various tools, e.g.  from R modules via citation(‘modulename’) and finally the recommendation to do a own command line option for citation, is actually very implementable suggestion. In a way generating an URN to a blog post would be possible, but would it be useful?  Especially if using github for blogging it could be possible to just get an URN to a post automatically – then it would happen behind the scenes but anyhow be available.

Training DH

On Friday there were talks about training DH, where e.g. Maija Paavolainen from University of Helsinki told about the current digital humanities course in Digital Humanities Helsinki and what students, content providers, and trainers had learnt throughout the way. National Library of Netherlands also talked about the library role in DH, it all starts with data (digitized), but there was also good reminder to be critical towards all tools, and to the digital sources in general.

National Library of NetherlandsAll data, tools and methods have their usages, so knowing what suits where is also one field, where new competences need to be built. It is also constant work, as field evolves all the time.

Presentation materials, posters of the Liber2016 can be found via the conference website , and discussions during the  conference can be found via #liber2016 hashtag .





Digital humaniora i Norden, aka DHN 2016

In the mid-March , there was the title’s conference ‘Digital humaniora i Norden’ at Oslo, Norway. For the program there were 125 proposals for presentation and posters, where 79 and 13 were accepted. From the presentations from Finnish organizations, there were  13 presentations, consisting of 1 session, 10 papers and 2 posters.

Viribus unitis

Tekniska föreningens i Finland förhandlingar, 01.01.1880, no. 1, p. 6 at 1843678#?page=6 National Library’s Digital Collections

Type Title Organization
session Ett komplett arbetsflöde för två digitala utgåvor Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland
paper Narrative Approaches to the Digitalization of Participatory Urban Planning: Bringing Plot and Metaphor to PPGIS methods University of Tampere, Aalto University
paper Finländska klassikerbiblioteket – finländsk litteratur i det digitala landskapet University of Helsinki
paper Nordic Englishes on Twitter University of Oulu
paper Historians digging in the text mine. Exploring blended close & distant reading of technical journals to understand Finnish history of industrialization, 1880-1910 Aalto University, University of Turku
paper Counterfactual history in simulation video games: a methodological approach to studying historical consciousness University of Helsinki
paper Dealings with Uneven Corpus – Experiences from the Use of a Difficult Research Data University of Helsinki
paper Assessing lexical quality of a digitized historical Finnish newspaper collection with modern language technology tools National Library of Finland
paper Unlocking a Finnish Social Media – In Search of Citizen Mindscapes University of Helsinki
paper Travelling TexTs: A HERA financed five countries project from the point of view of its Finnish team University of Turku
paper Teaching Digital Humanities at the Faculty of Arts at the University of Helsinki University of Helsinki, Aalto University
poster Classical Intertextuality in Late Greek Poetry: a Computational Approach University of Helsinki
poster SEMATIA: Linguistic Annotation of Greek Papyri University of Helsinki






National Library of Finland at DHN16

NLF also was presenting at DHN16, with talk about “assessing lexical quality of a digitized historical Finnish newspaper collection with modern language technology tools”, for this we went through the material within texts and evaluated those with both Omorfi and FINTWOL. We tried to find the most often used words and check their status, to help, in the long run, finding ways to improve the text quality. After running the relatively easy-to-use, that the range of the quality of the digi varies:

that the collection has a relatively good quality part (at least 1/3, probably up to 40–50 %) and a very bad quality part (at least about 10–20%)


These metrics can be useful in evaluating whether the experimented corrections take the whole collection to the good direction. In improvements we are thinking the usefulness of the material to the researchers, as there are attempts to do further analysis of the materials in different fields.


University of Helsinki at DHN16

UH was also well presented in the conference in Oslo. The system, known as Klassikkokirjasto or Klassikerbiblioteket was presented, and how the new web system could serve many different kinds of people from researchers to general public. Klassikkokirjasto was built in collaboration between National Library of Finland, University of Helsinki and Department of Finnish, Finno-Ugrian and Scandinavian Studies.

Anssi Kanner had also utilized the digital collections of National Library of Finland, and he talked about how to deal with uneven corpus, and the challenges which Kettunen et. al. were measuring and how he had approached some fix ideas.

There was also presentation from Aalto University and University of Turku about the using technical journals to understand Finnish history of industrialization, 1880-1910. All technical journals have not been digitized by NLF, but there was still enough in e.g. the digitized Swedish-language Finnish engineering journal, which enabled them to check the feasibility to go forwards and do first experiments. Digitization of historical materials can then seen to have increase the materials versatility for research, beside using the analog materials.

Digital humanism is also in the rise in Finland. This is expressed also by the new digital humanism curriculum, which was the topic of the paper of Mikko Tolonen, Maija Paavolainen (UH) and Eetu Mäkelä (Aalto). As they say “Open access, and open science are a core principle of all of our DH activities”. This ideology is being implemented to teaching via Helsinki DH centre (HELDIG) co-operation and collaboration outside UH, and finding ways to integrate DH research within. For example, the incoming Digital Humanities Hackathon 2016, is also one example case of this ongoing work.

More information

The full papers can be found via links in the conference program. In addition, the book of abstracts give a good summary of all the talks in one go.