25 September 2014 ~ 0 Comments

Digital Humanities @ KU: Report

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of being invited to hold a workshop with Isabel Meirelles on complex network visualization and analysis at the Digital Humanities 2014 Forum, held at Kansas University, Lawrence. I figured that this is a good occasion to report on my experience, since it was very interesting and, being quite different from my usual venues, it adds a bit of diversity. The official page of the event is useful to get an overall picture of what was going on. It will be helpful also for everything I will not touch upon in this post.

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I think that one of the main highlights of the event was the half of our workshop curated by Isabel, with the additional keynote that she gave. Isabel is extremely skilled both in the know-how and in the know-what about information visualization: she is not only able to create wonderful visualizations, but she also has a powerful critical sense of what works and what doesn’t. I think that the best piece of supporting evidence for this statement is her latest book, which you can find here. As for my part of the workshop, it was focused on a very basic introduction to the simplest metrics of network analysis. You can take a glance at the slides here, but if you are already somewhat proficient in network terminology do not expect your world to be shattered by it.

The other two keynotes were equally fascinating. The first one was from Steven Jones. His talk gravitated around the concept of the eversion of the virtual into reality. Many works of science fiction imagined human beings ending up in some more or less well defined “virtual reality”, where everything is possible as long as you can program it. See for example Gibson’s “Neuromancer”, or “The Matrix”, just to give a popular example that most people would know. But what is happening right now, observes Jones, is exactly the opposite. We see more and more examples of virtual reality elements being introduced, mostly playfully, into reality. Think about qonqr, where team of people have to physically “fight” to keep virtual control of an actual neighborhood. A clever artistic way to depict eversion is also:

The last keynote was from Scott Weingart. Scott is a smart guy and he is particularly interested in studying the history of science. In the (too few!) interactions we had during the forum we touched upon many topics also included in his talk: ethic responsibility of usage of data about people, the influence of the perspective you use to analyze human activities and, a must exchange between a historian of science and yours truly formed as scientist in Pisa, Galileo Galilei. I feel I cannot do justice to his very eloquent and thought-provoking keynote in this narrow space. So I redirect you to its transcript, hosted on Scott’s blog. It’s a good read.

Then, the contributed talks. Among all the papers you can explore from the official forum page, I’d like to focus particularly on two. The first is the Salons project, presented by Melanie Conroy. The idea is to map the cultural exchange happening in Europe during the Enlightenment years. A great role for this exchange was played by Salons, where wealthy people were happy to give intellectuals a place for gathering and discussing. You can find more information on the Salons project page. I liked it because it fits with the idea of knowledge creation and human advancement as a collective process, where an equal contribution is given by both intellect and communication. By basing itself on richly annotated data, projects like these can help us understanding where breakthroughs come from, or to understand that there is no such a thing as a breakthrough, only a progressive interconnection of ideas. Usually, we realize it only after the fact, and that’s why we think it happened all of a sudden.

Another talk I really enjoyed was from Hannah Jacobs. Her talk described a visualization tool to explore the evolution of the concept of “New Woman”, one of the first examples of feminism. I am currently unable to find an online link to the tool. What I liked about it was the seamless way in which different visualizations are used to tell the various points of view on the story. The whole point of information visualization is that when there is too much data to show at the same time, one has to select what to highlight and what to discard. But in this framework, with a wise choice of techniques, one can jump into different magnifying glasses and understand one part of the story of the term “New Woman” at a time.

Many other things were cool, from the usage of the Unity 3D engine to recreate historic view, to the charming visualizations of “Enchanters of Men”. But my time here is up, and I’m left with the hope of being invited also to the 2015 edition of the forum.

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21 March 2013 ~ 2 Comments

Multidimensional Networks @ NetSci!

This month, I am interrupting the sequence of posts discussing my papers for a shameless self-promotion – after all, this entire website is shameless self-promotion, so I don’t see a problem in what I’m doing. Some months ago, I discussed my work on multidimensional networks, networks that include different kinds of relations at the same time. The whole point of the post was that these are different animals than traditional complex networks, and thus they require new tools and a new mindset.

So I asked myself: “What is the best way to create this new sensibility in the network community?”. I also asked a bunch of other great people, in no particular order: Matteo Magnani, Luca Rossi, Dino Pedreschi, Guido Caldarelli and Przemyslaw Kazienko. The result was the topic of today’s post: a symposium in the 2013 edition of the NetSci conference!

NetSci is a great venue for network people. From their website:

“The conference focuses on interdisciplinary research on networks from various disciplines such as economy, biology, medicine, or sociology, and aims to bring new network analytic methods from physics, computer science, math, or statistics to the attention of a large and diverse audience.”

This year, NetSci will take place in Copenhagen and you should check out a number of reasons for attending. One of those reasons is our symposium, called “Multiple Network Modeling, Analysis and Mining“. You can check important information about attending the symposium in the official event webpage: http://multiplenetworks.netsci2013.net/. Here are the three main highlights:

  • It is an excellent occasion to learn more about multidimensional networks, a model that can help understand the complex interplay between the different relationships we establish every day (friendship, collaboration, club membership, …), better than everything else has been done before;
  • We still have to finalize our speaker list, but it will be of very high quality and will include Jiawei Han, Lei Tang, Renaud Lambiotte and others;
  • Symposium attendance is free! And there will be free food! Woo-hoo! Just sign up in the official Google Doc.

Don’t take my word on the first point and check out the publications we refer to in our webpage. Here, following the above mentioned shameless self-promotion, I’ll list the papers on the subject written by yours truly:

If you find all of this interesting, I definitely hope to see you in Copenhagen this June!

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