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Access 2015 Toronto Thursday and Friday notes

September 22, 2015
wvrst in toronto

Wvrst – home to many good Access conversations

I chose to lump my Thursday and Friday noted into one post. I spoke on Friday, so obviously couldn’t take notes on that, and for the same reason was slightly distracted during the opening panel, so the only notes I took were for Amy Buckland’s excellent closing keynote.


Can I Actually Use It? Testing Open Textbooks for Accessibility
Tara Robertson, CAPER-BC; Kendra Levine, U of California at Berkeley

Believe this was the first time I’ve experienced a talk with a live DJ providing a soundtrack, although I’ve seen it done in recorded talks. It was … interesting, not least since it was the first talk of the day. It did wake me up! It also made it harder to multitask, which is a good thing. She had my full attention.

Tara gave an introduction to CAPER-BC (Centre for Accessible Post-secondary Education Resources BC). They are now working with open textbooks as a way to reduce the textbook costs for students. She showed a graph that clearly illustrates how textbook prices have risen in cost at a rate well beyond the CPI or even home prices. This leads to a situation where a majority of students now admit that they have opted not to purchase a required textbook for a class. As she put it, this often leads to students starting the semester without the resources they need. Read more…

Access 2015 Toronto Wednesday notes

September 22, 2015
access sponsors sign

McMaster supports Access!

For the first time ever, Access took place in my backyard. Glad that it finally cycled through Toronto. The local organizers did a great job, making everyone feel welcome and putting on a great event. Kudos to them for a unique locale for the opening reception.

Continuing a trend from recent years, I noted a decrease in the ‘technically-inclined cohort,’ with many familiar faces from recent years choosing to sit out this year’s version. Countering that, it was encouraging to see more people coming to Access who would likely never have considered doing so a few years back.

This year’s Access also had some wildly creative presentations, such as Tara Robertson’s use of a DJ during her presentation, Daniel Sifton’s RPG battle of scripted headless browsers, and Thomas Guignard’s hysterical Dr. Who / Night Vale performance piece on the failings of the ILS. Great talks, all, that highlight the creativity of the community and certainly raise the bar for those of us inclined to avoid the use of humour or other “non-serious” elements.

As always, my editorial comments and notes are in italics where I remembered to do so.

Public Computing and the Revolution
Opening Keynote & Dave Binkley Memorial Lecture
Molly Sauter, McGill

Started off by asking the crowd if they know that DDOS is; most hands went up, which pleased her. She explores in her book The Coming Swarm how networks–both cellular and the Internet–create spaces and possibilities for political action.

Showed some examples of oxymoronic “privately owned public spaces,” which are parks and open spaces maintained by corporations. The problem is that these spaces have regulations placed upon them by those corporations, not by law. They are private property. Read more…

DH 2015 Sydney notes – Friday

July 3, 2015
flickr, Colt Group

flickr, Colt Group

This was an excellent conference. Many thanks to the organizers and to the University of Western Sydney for their hospitality. It’s a beautiful campus and the crystal clear weather didn’t hurt.

Long Paper Session

“Everything on Paper Will Be Used Against Me”: Quantifying Kissinger
Micki Kaufman – CUNY

Work visible online.

Used a quote from John Ehrlichman about the record on Nixon as motivation for the work. Ehrlichman said, basically, that historians needed to listen to all of the Nixon tapes to form a complete picture.

Source material for this work comes from the Digital National Security Archive, a Chadwyck/ProQuest product. Scraping the 18,000 metadata records led to a cease and desist letter from ProQuest. There are now multiple gigabytes of Kissinger material available from his time as national security advisor. Read more…

DH 2015 Sydney notes – Thursday

July 2, 2015
flickr, Duncan PJ

flickr, Duncan PJ

Morning Long Paper Session

An Entity-based Approach to Interoperability in the Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory
Susan Brown – U of Guelph, U of Alberta; Jeffery Antoniuk, Michael Brundin, John Simpson, Mihaela Ilovan – U of Alberta; Robert Warren – Carleton University

Proposing how applying linked open data to CWRC projects would facilitate “rudimentary interoperability.” Susan briskly described their entities and usage of authorities. Trying to balance two kinds of projects, those sophisticated DH projects that use well regularized metadata and those that use highly irregular data and metadata. The latter cannot be remediated, as she noted, but the goal is to make it interoperate with other sets. Read more…

DH 2015 Sydney notes – Wednesday

July 1, 2015
flickr, sv1ambo

flickr, sv1ambo

These notes were taking using the online text editor Draft, which creates Markdown files that can be either exported or directly published to platforms such as WordPress, etc. As always with my conference notes, I have attempted to put my editorial comments in italics.

Morning Long Paper Session

Organizational Practices in Digital Humanities Centers
Smiljana Antonijevic Ubois – Penn State University

She’s a research anthropologist, so this should be interesting …

She posed her talk as a problem: why digital humanities centres (DHC)? Gave a brief overview of origins in the 1980s, noting that the visions behind these unfold in practice. This influence is the goal of her research. She studied 23 institutions in Europe and the US with 258 participants. Methods included case studies, surveys, in-depth interviews, observation, etc. She visited 11 centres, some established and others just starting out. In common: physical space with 5-15 staff. Read more…

HASTAC 2015 Friday notes

June 1, 2015
flickr, kathryn greenhill

flickr, kathryn greenhill

HASTAC was a great event. Well run, with worthwhile sessions from a range of perspectives. As always, my editorial comments are in italics where I remembered to do this. Hopefully it’s obvious as well where I forgot to add it.

Panel: Tales from the Library Basement: Doing Digital Humanities as CLIR Fellows

Digital Humanities at UC Santa Cruz
Rachel Deblinger

Started by noting how well hidden some of this can be. Used the walk to her office, down stairwells and through locked doors, as a metaphor for that. Her role is to do outreach, but she literally has to go out since people cannot get to her.

Showed a useful definition of DH: “Using digital resources, methods, and tools to do good transformative humanities research” (Lorna Hughes, at That site, incidentally, shows a different definition each time it loads. Read more…

HASTAC 2015 Thurdsay notes

May 29, 2015
flickr, Chuck Holland

flickr, Chuck Holland

HASTAC 2015 was held at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. As always, I’ve tried to put my editorial comments in italics.

Connecting the Dots (opening plenary)
Scott Weingart, Carnegie Mellon

Used a visual model (a circle) to describe the extent of human knowledge. Noted that when doing a PhD, the idea is to nudge out a little bit from that circle and expand the scope. As he noted, while it may seem like a small contribution, it’s an “uplifting narrative.” Another way to think of it is that the knowledge is already known, just not to scholars, so what the scholar does is give it shape and form that adhere to the rules of research. Example: an anthropologist may ‘discover’ things about a given population, but the members of that community live those practices and traditions. I think of my own PhD research in this light. Unearthing, sorting, and creating a narrative are in their own ways about creating new knowledge. Read more…


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