Museums and Virtual Reality: VR in the Grant Museum
By Lucy J Stagg, on 24 March 2017
Virtual reality and augmented reality are creating new avenues of exploration for museums, allowing their visitors greater interaction with their content and materials. Nicholas Klein, Timothy Lambden and Hector Leach-Clay from UCL Natural Sciences, and Alex Muller, a UCL alumnus, recently tested a virtual reality app in UCL’s Grant Museum:
The reaction to VR:Cell at the Grant Museum was overwhelmingly positive – once people saw it they wanted to try it. Queues formed quickly at the sight of the obvious delight expressed by other visitors using the headset, as people snatched at thin air trying to grab parts of the virtual cell with big grins on their faces. Even parents were itching to try it after seeing their children’s reactions and, to our entertainment, behaved similarly to their children once they finally got to have a go!
The Digital Music Lab: A Big Data Infrastructure for Digital Musicology
By Lucy J Stagg, on 20 March 2017
A paper describing the infrastructure of the Digital Music Lab framework has been published in the ACM Journal on Computing and Cultural Heritage (JOCCH). The paper is available to download from UCL Discovery. The project also got a write-up in Motherboard
Digital Music Lab is an AHRC project aiming to to develop research methods and software infrastructure for exploring and analysing large-scale music collections. The £560k project is being carried out collaboratively between City University London, Queen Mary University of London, University College London, and the British Library.
Digital Publishing workshop at the Shanghai Institute of Design
By Simon Mahony, on 24 January 2017
I was back in Shanghai again at the close of 2016 to follow up my earlier guest lecture at the Shanghai Institute of Design with a week long workshop. They have a Master’s level programme on Digital Publishing in the Department of Digital Publishing and Exhibition Design but with little Faculty expertise on the web or Internet. After discussion with the Institute’s President and the Programme Convenor we decided on the title, ‘Getting over the Great Wall’, where I would cover the history and development of the Internet, cultural influences on design, publishing online, accessibility and usability design, and information design (it is the Institute of Design). This would be finished off with student presentations of their projects: to design a digital product (for the web or mobile device) that in some way brought together aspects of cultural difference. The cultural differences could be within China itself as none of the students had traveled outside China. The first task was to ban Flash and Dreamweaver and explain why this was the case!
This workshop, of course, also afforded the opportunity to showcase UCL.
Interestingly, I’m the only one not wearing a coat here and that only happened on the first day. Not only is there no internet connection or wifi in the teaching rooms (something we take for granted) but there is no heating either – only fans (look carefully at the photos below) to keep cool in the summer; apparently south of the Yellow River building regulations permit buildings with no heating.
A workstation and projector is set up in each room but my outstanding TA had to improvise as the remote control was missing (sounds familiar!). Much of my teaching material had been kindly translated by current UCLDH students but I still needed an interpreter/translator. Everything was presented in English and Chinese as they are all learning English too.
They felt sorry for me when the temperature dropped further and moved my class to the executive lecture room which has heating. The heater, however, only pointed at the lecture station and it was not possible to move it to warm the students who still needed their coats and scarves. Interestingly, no one sat in the front row (clearly a Chinese tradition too).
As well as lectures, we had a series of group tutorials where we discussed the student projects while wearing many layers of clothing. As a Design Institute, they have very talented artists among the students. The images shown here were ideas for new style masks for the Peking Opera to encourage a younger audience. Interesting and considering how central it is to Chinese culture, only two projects featured food; others were concerned with opera, architecture, local dialects and one with traditional Chinese designs being used on sneakers.
On the final day of the workshop, the students presented their work. Without exception, it was all visually stunning (it is the foremost Institute of Design with high academic standards) and very impressive as they only had a short time to decide on and design their projects. Overall, what they managed with only a couple of days for preparation was really outstanding.
By the end of the week, the students were relaxed and comfortable, no longer shy. Those that spoke some English took pride in talking to me and forgave my extremely limited Mandarin.
I wrapped things up with a roundup and general remarks on their work as well as some thoughts on the value of education, cultural exchange and what we can learn from each other.
We had to schedule another half-hour at the end of the workshop for the mandatory photo session which starts with several group ones and finishes with individual and group ‘selfies’! These get shared across the Chinese social media platforms, particularly WeChat which is ubiquitous there.
I need to add a few words about what I gained from this experience. Once again I enjoyed the warmth and hospitality of the Institute and particularly of the President, Professor Wu, who had invited me and who insisted on cooking (superbly and with great pride) almost every evening of my stay. But it goes further, I needed to research the history and legislation of the Internet in China, how it operates under the government’s control, legislation about Copyright and Intellectual Property and how these fit it in with the wider world. This was all new to me and will be fed into my own teaching about cultural and global differences. Above all, I learned more from the students about their culture, about their hopes and aspirations, about our similarities as well as our differences. The students were attentive and enthusiastic and I very much look forward to future visits.
New Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) training course
By Lucy J Stagg, on 29 November 2016
We are rolling out our new Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) training course!
Courses will take place at UCL in our Multi-Modal Digital Imaging Suite. Each course, led by Dr. Kathryn Piquette, includes a combination of lectures, demonstration, and practical hands-on sessions:
- Learn how to apply highlight Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI)
- Gain experience in applying RTI to portable objects and larger fixed surfaces of various material types
- Become proficient in capture, processing and manipulation of RTI datasets for diverse applications
- Gain familiarity with related computational photography and processing techniques for augmenting and re-using RTI data
- Apply what you learn in small teams of 2-3 people for hands-on work
There is more information available, including pricing and how to register.
UCLDH Advanced Imaging Consultants
By Melissa M Terras, on 21 July 2016
UCL Centre for Digital Humanities are pleased to announce that we now have capacity to offer Reflectance Transformation Imaging and Spectral Imaging services from our Multi-Modal Digitisation Suite research facility based in central London.
Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI), also known as Polynomial Texture Mapping (PTM), is a high-resolution, non-invasive and non-destructive imaging technique for documenting fine surface details. Unlike conventional photographs, images created using the RTI capture method can be virtually relit. The direction of the light source can be moved around in real time to give 3D appearance to surface shapes for systematic inspection of fine surface details.
Spectral Imaging is a high-resolution, non-invasive and non-destructive form of computational photography that can disclose features of the object that are invisible to the naked eye in natural light, and can enhance faded writings, reveal palimpsest and under-drawings, as well as aiding in pigments, binders and other materials identification. Spectral imaging helps clarify and support research, scholarly and other goals. The UCL state-of-the-technology spectral imaging system can be applied to documents and manuscripts, polychrome artworks, and a range of archaeological and heritage objects.
The kinds of material we can handle and are suitable for specialist imaging include:
• Documents, manuscripts, maps
• Artworks and other painted objects
• Coins, medals, jewellery
• Other objects bearing fine details such as seals and impressed sealings, cuneiform tablets, as well as inscriptions, carvings, bas-reliefs
• Forensic evidence or any object/surface requiring detailed examination.
Digital Classicist London seminar series
By Simon Mahony, on 17 May 2016
The Digital Classicist London seminar series
Institute of Classical Studies
Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU
Fridays at 16:30 in room 234
- Jun 3: Gregory Crane (Leipzig & Tufts), ‘Philological Education and Citizenship in the 21st Century’
- Jun 10: Matteo Romanello (Lausanne & DAI), ‘Of People, Places and References: Extracting information from Classics publications’
- Jun 17: Eleanor Robson (University College London), ‘From the ground to the cloud: digital edition of freshly excavated cuneiform tablets on Oracc’
- Jun 24: Stuart Dunn (King’s College London), ‘Reading text with GIS: Different digital lenses for Ancient World Geography’
- Jul 1: Valeria Vitale (King’s College London), ‘The use and abuse of 3D visualisation in the study of the Ancient World’
- Jul 8: Chiara Palladino (Leipzig & Bari), ‘Annotating geospatial patterns in ancient texts: problems and strategies’
- Jul 15: Daniel Pett (British Museum) & George Oates (Museum in a Box), ‘3D in Museums, Museums in 3D’
- Jul 22: Stelios Chronopoulos (Freiburg), ‘New Life into Old Courses? Using Digital Tools in Reading and Prose Composition Classes’
- Jul 29: Silke Vanbeselaere (KU Leuven), ‘Exploring ancient sources with data visualisation’
Each seminar will offer an overview of the subject suitable for postgraduate students or interested colleagues in Archaeology, Classics, Digital Humanities and related fields, along with suggested reading, practical exercise and discussion topics. No advance preparation is required, but you will get the most out of these seminars if you check out the short bibliographies suggested on the programme website.
A visit to the China Academy of Art, Shanghai Institute of Design
By Simon Mahony, on 21 April 2016
As part of my recent visit to Shanghai, I was honoured to be the guest of the President of the China Academy of Art, Shanghai Institute of Design. The China Academy of Art (CAA) is the premier Art Academy in China and the Shanghai campus is the foremost Design Institute. Aparently the CAA is also the first art university and first graduate school in China.
During my stay I met with academics, discussed cultural differences in teaching and learning, assisted in an English language teaching session and met students showcasing their impressive work on UI design and App design in the Department of Digital Publishing and Exhibition Design.
I was also able to highlight some UCLDH research and students’ work in my guest lecture: ‘Designing a Digital Publishing Product’.
What was most impressive was the lecture poster; I was expecting A4 but, after all, this is indeed China’s premier design institute. The image was a quick draw caricture of me and the President by one of his students.
The Shanghai Zhangjiang Campus is a small one and the main parts of the university are situated at two locations in nearby Hangzhou, both with very distinctive and award winning architecture. The original campus at Nanshan overlooks the famous West Lake and the Xiangshan Central Campus (the largest site) on the outskirts of Hangzhou has become a tourist attraction in its own right and features the Crafts (Folk Art) Museum (which was unfortunately closed on the day I visited but that provides a good excuse for a follow up visit and next time to stay on that campus).
Technology meets Scholarship
By Chris J Dillon, on 28 January 2016
Between 19-21 January I attended Technology meets Scholarship, or how Handwritten Text Recognition will Revolutionize Access to Archival Collections in Marburg, Germany.
During the first day of the conference, the outside temperature was -10. It was, however, a really warm group of people.
Some of the sessions I found most interesting were on the Stasi archives. There were brief sessions in English, but fortunately my listening skills were just up to understanding the longer sessions in German. They were measuring Stasi files in units of the Berlin Television Tower, e.g., they had 3 television towers of documents on …
Recordings of most sessions will be available online: http://coop-project.eu/event/first-international-coop-convention/?instance_id=3167
I was surprised to find people who knew Bernhard Eversberg, the developer of the “allegro” database, who retired recently. The software was used in the UK from 1995 until recently for importing Chinese and Japanese catalogues and adding local holdings. Some of the software has been made open source: www.allegro-c.de/allegro-2016.pdf (German)
Stephen Robertson Prize Dissertation 2014/2015 – Congratulations to Rachel Yales!
By Melissa M Terras, on 9 January 2016
We’re delighted that the best dissertation from our MA/MSc in Digital Humanities in currently sponsored by Microsoft, in honour of the work of Stephen Robertson. The student prize for the best dissertation in our 2014/2015 cohort has recently been given to Rachel Yales, for her groundbreaking work “Hoisting Anchor: Exploring the Interaction Between Time, Place, Space, and Text in Early Modern American Travel Narratives Using Digital Methodologies.” Her dissertation examines the origins of both the criticism and praise for the adoption of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in the humanities and social sciences, examining the process by which GIS based Digital Humanities projects have been developed and produced with a proof of concept study. Using Richard Hakluyt’s late 16th Century text “Principal Voyages of the English Nation”, Yales looks at how GIS approaches are especially conducive to the analysis of the travel narrative genre and the creation of imagined knowledge spaces in early modern England and the Americas. Yales is currently working up her dissertation for consideration for journal publication.
We’re also pleased that the first recipient of the Stephen Robertson prize from our 2013/14 cohort, Jin Gao, has recently returned to UCL to undertake a PhD with us, carrying forward her Master’s dissertation work on citation analysis (which has been accepted for journal publication). This student prize allows us to showcase the best of our student work, whilst also celebrating the achievements of our students: well done Jin and Rachel!
2015 International Graduate Scholarship Fair, Beijing
By Simon Mahony, on 7 January 2016
In October I was delighted to represent UCL at the 2015 International Graduate Scholarship Fair, organised by the China Scholarship Council, in Beijing. This is a major recruitment event where most major academic institutions worldwide have a presence. It is attended each year by a member of the UCL International Office and often accompanied by an academic representative. The Graduate Fair starts in Beijing and moved (this year) to Wuhan, Nanjing and Shanghai; I only attended the Fair in Beijing which is the largest but a colleague from UCL International Office, Hannah Legg, travelled to them all.
The Beijing event started with a planning meeting (which I didn’t have to attend luckily as I had only just arrived because of flight delays) followed by an evening networking session with speeches from the organisers (bravely delivered in English) and refreshments in the Chinese style (masses of wonderful food accompanied by small glasses of wine). The Fair itself, at the University of Science and Technology, ran from 09:00 until 17:00 (with short breaks for coffee and lunch) with a continuous line of perspective students at both desks for the whole day. I spoke to some interesting potential applicants and kept their details but mostly we both had very similar questions about the entry requirements for graduate study (Masters and PhD) at UCL and how to impress the admissions tutors. We were ably assisted by our enthusiastic local student, Ada, who has excellent English and hopes to join us at UCL in a couple of years.
After attending this event last year, I took some time out to be a tourist and benefited greatly from the hospitality of many former students, arranging dinners and taking me round the sites. I discovered how much they regretted not being able to come back to UCL for graduations. So this year, and at the suggestion of Chenxi Wang (ECP 2013), who became the local organiser, we took our own graduation to Beijing. Chenxi organised a venue (she works at MS Beijing), catering, decorations, photographer and invitations; I simply turned up and brought the appropriate robes hired from the UCL suppliers. This turned out to be a really amazing event and truly the highlight of my year. After a short talk from me, each alumni put on the robes in turn, posed with me for photos with a dummy scroll as I pinned a Bentham badge on them; they each followed this with some words about their experiences at UCL (mostly in Chinese but with smiles on their faces so I’m guessing it was something nice). We had photos outside as it was one of the two blue sky days Beijing enjoyed this year (if you’ve ever been there, you’ll know what I mean) followed by professional style graduation photos. This really was a memorable day and one that I certainly will treasure.
As well as promotional material, Chenxi put together a short video mashing up some stock UCL video clips and new material to feature most of the attendees (it’s on YouKu as YouTube is blocked in China so please excuse the adverts). Just to note that a few more alumni came along a little later and two more the following day as despite being a Sunday afternoon they could not get the time off work (no EU employment law although I’m pleased to say that they are all in full-time employment).