Archive for the 'Events' Category

Project update – join us at the Bentham Hackathon with IBM

By Louise Seaward, on 23 August 2017

We’re here with news of an exciting event which will take place in October 2017.  UCL have teamed up with the technology company IBM to organise a ‘Bentham Hackathon‘, where participants can work together to explore how digital tools can help us to research Bentham’s philosophy.

For anyone unfamilar with the term, a hackathon is portmanteau of the words ‘hack’ and ‘marathon’.  It originally referred to an intensive meeting where groups of computer developers collaborated on software projects.  The meaning of a hackathon has now expanded and is often applied to cultural or educational events with a technical element, which are designed to generate new ideas and collaborations.  For more on hackathons, have a look at Wikipedia or the useful ‘How to Guide for hackathons in the cultural sector’ produced by the Europeana Space project.

The Bentham Hackathon will take place over the weekend of 20-22 October 2017 at UCL BaseKX.  The Bentham Project, in association with UCL Centre for Digital Humanities and UCL Innovation and Enterprise, will be working with IBM to explore the following question:

How can digital technologies help us to research Bentham’s philosophy?


The Bentham Hackathon is an intriguing opportunity for participants to play around with thousands upon thousands of images, transcripts and texts of Bentham’s writings, many of which have been produced in the course of the Transcribe Bentham crowdsourcing initiative.  Let’s see how these amazing resources can be explored and analysed with IBM’s cutting-edge technologies!

We have set four suggested challenges for participants in the Hackathon to work on – although other ideas may emerge in the course of the event.

  1. How can we use keyword searching to explore Bentham’s writings?
  2. Can we use technology to decipher Bentham’s difficult handwriting?
  3. Can we build a user-friendly interface for navigating and transcribing documents?
  4. Can we build a more user-friendly version of the Transcribe Bentham crowdsourcing platform?

Anyone interested in these questions is very welcome to join us at the Bentham Hackathon.  The Hackathon is a free event and there are no pre-requisites for participation.

For technical types, this is a great chance to work with IBM and learn new skills.  Those interested in history, philosophy and Bentham can also give their input to help ensure that digital tools work to enhance learning and research in the humanities. Any Transcribe Bentham volunteers who are close to London might also find the event interesting – your knowledge of Bentham and the process of transcription would be invaluable!

The Hackathon will last for the weekend, starting with an evening presentation on Friday 20 October.  Catering will be provided and participants can get involved in the whole weekend, or just pop in for a while.

The Bentham Hackathon will help us to showcase Bentham’s enormous contribution to philosophical thought, including the way in which his ideas on education inspired the founders of UCL.  And we are hopeful that the innovations developed over the course of this weekend will suggest some new ways to use digital technologies in humanities research.

For more information, check out the Bentham Hackathon webpage or contact us.

Project update – spreading the word about Transcribe Bentham

By Louise Seaward, on 4 August 2017

Over the past year, the pages of my diary have become rather full and my microphone technique has improved considerably.  I’ve been trying to organise all sorts of new speaking engagements to spread the word about Transcribe Bentham and encourage new people to volunteer with us.

The Bentham Project is no stranger to this kind of public engagement.  We give regular public talks and deal with enquiries about Bentham from interested individuals across the globe.  You can even watch a video about some of our past ‘Adventures in Public Engagement’, when we held a series of public events in 2011.

Transcribe Bentham has now been up-and-running for close to seven years.  With our role in the READ project, we are working on new technological innovations that should make the Transcription Desk more user-friendly, thereby making it easier for unexperienced transcribers to take part in our initiative.  In the meantime, we have a functioning transcription platform, a strong web and social media presence and lots of information to guide new volunteers who might like to take up an intriguing new hobby.  And we are always looking for new participants!

Transcribing Bentham is by no means a simple task.  Volunteers have to decode Bentham’s often difficult handwriting and also get to grips with the rules of TEI mark-up in order to mark features of the manuscripts like additions, deletions and marginal notes.  Our experience has shown that only a small number of people have the inclination and determination to take part.  But how to find these people?

When Transcribe Bentham was launched in 2010, the team envisaged that it could be a good opportunity for school students who were learning about philosophy and history.  Our resources for schools are still available and we continue to give regular talks on Bentham to school groups from Britain and beyond.  But it can be difficult for teachers to plan activities that go beyond the core school curriculum.  And so it is adults who seem to be our most active transcribers.

With this in mind, I have set about organising various public talks to spread the word about the project.  These presentations are an excellent way to get in touch with interested and intelligent audiences and tell them a bit about Bentham’s fascinating philosophy.  I have found that public audiences are often interested in Bentham’s connection to the modern world, so I also try to show how his philosophical thinking can be applied to the current social and political climate.  In addition, these talks give me the chance to gather feedback on Transcribe Bentham – how far do its aims, workings and findings make sense to people outside of academia?

The University of the Third Age has proved to be a great resource for us and is always full of receptive listeners.  The U3A is an international education movement, which was started in France in the 1970s.  It is organised across local branches and its membership consists mainly of retired people who are in the ‘third age’ of life.  Members often hear external speakers but they also share their own knowledge and practical skills across numerous sub-groups.  And many of the local branches have a Philosophy group!  My most recent talk was at the London Region U3A Summer School which was held at the St Bride Foundation, a heritage centre for the Fleet Street print trade.   The theme of the Summer School was the centenary of the Russian Revolution so I was sure to include some details about Bentham’s remarkable trip to Russia in 1785!

St Bride Foundation

In addition to the U3A groups, I have also spoken at various local libraries and museums, as well as to the alumni group at UCL.  And I have more talks coming up at the Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution, at local branches of the Historical Association and hopefully at some Women’s Institute groups.

My audiences have ranged from around 10 to 100 people.  But it is difficult to say how far these talks have impacted upon our volunteer numbers.  Although many people register on our site and give transcribing a go, only a small number stick around and become active transcribers.  But these talks are nevertheless an important part of our mission to connect the public with the work of the Bentham Project.  It allows us to showcase the new discoveries made by our volunteers and demonstrate how this kind of collaboration can deepen historical and philosophical knowledge and change established working practices in academia.  And we are hopeful that even if an audience member feels that Transcribe Bentham is not for them, they might tell a friend!

If you have or know of an audience that might be interested to hear about Bentham and Transcribe Bentham, please feel free to contact me!

Project Update – Report from the British Academy soirée

By Louise Seaward, on 23 June 2017

A guest post by Dr Tim Causer who represented Transcribe Bentham and the Bentham Project at the latest British Academy soirée

Professor Philip Schofield and Dr Tim Causer represented the Bentham Project at the British Academy soirée on 20 June. Over 500 people attended the event and heard talks from a number of British Academy Fellows, and visited stands featuring the work of British Academy Research Projects, of which the Bentham Project is one.

Professor Schofield and Dr Causer, stationed in the Council Room beside Henry Pickersgill’s 1829 portrait of Bentham, discussed with visitors the work of the Project, the production of The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham, recent open-access publications from UCL Press, and the ongoing and exciting work of the European Commission-funded READ project. Of particular interest to visitors was the Transkribus platform and its Handwritten Text Recognition tools, and the prototype ‘ScanTent’ which, when used in conjunction with the free and forthcoming DocScan app, allows users to efficiently capture images of archival and printed material.

Professor Philip Schofield and Dr Tim Causer at the British Academy

Professor Philip Schofield and Dr Tim Causer at the British Academy

A good time was had by all, particularly under the beneficent eye of Mr Bentham himself!

Progress Update – 29 April to 5 May 2017

By Louise Seaward, on 8 May 2017

Rise and shine, it’s Monday! We’re here to give you an update on the transcription that has been done over the past week.  The transcribers are continuing at a good pace and we need to thank them for all their hard work.

18,224 manuscript pages have now been transcribed or partially-transcribed, which is an increase of 42 on last week’s total.  Of these transcripts, 17,222 (94%) have been checked and approved by TB staff.

The more detailed progress chart is as follows:

Box No. of manuscripts worked on No. of manuscripts in box Completion
Box 1 769 794 96%
Box 2 729 753 96%
Box 4 45 694 6%
Box 5 201 290 69%
Box 7 6 165 3%
Box 8 24 284 8%
Box 9 50 265 18%
Box 10 116 456 25%
Box 11 12 480 2%
Box 12 178 615 28%
Box 13 6 359 1%
Box 14 63 510 12%
Box 15 86 814 10%
Box 16 12 254 4%
Box 18 66 192 34%
Box 23 1 256 1%
Box 26 67 374 17%
Box 27 350 350 COMPLETE
Box 29 22 122 18%
Box 30 5 193 2%
Box 31 21 302 6%
Box 32 1 158 1%
Box 34 41 398 10%
Box 35 287 439 65%
Box 36 37 418 8%
Box 37 36 487 7%
Box 38 238 424 56%
Box 39 12 282 4%
Box 41 87 572 15%
Box 42 96 910 10%
Box 44 53 201 26%
Box 47 1 466 1%
Box 50 178 198 89%
Box 51 387 939 41%
Box 52 7 609 1%
Box 54 0 205 0%
Box 57 19 420 4%
Box 60 3 183 1%
Box 62 78 564 13%
Box 63 156 345 45%
Box 70 308 347 88%
Box 71 663 663 COMPLETE
Box 72 614 664 92%
Box 73 151 151 COMPLETE
Box 75 3 77 3%
Box 79 199 199 COMPLETE
Box 81 3  488 1%
Box 87 12 604 1%
Box 95 126 147 85%
Box 96 534 539 99%
Box 97 151 295 51%
Box 98 225 499 45%
Box 100 214 429 49%
Box 104 3 502 1%
Box 106 236 581 40%
Box 107 523 542 96%
Box 110 15 671 2%
Box 115 277 307 90%
Box 116 794 865 91%
Box 117 506 853 59%
Box 118 267 880 30%
Box 119 643 990 64%
Box 120 685 685 COMPLETE
Box 121 150 529 28%
Box 122 309 728 42%
Box 123 45 437 10%
Box 124 18 382 4%
Box 135 64 571 11%
Box 139 40 579 6%
Box 141 95 380 25%
Box 149 88 581 15%
Box 150 972 972 COMPLETE
Box 169 217 728 29%
Add MS 35537 733 744 98%
Add MS 35538 824 858 96%
Add MS 35539 883 947 93%
Add MS 35540 947 1012 93%
Add MS 35541 993 1258 78%
Add MS 35547 34 701 4%
Add MS 35549 24 364 6%
Add MS 35550 90 637 14%
Overall 18,224 41,126 44%

Hear new research on Transcribe Bentham at the UCL Digital Humanities Seminar

By Louise Seaward, on 9 November 2016

Since 2010, Transcribe Bentham has collected a huge amount of data in the form of transcripts submitted by volunteers.  A research seminar taking place in December at the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities will explore how this data can be analysed and searched to help people find out more about the content of Bentham’s writings. The details are as follows:

Visualizing the Transcribe Bentham corpus

Dec 06, 2016, 5:30pm
G31, Foster Court, UCL, Malet Place, London, WC1E 7JG

How can we gain an overview of the 17,000 pages of Bentham’s manuscripts made available by Transcribe Bentham? Methods to provide an overview of the corpus may help domain-experts find corpus areas relevant for their research. In this work we have applied computational techniques to visualize the corpus, providing a general view of its content.

First, a lexical extraction was performed to choose terms to model the corpus. Then, term clusters were created based on similarity between the terms’ contexts, and visualized as corpus maps. The maps provide an overview of the corpus as a whole, as well as of corpus terms more prominent in different corpus periods. The issue of evaluating these corpus maps will also be discussed.

All welcome and there will be drinks and discussion after the talk. Please note that registration is required.


Pablo Ruiz is a PhD Student in Natural Language Processing for Digital Humanities at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris.