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DIS Research Seminars



Research Talk by Rebecca Roach

By Antonios Bikakis, on 22 February 2024

Conversation Machines, Missing Secretaries, Bad Readers

The talk was delivered on 21 February 2024 by Dr. Rebecca Roach, Associate Professor of Contemporary Literature and Principle Investigator (Digital) of The Stuart Hall Archive Project at the University of Birmingham., as part of the DIS research seminars series.

‘Giant electronic brains’: it was an early model for understanding computers, one that has been enormously generative, spurring advances in cybernetics and Artificial Intelligence across the decades. In this talk I want to tell a different story. There is another metaphor about computers that is just as prevalent in our culture, but much less commented upon: computers as talking machines. Conceived as interactive, as ‘conversational’, computing technologies start to look very different and the relations that they posit across disciplines (the inherent value of literary studies in particular) very different too. Taking as my case study the ‘ur-bot’ ELIZA (1965), I will pull out some of the methodological and conceptual implications of conceiving of computers as conversational. Call it a back-history of ChatGPT if you will.

Presentation of the Sloane Lab project

By Antonios Bikakis, on 9 February 2024

Sloane Lab: Looking back to build future shared collections

The talk was delivered on 7 February 2024 by Dr. Andreas Vlachidis, Dr. Marco Humbel and Dr. Alda Teracciano, members of the team working on the Sloane Lab project, as part of the DIS research seminars series.

Funded by the ‘Towards a National Collection’ (TaNC) Program of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), UK, the ‘Sloane Lab: Looking back to build future shared collections’ devise automated and augmented ways that mend the broken links between the past and present of the UK’s founding collection in the catalogues of the British Museum, the Natural History Museum and the British Library. The project develops new technologies, including the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), to open up the contents of museums and collections in ways that are more intuitive and relevant to the way the public and academics want to discover and use them. The task of integrating these disparate records and facilitating interoperable access to them poses significant challenges. Sloane’s historical catalogues are especially difficult to represent digitally, because the descriptions of the objects are often incomplete or inaccurate. Therefore, it is crucial to adopt a critical digital heritage approach since the semantic representation of Sloane’s historical catalogues may produce datasets that contain uncertainty and biases. The project addresses such biases and absences, allowing for certain worldviews and answerings to this challenge of ‘multivocality’ by adopting a data modelling approach that focuses on the record than on the object, viewing records as different perspectives over the object. Moreover, the project employs a participatory research design methodology that unpacks the latent challenges in international collection data infrastructure development. The participatory design delves into research questions that address experiences of heritage organisations of participating in national and international digital infrastructure projects, explore factors that enable and impede heritage organisations in unifying siloed collections and investigate how these factors differ between institutions and countries.

Research Talk by Abul Hasan

By Antonios Bikakis, on 25 January 2024

Incorporating Dictionaries into a Neural Network Architecture to Extract COVID-19 Medical Concepts From Social Media

The talk was delivered on 24 January 2024 by Dr. Abul Hasan, a postdoctoral research fellow at the UCL Institute of Health Informatics, as part of the DIS research seminars series.

We investigate the potential benefit of incorporating dictionary information into a neural network architecture for natural language processing. In particular, we make use of this architecture to extract several concepts related to COVID-19 from an on-line medical forum. We use a sample from the forum to manually curate one dictionary for each concept. In addition, we use MetaMap, which is a tool for extracting biomedical concepts, to identify a small number of semantic concepts. For a supervised concept extraction task on the forum data, our best model achieved a macro F1 score of 90%. A major difficulty in medical concept extraction is obtaining labelled data from which to build supervised models. We investigate the utility of our models to transfer to data derived from a different source in two ways. First for producing labels via weak learning and second to perform concept extraction. The dataset we use in this case comprises COVID-19 related tweets and we achieve an F1 score 81% for symptom concept extraction trained on weakly labelled data. The utility of our dictionaries is compared with a COVID-19 symptom dictionary that was constructed directly from Twitter. Further experiments that incorporate BERT and a COVID-19 version of BERTweet demonstrate that the dictionaries provide a commensurate result. Our results show that incorporating small domain dictionaries to deep learning models can improve concept extraction tasks. Moreover, models built using dictionaries generalize well and are transferable to different datasets on a similar task.

Research Talk by Photini Vrikki

By Antonios Bikakis, on 19 January 2024

(Re)Shaping Digital Humanities through Environmental Justice

The talk was delivered on 29 November 2023 by Dr. Photini Vrikki, member of the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities, as part of the DIS research seminars series.

As a field in constant transformation and expansion, Digital Humanities takes a broad shape to accommodate interdisciplinarity yet be grounded in the Humanities. This interdisciplinarity allows us the space to question some of the practices and processes we often consider fixed in academia. In this talk I will refer to a dual shift in DH as a call to shape and reshape the field vis-à-vis environmental justice. First, shaping includes building common, sustainable, intentional, and collective connections and speaking up for how things could be different, and how uncommon and complex tasks such as demanding for more resources and institutional changes can benefit the field. Second, I point towards the need for action in the face of parts of Digital Humanities that need to be reshaped, such as innovation and global education, to discuss the entanglement of the field with the ecological crisis. Ultimately, the paper promotes environmentally aware DH practices that bring environmental justice into play.

Research Talk by Anthony Hunter

By Antonios Bikakis, on 19 January 2024

Towards Computational Persuasion for Behaviour Change Applications.

The talk was delivered on 22 November 2024 by Prof. Anthony Hunter, Professor of Artificial Intelligence in the Department of Computer Science, University College London, as part of the DIS research seminars series.

The aim of behaviour change is to help people to change aspects of their behaviour for the better (e.g., to decrease calorie intake, to drink in moderation, to take more exercise, to complete a course of antibiotics once started, etc.). Recent developments in computational modelling of argument (a subfield of AI) are leading to technology for persuasion that can potentially be harnessed in behaviour change applications. Using this technology, a software system and a user can exchange arguments in a dialogue. So the system gains information about the user’s perspective, provides arguments to fill gaps in the user’s knowledge, and attempts to overturn misconceptions held by the user. Our work has focused on modelling the beliefs and concerns of the user, and harnessing these to make the best choices of move during the dialogue for persuading the user to change their behaviour. We have also been investigating how we can harness recent developments in large language models to provide a natural language interface to this technology. In this talk, I will provide an overview of our approach together with some promising preliminary results with participants.

Research talk by Alison Hicks

By Antonios Bikakis, on 26 October 2023

Sociocultural approaches to information literacy: Space races, wish-cycling and squabbling siblings

The talk was delivered on 25 October 2023 by Dr. Alison Hicks, member of the FOIL group, as part of the DIS research seminars series.

Sociocultural approaches to information literacy, which recognise that information literacy is shaped through dialogue and debate, have not always been welcomed within LIS, being variously critiqued as ‘fashionable,’ of no interest to practitioners or as irrelevant given the availability of other conceptual work. Yet, it could be argued that these ideas have irrevocably changed the direction of information literacy research and practice, not least by challenging ingrained assumptions about ways of knowing- and how we teach for these ideas. This presentation critically analyses the legacy of information literacy’s sociocultural turn by reflecting on how these ideas have been developed since the early 2000s, how they have been integrated into information literacy discourse and narratives and their contributions to information literacy research and practice.

This presentation has been adapted from Alison’s recent keynote presentation for the European Conference on Information Literacy (ECIL) for UNESCO Global MIL Week.

Research talk by Charles Inskip

By Antonios Bikakis, on 26 October 2023

The impact of the pandemic on musicologists’ use of technology

The talk was delivered on 18 October 2023 by Dr. Charles Inskip, member of the FOIL group, as part of the DIS research seminars series.

This talk will explore two key findings from a global survey of musicologists’ use of technology in their research during the pandemic. The impact of the technology on community-building was raised throughout the survey responses. The ability to meet across borders was highlighted, as were the limitations of networking in online conferences. The sudden shift to teaching and learning online was another important factor in many participants respondents. The impact on teaching performance online, and heavy teaching loads being prioritised over research highlight the interconnected roles of the musicologist in teaching and learning. This research contributes towards understanding the complex nature of the information behaviour of musicologists. Understanding more about how they use technology, develop community, and fulfil their multiple roles would enable provision of bespoke research support.

Publishing talk by Richard Charkin

By Ian Evans, on 11 October 2023

My Back Pages: A undeniably personal history of publishing

The talk was delivered on 11 October 2023 by Richard Charkin, as part of the DIS research seminars series.

Richard Charkin’s experience as a publisher is unique among his generation. Over the past half century he has been a scientific and medical publisher, a journal publisher, a digital publisher and a general publisher. He has worked for family-owned companies, public companies and start-ups. In his memoir he uses his unrivalled experience to illustrate the profound changes that have affected the identity and practices but not the purpose of publishing. Richard founded Mensch in 2018. It has no mission statement and no stated editorial strategy. Its aim is simply to help authors reach readers with minimal intervention and maximum impact and to reward them proportionately.