Portus and ACRG work on BBC 1

Visualisation of Harbour produced by BBC for Rome’s Lost Empire in collaboration with Portus Project
Visualisation of Harbour produced by BBC for Rome’s Lost Empire in collaboration with Portus Project
On Sunday a show called Rome’s Lost Empire featured loads of great work by Southampton archaeologists. Since 2007 a team led by Prof. Simon Keay and Dr. Graeme Earl has been excavating at Portus, the port of the city of ancient Rome. The BBC 1 show reveals some of their latest findings, as well as the 3D modelling work of our Archaeological Computing Research Group team.

You can watch the show on BBC iPlayer.

Read more about the computer models that were created for this show on the Portus blog. There you can also read a message by Prof. Simon Keay about the show.

CT and animation of coin hoard

My colleagues Grant Cox and James Miles have been doing some amazing computerised magic with a coin hoard, and I thought it was time I wrote about their work. Both of them work with me at the Archaeological Computing Research Group at the University of Southampton. The Selby coin hoard consists of a bunch of coins still in their original container. The thing was submitted to a CT scan produced and processed by Richard Boardman and Mark Mavrogordato (mu-Vis CT centre). The results of this were then arranged into a sequence of animation by James Miles while Grant Cox made an accompanying animation in 3DS Max of coins raining down on the container. The video is now on show in the British Museum as part of the permanent Citi money exhibition. Worth a visit!

SMiLE: excellence with impact

Our SMiLE (Social Media for Live Events) project is on an advertising high! On 25 July a SMiLE article appeared on the Research Councils UK website, under the Digital Economy theme. In fact, SMiLE emerged from the Southampton Digital Economy University Strategic Research Group, a group co-directed by Dr. Lisa Harris, coordinator of the SMiLE project. This post also reveals a teaser image of my network analysis of the SMiLE data, more about that later 🙂

SMiLE: But who is going to read 12,000 tweets?!

A second blogpost about the SMiLE project I am involved in appeared recently on the London School of Economics website. I wrote about the project’s aims before as Nicole Beale and Lisa Harris explained it on the LSE website earlier. This second blog post introduces a first glimpse at the results including a short discussion of Twitter network visualization and analysis. Exciting!

In fact, this second blog post reveals some of the really cool work the project members have been up to. MSc students here in Southampton have been busy using the collected social media data in creative ways for their projects. The project is also working with the Oxford e-research centre on a guide for best practice for using social media at conferences. But that’s not all! We are also working on depositing the entire social media archive with the Archaeology Data Service in York, and publishing some of the results in Internet Archaeology.

The rest of the blog post goes on to discuss some of the issues surrounding all this. How does one go about depositing an electronic social media archive? Lisa and Nicole looked into some of the comments of the conference delegates, provided in feedback forms, to get a more qualified picture of the issue and how to proceed. The blog also discusses the issue of developing an interface through which this dataset can be explored. Mark Borkum and I are looking at using network analysis tools for this. More on the network side of things will be revealed in later posts.

Have a look at the original article, definitely worth a read!

Networking The Connected Past

You can now explore how well networked everyone at The Connected Past symposium is!

The Connected Past will take place in Southampton this weekend. I made a network using the registration and abstract submission data. The nodes represent delegates and authors (orange), linked to their institution (green), country (purple) and the paper or poster they will be presenting. You can zoom in to the picture and pan. Javier Pereda helped me visualise it and created the flash tool. Many thanks Javier!

Have a look at The Connected Past network!
(requires Flash)

Maps of citations

These days it is easy to trace down heaps of literature on a specific topic. But how can you manage those mountains of scholarly information? I just read a cool article on citation network analysis, a set of metrics and visualisation tools that helps you to do just that.

Imagine a Google Maps of scholarship, a set of tools sophisticated enough to help researchers locate hot research, spot hidden connections to other fields, and even identify new disciplines as they emerge in the sprawling terrain of scholarly communication.

The article discusses Bergstrom and West’s Eigenfactor metric. More than just the number of citations an article receives, the Eigenfactor metric weights the source of the publication. So an article published in Nature that was cited 20 times will be more prominent than an article published in ‘The Hampshire Journal of Late Medieval Pottery’ cited an equal number of times. Citation networks are just full of stories about how researchers think, build on ideas and elaborate on them.

And I think this is extremely cool! Some of my own work on citation networks of archaeological papers will follow soon.

For now, do have a look at the awesome motion graphs on the Eigenfactor website. You can explore the evolution of the number of articles and their influence through time. Check out Anthropology for example under which all the archaeology journals are grouped. You will see that journals like Antiquity, Journal of Archaeological Science and American Antiquity have a relatively lower impact (according to the eigenfactor metric) compared to Current Anthropology and Journal of Human Evolution for example.

Interface workshop

Yesterday I chaired a workshop with Marco Büchler at the Interface conference in London. It was well attended and the discussion we got going was stimulating. You can download the presentation slides here or through the bibliography page. We also prepared handouts with a summary of the workshop and some software and bibliographic resources, download it here.

The workshop aimed to give an introduction to networks as a way of thinking. We covered some basic network ideas, visualisation and analysis. As an example we explored seven different English translations of the Holy Bible. Using networks we could see what sections were reused throughout the translations and what not. It turned out that throughout the centuries subtle and less subtle differences seeped into the translations, fascinating stuff!

Like everyone else at the conference I also gave a two minute lightning talk, really cool but challenging experience! Download the slides here or on the bibliography page.

Play with Digital Humanities attendees

For the Digital Humanities conference being held 19-22 June Elijah Meeks made a nice network of all attendants and their institutions. You can explore the network by zooming in and out, as well as trying out a radial visualisation. The University of Southampton is represented by our own Leif Isaksen!

The network consists of 621 points and 734 lines. The nodes represent attendants, institutions and papers. These are all linked up by drawing the necessary lines between attendants and their institutions and the papers they will present. The network is very fragmented, consisting of many small components (like the one Leif is part of for example). To me this seems to mean that most papers are presented by people of the same institutions or of a very limited number of institutions, and that many institutions are represented by just a few members.

There are two larger components however. One of them consists almost exclusively of researchers from the Centre of Digital Humanities at King’s College London. They mainly co-author papers internally and only in a few cases with researchers from other institutions. The largest component on the other hand consists of many different institution, the most prominent of which are University College London, University of Alberta, Indiana University, Virtual Cities/Digital Histories and Stanford University. The researchers of these institutions are (weakly) tied together by co-authorship of several papers.

Does this network seem to represent different academic communities? The largest component seems to be mainly US-based authors so maybe there is a geographical logic where US-scholars with existing US-collaborations are more inclined to present their work in California than researchers from other countries. But why is University College London part of this US-component (with a very weak link though) and King’s College is not, and why do these two prominent UK institutions not have any co-authored papers?

All these fascinating questions just come up in my head when looking at this network. These things are really fun to explore and force you to take an alternative perspective on things. You can see the academic networks at work! Curious what next year’s DH network will look like.

Click here for the original article.

Awesome art by Aaron Koblin

Just saw this TED talk by Aaron Koblin, a digital artist who’s work has inspired me for a while now. His art shows stunning examples of the fact that we have so much data available everywhere that relates in unsuspecting ways. If we bother to add things up, like he does for hand-drawn sheep, Johnny Cash still images, flight patterns, $100 bills and even voice samples, we see surprising things emerge that you would not expect by just looking at a single image or sample. His work on flight patterns is stunning and has been exhibited in the New York MOMA recently.

Check out his work online. And check out his talk below. Believe me, you’ll be surprised!

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