CulturePlex and RedHD

During their travel to Mexico City for the INCAA Meeting in Mexico City this past month, some of the CulturePlex members also attended the Fourth workshop held by RedHD, a network of scholars doing Digital Humanities in Spanish.  The meeting took place at the Instituto de investigaciones bibliográficas and was organized by Dr. Isabel Galina and Dr. Ernesto Priani.

Digital Humanities is a new field of study and as is often the case with novelty in academia, it has encountered resistance among scholars.  The Spanish speaking world is no exception; thus the need for an organization like RedHD that essentially aims to create awareness and most importantly, educate on the topic.  As in many other cases, the field of Digital Humanities in the Spanish speaking world has run into challenges such as lack of academic recognition, limited funding, as well as few opportunities to share their knowledge on the topic. In order to overcome these challenges researchers with different academic backgrounds from universities such as UNAM, Tec de Monterrey and The University of Western Ontario have got together under the umbrella of RedHD in an attempt to support the field of Digital Humanities by organizing regular meetings, setting project evaluation standards and publicizing both, inside and outside the Academia.

During the meeting two of our colleagues at CulturePlex Elika Ortega and Manuel Sanchez, agreed to be part of the RedHD and collaborate on different projects such as the network´s website.  The CulturePlex members also took the opportunity to introduce some of of the tools developed within in our lab such as Yutzu and Sylva that may also be used by the organization in the future.

Furthermore, we are also happy to inform that since the meeting, members of the RedHD have published a special issue in Revista Digital Universitaria.

Congratulations on what seems to have been a very productive fourth meeting and we are looking forward for further collaborations!

Without further ado, I would like to thank my colleague and friend Elika Ortega for providing me with the information for this blog.



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Technologies of Humanism by Juan Luis Suarez

Just this past week, the CulturePlex was happy to announce the publication of the latest book by Dr. Juan Luis Suarez. Technologies of Humanism, the editorial novelty of Bibliotheca Montaniana, is a study of Spanish humanism and the technological solutions it has developed in order to solve some of the informative and thus cultural problems that derive from the discovery of America. Contact with America is understood here as the fundamental trigger of the first globalization of the modern world. Globalization, in turn, refers to the expansion and redesign of human communication networks, trade and commerce and exponential increase of the human nodes with which a humanist could potentially get to interact. America will then be synonymous with complexity for humanism.

Technologies of Humanism proposes that the key element of humanism is the development of a set of cultural technologies aimed at reducing uncertainty by organizing the cognitive, social and institutional processes that facilitate cultural transmission and reproduction.

The CulturePlex Team would like to congratulate Dr. Suarez on his latest achievement.  You are an inspiration to all of us and we wish you every success in all your future academic endevours.

Dr. Suarez is also the author of the following titles:

Los mundos virtuales de Calderón.  Special Dossier of Anuario Calderoniano 4 (2010): in press. Editor.

Herederos de Proteo: una teoría del humanismo español. Huelva: Universidad de Huelva (Bibliotheca Montaniana), 2008.

La complejidad y sus ciencias. Special Dossier of Revista de Occidente 323 (2008): 1-164. Editor.

Polindo (Guía de lectura) [Toledo: Juan de Villaquirán, 1526]. (Guías de lectura caballeresca 22). Madrid: Centro de Estudios Cervantinos, 2005.

Ángulos y perspectivas: Reconsideración de la dramaturgia aurisecular . Monograph of the Revista Canadiense de Estudios hispánicos 29.1, Fall 2004. Co-editor, with J. Pérez-Magallón and Ignacio Arellano.

El escenario de la imaginación. Calderón en su teatro . Pamplona: Universidad de Navarra (Anejos de Rilce 42), 2002.

El pensamiento de Pedro de Valencia. Escepticismo y modernidad en el humanismo español . Badajoz: Diputación Provincial, 1997.

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Presentation Series: Methodology for Digital Humanities

As is now customary, Friday was presentation day at CulturePlex, and since Dr. Sancho Caparrini is visiting us for a while, he kindly offered to share some pointers on methodology for doing Digital Humanities.

First, he said, we need to choose big questions – because “only big questions produce big ideas”.   And no, big ideas cannot be attained without a solid methodology.

Once the “big question” has been asked, the following step is to delimit the “objects” to be studied and abstract the features that are relevant to the problem in question.  Then, the relationships between them must be determined and all the information will need to be stored in either, relational or graph databases.  Maintaining an unbiased position is key throughout this entire process.

Thirdly, says Fernando, we must query the data; and because SQL for Relational Databases can be quite challenging, Graph Queries are usually favoured.

Once the data has been queried, the answer will need to be visualized and subsequently it will need to be analyzed.  And there are a few different ways for an answer to be visualized: a network or graph, a standard chart or  using common network measures.  Fernando also encourages new, more creative ways of visualizing answers; such as clustering (by similarity), semantic maps (for descriptors, ontology, etc.) or semantic landscapes (using brightness as height).

And lastly, comes the most important part which is interpreting the answer.  This is the last and most important step and it is where the role of the humanist comes into place.  It is the humanities experts, who based on their academic background will be able to draw significant conclusions from the available visualizations and analysis.  It is important to ensure that the drawn conclusions do in fact, answer the initial big question.

Thank you Fernando for your presentation and for clearly showing us the importance of the humanist in the field of digital humanities.

After all, the take home message was: you are not (only) an artist … thus, providing nice visualizations in not enough.

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Hola from España

While one team from CulturePlex was working hard in Mexico, two other lab members members travelled to Spain.

Andrea Avila presented her paper at The 9th International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities that took place from June 8th – 11th in the city of Granda, Spain.  The title of her paper, Cirque du Soleil: Stretching the Humanities Limits explored in detail the work of the world renowned Canadian theatre company Cirque du Soleil.  Andrea examined the intricate shows and relations between performers, technicians, translators, publicists that according to her, escape traditional approaches. She argues that although, we try to keep Cirque du Soleil in the area of circus, it doesn’t work with the traditional tools of circus groups. Even though we want to apply laws of drama to it, it does not relay in textual narrative. The author points out that groups like this make us think about multidisciplinary focuses and suggests that using multidisciplinary approaches and broader concepts, the humanities must be ready to study this kind of new phenomena in the world of art. Adopting complex theory and evolutionary focuses Avila argues for the role of history of technology.

Andrea has kindly shared her experience at the 9th International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities through by creating a Yutzu for two of the conference days: Thursday and Saturday.  It certainly looks like an interesting conference, Andrea. Congratulations on your participation and we are looking forward to all the stories once you get back.

One of our other fellow CulturePlexers, Carlos Urani Montiel, has recently left to Spain as well where he will be presenting at the “Los Jesuitas” conference that will be taking place from June 20th to June 22nd at the Universidad Pontificia Comillas in Madrid. The title of is talk is “Modelación de la red de comunicación jesuita en las misiones de Moxos” and he will be talking about the different ways of communication employed by the Jesuits during their missions in Moxos, Bolivia.

Congratulations to both, Andrea and Carlos (aka Urani)! Have a safe flight back!

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CulturePlex at the INCCA Meeting in Mexico City

Hola from Mexico!

Dr. Juan Luis Suarez, Director of the CulturePlex Laboratory and Dr. Fernando Sancho Caparrini from the University of Seville have currently travelled to Mexico for the International Network for the Conservation of Contemporary Art meeting that took place in Mexico City.

This year’s meeting was hosted by the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (Escuela Nacional de Conservación, Restauración y Museografía), the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes (Centro Nacional de Conservación y Registro del Patrimonio Artístico Mueble) and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México UNAM (Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo) and took place from the 13th to the 15th of July.

The title of Dr. Suarez and Dr. Caparrini’s presentation was “Una metodología para la gestión digital del arte contemporáneo en Iberoamérica: conceptos y herramientas“. Throughout their talk they described much of the digital work carried out at CulturePlex and offered as examples projects developed in the lab, such as Cvltvre, Yutzu, Sylva etc.

We were happy to find out that the presentation was very well received by everyone at INCCA and much interest was expressed towards the work carried out in the CulturePlex Laboratory. Fellow CulturePlex colleagues Élika Ortega and Manuel Sánchez who happen to be doing research in Mexico for the summer, demonstrated team spirit and made it a point to attend the INCCA meeting.  Congratulations on yet another successful conference participation!

Tomorrow June 16th, Dr. Suarez and Dr. Caparrini will be reuniting with Dr. Shiddarta Vázquez Córdoba, one of the newest CulturePlex Alumni, in Puebla. Among other things, they will also explore different possibilities for future collaborations.  We wish them the best of luck and send our warmest greetings to our former CulturePlex fellow, Shiddarta.  We certainly look forward to the possibility of working with you in the future!

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Lab Presentation Series: The VL3

This past Friday during our usual presentation series we talked abut the Lab’s newest project: the VL3 (The Virtual Language Learning Lab).

As mentioned in the previous post, the VL3 aims to become a virtual laboratory where language learners can practice their target language in real life scenarios through the use of Natural Language Processing software.

Although we are at the early stages of this project, we have already taken a few important steps towards its realization.   The following three steps of the preliminary research phase have been completed:

1. Survey of the theoretical literature of the participant fields involved;

2. Completion of a thorough analysys of beginner and intermediate Spanish textbooks in order to extract the relevant grammatical and lexical content.

3. Completion of a “Learning Preferences Questionaire” and its distribution to beginner, intermediate and advanced undegraduate students enrolled in Spanish language courses in a Canadian post-secondary institution.

We will now be analyzing the information we have gathered through the use of innovative tools developed in the CulturePlex Laboratory such as Sylva, for example. Once we have throughly analyzed this information we will more into the second phase of the VL3 project which is the design of the Conversation Scenarios.

For more information on the progress of the VL3, you can also follow the Yutzu presentation that will be updated on a regular basis.

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The Latest from CulturePlex: The VL3

Whoever said that hard work always pays off, was telling nothing but the truth!  It does pay off and it feels great when it happens!

This is how we felt (and still do) here at CulturePlex a few days ago when we found out that SSHRC had approved one of our latest projects, the VL3, which had been proposed for the Insight Development Initiatives Competition.  In fact, SSHRC has approved the entire suggested budget for the two year duration of the project.  Great news indeed for everyone at CulturePlex!

So what is the VL3? The Virtual Language Learning Lab or the VL3, is yet another innovative idea of Dr. Juan Luis Suarez, Director of the CulturePlex Laboratory, that will be carried out by a team of people from at least three different fields: Second Language Acquisition, Second Language Teaching and Computer Science.

The  aim of the project is to develop the prototype of a  virtual  laboratory for language learning. This virtual laboratory is linguistically based on input theory, and computationally  based on a specialized adaptation of the spoken dialogue system technology  developed by a specialist in this field and partner in this project. The end result will  be an innovative online tool that second language learners will use to  improve their communicative skills through a predefined set of real  communicative scenarios in a virtual environment that will target  different aspects of the students’ lexicon, grammar, and overall ability  to communicate in the target language.

In  addition to the creation of a cutting edge technology with tremendous  commercial potential, the VL3 will become a powerful research tool for  linguists and graduate students who will be able to test various  hypotheses with real time data. Given our long experience in teaching  Spanish as a second language and the great demand world wide to learn  this language, we  have made Spanish our first target language. In  future iterations of the VL3 we will focus on English and French,  respectively, as much of the work developed for the first language is  reusable for other languages. This VL3 will for now, focus on a prototype for written communication.

We are looking forward to start working on this exciting project and will definitely keep you posted on the progress we are making with the VL3.

Step 1: celebrating the good news!  Cheers!

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Learning about Architecture at CulturePlex

Before telling you about Mohammed’s presentation, we would first like to officially welcome him to the CulturePlex team.  Mohammed is the newest CulturePlex member who has just joined us from the University of Seville where he studied architecture.

During his first presentation, an introduction to what for many of us is an unknown field, Mohammed took us on a journey from the primitive hut or the origins of architecture, to today’s architectural wonders of Zaha Hadid.

In his presentation, Mohammed compared architecture to language; a language that can at times be very coded (the classical period, for example) and one with great freedom of composition at others.  According to Mohammed, understanding architecture as a form of language is what allows us, by analogy with written language, to state that it is necessary to learn how to read in order to learn how to write architectural language as well.

Thus, although it is expected that all architects can write (produce architecture) there will also be those who can write poetry (produce extraordinary architecture). In both cases however, they must have first learned how to read architecture or how to architecturally interpret an environment.

Furthermore, Mohammed suggested that designing a new building in a city is like writing a new word in a paragraph. In order to do it well it is first necessary to develop tools of conceptualization and analysis that will reveal and identify signs and relationships between all other elements in the built environment.

To end his presentation, Mohammed introduced us to the “glass and steel” language used by Ludwig Mies in most of his American work as well as the more technological, curvier and more feminine architecture of Zaha Hadid.

Thank you Mohammed for such an inspiring introduction into the world of architecture.  We are definitely looking forward to decoding this brand new language with you. Welcome to CulturePlex!

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From the CulturePlex Presenations Series

These have been crazy days for some of us at CulturePlex.  As I mentioned in the last post, people are coming and going all the time this month.  In fact, it is so busy that I am having a hard time keeping up with everything that is going on.

Today’s post was supposed to be a brief summary of the Lab presentations that went on last week with Javier de la Rosa and Mohammed Afama as the presenters.  Because I would like to keep it short, I will only address Javier’s presentation for now and will discuss Mohammed’s in the following one.

Javier gave us a brief overview of the talk Dr. Juan Luis Suárez, Dr. Fernando Sancho Caparrini and himself will be giving on June 8th at the 2nd Leonardo Satellite Symposium at the Ludwig Museum in Budapest.  Javier explained that for their paper they had analyzed the network of Hispanic baroque paintings from 1550 to 1850. Furthermore, he drew a clear picture of the methodology used and shared with us some of the interesting results.  The main question the study centres on is the evolutionary role of art and symbolic networks in the sustainability of global communities.  As such, the data set of 11,443 works from Spain and Latin America was divided in 25 year periods in order to study the evolution of the paintings’ 211 descriptors or properties.    Based on their findings, the authors propose that art is another institution that contributes to the arising and sustainability of large-scale societies.    The presence of this paper at such a highly prestigious conference speaks loudly for its quality.  Congratulations, Juan Luis, Fernando and Javier!  We wish you the best of luck in Budapest!  Bon voyage!!

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Out and About

Hello again CulturePlex followers.

As some of us were participating in ThatCamp over the weekend, one of our colleagues, Andrea Avila took a trip to Quebec City with the purpose of visiting La Caserne de Robert Lepage the talented Canadian director, playwright, actor and film maker.  This was an exciting experience for Andrea especially since part of her thesis on contemporary theatricality is dedicated to studying Lepage’s creative and original approach to theatre.  Andrea was excited to tell us that while at The Caserne of Robert Lepage she met a group of artists currently working on the second part of The Image Mill, a very interesting and creative project.  The Image Mill consists in the projection of historical images of Quebec, the fortress city and will be inaugurated on June 28th.  This year’s display of images counts with 3D technology and spectators will be able to enjoy the show with 3D glasses as they would in a movie theatre.  This kind of work is a a perfect example of theatricality in the 21st century and meeting its creators was without a doubt, a rewarding experience for Andrea, both academically and personally.  Next step: road trip to Quebec City!

And so the travelling season for CulturePlex members begins.  As Andrea is back at the lab,  Eduard Arriaga is getting ready to present at this year’s Congress organized by the Canadian Association of Hispanists in Fredericton and Juan Luis Suarez, Fernando Sancho Caparrini and Javier de la Rosa are flying to Budapest for the 2nd Leonardo Satellite Symposium.

Don’t miss out on all our travels this summer and the exciting projects coming out of the CulturePlex Lab.

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