SHANTI at the University of Virginia

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Mark Your Calendars: Dr. Robert Nelson Speaking on Topic Modeling for Humanities Research

Speaker: Dr. Robert Nelson, Director, Digital Scholarship Lab, University of Richmond
Presentation: The Potential and Pitfall of Topic Modeling for Humanities Research
When: Wed., Feb. 25, 2015 at 10:00am
Where: Alderman Library, Room 421

This talk will introduce the text-mining technique called topic modeling, briefly explaining what it is and how it’s done. It will then turn to more substantial questions: what does this technique offer humanities researchers and what are its methodological limitations and problems? Both the potential and the pitfalls of topic modeling will be illustrated through research that uses topic models of newspapers to explore Civil War nationalism. Sponsored by the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, the Department of Media Studies, the Data Science Institute, the Scholars’ Lab, and the Center for the Study of Data and Knowledge. Dr. Nelson will also be available for one-on-one consultation. Those interested in scheduling a time should contact

Biography: Robert K. Nelson is the Director of the Digital Scholarship Lab and affiliated faculty in the American Studies program at the University of Richmond. He has directed a number of digital humanities project including the Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States, “Mining the Dispatch,” “Redlining Richmond,” and the History Engine. He holds a PhD in American Studies from the College of William & Mary. An essay of his on Spiritualism and abolitionism recently appeared in Apocalypse and the Millennium in the American Civil War Era, and earlier work on nineteenth-century cultural and literary history has appeared in the Journal of Social History and American Literature.

March 20-21: Moving People, Linking Lives Symposium

Moving People, Linking Lives: An Interdisciplinary Symposium will take place March 20-21, 2015 UVA: Friday’s events in the Kaleidoscope Room, Newcomb Hall, and Saturday’s in Alderman Library 421. There will be considerable refreshments available both days. Organized and hosted by Alison Booth, Jenny Strauss Clay, and Amy Odgen with funding by the Page Barbour Committee and the generous support of the departments of Classics, English, French, Art, the Institute for Humanities and Global Cultures, the Scholars’ Lab and the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, and other entities at UVa, the symposium’s events are free and open to the public. Presentations and workshops will open dialogue across different humanities, periods (from ancient to contemporary), and methods. Invited participants include specialists in narrative theory and life writing, prosopography or comparative studies of life narratives in groups, and digital humanities. The latter field can be defined as computer-assisted research on cultural materials, from ancient texts to Colonial archives, from printed books to social media, but it includes constructive, analytic, creative, and interpretative work of many kinds.

The event has a blog site,, which provides more details.

Come join the symposium for fruitful interchange in March! Please spread the word.

IATH/JUEL Presentation: Digging into History: Bringing to Light the Students of the Early University

Please join us for Jean Cooper’s (Genealogy Information Specialist, UVa Library) presentation: “Digging into History: Bringing to Light the Students of the Early University” on Mon., Feb. 2 at 7:00pm in Alderman Library, Room 421.
See also Jean Cooper’s blog, Students of the University of Virginia, 1825-1874, which uncovers biographies of famous — and not-so-famous — nineteenth-century student at UVa.

Sponsored by the Jefferson’s University, the Early Life, Project (JUEL) and the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH).

Click on image below to see flyer:

Some “Next Big Things” in Teaching Technology Never Quite Were

In the news:  UVa’s Bill Ferster’s new book, Teaching Machines: Learning from the Intersection of Education and Technology. In his latest book, Ferster discusses the pursuit of technological innovations to improve education and analyzes why the ideas rarely became successful, while remaining hopeful that better results will be yielded in the near future with the pace of technological change happening today. Ferster is a research professor in UVa’s Curry School of Education and also the director of visualization for SHANTI (Sciences, Humanities and Arts Network of Technological Initiatives).

To read this article and excerpts from Ferster’s book,  go to:

IATH Speaker: Luther Tychonievich Speaking on “Certainty and Uncertainty in Representing Family Histories”

LutherSpeaker: Luther Tychonievich
Title: Certainty and Uncertainty in Representing Family Histories
Place: Alderman 421
Date: Friday, December 12, 2014
Time: 2:00pm


Abstract: Most family history data is stored as a set of “facts” with human-targeted textual citations and notes.  All the computer understands in these models is a single internally-consistent view of the past.  However, anyone who has done research in any field knows that evidence is almost always messy and ambiguous, potentially supporting many conclusions.  Failing to store this ambiguity can lead to edit wars, ignoring valid leads, and following dead ends much longer than needed.

This presentation will provide an overview of polygenea, a data model designed to represent what we find in research in a way that admits differing opinions, mutually contradictory possibilities, and indirect and negative evidence.  We’ll explore how this model streamlines collaboration, simplifies researcher privacy, supports explorations of many alternatives simultaneously, and removes language dependence from much of the data.  Time permitting, we may also discuss its application in other disciplines, the design of wrappers to extract one or more traditional “fact” data sets from the underlying data, and support for vendor-controlled standardization and automated format correction.

Luther Tychonievich is a lecturer in the UVA CS department ( His research interests include facilitating large-scale cooperative family history research.

Hosted by The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH).