Upcoming talks and travel

I’m concentrating on finishing my PhD in 2014, so I’m not giving many talks.In the meantime, my edited volume on ‘Crowdsourcing our Cultural Heritage’ for Ashgate, featuring chapters from some of the most amazing people working in the field will be published in October 2014. (I know I’m biased, but seriously.)

From September – December 2014 I’m based at Trinity College Dublin for a CENDARI Visiting Research Fellowship. If you might be in Dublin over that time, let me know! The dates I’m not in Dublin are: October 18-25, November 6-9, November 15-28.

In October I’m giving a paper at the Public History in a Digital World: The Revolution Reconsidered conference in Amsterdam and running a workshop at the Geffrye Museum. In November I’m keynoting at New Zealand’s National Digital Forum (talking about the Participatory Commons). I’ll also be in London for the Museums Computer Group’s UKMW14: Museums Beyond the Web. I’ve got some workshops and travel for talks already booked in for March and May 2015, but I’ll also be available for freelance or permanent work sometime in 2015.

Some recent papers

I’ve stopped updating this while I finish my thesis, but…

In August 2014 I taught ‘Crowdsourcing Cultural Heritage’ with Ben Brumfield at HILT (Humanities Intensive Learning + Teaching) at MITH in Maryland. In July I presented “Lightweight usability testing for digital humanities projects (AKA, ‘testing doesn’t have to be taxing’)” in the Introduction to Digital Humanities strand of the Digital Humanities at Oxford Summer School 2014 then I went to Lausanne to present ‘Play as Process and Product: On Making Serendip-o-matic’ at Digital Humanities 2014 with fellow alumni of 2013’s One Week One Tool. In April 2014 I was a keynote speaker at the 3rd international Sharing is Caring seminar, in May I was in Bristol for the Museums Computer Group’s Museums Get Mobile and in Boston for THATCamp NE.

Here’s a summary of talks, fellowships, writing, etc in 2013, 2012 and 2011. You can also follow me on twitter (@mia_out) for updates.

Previous papers are generally listed at miaridge.com or on my blog, Open Objects.

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Data Visualisation Workshop, Geffrye Museum

Ananda Rutherford has organised a workshop for the Documenting Homes project, which  is researching visualisation models for presenting the archive and other collections information across digital platforms. The workshop is a chance to explore the role of visualisations in organising, interrogating and interpreting collections in context and to develop critical and planning skills for designing visualisations. It will include guided exercises for turning data in a spreadsheet into simple visualisations and an optional hour for trying out visualisation tools with your own data.

Contact me for the workshop slides and datasets.

Exercises for Data Visualisation

Exercise 1: exploring network visualisations

Time: approx 5 minutes

  1. In your browser, go to http://bit.ly/11qqXuj
  2. Scroll down the page to the network graph.
  3. Take a few minutes to explore the visualisation: try holding the cursor over items, clicking, dragging, etc.
  4. Discuss with your neighbour: does interacting with the network graph give you more or less information than the other representations of the data on the same page? Is it clear what it’s for, how to get started? Does it open up new questions?

If you want to try others, try ‘iconic figures in British culture’ at http://kindred.stanford.edu/, Les Misérables http://hci.stanford.edu/jheer/files/zoo/ex/networks/force.html or the wine industry https://www.msu.edu/~howardp/wineindustry.html.

Exercise 2: N-grams

Time: approx 5 minutes

NB: in both tools, copyright affects the availability of 20th century books. Transcription errors may also affect results, particularly for older books (e.g. the ‘long s’ vs f)

  1. Think of two words or phrases you’d like to compare over time (e.g. World War One, Great War)
  2. Go to http://books.google.com/ngrams
  3. Enter your words or phrases and compare the results
  4. Discuss with your neighbour: are the results what you expected to see?

Google Ngram tips: http://books.google.com/ngrams/info

Tip: if you’re more interested in newspapers, try the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America collection at http://arxiv.culturomics.org/ChronAm/ or Australia and New Zealand newspapers at http://dhistory.org/querypic/create/.

Exercise 3: trying entity recognition

Time: approx 5 minutes

  1. In your browser, go to http://nlp.stanford.edu:8080/ner/
  2. Find a short paragraph of text (e.g. from a news site or collection records) to paste into the box
  3. How many of the things (concepts, people, places, events, references to time or dates, etc) you recognise did it pick up? Is any of the other information presented useful? Did it label anything incorrectly? What if you change classifiers?

Exercise 4: geocode data and create charts using Google Fusion Tables

Time: approx 10 minutes

NB: If your screen options don’t match the instructions, ask for help. Google roll out some changes incrementally and treat educational accounts differently, so accounts sometimes see different screens.

Getting started

  1. Go to https://drive.google.com/ and log into Google (if you aren’t already)
  2. Go to http://bit.ly/FTables (or https://www.google.com/fusiontables/DataSource?dsrcid=implicit&redirectPath=data&usp=apps_start&hl=en) to access Fusion from your account.

Creating a map

  1. You should see a screen ‘Import new table’ with the option called ‘From this computer’ highlighted below. (If you don’t see this screen, go to step 2 above)
  2. Click ‘Choose file’ and find the file ‘Geffrye_places.csv’ in the handouts folder. Click ‘Next’.
  3. Click ‘Next’ on the next screen, then click ‘Finish’ on the following screen.
  4. The screen should load in ‘Row’ view that looks something like a spreadsheet with one column of data in it.
  5. Hover over top of the column ‘Term plus Broader Term plus UK’ to reveal an arrow. Click the arrow then click ‘Change’.
  6. On the ‘Change column’ screen, change the ‘Type’ from ‘text’ to ‘location’ then ‘Save changes’.
  7. The geocoding process may start automatically. If it doesn’t, then look for be a red box with a plus sign in it at the end of the row of menu options. Click the plus sign, then select ‘Add map’.
  8. Geocoding may take quite some time, so go on with the next exercise in a new browser window in the meantime.
  9. Congratulations, you’ve made a map!

If you finish early, you can explore other options including heatmaps and other options on the Fusion interface.

This data has been prepared so it contains enough information for the geocoding process. If you finish early you can try uploading the other ‘Geffrye_places’ files and see whether providing more or less information significantly changes the results. Look out for rows that could not be located, or that ended up in other countries.

Creating a pie chart

  1. Go to http://bit.ly/FTables
  2. You should see three tabs on the left-hand side of the screen. Click on ‘Google Spreadsheets’
  3. On the ‘Select a spreadsheet’ screen, look for ‘Or paste a web address here:’ towards the bottom. Copy the link to your data into the box.
  4. You should be on the ‘Import new table’ screen. Change the value of ‘Column names are in row’ to ‘None’. Click ‘next’.
  5. You can add information to the next screen as desired or just click ‘Finish’.
  6. The screen should load in ‘Row’ view that looks something like a spreadsheet.
  7. Go to the Help menu on the Google page and click ‘Back to Classic look’.
  8. When the page reloads, it should have a grey bar that says ‘Showing all rows’. Click ‘options’ next to that.
  9. This opens an area with options to ‘Filter’, ‘Aggregate’ and ‘Create view’.
  10. Click on ‘Aggregate’.
  11. Tick ‘wholeObjectName’ in the ‘Aggregated by’ section, then ‘Apply’
  12. This will create a view that shows only the values for ‘wholeObjectName’ with a count of the number of objects with that name.
  13. Click ‘Visualize’ in the menu above, and select ‘Pie’.
  14. You should have a pie chart of your data!
  15. You might need to click ‘many’ or ‘next’ in the top right-hand corner to make it process more of the data.

If you finish early, try:

  • Changing the field that is being aggregat For example, try ‘collectionCategory’, ‘techniques’ or ‘materials’.
  • Changing options on the ‘Configure chart’ screen
  • Making other charts. Which formats best suit the data?
  • What happens if you filter the underlying data to reduce the number of rows shown?
  • If you get stuck, you can reset by choosing ‘clear aggregation’ and changing the ‘Visualize’ option to ‘Table’.

Don’t forget to check back and see how your geocoded data looks!

Exercise 5: analysing data visualisations

Time: approx 30 minutes

Pair up with your neighbour and explore and discuss one of the visualisations below.


  1. In your browser, go to one of the sites below
  2. Take a few minutes to explore the visualisation
  3. Discuss:
    • What do you think is being presented here?
    • Can you easily see where to start and how to use it?
    • What stories or trends can you start to see?
    • Does it work better at one scale over another?
    • Do you find it more effective at aggregate or detail level?
    • Does it present an argument or provide a space to develop and explore one?
    • If it was designed to present an argument or investigate a particular question, what do you think that was?
    • What have you learned from visualisation that you might not have learned from looking at the data or reading text about it?
    • Are the sources have they used clear? Do they explain how they’ve prepared them?
    • What effect have their choices of visualisation formats and tools had?
    • Which data or queries are prioritised, and which are more difficult or impossible?

Report back to the group: summarise the site’s purpose, visualisation formats and data types in a sentence, then share the most interesting parts of your discussion.

If you have a particular type of data, process, format or audience in mind, ask for suggestions for sites to review.

Tate Explorer


Further information: http://www.shardcore.org/shardpress/index.php/2013/11/06/tate-data-explorer/

Colour Lens


Nolan Explorer


Further information: http://mtchl.net/nolan-explorer/

University of Richmond, “Visualizing Emancipation”


Further information: http://dirt.terrypbrock.com/2012/04/visualizing-emancipation-examining-its-process-through-digital-tools/

Stanford “Mapping the Republic of Letters”


Further information: http://openglam.org/2012/03/21/mapping-the-republic-of-letters/, http://danbri.org/words/2010/11/22/603, http://republicofletters.stanford.edu/tools/



Further information: http://googleancientplaces.wordpress.com/

Digital Harlem :: Everyday Life 1915-1930


Further information: http://digitalharlemblog.wordpress.com/, http://writinghistory.trincoll.edu/evidence/robertson-2012-spring/



Further information: http://hestia.open.ac.uk/updating-orbis/

Digital Public Library of America’s timeline, map, bookshelf


Further information: http://dp.la/info/ and http://dp.la/info/news/blog/

Kindred Britain


Lost Change


Further information: http://blog.britishmuseum.org/2014/02/19/lost-change-mapping-coins-from-the-portable-antiquities-scheme/

‘Humanity’s cultural history captured in 5-minute film’

http://www.nature.com/news/humanity-s-cultural-history-captured-in-5-minute-film-1.15650 (article and video)

Exercise 6: Choose your own adventure

Choose the option that suits your interests and skills:

  • explore and analyse more visualisations
  • try making different visualisations with provided data
  • more data cleaning and linking (reconciling) to other data
  • try creating visualisations with your own data

You can try this data in ViewShare (http://viewshare.org/) or Palladio (http://palladio.designhumanities.org/), ImagePlot (http://lab.softwarestudies.com/p/imageplot.html) or keep exploring Google Drive/Fusion Tables.

Making more visualisations

ManyEyes is a useful tool for learning, but as it uses Java it can be tricky in classroom situations. You can create visualisations from data other people have uploaded (without signing up) at ManyEyes: http://www-958.ibm.com/software/analytics/manyeyes/datasets or try Palladio http://palladio.designhumanities.org/. You can also try visualising the data from the British Library Pin-a-tale project, available in Google Docs at http://bit.ly/WT1Ai5 Many other open cultural datasets are listed at http://museum-api.pbworks.com/Museum%C2%A0APIs

Try a visualisation and evaluate the results. Is more cleaning or transformation needed? You may need to iterate with different versions of your data after cleaning or enhancing it.

If you have your own dataset, review the ‘planning’ slides. What do you want to learn or express about your data? The ManyEyes site provides some guidance on the best visualisation types for different types of data: http://www-958.ibm.com/software/analytics/manyeyes/page/Visualization_Options.html which can also be useful for planning visualisations in Google Fusion.

You may want to try re-arranging columns to meet the requirements of different visualisation tools. You can try updating the values in the spreadsheet and re-visualising the results.

Exploring and analysing more visualisations

There are links to visualisation blogs and other specialist sites on the Resources post at http://bit.ly/UJwgEz (i.e. http://www.miaridge.com/resources-for-data-visualisation-for-analysis-in-scholarly-research/)

This workshop is based on one I give at the British Library. Further background reading is available at Resources for ‘Data Visualisation for Analysis in Scholarly Research’.

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HILT Summer School: ‘Crowdsourcing Cultural Heritage’

In August 2014 I taught ‘Crowdsourcing Cultural Heritage’ with Ben Brumfield at HILT (Humanities Intensive Learning + Teaching) at MITH in Maryland. Thanks to all the participants for making it such a great workshop!

The Course Syllabus and Slide Decks are available for download: Continue reading

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Conference paper: Play as Process and Product: On Making Serendip-o-matic

The abstract for our Digital Humanities 2014 conference paper is below. Scott’s posted his notes from the first part, my notes for the middle part How did ‘play’ shape the design and experience of creating Serendip-o-matic? are on Open Objects and Brian’s are to follow.

Play as Process and Product: On Making Serendip-o-matic

Amy Papaelias, State University of New York at New Paltz

Brian Croxall, Emory University

Mia Ridge, The Open University

Scott Kleinman, California State University, Northridge


Who says scholarship can’t be playful? Serendip-o-matic is a “serendipity Feeding the machine animated gifengine” that was created in less than a week by twelve digital humanities scholars, developers, and librarians. Designed to replicate the surprising experience of discovering an unexpected source while browsing library stacks or working in an archive, the visual and algorithmic design of Serendip-o-matic emphasizes playfulness. And since the tool was built by a group of people who were embarking on a difficult task but weren’t yet sure of one another’s names, the process of building Serendip-o-matic was also rather playful, encouraging participants to take risks, make mistakes, and learn something new. In this presentation, we report on how play shaped the creation, design, and marketing of Serendip-o-matic. We conclude by arguing for the benefits of more playful work in academic research and scholarship, as well as considering how such “play” can be evaluated in an academic context.


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CENDARI Visiting Research Fellowship: ‘Bridging collections with a participatory Commons: a pilot with World War One archives’

I’ve been awarded a CENDARI Visiting Research Fellowship at Trinity College Dublin for a project called ‘Bridging collections with a participatory Commons: a pilot with World War One archives’. Here’s Trinity’s page about my Fellowship, which runs until mid-December. I’ve decided to be brave and share my thoughts and actions throughout the process, so I thought I’d start as I mean to go on and post my proposal (1500 words, below). CENDARI is a ‘research infrastructure project aimed at integrating digital archives for the medieval and World War One eras’ which ‘aims to leverage innovative technologies to provide historians with the tools by which to contextualise, customise and share their research’ (source) so this research fellowship very neatly complements my PhD research.

You can contact me by leaving a comment below, or via my contact page. If you’d like to follow my progress, you can sign up for (very infrequent) updates at MailChimp: http://eepurl.com/VUXEL or keep an eye out for posts tagged ‘CENDARI Fellowship’ on my blog, Open Objects.

Updates so far:

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Keynote ‘Enriching cultural heritage collections through a Participatory Commons’ at Sharing is Caring

Photo of glider plane against blue sky

Image: Library of Congress

I was invited to Copenhagen to talk about my research on crowdsourcing in cultural heritage at the 3rd international Sharing is Caring seminar on April 1. I’ve posted my notes on Open Objects: Enriching cultural heritage collections through a Participatory Commons platform: a provocation about collaborating with users.

Much of this comes from my PhD research and my previous work in museums, and I’m grateful to everyone who’s commented in person or on twitter so far, particularly as it helps me understand the best ways to explain the Participatory Commons and the research underlying it for different audiences.

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VALA 2014 Keynote: Open Objects: ‘Bringing maker culture to cultural organisations’

In February 2014 I was invited to Melbourne to give a keynote on ‘GLAM making’ at VALA2014 (VALA – Libraries, Technology and the Future). I’ve shared my slides and a storify of tweets from my session at Open Objects: ‘Bringing maker culture to cultural organisations’ at VALA 2014.

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Guest post: ‘Digital myth’ for Museums Association site

I was asked to comment on the recent report, Digital Culture: How arts and cultural organisations in England use technology for the Museums Association website. My post, Digital myth: Museums need to explode the myth they are technologically backward is live on their site now.

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2013: an overview

A seriously incomplete retrospective of what I got up to in 2013… For PhD updates, check my PhD.

Highlights of the second half of 2013 included presenting at Speaking in Code at UVA’s Scholars’ Lab, organising the MCG’s Museums on the Web 2013 conference at Tate Modern with the Museums Computer Group, collaborating on ‘Let’s Get Real’ with Culture24, the publication of two peer-reviewed articles – From Tagging to Theorizing: Deepening Engagement with Cultural Heritage through Crowdsourcing for Curator Journal and Creating Deep Maps and Spatial Narratives through Design with Don Lafreniere and Scott Nesbit for the International Journal of Humanities and Arts Computing, based on our work at the Summer 2012 NEH Advanced Institute on Spatial Narrative and Deep Maps: Explorations in the Spatial Humanities – and last but absolutely not least, creating Serendip-o-matic with 12 other wonderful digital scholars at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media’s One Week | One Tool institute.)

In November 2013 I presented at Sustainable History: Ensuring today’s digital history survives and at the Herrenhausen Digital Humanities conference.

In July 2013 I chaired a session on Digital Transformations at the Open Culture 2013 conference in London on July 2, gave an invited lightning talk at the Digital Humanities Oxford Summer School 2013, ran a half-day workshop on Crowdsourcing at the Digital Humanities 2013 conference in Nebraska, and had an amazing time making what turned out to be Serendip-o-matic at One Week, One Tool in Virginia (my posts on the process).

In May 2013 I gave an online seminar on crowdsourcing (with a focus on how it might be used in teaching undergraduates wider skills) for the NITLE Shared Academics series. I gave a short paper on ‘Digital participation and public engagement’ at the London Museums Group‘s ‘Museums and Social Media’ at Tate Britain on May 24, and was in Belfast for the Museums Computer Group’s Spring meeting, ‘Engaging Visitors Through Play‘ on May 30 and then Venice for a quick keynote (with Helen Weinstein) for the We Curate kick-off seminar at the start of June. I also gave another full-day workshop on Crowdsourcing at the British Library.

In April 2013 I gave a paper on my PhD research at Digital Impacts: Crowdsourcing in the Arts and Humanities, and a keynote on ‘A Brief History of Open Cultural Data’ at GLAM-WIKI 2013 and did another workshop on ‘Data Visualisation for Analysis in Scholarly Research‘ for the British Library’s Digital Scholarship Training Programme.

In March 2013 I was in the US for THATCamp Feminisms to do a workshop on Data visualisation as a gateway to programming and gave a paper on ‘New Challenges in Digital History: Sharing Women’s History on Wikipedia‘ at ‘Women’s History in the Digital World‘ at Bryn Mawr. My talk notes are posted on my blog as ‘New challenges in digital history: sharing women’s history on Wikipedia – my draft talk notes’.

In February 2013 I gave a keynote on ‘Crowd-sourcing as participation’ at iSay: Visitor-Generated Content in Heritage Institutions in Leicester and ran a workshop on ‘Data visualisation for humanities researchers’ with Dr. Elton Barker for the CHASE ‘Going Digital‘ doctoral training programme.

In January 2013 I taught all-day workshops on ‘Data Visualisation for Analysis in Scholarly Research’ and ‘Crowdsourcing in Libraries, Museums and Cultural Heritage Institutions’ for the British Library’s Digital Scholarship Training Programme.

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‘Creating a Digital History Commons through crowdsourcing and participant digitisation’ at Herrenhausen DH Conference

I was awarded a travel grant to attend the Herrenhausen Conference: “(Digital) Humanities Revisited – Challenges and Opportunities in the Digital Age” in Hannover, Germany, over December 5-7, 2013. I’d like to thank the Volkswagen Foundation (VolkswagenStiftung) for funding travel for 37 early career scholars and for the opportunity to present there.

My lightning talk notes, further information and references for ‘Peer production models for academic and amateur historians: challenges and opportunities’ are below. Obviously the full reference list for my PhD would be huge so below I’ve selected items that relate specifically to my poster and talk. PDF of my poster on ‘Creating a Digital History Commons through crowdsourcing and participant digitisation’.
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Talk: ‘Sustaining Collaboration from Afar’

Presentation on CHNM’s One Week One Tool project, Serendip-o-matic, at ‘Sustainable History: Ensuring today’s digital history survives’, Senate House, London, 28 November 2013.

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