Platform Digi­tal Humani­ties

DH Lecture Series


23 Nov. 2016, 16:00h–17:30h Greta Franzini Text Reuse, Digital Breadcrumbs and Historical Data UA City Campus, Room A.202
26 Oct. 2016, 16:00h–17:30h Elien Vernackt The MAGIS Bruges Project UA City Campus, Room R.231
25 April 2016, 16:00h–18:00h Sabine Lenk and Nele Wynants A Million Pictures UA City Campus, Room S.D.014
15 February 2016, 16:00h Folgert Karsdorp From Rapacious Wolfs to Independent Women: Cultural Transmission of Little Red Riding Hood UA City Campus, Room S.D.019
15 June 2015, 16:00h Benno Stein Applying Heuristic Search Technology for Constrained Paraphrasing UA City Campus, Room S.C.001
9 March 2015, 16:00h Barbara Bordalejo The Future of the Book and the Book of the Future UA City Campus, Room S.R.213
20 October 2014, 16:00h John Ashley Burgoyne How to Make It Stick: A Study of Long-Term Musical Memorability Using Citizen Science UA City Campus, Room S.A.107

About the Lecture Series

This lecture series on Digital Humanities is organised by the Platform for Digital Humanities of the University of Antwerp.

The objective of the series is to sketch the evolving landscape of digital humanities. Once merely a buzzword, ‘digital humanities’ is now developing into a legitimate discipline that is constantly expanding, and hard to define. In short, it is described as the use of computational methods and digital tools for research in Arts, Humanities, Cultural Heritage, and Social Science.

The diversity of the field is best illustrated through concrete examples from practitioners. For that reason, the Platform for Digital Humanities invites speakers from a variety of disciplines, all undertaking/united by exceptional and interesting research projects.

The lectures are in English and are free to attend. However, registration is required. Please confirm your attendance by e-mail to

The Speakers

Greta Franzini

Text Reuse, Digital Breadcrumbs and Historical Data

In her talk, Greta Franzini will discuss the case studies and activities of eTRAP. This project investigates the phenomenon of text reuse in order to advance automatic detection on historical data. Historical texts pose numerous challenges to automatically detect reuse. These challenges are, among others, the fragmentary survival of works, inconsistent referencing, but also the diachronic evolution of language. Unlike modern texts, where sources are consistently quoted and cited, historical texts are not always so transparent, thus opening up exciting opportunities for intertextual research.

Elien Vernackt

The MAGIS Bruges Project

In her talk, Vernackt will discuss the digitisation of a famous sixteenth-century map of Bruges, the development of a database, and a collaboration between different parties from both the academic and the GLAM sector. The MAGIS Bruges project responds to a variety of research interests and touches upon different issues within and outside the Digital Humanities community.

Sabine Lenk

Sabine Lenk is a postdoctoral researcher at University of Antwerp (Research Centre For Visual Poetics) in the international project “A Million Pictures: Magic Lantern Slides Heritage in the Common European History of Learning” on popular visual culture and performativity in the 19th century. She worked for film and television archives in Belgium, France, Luxembourg, UK, and the Netherlands. From 1999-2007, she was the director of the Filmmuseum Düsseldorf (Germany). Together with Frank Kessler and Martin Loiperdinger she is a co-founder and co-editor of KINtop. Jahrbuch zur Erforschung des frühen Films, KINtop Schriften and KINtop - Studies in Early Cinema. She has widely published on film archiving, cinema museology and early cinema.

Digitizing magic lantern slides : problems, challenges, possibilities

In the EU financed research project “A Million Pictures” one of the objectives is to make available magic lantern slides through the database Lucerna. We scan slides held in collection of museums and archives such as the Museum of Contemporary Arts (MuHKA) in Antwerp which keeps the collection of Robert Vrielynck, a solicitor from Brugge and founder of the Belgisch Animatiefilm Centrum.

The scanning of slides and slide sets is challenging because a three dimensional object has to be transformed into two or more two-dimensional images to document it. In the presentation I will address the problems that the digitization of physical objects such as lantern slides, but also films pose. A digital file can't replace the physical object but it opens ways of access that were inconceivable only fifteen years ago. Historians working with this material however will have to take into account the specific characteristics of digital documents and therefore need to understand how they have been produced. I will discuss possible procedures of source critic when working with such documents.

Nele Wynants

Nele Wynants is a postdoctoral researcher at the Université libre de Bruxelles (THEA Joint Research Group) and the University of Antwerp (Research Centre for Visual Poetics). She graduated in Art History, Performance and Media Arts (UGent) and obtained a PhD in Theatre studies and Intermediality (UAntwerp). Her current project "The Optics of Performance" aims to historicize concepts and practices of intermedial theatre by focusing on the interplay of performance, science and technology in theatre and media history. In 2015 she was a visiting scholar at Université Paris 3 (LIRA, Laboratoire International de Recherches en Arts) where she conducted archival research on scientific theatre in the 19th century. She is involved in "A Million Pictures", a European project on the magic lantern as European cultural heritage, and she is a member of "Spectacular Astronomy", a research network of theatre scholars and historians of science from Paris, Utrecht and Strasbourg. She is editor in chief of Forum+ For Research and Arts, and published several articles on contemporary artists working at the intersection of theater, film and media arts.

The Legacy of the Lantern. Artistic Reuse of an Old Apparatus

The magic lantern was the most important technology of visual entertainment and means of education across nineteenth-century Europe. Initially mainly used for scientific, educational and popular purposes, this early projection device quickly found its way into the theatre. This talk will discuss how the artistic reuse of old lanterns can today function as a creative tool to revive its important cultural heritage. More particularly in the context of the project A Million Pictures, we consider the digitization of a collection of magic lantern slides as a starting point for creative re-use of lantern slides for both artistic and educational purposes.

On the occasion of an upcoming workshop on this topic, organized by the Research Centre for Visual Poetics (27-39 October 2016), film artist Sarah Vanagt was invited to develop a project inspired by the magic lantern slides and projectors in the Vrielynck collection. Vanagt will set up an exhibition at the Antwerp Museum for Contemporary Art (M HKA), displaying original lanterns and slides next to her own contemporary lantern film, developed for the occasion. Instead of an explicit remake of this old apparatus or a historically informed re-enactment of a Galantee show, Van Agt opts for a more subtle, theatrical reuse of the magic lantern in which she reflects on media history, concepts of vision and the role of media in our contemporary moment. I will discuss how she thus proposes a media archaeological perspective on magic lantern shows. This archaeology is understood less as the discovery of a forgotten past than as the establishment of an active relationship between past and present.

Folgert Karsdorp

Folgert Karsdorp is a PhD candidate at the Meertens Institute in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, where he is involved in the Tunes & Tales project. He is affiliated with Radboud University and the eHumanities Group of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). His research interests lie in computational text analysis in the context of ethnology, anthropology, literary theory and cultural evolution. See also

From Rapacious Wolfs to Independent Women: Cultural Transmission of Little Red Riding Hood

In his lecture, Folgert Karsdorp presents new perspectives on the structure and development of story networks. A story network, defined as a non-hierarchical agglomeration of pre-textual relationships, represents a stream of retellings in which retellers modify and adapt retellings in a gradual and accumulative way. I investigate the development of the world's biggest fairy tale icon: Little Red Riding Hood. No story has been retold, reinterpreted, recontextualized and reconfigured as often as the story about the little girl in red who meets a wolf in the forest. On the basis of a large collection of Dutch retellings of the story, I show that the evolution of its story network is largely determined by two random mechanisms of selection: cultural prominence and temporal attractiveness.

Benno Stein

Benno Stein is chair of the Web-Technology and Information Systems Group at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar. His research focuses on modeling and solving data- and knowledge-intensive information processing tasks. He has developed algorithms and tools for information retrieval, data mining, knowledge processing, as well as for engineering design and simulation (patents granted). For several achievements of his research he has been awarded with scientific and commercial prizes. He serves on scientific boards, as reviewer in various relevant conferences and journals, and is the initiator and a co-chair of PAN, an excellence network and evaluation lab on text forensics with focus on authorship analysis, profiling, and reuse detection. He is cofounder and spokesman of the forthcoming Digital Bauhaus Lab Weimar, an interdisciplinary research lab for Computer Science, Media, and Engineering. He is also cofounder (1996) and scientific director of the Art Systems Software Ltd, a world leading company for simulation technology in fluidic engineering.

Professional background: Study at the University of Karlsruhe (1984-1989). Dissertation (1995) and Habilitation (2002) in computer science at the University of Paderborn. Appointment as a full professor for Web Technology and Information Systems at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar (2005). Research stays at IBM, Germany, and the International Computer Science Institute, Berkeley.

Applying Heuristic Search Technology for Constrained Paraphrasing

To paraphrase means to rewrite content whilst preserving the original meaning. Paraphrasing is important in fields such as text reuse in journalism, anonymising work, and improving the quality of customer-written reviews, among other. Paraphrasing is often considered as an analysis problem - asking the following question: Are these two sentences (paragraphs) paraphrases?

In our talk we will take the synthesis view and consider the problem of automatically paraphrasing a text. To illustrate both the principles and the potential of our approach we consider the reformulation of a given text such that the text contains an - also given - acrostic. A text contains an acrostic, if the first letters of a range of consecutive lines form a word or phrase. Our approach turns this paraphrasing task into an optimization problem: we use various existing and also new paraphrasing techniques as operators applicable to intermediate versions of a text (e.g., replacing synonyms), and we search for an operator sequence with minimum text quality loss. The experimental analysis shows that we can solve the acrostic generation problem both effectively and efficiently. However, our main contribution lies in the presented technology paradigm: a novel and promising combination of methods from Information Retrieval, Computational Linguistics, and Artificial Intelligence. The approach naturally generalizes to related paraphrasing problems as they occur in shortening or simplifying a given text, writing style obfuscation, answer grading, or e-journalism.

Barbara Bordelajo

Barbara Bordalejo is a textual critic, editor and digital humanist. She studied Literature and Linguistics in Venezuela. In 2003, she completed two PhDs, one in English and American Literature (New York University) and one in Middle English Literature (De Montfort University). Since then, she has worked in four universities in two continents and in October she joined KU Leuven’s Literary Studies as the Digital Humanities specialist. She is currently involved in the CantApp, an edition of the Canterbury Tales for mobil devices.

The Future of the Book and the Books of the Future

In her talk, Bordalejo will discuss issues relating to publishing, eReaders and multimedia books.

John Ashley Burgoyne

John Ashley Burgoyne co-teaches the University of Amsterdam's introduction to cognitive and computational musicology. He conducts research at the Music Cognition Group of the Institute for Language, Logic, and Computation and the Research and Development division at the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision. Before coming to Amsterdam in 2012, he received his doctorate from McGill University with a thesis entitled ‘Stochastic Processes and Database-Driven Musicology’. Trained in musicology and in statistical learning, he is especially interested in developing statistical models that are conceptually sound and musicologically interpretable as music research enters the digital humanities era.

How to Make It Stick: A Study of Long-Term Musical Memorability Using Citizen Science

Psycholinguist Steven Pinker once described music as being ‘auditory cheesecake’, similar to pornography and alcohol. Indeed, human beings do not seem to get enough of it. Music can be enchanting, annoying and intriguing. It helps us to concentrate or forget, it can make us jubilant or melancholic. Some songs, the so-called ‘earwigs’, can haunt us for days. These earwigs in particular are the subject of the upcoming talk. Our speaker will discuss what makes songs stick (i.e. what makes them ‘catchy’) by computationally analysing song structure and music recognition patterns by humans.

Download the slides of J.A. Burgoyne’s lecture