DHIB 2019: Quantified Self

I offered a 10-hour workshop at the Digital Humanities Institute Beirut (DHIB), 4-5 May 2019. It is a miniature version of a course I will be teaching at NYU Abu Dhabi in Fall 2019. The slides are available at Zenodo here.

Brief description: This ten-hour workshop explored elements of the contemporary “quantified self” movement and its claims to “self-knowledge through numbers” focusing on contexts outside of the West/global North. It adopted a data-centered approach to gather, analyze and visualize data about the self in order to evaluate the phenomenon critically.

Preparation for the Workshop: Check out some of the 325(!) “Show and Tell” sessions here.

Requirements: Participants should come with a laptop and a updated smartphone (iOS or Android) with plenty of charge each day.

Outcomes. Participants in this workshop will:

  1. explore basic arguments in the contemporary context of self-tracking and the datafication of human life.
  2. be exposed to relevant issues in information privacy related to device usage and commercial data aggregation.
  3. collect some data about themselves in familiar surroundings
  4. practice data storytelling techniques reusing that data (map visualization, plotting).
  5. discuss to what extent these data reflect their own life experience, or constitute “self-knowledge”.
  6. examine critically the risks and benefits of QS applications for emerging and vulnerable environments.


Saturday 4 May, 0900-1130 — Session 1

  • introduction to quantified self (QS) movement and to its globalization in the public & health sectors.
  • discussion of data privacy, geo-privacy, app gamification.
  • exploration of the data collection capacities of a smartphone / wearable technologies.
  • lunch exercise: observing the data collection apps already on your phone.

Saturday 4 May, 1430-1700 — Session 2

  • exploration of self-tracking apps: their functions, gamified nature, benefits and drawbacks, the exportability of data
  • working with a couple apps to set up (temporal & spatial) data collection exercise for a one day period.

Sunday 5 May, 0900-1130 — Session 3

  • debriefing about data collection: findings and shortcomings.
  • discussion of a few short passages from critical literature on QS and media studies (Maturo/Moretti; Rettberg; Wernimont; Lupton).
  • exporting the data from the apps.
  • presentation of relevant data visualization techniques.
  • lunch exercise: completing your data collection, if you haven’t already at night.

Sunday 5 May, 1430-1700 — Session 4

  • reusing that data for storytelling purposes (map visualization, plotting).
  • wrap up.

For more information, see the bibliography of my forthcoming colloquium as well as the QS bibliography and 325 Show&Tell talks.

NYU Abu Dhabi DH Meet Up schedule 2018-19

What is the Digital Humanities Meet Up? 

It is an informal get together featuring a wide array of topics for those interested in, or just curious about, the digital humanities.  It is co-sponsored by the NYU Abu Dhabi Center for Digital Scholarship and the Division of the Arts and Humanities.


When will it meet?  

It will meet for approximately one hour during the day every few weeks throughout the Fall and Spring semester.


Who can attend?

Anyone in the NYU Abu Dhabi community or beyond.  The meet up is designed to be a learning experience for all.  No particular technical knowledge is required. No RSVP required.


Have an idea for a future DH Meet Up? Let us know…


Fall 2018 schedule:


All meet ups are held in the NYU Abu Dhabi library, C2 329, unless noted below.


Wednesday, 19 September, 12-1pm  Taylor Hixson (NYUAD Library, Geospatial Services), Workshop: “An Introduction to Story Maps


Monday, 24 September, 1150-105pm  David Wrisley (NYUAD, Digital Humanities), Workshop: “Web Hosting and Digital Identity” 


Thursday, 4 October, 2-3pm –  Abdullah Heyari, (NYUAD, Center for Cybersecurity), Workshop: “LaTeX for complete beginners”


Monday, 8 October, 1150-105pm – Kaki King (Musician), “Data Not Found”  Different Location C3 116, NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center


Sunday, 4 November, 12-1pm –  Jeremy Farrell (Emory, Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies) – Research presentation and hands on: “Network Approaches to Historical Religious Movements: Early Sufism (9th-10th c. CE) as a Case Study”


Tuesday, 20 November, 12-1pm  – David Wrisley (NYUAD, Digital Humanities)  Presentation and hands on: “WikiMedia and the UAE : On Freedom of Panorama, de minimis, and Visual Data in the Creative Commons”


Tuesday, 4 December, 12-1pm   –Taylor Hixson (NYUAD Library, Geospatial Services) “Archiving your Digital Spatial Objects in NYU’s Spatial Data Repository


Spring 2018 schedule (forthcoming)

Topics for next term:

Digital Scent

Social Networks and Entrepreneurship in the 19th century

Faculty Digital Archive and “green” repositories



Past DH Meet Ups :

Fall 2016

Spring 2017 

Fall 2017 – Spring 2018



Semi-Automated Alignment with iTeal

Semi-Automated Alignment of Text Versions with iteal

A half-day tutorial at DH2018, CDMX, Mexico, June 2018


Stefan Jänicke  @vizcovery

David Joseph Wrisley  @djwrisley




Our half-day tutorial for DH2018 concerns the semi-automated alignment of different witnesses in complex textual traditions, with demonstration of specific use cases, a discussion of the relevance of the implemented system to particular textual problems relevant to the participants as well as a hands on discovery of the system. Alignment is a relatively simple task for modern languages with orthographic stability and relatively similar texts, but when there is a degree of instability of textual transmission as in oral literatures, popular music or poetry, or other complex texts with partial repetition the task becomes more difficult. Whereas methods of hand aligning and visualizing texts exists in TEI, we focus on the possibility of computational alignment for the purpose of exploratory textual visualization. Scholars who are interested in visualizing scaled forms of reading will be interested in this tutorial.

Our visual analytics environment iteal supports the computational alignment of textual similarities and is not English-specific. It was originally implemented using orally inflected medieval French poetic texts (with test cases of the fabliaux and epic) and so is known to work on texts in Latin alphabets with inconsistent orthography.

This half-day tutorial aims at introducing iteal to the DH community for which the questions of multi-text problems, spelling variance and debates about distant forms of reading are currently quite salient. Many language processing and visualization tools do not work well with languages beyond English. Our environment is known to work with languages beyond English will be of interest those interested in expanding innovative techniques in the textual humanities across the North/South divide. Participants of the tutorial will be led in a step-by-step, hands-on approach through the full cycle of an iteal-based text alignment workflow, and they will finally have the opportunity of testing the tool with their own data. Although proven to be effectively useful for text variants of medieval poetry, we will not focus only on this type of text as iteal can be used to determine alignments among texts of a different kind in any language and in multiple genres. Currently, iteal works with plain text in utf8.


iteal consists of two major modules:

First, it automatically determines line-to-line alignments pairwise between all given text editions based on user-configurable parameters including:

  • Edit distance: Variant spellings are taken into account by this function. We define two words as spelling variants if they have the same first letter, and if the string similarity of the remaining substrings is higher than a user-configurable threshold.
  • Coverage: In order to ensure that a specific proportion of words of both lines are aligned, the user can configure a minimum coverage value of the line.
  • N-grams: The user can configure the minimum required n-gram size n that is the largest number of subsequent word matches of both lines.
  • Broken n-grams: Quite often, the only difference between two lines is a single word in the middle of a line that is either inserted, synonymous, or a transposed stopword. Large n-grams, from this perspective are not achieved. Thus, we allow the user for considering broken n-grams, which is the total number of word matches among both lines.

Second, for the purpose of analyzing the determined alignment we provide interactive visualizations for different text hierarchy levels (examples for all three views can be found in Figures 1, 2 and 3, and a teaser outlining a brief workflow with iteal can be found at https://vimeo.com/230829975):

  • Distant Reading: In order to get a rough overview of alignment patterns throughout the observed text versions, we draw a miniature representation for each version in the form of a vertical bar reflecting its number of verse lines in contrast to the other shown versions. For us, this is the most distant form of reading, where the text itself is not visualized, but rather abstract depictions of textual similarity point to patterns worth discovering.
  • Meso Reading: Since multiple texts are displayed in synoptic views, the visualization is able to convey more complex patterns of textual relationship. We call this a meso reading that might be said to connect multiple close readings all the while transmitting information that lies beyond the scope of a close reading. Here, we use the intuitivity of stream graphs to connect aligned verse lines among different versions. For a more detailed inspection of an individual alignment, clicking on a stream opens a popup window for line-level close reading.
  • Close Reading: Next to plain text, the close reading view provides word level alignments for the corresponding verse lines in the form of two Variant Graph visualizations. Within the close reading view, individual alignments can be confirmed with user input, so that it gets persistently stored in the backend.

Target audience: Anyone studying variance in the textual digital humanities and its visualization would be interested in our tutorial. It will be offered in English, but can accommodate textual data in a variety of languages. Potential participants in the tutorial are encouraged to be in touch with the presenters in advance of DH2018 to provide some sample data that can used to provide a mashup. Required for this step is a version of at least two documents sharing some text in common, of at least 20 lines. 


Schedule #itealDH


Part I (1 hour + break time)

iteal introduction: purpose, functionality, configuration, visualization (Stefan Jänicke)

– Medieval French poetry as an iteal use case (David J. Wrisley)

– Further use cases, future work, questions (Stefan Jänicke & David J. Wrisley)


Part II (2 hours – break time)

– Step-by-step hands-on session with texts brought by tutorial participants
– wrap up, feedback and steps forward




Stefan Jänicke

Dr. Stefan Jänicke is a post-doctoral researcher at the Image and Signal Processing Group at Leipzig University, Germany, where he leads a text visualization group focusing on applications in the digital humanities. Over the last years, he has gained experience in developing information visualization and visual analytics techniques within a number of digital humanities projects. His PhD thesis investigates the utility of visualization techniques to support the comparative analysis of digital humanities data, and his current research relates to information visualization with a focus on applications for text- and geovisualization in digital humanities.

David Joseph Wrisley

Dr. David Joseph Wrisley is Associate Professor of Digital Humanities at New York University Abu Dhabi. His research interests include the creation of open, inclusive corpora in medieval studies, corpus-based geovisualization as well as visual exploration of variance in poetic traditions. Furthermore, he is interested in the challenges in humanities data stemming from both multilingual environments and social data creation.


Related References 

Jänicke, A. Geßner, M. Büchler and G. Scheuermann (2014). Visualizations for Text Re-use. In: Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Information Visualization Theory and Applications (VISIGRAPP 2014), pp 59–70.

Jänicke, A. Geßner, M. Büchler and G. Scheuermann (2014). 5 Design Rules for Visualizing Text Variant Graphs. In: Conference Abstracts of the Digital Humanities 2014.

Jänicke, A. Geßner, G. Franzini, M. Terras, S. Mahony and G. Scheuermann (2015). TRAViz: A Visualization for Variant Graphs. In: Digital Scholarship in the Humanities 30, suppl 1, pp i83–i99.

Jänicke, G. Franzini, M. F. Cheema and G. Scheuermann (2015). On Close and Distant Reading in Digital Humanities: A Survey and Future Challenges. In: Eurographics Conference on Visualization (EuroVis) – STARs. The Eurographics Association.

Jänicke and D. J. Wrisley (2016). Visualizing Mouvance: Towards an Alignment of Medieval Vernacular Text Traditions. In: Conference Abstracts of the Digital Humanities 2016.

Jänicke and D. J. Wrisley (2017). Visualizing Mouvance: Towards a Visual Analysis of Variant Medieval Text Traditions. In: Digital Scholarship in the Humanities 32, suppl 2, pp ii106–ii123.

Jänicke and D. J. Wrisley (2017). Interactive Visual Alignment of Medieval Text Versions. In: IEEE Conference on Visual Analytics Science and Technology, IEEE VAST 2017.




Twenty Things to Know about #DHIB2017

Twenty Things to Know about #DHIB2017                                                 

DHIB 2017 (@DHIBeirut, dhibeirut.wordpress.com) is a moment in my career that I will look back on fondly.

I have made a list of twenty things to know about the event that took place in Beirut 10-12 March 2017, ten that I think others will be interested in, and ten personal ones.

  1. It was not the first successful international digital humanities event that has taken place in the Arab region. It was the second.
  2. It represents the convergence of two different Andrew J. Mellon Foundation funded initiatives: the Center for Arts and Humanities at AUB and the AMICAL consortium.
  3. Countries represented at DHIB 2017 were Egypt, UAE, Lebanon, Ghana, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, France, Switzerland, Greece, Germany and Italy.  These are the countries of the institutions represented.  There were more nationalities present.
  4. It was the first time, to my knowledge, that instructors working in the Arab world–North Lebanon (Balamand), Beirut (AUB), Cairo (AUC)—taught DH topics together in the same venue.
  5. The participants included local universities, research centers and institutes, as well as digital humanities specialists from international organizations: IFPO, OIB and DiXiT, international libraries (Halle) and DH groups (Bard).
  6. Instructors included librarians, full-time and part-time faculty, IT and an English major.
  7. Participants included librarians, full-time faculty, IT, graduate and undergraduates.
  8. The digital humanities conversation has piqued the interest of the Centers for Teaching and Learning in the region and beyond.
  9. The courses on offer represented a spectrum of topics important to our local “big tent”:  Drupal, mapping, 3d, sound, Arabic OCR, Sustainable Text Workflows, Omeka, game design, digital pedagogy, digital editing, etc.
  10. We were able to offer the Institute at no cost to the participants.


Ten reasons that I loved the 2017 edition of DHIB 2017:

  1. I witnessed my fellow faculty, instructional designers and students make DH their own.
  2. The mother of an undergraduate student of mine took my workshop to find out what he has been talking about all this time.
  3. My keynote was live streamed and notes for several courses are available online.
  4. I listened to our second keynote speaker Ghassan Mourad, author of the first book about DH in Arabic, speak in Arabic about named entity extraction in Arabic.
  5. We have the best (multi-script) logo of any of the DH events I have attended (designed by @kyraneth). Available here with a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 International license.
  6. One of the participants in my mapping workshop grasped the idea of the experimental nature of the DH projectvery quickly.  He went looking for data, dug into my professional website and made a map of my recent professional engagements.
  7. Both the Office of Information Technology and the Library at AUB were actively engaged in the Institute.
  8. The lightning talks were effervescent: bubbling over with practical ideas, obvious cross-institutional partnerships and feasible projects.
  9. Our closing session was held en plein air on the 2nd floor balcony of Fisk Hall, one of the heritage buildings on AUB’s green oval.  I was very pleased with the engagement of the participants.
  10. I learned so much from others.


General information on DHIB and DH at AUB : We began with informal events in 2011 that brought together the departments of English and Computer Science at AUB, with the support of some key people on campus who believed in the endeavor.  In 2015 we hosted the first DHIB (documents about that event are archived here). We became part of the Digital Humanities International Training Network in 2015. Other DH institutes have received participants from our institution: Oxford, Leipzig, Victoria.


Articles written about DHIB 2017:

AUB Faculty of Arts and Sciences
igital Humanities Institute Beirut 2017 – a Review





مؤتمر أبوظبي للإنسانيات الرقمية

“مؤتمر أبوظبي للإنسانيات الرقمية “ضاد

جامعة نيويورك أبوظبي
جزيرة السعديات

أبريل / نيسان 12-10

 DHAD تجسد الحروف الإنجليزية المختصرة لاسم “مؤتمر أبوظبي للإنسانيات الرقمية” كلمة

أو حرف “ضاد” بالعربية، وذلك في ربطٍ بديع يعكس تميز اللغة العربية وبلاغة معانيها، ويؤكد على رمزية لغة “الضاد” للتعبير عن الجماليات والتحديات في اللغة العربية، التي نستلهم منها في هذا المؤتمر جوانب الابتكار في مواجهة التحديات البحثية الجديدة لدراسة ماضينا باستخدام منهجيات “الإنسانيات الرقمية” وأساليب وطرق التكنولوجيا الحديثة.

    ما هي الإنسانيات الرقمية؟
(humanités numériques / digital humanities)

 الإنسانيات الرقمية هي ترجمة للمصطلح الإنجليزي والمصطلح الفرنسي حيث يبدو أن التسمية العربية لهذا المصطلح ظهرت للمرة الأولى في عام 2010 على أيدي مجموعة من المستشرقين العاملين في فرنسا الذين قاموا بترجمة أول بيان الإنسانيات الرقمية والذين أرادو للمصطلح الجديد أن يشير للأدب أو العلوم الإنسانية.

واليوم بات هذا المصطلح مستخدماً في مختلف الجامعات حول العالم، ليس بهدف عكس ما تعانيه الحالة البشرية بعد المنعطف الرقمي، بل للإعلان عن تجديد وتحديث عاداتنا البحثية القديمة ضمن المجالات الأدبية في مجتمعنا الرقمي الحالي. وبالرغم من الحداثة النوعية لمصطلح “الإنسانيات الرقمية”، إلا أن أساتذة الأدب طالما حاولوا استخدام أجهزة الكمبيوتر لأكثر من سبعين عاماً للتمكن من فهم تعقيدات الماضي البشري.

إن موضوع “الإنسانيات الرقمية” موضوع متشعب تتنوع فيه المجالات والاتجاهات مثل، الأرشفة الرقمية، ورسم خرائط البيانات التفاعلية، والتحليل الحسابي للنصوص، ونمذجة القطع الأثرية بتقنيات الأبعاد الثلاثية، والفنون الرقمية، وتعريف البيانات، ورسم الخرائط الصوتية. ولذلك فإن العاملين في مجال “الإنسانيات الرقمية” أو لنطلق عليهم “الأدباء الرقميين”، يُبدون تقديراً كبيراً لممارسات الانفتاح والتعاون، وتعدد التخصصات المشتركة، والمشاركات العامة. كما يشجعون دوماً على استخدام أجهزة الكمبيوتر والتقنيات الحديثة بطرق إبداعية لفهم إنسانيتنا وموقعنا في التاريخ.

ويعتقد ممارسو “الإنسانيات الرقمية” بأن أجهزة الكمبيوتر تمثل فرصاً وتحديات لتدريس وتعلم الأدب في عصرنا الحالي، في حين يعتقد من يخالفونهم الرأي، بأنها تقنيات تقلل من نسبة القراءة والكتابة وتجعلنا مجتمعاً أقل تفكيراً. إن تقبل وانفتاح “الإنسانيين الرقميين” على التكنولوجيا لم يكن أمراً تلقائياً، بل كان نتيجة الاعتراف بكثرة الصعوبات والتحديات التي واجهتهم خلال استخدامهم للتكنولوجيا. ولذلك فإن “الإنسانيات الرقمية” تمثل فرصة مميزة لنا لإعادة النظر في العلاقة بين الجنس البشري والآلات التي تحيط بنا.

إن تبني مفهوم “الإنسانيات الرقمية” بدأ بالتزايد في العالم العربي، وذلك على الرغم من عدم وجود المصطلح المناسب، حتى وقت قريب، القادر على عكس شمولية التنوع والثراء الكبيرين لهذا المفهوم. ومن المتوقع أن يساهم إدراج هذا المصطلح الجديد في لغتنا العربية وغيره من المصطلحات المشابهة التي مازالت قيد الترجمة، بفاعلية في زيادة الإنتاج المعرفي لمجتمعاتنا العربية مع التركيز على تعزيز المعرفة ضمن السياقات الثقافية.

:المحاور البحثية للمؤتمر

  • تكوين المعرفة الثقافية والاجتماعية في زمن عولمة التعليم الجامعي.
  • الوسائط الإنسانية المتطورة في زمن الحوسبة، سواءً التي تركز أو لا تركز على النصوص.
  • أهمية تفاعل “الإنسانيات الرقمية” مع المجتمع.
  • التحديات والمخرجات البحثية لمجالات “الإنسانيات الرقمية” في اللغات وسياقات العالم العربي والمنطقة الآسيوية.

يجمع “مؤتمر أبوظبي للإنسانيات الرقمية” مجموعة من الخبراء والمتخصصين في مجالات وتطبيقات “الإنسانيات الرقمية”، ويضم محاضرات أكاديمية متخصصة، وجلسات حوار ونقاش متعددة، وورش تدريب عملية.

موقع المؤتمر