Researchers Perak and Kurze Lecture on Data Visualization in Transitional Justice

For the sixth annual Cres Summer School on Transitional Justice and Politics of Memory, researcher Benedikt Perak (University of Rijeka) and assistant professor, Arnaud Kurze (Montclair State University) gave an introductory lecture on the role of digital humanities for transitional justice and memory studies. 

Students and participants had an opportunity to learn about the latest research application from the FRAMNAT project findings as well as get some hands-on experience with so-called “freemium” software, such as carto.com to visualize smaller, customized datasets for group project.

Above is a screenshot using an open-source application called Histograph to map historical processes.

Humanistic social sciences have slowly started to integrate big data and innovative research methods to map and analyze sociopolitical processes. The lecture by both scholars was an incentive to introduce a non-expert audience to the benefits of digital methods and data visualization in social science research.

A screenshot from a freemium software called carto.com to visualize large data sets based on geographic information system (GIS) mapping.

Daniele Guido writes on tools to analyze co-occurence in large multimedia historical resources

The paper is archived in the University of Luxembourg’s Open Repository and can be found here.

Abstract

This paper describes a prototype geo extension to an open source graph-based tool designed for analysing co-occurrence in large multimedia collections of historical resources. Employing an interdisciplinary approach, combining tools and practices from humanities and geography, we explore how it can be extended to facilitate both social and spatial enquiry. For the prototype development we use Instagram resources that reference the Via Francigena – a significant cultural route connecting Canterbury, UK and Rome, Italy. The resulting tool facilitates dynamic qualitative filtering and multilevel views to explore the social-spatial collective memory of this cultural route

Students and faculty testing geo-mapping and data visualization tools at joint-workshop

On March 8 and 9, 2017, the University of Rijeka — in collaboration with Montclair State University and the University of Luxembourg — was hosting a digital methods workshop for scholars and students to discuss post-authoritarian and post-conflict accountability issues against the backdrop of innovative digital methods to study questions of individual and collective dealing with the past.

On the first day of the workshop participants focused on the link between geo-mapping and text analysis, based on open-source software called SVEN. Daniele Guido, Lead Designer at the University of Luxembourg, discussed his project histograph, highlighting the challenges associated with facial recognition and network analysis software to retrace the different relationships among political actors during the European integration process since 1945. Participants were then invited to test the different digital methods on their own post-conflict related case studies.

On day 2 of the conference, a renowned Croatian computational linguist, Nikola Ljubešić, affiliated to the Jožef Stefan Institute in Ljubljana, Slovenia, discussed the technical and conceptual challenges of collecting and analyzing large amounts of social media data, such as twitter feeds. The workshop concluded with a roundtable discussion on lessons learned and ideas on how to move forward.

Lead Designer, Daniele Guido, from the University of Luxembourg discussing a data visualization project “histograph”

Rijeka and Montclair exploring digital visualization and memory politics

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Dr. Arnaud Kurze (standing), Montclair State University, conducting a workshop on digital methods at the University of Rijeka, Croatia.

On July 15, 2016, Dr. Arnaud Kurze, Assistant Professor of Justice Studies at Montclair State University, held a workshop on digital methods in post-conflict and post-authoritarian contexts at the University of Rijeka, Croatia.  Participants were all part of a thriving initiative at the university’s Cultural Studies Department, which promotes digital research in the humanities. The aim of this workshop was to explore new ways of analyzing qualitative data and to provide digital tools for visualizing research findings.

The event was initiated by the former Chair of the Cultural Studies Department, Dr. Vjeran Pavlakovic, and provided an excellent platform for a transatlantic knowledge exchange and a thought-provoking scholarly discussion on recent trends in this emerging field. One of  Dr. Kurze’s colleague from Rijeka, Dr. Benedikt Perak, for instance, shared some insights on his latest research, which he presented earlier this summer in Berlin, Germany, and Vienna, Austria. Dr. Perak has created a virtual ontology that looks at different discursive patterns, linking language, culture and behavior. His preliminary findings can be viewed on a web portal hosted by the University of Rijeka, which was created with Gephi. In addition, drawing from an open-source language software called SketchEngine, Dr. Perak was able to build and adjust his discursive and emotion-based ontology.

SketchEngine

Using SketchEngine to retrace the roots and linguistic as well as cultural usage of the term terrorism.

A short lecture by Dr. Kurze on the open-source text analysis software SVEN for Dr. Perak’s research was thus crucial and very timely. While SVEN currently only processes data based roman-based languages and English, different database projects are underway to include slavic-based languages for future text analyses. One of them is called the ReLDI project, to collect and distribute various linguistic data and tools to support empirical research in Croatian and Serbian. It is an institutional collaboration including research centers in Croatia, Serbia and Switzerland.

ReLDI

ReLDI logo and website.

The Rijeka workshop was a great opportunity for researchers to explore a common ground for future research collaboration and exchange programs. With both universities in Montclair and Rijeka pushing for curricula to harness students with valuable tools and analytical skills, workshop organizers vowed to strengthen institutional ties and develop potential future coursework and guest lectures between the two digital humanities poles.

Dr. Arnaud Kurze (center), Montclair State University, conducting a workshop on digital methods at the University of Rijeka, Croatia.

Croatian participants at a workshop on digital methods at the University of Rijeka, Croatia.

Collaboration with Uni Graz on Digital Methods: Ethnographic Research and Data Visualization in the Balkans

Graz2nDr. Arnaud Kurze (center), Assistant Professor at Montclair State University, explaining visualized data clusters to participants.

Between July 1-2, 2016 the Centre for Southeast European Studies at the University of Graz held a workshop on digital methods in the humanistic social sciences in collaboration with Montclair State University. It brought together participants from the United States and Europe to explore contemporary sociopolitical issues across the Mediterranean Basin and Southeast Europe using digital research technology. The workshop goal was to strengthen cross-regional and interdisciplinary collaboration, introducing new conceptual frameworks and novel ways of conducting research in the humanistic social sciences.

Methods that were discussed during the workshop included data mining, data visualization and text analysis, among others. Based on interactive, praxis-oriented sessions, participants were introduced to innovative, critical social research methods to capture and assess social, political and cultural phenomena, including contentious politics, memory politics and transitional justice during regime change and in post-authoritarian and post-conflict settings.

The timely event was organized in part to respond to the political turmoil in the region. For instance, the impact of the global financial crisis on Southeast Europe, the ramifications of the post-Arab Spring repressions across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and the institutional crisis of the European Union, among others, highlight the need and opportunity to analyze these complex social issues with the help of new digital methods.

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David Brown (left), Uni Graz, and Dr. Christopher Lamont (right), University of Groningen, discussing research findings.

Various sessions provided an opportunity for participants to showcase their individual research projects, such as the project of David Brown on visual cultures and protest in the Balkans. Scholars shared their research findings and received valuable feedback from colleagues on different conceptual, methodological and empirical aspects of their studies.

Moreover, guest speaker, Dr. Arnaud Kurze, Montclair State University, introduced a digital open-source text analysis software called SVEN, which combines qualitative and quantitative data analysis. It is an experimental tool to collect, organize and analyze text fragments from online and offline documents. As such, it is an excellent tool to respond to the technological needs of a data-driven world, providing precise analytical solutions to collect and assess data. SVEN’s work flow is simple. It increases the information accessibility via visualization methods and automatic term extractions. As a result, it allows researchers to trace emerging social phenomena through time and allows for a better understanding of the collected data, which facilitates the data evaluation process. SVEN is also useful to elaborate policy strategies to help address sociopolitical issues.

In sum, the workshop harnessed social scientists working on a variety of sociopolitical, socioeconomic and sociocultural issues with new ideas to better capture correlational and causal complexity. In addition, it provided specific tools for mixed methods, including text analysis, data mining and data visualization. As a result, it fueled potential future research collaboration  between scholars from various disciplines, including political science, sociology, history and linguistics, among others, and has strengthened the existing ties between Montclair State University and the University of Graz.

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Workshop participants wrapping up a session on the open-source text-analysis tool SVEN.

Click here for workshop flyer.