DH Lecture Series (2015/2016/2017)

13 November 2017

By Dr. Kirell Benzi

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Even if it may seem unnatural at first, the combination of art and science is gaining momentum in the research community. In this talk, I will explain why data art is a formidable support for scientific communication by showing how I went from raw data mining to the final creative representation. Throughout various examples, we will see that this approach can be used regardless of one’s field of research as long as there is data to support it.


Dr. Kirell Benzi got his Ph.D from EPFL in 2016. He is now the founder and CEO of Kirelion, a creative data science startup based in Paris. Passionate about both computer science and art, he began his interest in digital creation by making abstract art from pictures at a young age. Combining both data analysis and network visualization, he tries to captivate the audience by showing that algorithms, apart from their scientific necessity, also generate emotions.

4 December 2017

By Prof. Philippe Schlenker – Directeur de Recherche CNRS

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While it is nearly uncontroversial that music is subject to some ‘syntactic rules’, it is initially very unclear that music has ‘meaning’ in anything like the usual sense. We sketch a conceptual framework in which music can trigger inferences about a music-external reality, and may even be endowed with (highly underspecified) truth conditions. But their source is very different from that of most truth-conditional phenomena in language: normal auditory cognition and aspects of iconic semantics (used for pictures, gestures, and some aspects of signs) are better models than compositional semantics in language.


Prof. Philippe Schlenker is a senior researcher at CNRS (Institut Jean-Nicod, Paris) and a Global Distinguished Professor at New York University. He was educated at École Normale Supérieure (Paris), and obtained a Ph.D. in Linguistics from MIT, and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from EHESS (Paris). He has taught at École Normale Supérieure, Paris, at the University of Southern California, at UCLA, and, since 2008, at NYU. P. Schlenker’s early interests included semantics, pragmatics, the philosophy of language, and philosophical logic. He has conducted research on indexicals and indirect discourse, intensional semantics, anaphora, presuppositions, as well as semantic paradoxes.

In recent work, he has advocated a program of ‘super semantics’ that seeks to expand the traditional frontiers of the field. He has investigated the semantics of sign languages, with special attention both to their logical structure and to the rich iconic means that interact with it. In order to have a point of comparison for these iconic phenomena, Philippe Schlenker has also investigated the logic and typology of gestures in spoken language. In collaborative work with primatologists and psycholinguists, he has laid the groundwork for a ‘primate semantics’ that seeks to apply the general methods of formal linguistics to primate vocalizations. And in ongoing research, he has advocated the development of a detailed semantics for music, albeit one that is very different from linguistic semantics.

15 December 2017

By Prof. George Legrady – University of California, Santa Barbara

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The translation of multivariate abstract data into visualization first requires a process of classification which is inherently culturally defined, given that systems of classification tend to be shaped by discipline-specific perspectives, cultural priorities and historical circumstances. The presentation will address the evolution of methodologies in my artistic works that explore classification and the translation of information into visual experiences from pre-digital photographic works such as “A Catalog of Found Objects” (1975) to interactive works that organize cultural data as in the “Anecdoted Archive from the Cold War (1992)”, to installations that collect data from the viewing public such as “Pockets Full of Memories” (2001-2007), and “Cell Tango” (2006-2009).

The presentation will then shift to explore in detail the artwork “Making Visible the Invisible” (2005-present), a commissioned work at the Seattle Public Library, a data visualization project that receives its data hourly from the interactions of library patrons through their check-outs and check-in of books, cds, and movies. This artwork began operations in September 2005, and is expected to be active until 2019. The unusual aspect of this project is that it collects data by the hour, approximately 30,000 per day, 8 million per day, and has so far built-up a history of over 90 million checkouts, a distinctly insightful historical record tracking the cultural interests of an urban community, and the transformation of the library through the 2nd and 3rd decade following the introduction of the internet. The artwork will be described, and then follow with results of a course focused on visualizing the relations of data and explorations thru the language of aesthetics applied to information retrieval. The course has been offered annually since 2006 in which topics such as cultural trends, and system anomalies have been explored through the collected Seattle library data.


George Legrady is Distinguished Professor and Director of the Experimental Visualization Lab in the Media Arts & Technology graduate program at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is an internationally exhibiting digital media artist, and a John Simon Guggenheim fellow in Visual Arts (2016). During the fall of 2017, he is a visiting scholar in the DiasporasLab at Télécom ParisTech, Institut Mines-Télécom, Paris where he will analyze the internet searches of the general public at the Centre Pompidou library.

18 December 2017

By Prof. Stefan Koelsch – University of Bergen


Music is a universal feature of human societies, partly owing to its power to evoke strong emotions and influence moods. During the past decade, the investigation of the neural correlates of music-evoked emotions has been invaluable for the understanding of human emotion.

Functional neuroimaging studies on music and emotion show that music can modulate activity in brain structures that are known to be crucially involved in emotion. The potential of music to modulate activity in these structures has important implications for the use of music in the treatment of psychiatric and neurological disorders. The talk will also deal with the psychological mechanisms underlying the evocation of emotions with music, such as appraisals, emotional resonance, musical expectancy, and the social functions of music.


Prof. Stefan Koelsch is a Professor of Psychology (Biological and Medical Psychology), at University of Bergen. He was educated at University of Leipzig, and obtained a Ph.D. in Psychology (Dr. rer. nat.)at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences / University of Leipzig, Germany (summa cum laude).

By Prof. Sarah Kenderdine, University New South Wales Art & Design, Australia

Friday, July 1, 2016

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Exhibition practices in contemporary galleries, libraries, archives and museums are being redefined by ever expanding heterogeneous digital archives. This talk introduces emerging categories of information visualization in the humanities such as big history, distant reading, cultural analytics and deep mapping, and then focuses on strategies of engagement through embodied and interactive interfaces to these digital archives. The argument presents paradigms for multi-dimensional sculpting of cultural data that open new realms of interpretation and presentation for spatial, temporal, literary, and audio-visual archives of tangible and intangible heritage. By emphasizing aesthetic and narrative approaches to the problems of creating knowledge from the body of an infinite archive, these paradigms provide new modalities for discovery that are based on emergent storytelling and embodied interaction.

By Prof. Dominique Boullier, Digital Humanities Institute, EPFL

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

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This presentation will outline a perspective towards a systematic science of art and culture. As such, the proposed approach integrates qualitative inquiry with computation, natural science, and information design, while sharing the aim of understanding the process of art and cultural history with so-called traditional practice. It explores unknown complex emerging structure and dynamics by analyzing large data sets, using both quantitative measurement and qualitative inquiry. Similar to systems biology, the procedure is characterized by multidisciplinary co-authorship and publications that make extensive use of scholarly figures. Justifying the need for such an approach, it will be argued that the process of art history is both transcending and exponential, while the discipline of art history, in principle, has no limits in method.

By Prof. Franco Moretti, Department of English, Stanford

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Watch video of the presentation here


“No one has ever seen the objects studied by contemporary historians”, Krzysztof Pomian wrote a few years ago, “and no one could ever have seen them […] because they have no equivalent within lived experience”. True, no one has a “lived experience” of demographic change or of literacy rates – or of image like those used by computational criticism (or digital humanities, as they have been disastrously named by the US federal agency in charge of funding them). We are still studying novels, in the new space of literary labs, but we prepare them for analysisin a way that changes what is in front of our eyes, and in a way that fully supports Pomian’s point. Reading a novel, watching a play, listening to a poem: this is the “lived experience” of literature. The images of computational criticism are abstractions. So: what does it mean, studying literature through a series of abstractions?

By Prof. Martin Rohrmeier, Centre for Music and Science, TU Dresden

Thursday, January 28, 2016


The rapid progress in digital technology, networks, computational methods and computing power has had a large impact on society as well as academia. As a new field on the rise, digital musicology is still in early stages of exploring the potential of digital technologies and methods. Questions concerning how these may be employed for addressing (and adapting) core musicological questions have been the focus of recent interdisciplinary debates. This talk will illustrate ways of bringing together questions from musicology and music analysis with formal and computational methods and discuss opportunities and current challenges. One important issue lies in the fact that music fundamentally constitutes a mental phenomenon. This entails that computational methods of processing musical structures relevant for human listeners require taking into account insights from music cognition. Another related challenge consists in the fact that despite having large collections of music available, many features of interest for (musicologically oriented) music analysis are still challenging to compute and annotated sources are rare.

By Dr. Tara L. Andrews, Assistant Professor in Digital Humanities, UniBern

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


In this talk the presenter will showcase her work to elaborate a computational model for how text written in the classical and medieval era changed as they were copied and how we have been using these models to test hypothesis about the stemma or “manuscript family tree”.

The presenter will also touch upon the interesting problems that arise when bringing digital methods into the humanities.

By Prof. Maurizio Forte, Bass Fellow, Department of Classical Studies, Duke University

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


The future of human knowledge will be mostly digital. A transition from a linear growth to an exponential growth of human knowledge is taking place. This phenomenon will necessitate the development of vastly more complex software, shareability strategies, and new digital environments. The most impactful consequence might be universal access to all human knowledge. The world is moving rapidly towards ubiquitous connectivity that will further change how and where people associate, gather and share information, and consume media.

How can we represent this digitally-mediated human knowledge? What kind of feedback, interaction, virtual hermeneutics are expected? How much the way we digitally record/interact can influence our interpretation? This talk will present different case studies in the above-mentioned scenario at the intersection of cyberarchaeology, virtual museums, big data and virtual environments.

By Dr. Kurt E. Fendt, Principal Research Associate, School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, MIT

Thursday, January 14, 2016


The digital transformation of scholarship and education during the past 15 years has impacted most disciplines in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. With an abundance of digitized archives, open data, and digital tools, the opportunities for humanistic inquiry have grown exponentially. Yet, the conceptual foundations of Digital Humanities are still very much in debate and the challenges for developing new forms of knowledge production and educational methodologies remain.

The presenter will examine the ways in which a cross-disciplinary, collaborative, and project-based approach to Digital Humanities can help advance humanistic scholarship, evolve digital pedagogy within existing institutional structures, and open the humanities to new audiences.

By Dr. Glenn H. Roe, Lecturer in Digital Humanities, Centre of Digital Humanities Research, Australian National University

Wednesday, January 13, 2016


The exponential increase in the scale of humanities datasets is altering the relationship of scholars to the objects of their research. Scholarly interactions are increasingly mediated by sophisticated systems at almost every stage of our work, from initial search to final analysis.

These ‘big data’ approaches—from data mining to distant reading—promise new insights into our shared cultural record in ways that would have previously been impossible. But, these same methods also risk disconnecting scholars from the raw materials of their research as individual texts are subsumed into massive digital collections.

One of the main challenges for the digital humanities is to develop scalable reading approaches—both distant and close—implying a new hermeneutic circle that allows scholars to move from macro- to micro-analyses and back. This talk will outline some previous attempts to address this challenge using data mining and machine learning techniques to explore large-scale datasets drawn primarily from the French Enlightenment period. It will then introduce and discuss current research projects that use sequence alignment algorithms to identify intertextual relationships over large heterogeneous corpora.

By Dr. Mark Gotham, Visiting Lecturer at Music Faculty Department, University of Cambridge

Thursday, December 17, 2015


The digital era has begun to revolutionise the way musicology is conducted, both by opening up new avenues for research, and by reforming the way in which traditional areas of scholarship are approached. This talk will introduce some promising sub-disciplines of “Digital Musicology”, discussing the benefits they bring, but also highlighting where caution is needed to ensure musical validity and usefulness (that is, to make sure these digital musicologies remain “musical”).

By Prof. Maximilian Schich, Associate Professor in Arts and Technology, University of Texas, Dallas

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


This presentation will outline a perspective towards a systematic science of art and culture. As such, the proposed approach integrates qualitative inquiry with computation, natural science, and information design, while sharing the aim of understanding the process of art and cultural history with so-called traditional practice. It explores unknown complex emerging structure and dynamics by analyzing large data sets, using both quantitative measurement and qualitative inquiry. Similar to systems biology, the procedure is characterized by multidisciplinary co-authorship and publications that make extensive use of scholarly figures. Justifying the need for such an approach, it will be argued that the process of art history is both transcending and exponential, while the discipline of art history, in principle, has no limits in method.

By Prof. Marcos Novak, Department of Architecture and Urban Design, UCSB

Monday, November 15, 2015


Transvergence establishes the superset to transarchitectures and explores transformation and speciation across the transmodal continuum of technologies and humanities, engineering and mathematics, arts and sciences. This talk discusses the concept of transvergent THEMAS as a model for ensuring that the priorities of the so-called “digital humanities” remain focused on the human while still encouraging the exploration of new possibilities.

By Prof. Jeffrey Hamburger, Kuno Professor of German Art and Culture, Harvard University

Thursday, June 4, 2015


In collaboration with the Stanford University Library, Harvard University (represented by the University Library, HarvardX, and the Committee for the Digital Humanities) have for the last two years been working to develop a new IIIF-compliant image viewer (called Mirador) designed, above all else, to facilitate the study of medieval manuscripts.

In addition to introducing and demonstrating Mirador in its latest incarnation, the presentation will sketch six case studies designed to text and expand Mirador’s functionality in relation to current scholarly and pedagogic requirements. The presentation will also discuss the potential of the program to aid in research on illuminated manuscripts, the speaker’s special area of interest, with a focus on a little-known group of liturgical manuscripts from the Dominican convent, Paradies bei Soest, dating to the period 1300–1425.