Rebuilding laboratories: an interdisciplinary perspective

I am very excited about the coming workshop “Rebuilding Laboratories” taking place at the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of Birmingham on 19th November. I am co-organizing this event together with Dr Julia P Myatt, Acting Dean of the Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences.

The chemical laboratory at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston: women and men at class. Wood engraving, c. 1880. Source: Europeana Collections

This workshop brings together University of Birmingham experts in the field of the history of science and medicine, digital humanities, interdisciplinary studies, and knowledge production as well as the heads of scientific labs, to initiate the first discussion on laboratories from an inclusive and interdisciplinary perspective. The workshop speakers include Prof Jonathan Reinarz and Dr Vanessa Heggie from the Institute of Applied Health Research who will talk about labs from a historical and sociological perspective. Prof Jonathan Seville, Academic Director of the Collaborative Teaching Lab, will present this innovative lab that brings together practical teaching activities across a broad range of science and engineering disciplines. Prof Seville will discuss the concepts of collaboration and interdisciplinarity in practice. Prof Henry Chapman from the College of Arts and Law and a coordinator of Digital Humanities Forum will reflect on building an interdisciplinary lab for digital humanities. Further, Dr Julia P Myatt from the LANS and the School of Biosciences will discuss a plan for establishing the LANS lab to enhance collaborative research. Dr Ilija Rašović, from the LANS and the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, will reflect on the idea of a laboratory in the context of “making materials and cooking chemicals”. Dr Matthew Hayler from the Department of English Literature and Co-director of the Centre for Digital Cultures will discuss digital cultures laboratories. I, in turn, will present the concept of a laboratory in/for the humanities with a focus on different origins of labs ranging from science to industrial labs.

The event will be open with a keynote speaker, Dr James Smithies, Director of King’s Digital Lab at King’s College London who will talk about digital humanities labs in a broader context of global cyber-infrastructure.

The overall aim is to provide an intellectual discussion on the role of labs in supporting interdisciplinarity and enhancing the empirical knowledge and to stimulate the exchange of experiences between different disciplines.

Here you can find the workshop agenda. The info about the event is published on the IAS website.

Ellipsis exhibition

Students of the Systems of Representation: Culture Laboratory course at the Department of Media, Media Lab of Aalto University have created an exhibition named Ellipsis that is on display at the Harald Herlin Learning Centre from 15 May – 6 June 2019. The exhibition is a collaboration with the Aalto University Archives. It was a great pleasure to work with students who rediscovered archived cultural materials in a new, creative way and raised interesting questions about time, space, and materiality.

The exhibition depicts speculative design interventions related to three case studies presented in the course: Time and its Representation in Narrative, Exhibiting the Body, and Space in Digital Media. Students reused cultural materials from the Aalto University Archives in a creative way to address the following questions: How is the representation of time constructed differently in genres and narratives across different cultures and epochs? What are some of the parameters involved when exhibiting the body? How can we use media to augment our notion of space in an exhibition? Aside from historical documentation what other roles do archives fulfill in art and design productions?

One beautiful work has been made by Jennifer Greb who reused “Dekorative Vorbilder” book from 1984. It is the ornamental design book that includes dozens of pages of hand-drawn illustrations. The book is stored in the Aalto Archives. To rediscover this beautiful book, Greb has created an Augmented Reality animation to present the illustrations in a new, dynamic way. Please come and see the exhibition! More information can be found here.

Imaginary Cities

The British Library displays a wonderful exhibition created by artist Michael Takeo Magruder. “Imaginary Cities” is the transformation of the British Library’s online collection of historic urban maps into fictional cityspaces for the Information Age.

The exhibition comprises four technology-based art installations, exclusively created using images and metadata of 19th-century city maps drawn from the Library’s “One Million Images from Scanned Books” collection on Flickr Commons. It is an impressive and beautiful artwork! It shows how digitised cultural materials can be reused in a creative way and give rise to unique born-digital artifacts. “The exhibition highlights how the Library is not simply a repository of knowledge, but a storehouse of creative potential that is constantly generating new avenues for culture”.

OpenGLAM@Aalto

Tomorrow, on 28 March, Aalto University is organizing Open GLAM meetup to connect students, professionals, and creative people with the GLAM community (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums). The program includes fascinating topics about reusing and sharing open cultural heritage data. Join us: 28 March 2019, 3pm-5pm, Aalto University Learning Centre!

More info on the AvoinGLAM website which is a Finnish network of people and institutions interested in and working among open culture and cultural materials. It is part of an international OpenGLAM network.

AllSides: A New Online Dictionary

In the face of proclaimed ‘post-truth era‘ and ‘era of fake news’, there is an urgent need of investigation of language and exploration of its political bias. People use the same words in totally different contexts depending on their political and ideological views. Thus, the challenge is to disclose an author’s perspective and critically read information. From now we can also look to a new online dictionary, AllSides Dictionary, that provides a “balanced definition of 400 controversial terms, revealing how they are perceived differently by people with different political perspectives.”

AllSides is a news hub that offers guidance to readers on the potential political bias of articles and news providers. The Dictionary is a project work-in-process, created by contributions from various academic fields. The Dictionary may become the obligatory source of knowledge for students to develop their critical thinking and understanding of controversial topics.

One of the terms included in AllSides Dictionary is ‘Feminism‘ which definition begins with the following words: “It’s hard to imagine another word that invokes such strikingly different connotations than the word feminism”. Further, the definition provides the explanation of the word from two different perspectives:

“For many (most) on the left, the word feminism is a categorically positive reference to the larger fight for women’s rights and the overall push for equal rights and opportunity for women alongside men. For many on the right (not all), feminism has become a categorically negative reference to a vocal and aggressive minority of women pushing everyone else to allow them to ‘act the same as men.’ For some conservatives, the feminist movement disregards unique and special aspects of womanhood in favor for a universalized and androgenous view of gender. In addition to overlooking the distinctive female elements, feminism is seen as eradicating and even trying to destroy the distinctive and unique complementarity between men and women – as well as the traditional family”.

Beside ‘Feminism’, you can read about the words ‘Diversity‘, ‘Equality‘, ‘Refugee‘, ‘Terrorism‘, ‘Discrimination‘, and much more. The last word includes not only interesting explanation but also ‘Questions To Play With’, such as “Do you think discrimination is being over-applied and over-used, or under-recognized and under-seen?”, “Have you ever seen something labeled as ‘discriminatory’ or ‘discrimination’ in a way that you think was unfair or inaccurate?”, “Have you ever felt discriminated against? Did anyone question your feeling?”, “Have you ever heard someone say they were discriminated against and didn’t agree with their characterization of what happened?”.

Read more about AllSides Dictionary: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/academics-use-new-dictionary-aid-students-era-fake-news 

The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art

George Walton Lucas Jr., an American filmmaker and the creator of the Star Wars, is about to open the museum called the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Los Angeles. The concept design of the futuristic-looking museum in Exposition Park is astounding. It assumes that the house will collect his some 10,000 paintings and book, and magazine illustrations assembled over decades. Without a doubt, the museum will attract tourists, fans of Star Wars, artists, humanists, researchers, futurists, and many other!

More: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/10/arts/design/george-lucas-will-open-museum-of-narrative-art-in-los-angeles.html?smid=fb-share

To kill, or not to kill?

Driveless car faces moral dilemmas which should be solved by ethics or data? The research about the ethic of driveless car is undertaken by Media Lab at MIT and  Culture and Morality Lab at the University of California Irvine where researchers try to address the following issues: “Should the car risk its passengers’ lives by swerving to the side—where the edge of the road meets a steep cliff? Or should the car continue on its path, ensuring its passengers’ safety at the child’s expense?”

Shariff and his colleagues from Media Lab MIT launched a Website called “Moral Machine” to help gather more information about how people would prefer autonomous cars to react in different scenarios where passenger and pedestrian safety are at odds. At this website, you can take a test “start judging”, that is to say, you need to decide where the car should hit and consequently, whom it should kill to save the others. Do you prefer to save young people or seniors? Women or men? Doctors or robbers? Should the car kill two passengers or five pedestrians? Take a test and help to gather the information about a human perspective on moral decisions made by machine intelligence, such as self-driving cars. And also be sure that it is an interesting experience to get to know your preferences and ethics!

3D-printed Rembrandt

The Next Rembrandt” is astounding 3D-printed Rembrandt painting designed by a team of developers with the technical support of Microsoft and backing from Dutch bank ING. The aim of project was to create new work “made by Rembrandt” by using data from his existing paintings. Designed software system recognizes Rembrandt based on his use of geometry, composition, and painting materials. Then software replicates his style and also generates new facial features what was probably the biggest challenge. Distilling the artistic DNA from piece to create new work shows again incredible capabilities of new technology, software system, digital tools and “big data” in the art and humanities.

AI novel

Can a computer write poetry? Oscar Schwartz in his fascinating presentation during TedxYouth in Sydney left no doubts that computer can create poetry sounding like William Blake’s or Frank O’Hara’s poems. Further, algorithm can produce poem sounding so much better than poem of not one outstanding poet. What is more, it turns out that artificial intelligence (AI) can compete with human for a literary award.

The Hoshi Shinichi Literary Award is only prize involving human and applicants who are not human beings (AI programs and others). However, this year was the first time when submitted literary texts were created by coauthorship between human and ‘nonhuman beings’: AI programs. Among 1,450 novels received in the competition, 11 works involved AI programs.

AI novel called “The Day A Computer Writes A Novel” was produced by Hitoshi Matsubara and his team at Future University Hakodate in Japan. Although AI novel did not win the final prize, it passed the first screening process for a domestic literary prize. According to jury, the meta-narrative was not enough good to get the prize. It turns out that while structure and mechanism of novel were programmed very well, character descriptions were poor created. It is only a matter of time, when machine improves a programming of more ‘human’ part of text. Nevertheless, this is just the beginning of literary competition between human and nonhuman being.