Steven E. Jones, University of South Florida
TITLE. Digging into CAAL: Father Roberto Busa’s Center and the Prehistory of the Digital Humanities
ABSTRACT. After meeting with the CEO of IBM in 1949, Father Roberto Busa, SJ, spent a decade creating the protocols and methods for what he called Literary Data Processing, its anchor project being the massiveIndex Thomisticus. CAAL—the Centro per l’Automazione dell’Analisi Letteraria—was established on an ad hoc basis during the 1950s, at IBM Italia in Milan, at Busa’s Aloisianum college, and in various borrowed office spaces. But from 1961-1967, CAAL operated in its own dedicated lab for the first time, a spacious former textile factory in Gallarate, with rows of IBM machines, academic staff, and a team of student punched-card operators, working on the Index Thomisticus and other projects.
That lab building is gone, demolished over twenty years ago. For a little over two years, now (2017-1019), an international team of researchers (Jones, Kaplan, Nyhan, Passarotti, Rockwell, Senna, Sinclair, Terras, with others), supported by a Level II Digital Humanities Advancement Grant from the US National Endowment for the Humanities, has been digging into the historical site of CAAL. Combining 3D modeling, oral histories, digitization, and archival and historical research, the project aims to reconstruct (by modeling) Busa’s center, as an institution, a set of practices, a significant cultural and material site, a key site for at least one important, influential prehistory of today’s digital humanities. Jones’s keynote presentation will provide some of the historical contexts for CAAL and will demonstrate the collaborative project, including its immersive 3D models.
BIO. Steven Jones is DeBartolo Chair in Liberal Arts and Professor of English and Digital Humanities at the University of South Florida. Before coming to USF in 2016 he was Distinguished Visiting Professor at CUNY Grad Center in New York for 2014-2015, and taught at Loyola University Chicago for 28 years, where he was Founding Co-Director of the Center for Textual Studies and Digital Humanities. He is author of numerous essays and books, including The Emergence of the Digital Humanities (2014), Roberto Busa, S.J. and the Emergence of Humanities Computing (2016), and the forthcoming contribution to the Object Lessons series, Cell Tower (to be published March 2020). He is Principal Investigator on the 3D-modeling and archiving project, “Reconstructing the First Humanities Computing Center,” supported by a Level II NEH Digital Humanities Advancement Grant (2017-2019), and is founder and Faculty Coordinator of the USF DHLabs, a shared space for collaborative research in the digital humanities.
Roberto Navigli, Sapienza University of Rome
TITLE. Every time I hire a linguist my performance goes up (or: the quest for multilingual lexical knowledge in a deep (learning) world)
ABSTRACT. Computational lexical semantics is an area of Natural Language Processing (NLP) which is slippery ground, due to the difficulty of agreeing on foundational issues, which are also the cause of its great need for annotated data in multiple languages. In this talk I will advocate the importance of interdisciplinary work for multilingual NLP. I will present current tasks in Natural Language Understanding and state-of-the-art results attained in my research group by joining forces between computer scientists and (computational) linguists, including multilingual knowledge resources (BabelNet) and lexical-semantic collocation resources, Word Sense Disambiguation, and semantic role labeling.
BIO. Roberto Navigli is Professor of Computer Science at the Sapienza University of Rome, where he heads the multilingual Natural Language Processing group. He is one of the few researchers to have received two prestigious ERC grants in computer science, namely an ERC Starting Grant on multilingual word sense disambiguation (2011-2016) and an ERC Consolidator Grant on multilingual language- and syntax-independent open-text unified representations (2017-2022). He was also a co-PI of a Google Focused Research Award on NLU. In 2015 he received the META prize for groundbreaking work in overcoming language barriers with BabelNet, a project also highlighted in The Guardian and Time magazine, and winner of the Artificial Intelligence Journal prominent paper award 2017. He is the co-founder of Babelscape, a successful Sapienza startup company which enables NLP in dozens of languages.
Julianne Nyhan, University College London
TITLE. Where does the history of the Digital Humanities fit in the longer history of the Humanities? Reflections on the historiography of the ‘old’ in the work of Fr Roberto Busa S.J.
ABSTRACT. Fr Roberto Busa S.J. is considered by many as being (one of) the founding fathers of the Digital Humanities. Perhaps this is why there has been what I would describe as an over- emphasis on identifying the ‘new’ in Busa’s work. Yet, there can be little doubt that analyses of the ‘old’ in Busa work would serve many important ends. By interfolding analyses of the old in Busa’s work with an analyses of the new in his work we would be able to derive a more detailed and nuanced account of his working practices and the contexts that shaped them. Such analyses would also, and this is the main point that I will go after in this talk, allow us to better contextualise the history of the Digital Humanities in longer intellectual, technical and labour histories of textual scholarship and the Humanities. Drawing on my oral history research, and recently-translated texts of Busa (see Nyhan and Passarotti 2019), this talk will focus on three exemplary yet under-research examples of the ‘old’ in Busa work, namely, the labour organisation of the Index Thomisticus; the origins of Busa’s interest in statistical approaches to language and the referencing system that Busa and Tasman developed for use in the Index Thomisticus. I will reflect on how those examples speak to the ‘old’ in Busa’s work and on the questions that remain to be answered so that we might better understand these aspects of Busa’s work and their place in the longer history of the Humanities.
BIO. Julianne Nyhan is associate Professor of Digital Information Studies in the Department of Information Studies, UCL, where she leads the Digital Humanities MA/MSc programme. Nyhan is also Deputy Director of the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities and on the Leadership group of the UCL Centre for Critical Heritage. She has published widely and her work has been translated into Russian, Polish and Mandarin. Recent publications include (with Marco Passarotti) One Origin of Digital Humanities: Fr Roberto Busa S.J. in his own words (Springer 2019) & (with Andrew Flinn) Computation and the Humanities: towards an Oral History of Digital Humanities (Springer 2016). She is co-I or PI on the following research projects: a Leverhulme-funded collaboration with the British Museum on the manuscript catalogues of Sir Hans Sloane; a Transatlantic Partnership for Social Sciences and Humanities 2016 Digging Into Data Challenge, Oceanic Exchanges; and a Marie Curie action 'Critical Heritage Studies and the Future of Europe'. She tweets @juliannenyhan and blogs at https://archelogos.hypotheses.org/