A History of Hansard…

Here at Enroller we’re very excited that we have two new sister projects (is it possible we’ve mentioned them before…?) – the Parliamentary Discourse Project and the Scottish Words and Place-names Project! Both are also funded by JISC and are under active development during 2011.

Today, we’d like to draw your attention to Parliamentary Discourse – have you been following their blog, or their tweets? We highly recommend you do! And just to get you interested, here’s a link to one of their recent blogs by project historian Dr Andrew Struan, on the history of Hansard. So go on, take a few minutes off work and have a read – you know you want to!

The Parliamentary Discourse blog can be found at: https://parldisc.jiscinvolve.org/wp/

The project can also be found on Twitter: @ParlDisc

Corpora Galore!

Back in May, Enroller was fortunate enough to have been invited to speak at the Corpora Galore event held by DECTE (The Diachronic Electronic Corpus of Tyneside English) at Newcastle University. Our project, as you’ll know from previous posts, shares very close links with DECTE, as the Newcastle corpus is one of the data sets incorporated in Enroller (currently, you can search NECTE within Enroller; DECTE will be coming very shortly…). So we were delighted to to visit our colleagues once again and to take the opportunity to talk to the community about our own recent developments in Glasgow!

It goes without saying that Corpora Galore was a fantastic event, seeing presentations from a whole host of researchers within corpus linguistics, including:

Lisa-Lena Opas-Hänninen (University of Oulu, Finland)

Bas Aarts (UCL)

Wendy Anderson (University of Glasgow)

Sjef Barbiers (Meertens Institute, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts & Sciences)

Isabelle Buchstaller, Karen Corrigan, Adam Mearns & Hermann Moisl (Newcastle University)

John Kirk (Queen’s University Belfast)

Bróna Murphy (University of Edinburgh)

Florence Myles (Newcastle University)

Steve Walsh (Newcastle University)

To this pot Enroller threw its own presentation – myself, Johanna Green, and Andrew Struan (University of Glasgow) joined forces on behalf of Enroller and the Parliamentary Discourse (ParlDisc) projects to update those familiar with our research on the recent developments and to introduce our aims to those who may be new to our work.

Our joint presentation provided the perfect forum to speak about Parliamentary Discourse which is one of our newly-funded JISC projects, and will be running until November at Glasgow. Dr Andrew Struan is the project’s historian, and he took the opportunity to publicise their research at Newcastle. Andrew says:

The Parliamentary Discourse project, which uses Enroller’s multidisciplinary digital humanities approach, aims to analyse the 2.3 billion words in Hansard(the records of all parliamentary debates from 1803 to 2005) and semantically tag them, using the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary (HTOED), in order to allow researchers and students to see for the first time the linguistic and historical changes present in the language of our political classes over the past two hundred years

As the full title of the event was Corpora Galore: Applications of Digital Corpora in Higher Education Contexts it also allowed us to advertise the work ParlDisc is doing as part of their additional HEA project. Andrew explains:

The Parliamentary Discourse project also ties-in with a HEA History Subject Centre funded project, ‘The Language and Sentiments of their Times’, which introduces students of history to the importance of the study of language and word choice in historical documents by using the Enroller platform as a portal through which to engage with other primary source materials*

So Corpora Galore really was an excellent place for us to talk about Enroller, ParlDisc and the HEA project all at the same time, discuss projects that make use of corpora in order to facilitate new work in fields of study beyond English language and which aim to bring new dimensions to historical research. It also let us present the benefits of the Enroller platform and gave us the chance to use the Parliamentary Discourseproject to showcase the potential applications of such a resource (Enroller) in Higher Education contexts.

Enjoyed this blog? Why not find out more about ParlDisc by following them on Twitter (@ParlDisc) or even by reading more detailed updates of the project via their own blog? (https://parldisc.jiscinvolve.org/wp/) You’ll be hearing more about the project from us as things develop and when they become one of Enroller’s data sets later this summer!

*The HEA subject centre funded project ‘The Language and Sentiments of their Times’ is currently underway and led by Marc Alexander and Andrew Struan at the University of Glasgow.

Taak of the Toon

So yesterday (Monday 23rd) saw the Enroller team travel down to Newcastle upon Tyne to meet with the NECTE/DECTE team for the day. A very early start in a rather dreich Glasgow should have warned us of the weather-related drama that would unfold later on (note to self: waves of water gushing uphill are not a good sign…) but undeterred by the Glaswegian downpour, we were duly on the train to Edinburgh at 8.30am, coffee in hand!

We’ve been very fortunate during the past two years of Enroller to host two events in Glasgow where our collaborators and data providers have been able to join us, hear of our developments, hear from other data owners, present their own research, and test our portal; equally, we have been lucky enough to travel to many of our collaborators in person to discuss the issues surrounding Enroller and the digital humanities which affect all involved.
(NB – in the spirit of making these discussions as widely available as possible, you can now view the presentations from our last two colloquiums here for 2010 and here for 2011).

So needless to say, we were looking forward to catching up with the NECTE/DECTE team. After a great group discussion of using NECTE/DECTE within Enroller, and ideas for the future (and lunch…!), we were ready to have their team see our latest developments. Since our 2011 colloquium we’d been working to use the feedback given on the portal by our Network of Scholars to update the portal interface and improve its layout and usability. Our trip to Newcastle afforded us the opportunity to have a group of researchers, postgrads and undergrads test the latest stage of the interface, and this time, try our Advanced Search using the Grid. For Enroller, this is probably one of the most important meetings we can have — it allows us to see where we can refine and improve our portal and it lets us test our design to the limit (will it work? is it intuitive? does it display the results in a way that our NoS can interact with them and begin further searches/research? can the system cope with repeated and concurrent searches?).

One of the most difficult jobs, it turns out, in bringing data together within Enroller, is not in handling the data itself, but is how we decide to present and allow the end-user to interact with those results together. Our project has been extended until the end of September, so updates, new data and new tools will be coming shortly – to have a look at our current version of the portal, click here now and email us  your comments (details on our website) – we’d *love* to hear from you!

So Enroller had a successful and fruitful day in Newcastle gaining even more feedback on our portal from those who will be actively using it for their own research.

However, let it not be said that Enroller doesn’t work hard for this feedback… Little did we know, as we sat in the blustery but sunny Toon, that Glasgow was unleashing its worst weather upon the city. Lashing rain and winds of up to 100mph in places soon made itself apparent when the team tried to make it home: trains heading north were delayed (we managed to get seats on two of the last trains to venture towards Edinburgh); trains from Edinburgh to Glasgow were rumoured to be cancelled for the rest of the day, and there were further rumours of road closures, which swiftly swept their way through the carriages as we headed north. Luckily, our train conductor, Alan, (hurrah for Cross Country Trains!!) was an absolute legend, keeping all us nervy passengers updated as we trundled along, bringing us news of onward transport and potential delays with a wicked sense of humour. Grabbing internet access where we could, Twitter and Facebook (coupled with a worried email from the NECTE team!) told us the weather in the west could possibly leave us stranded in Edinburgh for the night. Facebook duly created a page ’23rd May 2011 – the day it was windy’ where locals shared tales of woe and garden furniture lost to the gales. Our mood darkened a smidge…

Thankfully, although by the time we arrived at Edinburgh it looked as though all onward transport was cancelled, ScotRail tentatively put on one service to Glasgow, and by 10.30pm (a mere 14 hours after we had originally left Glasgow) we returned safe, if tired, into Queen Street. (OK, I admit I’m milking this slightly, but the weather really was atrocious!)

The moral(s) or lesson(s) of this story?

1) Enroller works hard for its collaborators, and has proven it will battle apocalyptic weather to promote shared data!

2) Social media once again was our first port of call for information…proving that blogging, tweeting, and facebooking are the ultimate way to share info, fast!

and 3) Always get travel insurance, even if you’re only venturing an few hours down the road – you never know when you might need it!

So here’s to all social media, and all who updated us on the weather as we fought our way back to Scotland. We live to blog another day!

Which reminds me — have you checked out our Facebook and Twitter yet…? 😉

Testing, testing…

So today’s agenda has only one task: to write a worksheet for our visit and demo of the Enroller portal to Newcastle University and the NECTE/DECTE team on Monday. We’ve spent the last few months digesting all the feedback our Network of Scholars gave at our second face-to-face colloquium in February and letting their suggestions and ideas direct the redesign of the portal’s layout and usability. Now we have a chance to re-test the work we’ve done and see what a new group of students and researchers think!

Have you tested our portal yet?

Go to: www.glasgow.ac.uk/enroller and select the ‘Portal’ link to try it. Do let us know what you think, especially if you encounter any problems – you’ll be helping us to create a resource that really works for its end-users! Our contact details can be found on our website.

Are you on Facebook or Twitter?

If so, search for ‘Enroller’ on Facebook and like our page – we’re posting our favourite word(s) from our main data sets every day for the coming week to welcome all our new fans!

If you’re on Twitter, why not follow @EnrollerProject and keep up to date with everything as it happens? And while you’re there, you could follow our fellow projects:

Parliamentary Discourse: @ParlDisc

Scots Words and Place-Names: @Scotswap

– go on, you know you want to…

Counting Down with Enroller

News and Events:
Enroller has recently been extended until September 2011 and the team has also been awarded two further JISC bids for the Scots Words and Place-Names project and the Parliamentary Discourse project. Both will be active during the next six months, and will become part of Enroller when complete.
Portal Updates:
At the moment, the project eScience R.A., Sulman, and myself, the project R.A., Johanna, are working on the portal interface the data upload option and the advanced search.
Working with our Network of Scholars:
Our second face-to-face colloquium was held in February and the feedback from our Network of Scholars has proved invaluable! We’re currently working to integrate their suggestions into the layout and usability of the interface.
Portal Demonstrations and Conferences:
Enroller is off to Newcastle University twice during May, first to demonstrate our updated portal to the staff, postgrads and undergrads associated with NECTE, and second, to take part in NECTE’s ‘Corpora Galore’ event, where Enroller and the Parliamentary Discourse project will be giving a joint presentation.
Enroller is also presenting a paper at this year’s Digital Humanities conference at Stanford University in California, and again at the Helsinki Corpus Festival in September/October.
Social Media:
Enroller now has a brand new page on Facebook and is currently building up its followers list! If you’re reading this and are a Facebook user, why not find our page, like it, share it with friends and see what we’re getting up to. For the next week we’ll be sharing a word of the day via this page and via our Twitter account (@EnrollerProject) taken from one of our data sets: either the Historical Thesaurus of the OED, the Scottish Corpus of Texts and Speech, the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue or the Newcastle Electronic Corpus of Tyneside English. So take a look and share in the fun!
Get in Touch:
And finally, we’re always pleased to hear from people who have read our blog, followed our Tweets, liked our Facebook page, and used our portal — let us know what you think by contacting us at the address on our webpage: www.glasgow.ac.uk/enroller
And check back here soon for further news of our Newcastle visits and our preparations for DH11!