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Mapping the mad god’s dream: text mining, literature, and the city

Mapping the Mad God's Dream poster
Thursday, October 30, 2014
Royal Irish Academy


Insight Centre for Data Analytics and The Digital Repository of Ireland present

Mapping the mad god’s dream: text mining, literature, and the city


A free public lecture on big data and the digital humanities
Professor Jon Oberlander,  Professor of Epistemics, University of Edinburgh

Respondent: Professor Mary E. Daly, President of the Royal Irish Academy 

Date: Thursday 30th October 2014
Time: 6:00pm
Location: Royal Irish Academy, 19 Dawson St., Dublin 2


The Palimpsest project is based in Edinburgh, which, like Dublin, is a UNESCO City of Literature. It harnesses text mining techniques to scour all the world’s works of fiction, and find those which mention Edinburgh or places within it. It then grounds these “locospecific” passages of text by identifying their latitudes and longitudes, so that both scholars and the public can geographically explore their fictional, poetic and remembered city - and they can do it virtually, at home or physically, on the street. The project is funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and involves a collaboration between literary and informatics scholars, who are developing an interactive, mobile-friendly website. Through a range of maps and accessible visualisations, users will ultimately be able to explore the spatial relations of the literary city at particular times in its history, in the works of particular authors, or across different eras, genres and writers. They can follow focused and planned routes through the cityscape, or pin down unanticipated textual conjunctions. Palimpsest takes place within the larger enterprise of the digital humanities, and it is notable that the AHRC’s Digital Transformations Theme is catalysing new research partnerships to explore this rich field.

Jon Oberlander holds a Chair in Epistemics in the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh. He has a BA in Philosophy from Cambridge, UK (1983), and a PhD in Cognitive Science from the University of Edinburgh (1987), and has been an EPSRC Advanced Fellow at the ESRC Human Communication Research Centre.  Professor Oberlander works on getting computers to talk (or write) like individual people, so his research involves not only studying how people express themselves - face to face or online - but also building machines that can adapt themselves to people. He collaborates with linguists, psychologists, computer scientists and social scientists, and has long standing interests in the uses of technology in cultural heritage and creative industries. He was founder-Director of the Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance, and is Co-Director of the Centre for Design Informatics.