Political Issue Analysis System

The report from the project is available (here).  And have fun with the prototype (click on image below)..

Prototype PIAS

The Internet is recognised as a vital component of our political information systems.  Although extensively used by governments and civil society groups, its effects upon political processes; particularly deliberative political processes, currently remains relatively unknown.  Emerging research suggests that the Internet’s capacity to easily produce information has also led to data overload, undermining its deliberative potential.  With the advent of the National Broadband Network the ‘data deluge’ promises to intensify increasing the need for political information—in its various guises—to be delivered in much more meaningful ways.[1] This is especially important for younger audiences who are increasingly abandoning broadcast media in favour of online political information[2].

This project is an iterative study and design of an online ‘Political Issues Analysis System’ (PIAS) to assist users’ research and analyse political issues. It will deliver information about important political topics (ie. environmental issues, socio-economic issues, immigration, government policy etc.) using important data sources within a coherent ‘deliberative’ framework.  It will evaluate the needs of users to comprehend political issues through the application of a number of semantic indexing and data matching tools and design a prototype system.  It will do this in part through five public workshops using the University of Melbourne’s Usability Lab; each workshop focussing on a particular issue utilising particular tools and methods.[3] It will in tandem uncover recommendations to assist in the design of a unique software tool that fosters user-driven processes to effectively filter and visualise online political information obtained from government data-sets (partly within the ‘Government 2.0’ policy framework), the media, NGOs, historical data, and other user-generated online sources; (blogs, video etc).

The outputs of the research will be a working prototype as well as a report documenting the research outcomes with a series of recommendations for further research. This project may lead to the first major study of online deliberative processes within Australia; competitive within the ARC’s Linkage or Discovery scheme. The work will be of benefit to governments, community groups and other major producers of political sites and the users of such sites. The project is within IBES’s Social Infrastructures and Community theme and in particular, adheres to IBES’s and VeRSI’s shared aspirations ‘to make existing and available data more accessible’. In summary the broad aims of the project are:

  • To explore the evolving applications of online political information tools in an Australian and International context (especially in the analysis of broadband-enabled video and audio)
  • To examine deliberative processes with a number of stakeholder groups using semantic indexing methods and various communication tools at the University’s IDEA Lab.
  • To build, test and provide further recommendations for a ‘Political Issues Analysis System’ (PIAS)

Through these processes we address the following research questions:

  • How can we better understand online deliberation in the international and Australian context and what tools need to be developed to assist this?
  • How can we better design deliberative ‘ideas’ using data and online analysis tools that will involve people in a meaningful and inclusive way in consequential goal-orientated political processes?

 Approach and Outcomes:

The combination of theoretical groundwork, empirical study, and the design and implementation of the PIAS, will make an important contribution to the emerging body of research on the nature of political information on the Internet and in particular, the use of government data within it. Of chief significance is that the research will make explicit and open up to critical analysis the dichotomy between the availability of government and other data sources and effective online deliberative design. By consciously foregrounding information abundance as a condition of the present ‘information revolution’—through a unique fusion of political theory with semantic analysis and clustering tools—new perspectives will emerge and fresh research areas in design will open up.

The approach, then, is both innovative and unique because it combines the theoretical sophistication of Politics and Media Studies with the technical proficiency of Humanities Computing, eDemocracy, and Information Systems to expose important issues of online political information to critique in ways that were previously unavailable. [4] The work will open up theoretical and technological pathways towards a more genuinely identifiable (and sustainable) online political engagement and democratic structuring.

[1]One of the first major agencies to coin the term the ‘Data Deluge’ was the UK’s JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee):  Briefing Paper, Data Deluge: Preparing for the Explosion in Data, 1 November, 2004  <http://www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/briefingpapers/2004/pub_datadeluge.aspx> (Accessed 14 May, 2010).

[2] See: Clare Kurmond, Readership Decline Continues for Papers, Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, 14 Mat, 2010

< http://www.smh.com.au/business/media-and-marketing/readership-decline-continues-for-papers-20100513-v1tk.html> (Accessed 14 May, 2010).

[3]Interaction Design Evaluation Analysis (IDEA), Department of Information Systems, University of Melbourne,

< http://disweb.dis.unimelb.edu.au/research/interactiondesign//usability_lab.html> (Accessed 14 May 2010).

[4] Carson, L ‘Avoiding ghettos of like-minded people: Random selection and organisational collaboration’ in S. Schuman, (ed) Creating a Culture of Collaboration, ed. Jossey Bass/Wiley.pp.418-423.


Open Science and Data

As part of JISC’s ‘Research 3.0 – driving the knowledge economy’ activity
which launches at the end of November, a new Open Science report released
today trails key research trends that could have far-reaching implications for
science, universities and UK society.

The report written by UKOLN at the University of Bath and the Digital Curation
Centre, identifies open-ness, predictive science based on massive data
volumes and citizen involvement as being important features of tomorrow’s
research practice.

It is hoped that this document will stimulate and contribute to community
discussion in the UK, which is ranked second in the world for its output of
quality research, but also fuel the open science debate on the global stage.
Continue reading “Open Science and Data”

Report back: ‘Tools for Scholarly Editing over the Web’ Birmingham, 24 September

I attended the ‘Tools for Scholarly Editing over the Web’ workshop on Thursday (24 September) organised by the Institute for Textual Scholarship and Electronic Editing at the University of Birmingham. There were presentation by many leading figures of electronic textual editing from the US, Canada, Germany, Italy, Australia, Ireland, and Britain. The workshop was organised to discuss the movement towards online collaborative tools for scholarly editing and the problems and opportunities associated with this. Peter Robinson the Director of the Institute of Textual Scholarship and Electronic Editing and organiser of the event outlined the major issues as 1) ownership and control, 2) sustainability, and 3) interoperability (these were discussed in detail at a separate session on the second day) .

Joris van Zundert from the Huygens Institute in The Hague spoke first about moving humanities tools towards ‘networked services’. Many tools are developed for individual projects and are not often re-usable within other projects. By providing  tools online (or ‘micro services’ that can be plugged into a generic software frameworks), other projects may use them to say, parse TEI XML texts, tokenise texts, or apply other methods required to transcribe and annotate text. His vision,  shared by many projects, is for scholars to obtain their text from digital repositories, pipe it through a number of micro-services, and then end up with annotated and transcribed data. The particular content that Zandert is working with is critical editions of Middle Dutch; not easily automated through Optical Character Recognition Systems (thus a collaborative translation system is required).

Continue reading “Report back: ‘Tools for Scholarly Editing over the Web’ Birmingham, 24 September”

‘Tools for Collaborative Scholarly Editing over the Web’

University of Birmingham,24-25 September, 2009.

This workshop will review and address the making of tools for collaborative scholarly editing over the web. The workshop leaders joins partners in the COST-ESF Interedition project (http://www.interedition.eu), which is focussing – as is the JISC-funded Virtual Manuscript Room project — on Europe-wide creation of infrastructure and tools for collaborative scholarly editing. The Australian Aust-e-Lit project will bring advanced experience of the making and working of collaborative tools with in for a national scholarly digital library. The workshop will allow key participants in Interedition, Aust-e-Lit, and in similar enterprises outside Europe to exchange information with UK scholars active in the area, and to explore common problems and possibilities for further collaboration (link).

NINES Project: Ninteenth Century Scholarship Online (Peer Review system)

The Peer review system for the NINES project may be of interest to punters.


Digital humanities projects have long lacked a framework for peer review and thus have often had difficulty establishing their credibility as true scholarship. NINES exists in part to address this situation by instituting a robust system of review by some of the most respected scholars in the field of nineteenth-century studies, British and American.

NINES provides peer-review of digital resources and archives created by scholars in nineteenth-century studies. Our Editorial Boards locate reviewers to evaluate both the intellectual content and the technical structure of each project submitted for inclusion in NINES. See below for a set of General Guidelines and Peer Review Criteria.

As part of the peer-review process, NINES requires the submission of metadata describing the objects within the resource. This metadata (in the form of RDF) is largely based on fields such as author, title, data, and course. It also includes a set of genres relevant to nineteenth-century studies (link)

Humanities text-mining in the Digital Library (MONK)


MONK (Metadata Offer New Knowledge) is a digital environment designed to help humanities scholars discover and analyze patterns in the texts they study. It supports both micro analyses of the verbal texture of an individual text and macro analyses that let you locate texts in the context of a large document space consisting of hundreds or thousands of other texts. Shuttling between the “micro” and the “macro” is a distinctive feature of the MONK environment, where you may read as closely as you wish but can also practice many forms of what Franco Moretti has provocatively called “distant reading.”

Principal Investigator
John Unsworth
$999,883, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Survey: Virtual Reseach Environment Collaboartive Landscape Study

What is a VRE?

“…a Virtual Research Environment (VRE) is an an online framework of collaborative tools and resources that allow researchers to share and re-use data, combine services, and undertake tasks to promote new collaborative research practices….”

The VRE Collaborative Landscape Study project is one of several studies commissioned by the UK Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) to research on-line research collaboration in Virtual Research Environments (VREs). The focus of our study is to scope developments in VREs around the world and set them in relation to the activities in the UK.

The study aims to stimulate debate about the benefits of research collaboration facilitated by Virtual Research Environments so as to assist the JISC to provide services and strategies to support it.

The project is being undertaken by the Centre for e-Research at King’s College London and the Oxford e-Research Centre at the University of Oxford.

If you are a user, developer, or provide technical support for VREs, your input would be most welcome .