Archive for the ‘Project Description’ Category

Throughout March, SEASR and I-CHASS hosted humanities and social sciences research teams selected for their diversity of approach and interest:

Global Middle Ages: “Global middle ages” is a term in Medieval Studies that designates an interest in the middle ages across the world, i.e., non-Western societies.  The research group (Susan Noakes, French and Italian, Medieval Period, U. Minnesota; Geraldine Heng, Medieval and Women’s Studies, English, U. Texas-Austin; Ayhan Aytes, doctoral candidate in Communication at UC-San Diego, and also a medievalist) thus intends to create a digital resource that establishes and enriches researchers’ understanding of how non-Western societies contributed to medieval European culture (approximately 500-1450 ce).  The design for this project is centered on a mapped narrative of cultural influences coming out of Africa (e.g., the former provinces of Rome in the north, including Egypt; later, Islamicized Africa, especially Moorish civilization; and, later still, Western Africa as a site of empires as well as the transatlantic slave trade).  It will thus ground the historical for users through appeals to their temporal, visual, and spatial imaginations.  As with digital timelines, such mapped narratives tend to offer waypoints to users at which they can “stop” to browse in-depth information provided in a variety of media forms.

Peace and Nonviolence:  This project brings together researchers who have worked to promote peace and non-violence through informed activism.  They are uniformly interested in the social causes of violence.  Steven Valdivia, Independent Scholar (former Executive Director, Crisis Intervention Network-LA), and Fernando Hernandez, Education, CSU-Los Angeles (emeritus) are two researchers working on LA gangs.  They are especially interested in how governmental responses to poverty, minority status, and gang activity have fostered gang formation and violence.  They are seeking means of counteracting gang formation that might be recommended as public policies.  One theory they hope to prove is that the militarization of response to gang activity has worsened rather than improved gang violence.  The researchers from the Southern Poverty Law Center (Mark Potok and Heidi Beirich) are interested in research subjects that fit their civil rights mission, which the center pursues through its “tolerance education programs, its legal victories against white supremacists and its tracking of hate groups.”  They are especially concerned with researching the formation of hate groups (e.g. white supremacist), particularly how they hail new members.

Digital Portfolio Project:  Virginia Kuhn (Research Assistant Professor, Associate Director of the Institute of Multimedia Literacy, USC School of Cinematic Arts) has just led the first class through a new, intensive program at IML.  Their senior year culminates in a major multimedia design project, producing a finished piece with support work for each of the 30+ students.  Because archiving technology is increasingly available and because the new program is an important focus for the school, Dr. Kuhn wants to find a stable and innovative means for archiving these projects and retrieving information from them—with her ultimate goal being to produce a persistent, state-of-the-art pedagogical resource at USC, one that could serve as a model for other programs.  According to Dr. Kuhn’s official faculty bio, the “project was recently awarded a large (3 terabyte) allowance of storage space on SDSC’s TeraGrid.”  Consulting on the project are ISU’s Cheryl Ball, a specialist in digital composition and rhetoric (English) and Editor of Kairos, and Elijah Wright, a doctoral candidate at Indiana University’s School of Library and Information Science.

We are working with these teams to apply and further develop SEASR’s capabilities, and will feature their projects in a SEASR community-building workshop later this summer.

Stuart Dunn and Tobias Blanke discuss SEASR in their report of the UK e-Science All Hands 2007 meeting published in D-Lib Magazine (January/February 2008, Vol. 14 No. 1/2), “Next Steps for E-Science, the Textual Humanities and VREs: A Report on Text and Grid: Research Questions for the Humanities, Sciences and Industry.”

Of SEASR, the authors write, “Thinking in terms that reach beyond conventional library frameworks highlights a need to consider the process by which unstructured data becomes structured. This was the primary issue considered by Loretta Auvil from the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who presented on the Software Environment for the Advancement of Scholarly Research (SEASR) project. This API-driven approach enables analyses run by text mining tools, such as NoraVis ( and Featurelens ( to be published to web services. This is critical: a VRE that is based on digital library infrastructure will have to include not just text, but software tools that allow users to analyse, retrieve (elements of) and search those texts in ever more sophisticated ways. This requires formal, documented and sharable workflows, and mirrors needs identified in the hard science communities, which are being met by initiatives such as the myExperiment project ( A key priority of this project is to implement formal, yet sharable, workflows across different research domains. As different research domains have very different protocols for structuring and managing textual archives, the utility of being able to use tools such as Nora and Featurelens in a SEASR-type environment will become ever more important in the development of VREs for textual studies. For example, a numerical extraction system like that presented by the Open Boek project has significant utility when applied to archaeological reports, but such utility is clearly not confined to that domain. In the scientific communities, there has been interest in digital versions of lab books in VREs ( Numeric data is likely to be critical to such exercises. Like Open Boek, the JISC-funded Integrative Biology VRE project was also concerned with the textual context of numbers: it found that digital recognition of equations was a significant problem, a clear case of crossover. Such analyses could, in theory, be delivered to the user by an architecture like that described by Auvil.”

The authors conclude, “[…]Although Web 2.0 has not revolutionized scholarly research in the way envisaged originally, researchers need to be able to annotate texts on which they are working, and to be able to store, search and structure those annotations. In a way, such a structure might resemble a (user-created) digital library within or across other digital libraries. Detailed semantic documentation of the links between the annotation and the annotated text is necessary, along with documentation of when, why and by whom the annotation was created. Furthermore, it would be highly desirable for any additional chunks from separate texts that may be relevant to the annotation (e.g., containing the same name, geographic reference, numeric data, etc.) to be identified: the workflow management architectures presented both by SEASR and GATE suggest this is possible.”

In our continuing efforts to build community and receive feedback on design, team member Xavier Llorà presented SEASR at Service-Oriented Computing in the Humanities, a joint workshop of the EPSRC Service-Oriented Software Research Network (SOSoRNet) and the AHRC ICT Methods Network King’s College London, UK (December 17-18, 2007, London). The presentation described our latest technological developments, which include key infrastructure architecture with a semantic web-driven data flow execution environment as well as a developer workbench to create the flows.

SEASR has contributed a project listing to a special October issue of Academic Commons. It will appear with other major digital humanities initiatives.

Sponsored by The Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts at Wabash College, Academic Commons is a web community of “faculty, academic technologists, librarians, administrators, and other academic professionals who will help create a comprehensive web resource focused on liberal arts education.” The site “aims to share knowledge, develop collaborations, and evaluate and disseminate digital tools and innovative practices for teaching and learning with technology,” advancing “opportunities for collaborative design, open development, and rigorous peer critique of such resources.” SEASR’s listing follows.


The Software Environment for the Advancement of Scholarly Research (SEASR) is a software engineering project that is leveraging the latest informatics research to innovate essential technology for a cyberinfrastructure for the humanities. Under the direction of Michael Welge, Loretta Auvil, and John Unsworth, the SEASR team is developing software that

  • enhances humanities researchers’ ability to use digital humanities applications for knowledge discovery, and
  • provides digital humanities developers with an improved environment for advancing and innovating applications

SEASR’s software research and development environment will enable existing applications (e.g., Wordhoard; Nora; MONK: Metadata Offer New Knowledge; IMIRSEL: International Music Information Retrieval Systems Evaluation Laboratory) to more actively, precisely, and comprehensively analyze information extracted from large collections in a variety of formats (i.e., digital libraries, databases, archives, mixed media, and even custom data). SEASR offers a range of data synthesis improvements, from focused data retrieval and data integration, to intelligent human-computer interactions for knowledge access, to semantic data enrichment, to entity and relationship discovery, to knowledge discovery and hypothesis generation.

SEASR will also provide an open source, visual programming and component-based space in which digital humanities developers can build new applications through creating, integrating, and deploying their own reusable and extensible software components—as well as leverage those developed by others. In addition, SEASR will support portability and scalability, so that tools can be brought to data sets where they are housed and components can run on a variety of hardware footprints, including shared memory processors and clusters.

How can you participate in SEASR? Collaborate on application development and ontology creation. Contribute to component development for analytics and data access. Participate in visualization and UI design. We welcome expert advisors who can help SEASR to make the best possible contributions to the humanities and digital humanities communities. Visit: for contact information.

Welcome to SEASR.ORG, the web home of the Software Environment for the Advancement of Scholarly Research (SEASR).   Funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, SEASR’s mission is to support knowledge discovery in the Humanities by advancing and innovating data-mining tools for analyzing large bodies of information, building software bridges for communicating between applications, and creating enhanced environments for technology and information sharing.

Developed by the informatics experts at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s National Center for Supercomputing Applications and Graduate School of Library and Information Science, SEASR aims to make an essential contribution to the “development of a robust cyberinfrastructure…imperative for scholarship in the humanities and social sciences” (6) called for by Our Cultural Commonwealth: The Report of the American Council of Learned Societies Commission on Cyberinfrastructure for the Humanities and Social Sciences (2006).SEASR was initiated in June 2007.

The project’s principal investigators are the University of Illinois’s Michael Welge, NCSA/GSLIS; Loretta Auvil, NCSA; and John Unsworth, GSLIS. Other key project staff include technical lead Duane Searsmith, NCSA; usability evaluator Tara Bazler, Indiana University; and community advisor Tim Cole, University of Illinois.