Thursday 17 December 2009

Merry Christmas

Well. I almost survived first term. Am missing the last lecture due to a nasty bout of tonsillitis (although it looks like London will be hit by snow tomorrow anyway!). Hope you have a good break - and here is a picture of my lil' xmas elf to bring some festive cheer. See you in the new year!

Friday 11 December 2009

The Caucus Race

Its been a terrifically busy few weeks. Aside from teaching, I've been jetting off to various places - Hamburg for the ALLC midterm meeting, Reading for the VERA workshop, and this week to Oxford, where I was chairing a workshop on Users and User Centered Design at the IEEE e-Science meeting, as well as dropping in on the eSAD project.

In between the gadding about and the stress as we come towards end of term, moments of wow: arent I lucky. The picture above was taken from where I was sitting in the Senior Common Room at Christ Church, after dinner at High Table. A simple fire screen, you may think. But this fire screen is made up of De Morgan tiles which the maths lecturer, Charles Dodgson, had commissioned, to line his fireplace. Dodgson is better known under his pen name, Lewis Carroll, and there are all kind of things dotted round Ch Ch college which he either incorporated into his story of Alice in Wonderland, or were later produced after its success. To the bottom left of the screen you can see the Dodo, peering out. The Gryphon is top mid left. Did the tiles come before or after Alice was published? I'm not sure (this book would tell me if I had the time to look it up, Google Books will only let me see snippets). In any case, a lovely object to sit in close proximity to, whilst sipping coffee with good friends.

Now back to the grind. 5.5 working days 'til end of term!

Friday 4 December 2009

Behind the Scenes at the Museum

Today was one of my favourite teaching sessions as part of the Digital Resources in the Humanities class. The class assignment is to compare and contrast the digital version of a digitised object with its original: what is lost, what is gained, and how the experiences in accessing the "object" differ. So today's class visit was a behind the scenes tour of the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology (one of London's Hidden Gems, apparently). Students were set a few objects on the website, that they have to locate in the museum, and compare and contrast the different experiences they had of viewing the virtual object to visiting the original. What fun - followed by a discussion of aspects that came up over their hour's visit, and looking in detail at the digitisation program the Petrie carried out (80,000 objects over a very short period of time indeed. We calculated in class that gave an image capture time of around 2 minutes per object).

I feel really lucky to be at UCL and to have such a great museum on the doorstep - and thanks go to the conservator, Susi Pancaldo, for giving us a behind the scenes tour. The snapshot above shows a pic of a mummy that is awaiting conservation.

Farewell Vera - we'll meet again?

I was over to Reading on Wednesday for the wrap up meeting of the VERA project. Its been a great project - three years of helping Archaeologists mess around in the trench with digital pens, wifi, cameras, GPS, etc etc. Hopefully, we can continue doing some work at the Silchester dig over the next few years: its very rare that you get to study users of technology over such a large time scale, and there are some interesting findings from the dig....

... which we need to write up. Its added to the to do list.

Tuesday 24 November 2009

We're Hiring!

You may have heard rumours that UCL is getting its own Centre for Digital Humanities. Well, its true! Claire Warwick is the Director, and I'm the Deputy Director. More about this all soon - we are gearing up to the big launch in the spring.

In the meantime, we are hiring for three positions! Centre Co-ordinator, Teaching Fellow, and Research Assistant. All three are part time positions, which means if people wanted to mix and match to become a full time roll, we would consider that.

More info about the jobs can be found here.

Get in touch if you have any queries!

Thursday 19 November 2009

Understanding Image Based Evidence

On Tuesday I participated in an excellent workshop, Understanding Image Based Evidence, as part of the eScience and Ancient Documents project at the University of Oxford. We looked at issues of fidelity of digital images, and how image based evidence is used for reasoning, particularly in papyrology and palaeography.

Couldn't be there? Well, my PhD student, Alejandro Giacometti, took some pretty good notes...


If its been quiet around here, its because I've been hanging out elsewhere. In class, lecturing, for one - and as with many other scholars, I've been gradually, and more frequently, becoming immersed in the stream on twitter (@melissaterras).

A couple of things you should know about if you are interested in Digital Humanities. Dan Cohen has put together a fabulous tweet roll of folks in the Digital Humanities, currently numbering 279 active tweeters. James Cummings has another list of 50 digital humanities folks (and although the two lists have some overlap, they dont feature all the same peeps).

Dan Cohen has also gone one stage further - using the new Twitter Times site, he's pulled together a "virtual" journal, that takes all the tweets from his DH list, and produces a changing overview of what people in the DH community are pointing to, and talking about at any one time. Digital Humanities Now is then a "passively edited" DH journal - a fantastic place to dip into daily to see what the community is finding interesting.

Read more about how it works on Dan Cohen's blog.

Finally, the future has arrived. Phew. Twitter is making more and more sense.

(Twitter seems to me like someone leaving some toy money, an old boot, and an iron in a field, and those who found it going on to create Monopoly. Hurrah!)

Tuesday 10 November 2009

The Bluebirds Have Returned to Amersham. I Repeat.

I love my laptop bag. The kind of thing you pick up quickly in a rush without much thought, that turns out to be a well loved and trusty friend. Its tardis like capabilities never fail to amaze me (laptop and lunch and pair of shoes and 30 student essays and lecture handouts and an umbrella? sure!). I would share with you the brand, but it doesnt discernibly have one. It was cheap, and I've never ever seen anyone else with the same one.

Until last week on the train. I put my laptop rucksack up in the rack next to one which was exactly the same.

How tempted was I to do the ole' spy-who-loves-me switcheroo of the cases?

Then I imagined the work carnage that would ensue, and just went on my merry way, thinking when did I get so unadventurous. Mental note - must put a business card in my laptop bag in case it gets separated from me, in a cold war secret stealing stylie.

Thursday 29 October 2009


My local Sainsburys have stopped stocking "Dr" Gillian McKeith products (or even Ms Gillian McKeith products). Over priced, over promoted, non-medicated muesli be gone!


Saturday 24 October 2009

DRH Domain Name Fail

I was just wondering where next year's Digital Resources in the Humanities and Arts conference was going to be next year - sadly I missed the Dublin conference this year as I had a friend's wedding in the diary so didnt hear the announcement about 2010 - but it surprised me I couldnt find the DRH website anywhere.

My mug from DRH 99 clearly says the URL is Jump to the link to see where that takes you now.

Sigh. When the Digital Humanities community cant do something like renew a domain name....

I would ping the secretary to tell them, but I dont know who it is, as the website is down.

And if anyone knows where DRHA 2010 will be, and when, let me know.

Update; Lou Burnard (who is currently secretary) says DRHA 2010 will be at Brunel, London. London-tastic for the digital humanities this year!

Wednesday 21 October 2009

Complicated Links Between Things

One of the things I've been working on, behind the scenes, includes grant writing. I've been involved with four grants in the past two weeks. Which reminded me, today, of the brilliant work of the artist David Shrigley, who aims to articulate complicated links between things in his cartoons. This is a good map of how my brain feels just now.

Tuesday 6 October 2009

REF Madness

Excellent column by David Mitchell over at the Observer regarding the madness of the proposed Research Excellent Framework and how it relates to arts and humanities research:
...this greater emphasis on making academics justify their work in terms that results-obsessed government bodies will understand is worrying.

And that's where the talk of research of social value comes in. It's a sop to the arts side. They're trying to find a way to quantify the usefulness of a greater insight into paintings, books or historical events because they know they're not of much economic value, other than to get the odd documentary commissioned, but have a vague memory of someone saying at a dinner that they mattered. They're trying to squeeze them into a plus column in their new spreadsheet of learning. Well, if that's their only way of according knowledge worth, then they're the wrong people to be making the decisions.

What separates us from the beasts, apart from fire, laughter, depression and guilt about killing the odd beast, is our curiosity. We've advanced as a species because we've wanted to find things out, regardless of whether we thought it useful. We looked at the sky and wondered what was going on – that's why, for better or worse, we've got DVD players, ventilators, nuclear weapons, global warming, poetry and cheese string. And it's for better, by the way.

The Research Excellence Framework is starting to ask what sorts of curiosity our culture can afford, and that scares me even more than the demise of the silly survey because it strikes at the heart of what it means to be civilised, to have instincts other than survival. If academic endeavour had always been vetted in advance for practicality, we wouldn't have the aeroplane or the iPhone, just a better mammoth trap.

Monday 28 September 2009

Its that time of year again, you can taste the air

Back 2 Skool today: start of the new academic year. Its amazing how nervous we staff all get - I think the academic year become so entrenched in your psyche (lets face it, we loved school so much we never quite got round to leaving) that the first week of term looms large as an event. Who needs Hogmanay - we've got our own academic Janus looking forward and back over lecture notes here.

This years new set of pencils and pencil case, and new leather satchell, comes for me in the form of an iPhone. I have finally succumbed to a combination of necessity (I need to go online and get that piece of info NOW!), fear (how many emails have come in since I checked 2 hours ago?), lust (mmmm, shiny, beeping), jealousy (if they have one then why cant I?), and plain old peer pressure (everyone see when they can make the meeting on their shiny new iPhones! apart from Melissa, who has a filofax... na na na naaa naaa!).

Like I said, we liked the playground so much, we never left. Cover me, I'm going in....

Monday 7 September 2009

Things that make you go hmmmm

Remember my letters to Sainsbury's, re the whole them-calling-Ms-Gillian McKeith-"Dr"- Gillian-McKeith thing? And the fact that they realised "how irritating this must be for me" and were going to change it?

Well, I was in at the weekend, and they havent changed it. To be fair, its only a couple of weeks later. But in two weeks time, if its still not rectified, do you dare me to contact the lovely Natalie Sweeney, Customer Manager at Sainsbury's, and take up the crusade again?

I'm sure she would be delighted to hear from me. Us? (I'll pass on any comments you make, dear reader....)

Friday 4 September 2009

pics from the plinth

I've put up a set of pictures - highlights - on flickr - of my stint on the plinth. I took a lot of pictures of people just watching me - and this is my favourite. He Is Not Amused By My Plinth Antics.

I promise to shut up about it for a while, and return to the wonderful world of digital humanities! Although, as UCL tweeted me when I was on the plinth, it kindof was work...

Thursday 3 September 2009

wave to the tourbus!

Come on Down

Thats me up on the plinth in trafalgar square, that is.

Its going to take me some time to process it all! You can see it again here - I had a great time tweeting and talking and interacting with tweeters from the uk, the states, canada, ireland, australia... quite an experience.

Giving a coherent lecture whilst standing on a narrow bit of rock 8 metres in the air, in the rain and the wind, was more challenging that I thought - I hadnt factured in vertigo to the experience! But I had a fab time. Thanks to all who watched, tweeted, commented, and joined in!

I've taken a couple of hundred photos of people watching me on the plinth. I'll go through them tonight and edit them and post the "best of" soon.

And now... back to normality. (since "reality has jumped the shark", which is something I said that has been endlessly retweeted....)

Tuesday 1 September 2009

The sun will come out.... tomorrow...

... actually, its forecast rain for my spot on the plinth. Nevermind!

I'll be up on the plinth in Trafalgar Square from 1pm to 2pm GMT.

I asked if I could take up some bird seed and feed the pigeons... but the Heritage Police said no. So instead, I'm going to be talking about my thoughts on streaming art, and creating my own content and posting it.

I cant get a decent enough signal there to stream video myself (we went down yesterday to see my friend Ann G up on the plinth) so I'm going to be tweeting like a demon at @melissaterras, #oneandother, and taking plenty of pictures of those who come to see me, and the environment, and posting them at the one and other set on flickr. Do virtually or actually pop by to say hello!

Friday 28 August 2009

The world is so full of a number of things*

Randomness upon randomness, next Wednesday (2nd September, 1pm- 2pm) I've been selected to take part in the Anthony Gormley Sculpture "one and other", in Trafalgar Square, London. I get an hour to be up on the "fourth plinth" and, well, do what I like. It will be streamed to the Internet, and maybe appear on Sky Arts as well. Being into all this new media, etc etc... am thinking of giving some thoughts about the nature of streaming media and arts. Whilst taking some photos. And will see if I can stream my *own* content from the plinth. That'll show em!

This is a photo of someone else up there, doing their stuff. I'll let you know how it goes, no doubt. (and in case the caption doesnt load, the image is by DaveoGrave, used under a creative commons license).

*its the first line from my favourite short poem, from "A Child's Garden of Verses" by Robert Louis Stevenson. The full version goes like this:
"The world is so full of a number of things,
I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings".

Blame it on the weatherman

About 6 months ago, BBC Weather changed its interface for local weather forecasts. I dont like the new version - too hard to read, and its very pessimistic (ie if a drop of rain is forecast all day, the symbol for the day is "downpour").

And more to the point - its often very very wrong.

So hats off to my Uncle Jim, who pointed me in the direction of - the Norwegian equivalent of the Met office. Easy to use, you can see what their decision is based on, and we get pretty graphs. Nice.

Consider this a public information service, loyal reader. Although I'm not sure that its altogether more accurate...

Wednesday 19 August 2009

FTW, MS Gillian McKeith

Do you remember my rant about people who buy correspondence PhDs from non-accredited colleges, and parade them as if they are bona fide qualifications? And my letter to Sainsbury's?
Well, I win. They are changing their database accordingly.

Although they quite clearly think I'm a nutter.

Wednesday 12 August 2009

Down the road, is where I'll always be

I dont think I'll ever be bored by the fact that there is free Internet on long distant trains in the UK now. Although I do always wonder why Google thinks National Express Trains are in Sweden.

Monday 10 August 2009


My recent shed exploits on BBC 6 have made it onto the UCL news pages.

Sunday 9 August 2009

music update

L.D.Durbin just pointed out that you can listen to the Varjak EP on LastFM. Didnt know they had finally put it up...

(and those who emailed me, I hope to get to the post office sometime this week).

Slow to a stop

Been quiet around here... I contracted some old fashioned, hardcore food poisoning and its taken me two weeks to even approximate towards normal. Grrrrr. Lots to catch up on.

I spent a lot of time over the past week aimlessly surfing the web from my sickbed, catching up on blogs and feeds and news. I'd love to share with you some hidden gems I discovered, but to be honest... a lot of the information overflow was just a little bit.... Meh. Celebrities I have never heard of (there seem to be more and more to fill the voids in internet content), cliched writing, and Gies a job I can do that artwork. Which probably says something about me - I probably need to retreat from the interwebs, knuckle down for a few weeks to make up for lost time, and you know, pick up an academic book or something once in a while, now my brain is cranking up again.

But still. Some fun things along the way if you fancy wasting some time:
Lady Gaga as architectural cipher,
When the heroes from your teenage years totally disappoint,
Why change perfection (and gies a job I could do better),
A wealth of design info,
a fun start to the day,
know your onions,
when crafts go bad,
big in japan.

And now, cold turkey from random interweb travails. I have an overview journal paper, chapters to edit, and courses to plan (including the start of lecture writing for next term...) this week. Rationed interwebs! Rationed twitter! Rationed f'book! Nose: Grindstone!

I would write *sigh*, but the truth is I'm glad to be back.

all ur shells r belong to us

meant to post this ages ago - taken at Shepreth Wildlife Park, near Cambridge.

Friday 31 July 2009

Wages Day!

So, everyone knows that there's not much money in academic publishing, right? Well, not for the authors, anyway. You write a book, and if you are lucky get it published by a good publishing house, and are thankful for the rewards it brings you in tenure/promotion, but dont expect it to be the next Harry Potter. Short run single author monographs have a different purpose in the world than that, and mostly end up on library shelves, if on any shelves at all. The contract you sign means that the books have to sell enough to pay for themselves being made, before you see any money back at all. So, we dont do it for the money, right? (But try explaining that to non-academics. "yes, I worked 4 years on my thesis, and another 2 years on turning it into a book, and no, I'm not getting paid....")

I'm really proud of my two books (see right): and I love to see them on my bookcase. I once had the pleasure of seeing someone on the tube reading Image to Interpretation! (Well, I did know them, and we were on the way to the same academic conference, but still). I'm also proud, in this day and age when we keep hearing tales that academic publishing is going down the dumper, that I managed to crank out a couple of physical books (and three more are hopefully on the way, although edited collections, in the next year) before it becomes harder and harder to do so.

But this week, through the snail mail, oh wonder of wonders. A royalty cheque! From OUP! For the sales of Image to Interpretation over the past two years, which has now sold enough to net me...


I want to buy something I can enjoy and or/ keep with this. Perhaps a reference book - but which one? perhaps a nice bottle of something. So, dear blog reader, anything to suggest?

Wednesday 29 July 2009

update re: shed talk

I'll be on BBC Radio 6 at 8.50! sitting here at my computer waiting for the call...

Tuesday 28 July 2009

She Sells Shed Sanctuary

So tomorrow morning (weds 29th July), guess what? guess what? I'm going to be interviewed on BBC 6 Music, between 9 and 10am, on the Shaun Keaveny show, about the wonders and delights of working in a shed. Seriously! How random is that? You can probably listen again, should you want to...

Shed Life

In case you wondered what it looked like, here is a picture of my lovely shed.

Blast from the Past

For a few years there, I did a lot of music. I was in various bands, played piano in bars, and recorded various things. From 1998-2004ish I mostly worked with my mate Thom Falls, on a project we called Varjak. We released our first 4 track EP at the start of 2002 on our own "voxel" label.

I'm still proud of it - got some good reviews, sold enough to cover costs, nice to have pulled something together. Electronica, with melancholy vocals. I dont know if they are the kind of songs I'd write now, but as a point in time - its a good record of where we were at. We've still got an album's worth of material kicking around that needs tidied up. Life (house moves, proper jobs, partners, babies) kind of got in the way - and its probably time to think of revisiting it - or just revisiting music - all again. After all, we have the darkroom studio at home, and its just a time and energy thing that is stopping me.... ("just" a time and energy thing!).

I dont need to tell you how much the music industry has changed in the past 10 years. We wouldnt bother pressing up a cd now (although, how much fun? mastering a cd and going to the plant to get it pressed up? holding it in your hand?). I'm pleased to say I've finally got my act in gear, and Varjak: So Called Science is now available on emusic for cheap purchase online (and should be coming to other online music stores soon).

But I'm still left with a couple of boxes of CDs under the bed, and lets face it, they aint going anywhere. So here's the deal - if you email me (m dot terras at ucl dot ac dot uk) with the subject line "CD please!" and give me your address, I'll pop one in the post to you, whilst supplies last! Cant say fairer than that!

Crikey. I had better think of dusting off the varjak website at some point too. Ach, that can wait.

Monday 27 July 2009

Oot 'n' Aboot, In 'n' Aroond

Last week was a busy one. I know that some folks check in here to see what academics do - so here's what I did.
  • Monday - in my lovely shed at hame, writing, editing, catching up with email, catching up with admin. Started my next paper which is due in for the Arts Libraries Journal regarding emergent issues and digitisation.
  • Tuesday - Much of the same. In the shed. Making the camera ready copy for the book based on the DHQ edition, and working on editing the two volumes that I'm doing with Brent Nelson from Saskatoon, on digitising medieval material and textual culture.
  • Wednesday -off to Oxford Uni, to meet with various members of the team from the e-Science and Ancient Documents project.
  • Thursday - off to Roman Silchester, to hang out at the archaeological dig and catch up with things regarding the VERA project. The sun did shine, but no treasure was to be found that day, alas.
  • Friday - off to Antwerp. Work and play that one, to catch up on the TEI By Example project, and see Edward Vanhoutte and family, and have a good gossip about various digital humanities things.

So there you have it. This week I am in my shed the entire week, so hope to make good progress on all three books and write two journal papers. There is not much routine round here to speak of, so when weeks like this happen once or twice a year, its full steam ahead...

News re: Faketard

Regarding the post below - just got a letter in from the Advertising Standards Authority. As I suspected, not within their purview. But they very helpfully suggested trading standards addresses I should contact. Will continue to keep you posted!

Monday 20 July 2009

Doctored Doctor

I saw something at the weekend that made my academic blood boil. In Sainsburys, Gillan McKeith food bars (which are only labelled "Gillain McKeith" vitamin C bars on the packet) are still being sold as "dr gillian mckeith" products, according to the pricing information.

For the uninitiated, Ms Gillian McKeith is a tv celebrity who has a program in the UK called "You are what you eat". She helps obese people get thin through the revolutionary tactics of encouraging them to eat healthier, eat less, and move about more. She has a string of well selling books, and related foodstuffs.

So where's my beef? Firstly, her poor understanding of science has long been discussed on the interwebs. This is someone who doesnt really get basic high school level biology, yet has made a career explaining it to us lesser mortals.

But secondly - Ms Gillian McKeith is not a medical doctor. She has a doctorate (like myself) but unlike me, and most of my colleagues, her PhD was gained by correspondence course from a non-accredited American college. Her research has never been published, never been vetted. And yet she has in the past paraded her "Dr" as if it was equitable to those aquired by rigourous academic study and examination and publication.

A draft adjudication by the Advertising Standards Agency in 2007 suggested that her products allegedly breached two clauses of the Committee of Advertising Practice code: “substantiation” and “truthfulness". To avoid public publication of this document, Ms McKeith accepted “voluntarily” – not to call herself “doctor” in her advertising any more.

And yet, here we have Sainsurys selling Dr Gillian McKeith products (let me stress one more time for the lawyers- this is on the Sainsburys printed material, not Ms Gillian McKeith's packaging).

Why does this make me angry? Firstly, doing a PhD is tough. Its hard work. Buying one off the internet is just not the same as going to an accredited school and putting in the hours. (Lets go over the difference between a PhD and a medical Doctor: PhD's have been granted to those reaching the highest standards of academic achievement possible since medieval times. Physicians have only been called "doctor" since the 18th century - and this only to distinguish those who had some medical training from untrained barbershop surgeons - so anyone who suggests having a PhD doesnt make you a "real doctor" can go and whistle).

It generally takes around 4 years of dissertation work, on your own, to get a PhD from an accredited school. You are examined by experts in your field, and if you are good enough you may go onto publish your dissertation - but at any rate your research will generally be made public in the library of your institution (yes I know there are time barred exceptions). I repeat - buying one from the Internet is just not the same.

And in that four year stretch, your friends from your undergrad and postgrad degrees will go on to get jobs, buy houses, go skiing, start families... and you will still be existing off Sainsburys basics range, wondering how you will pay the next phone bill, and stressing about the fact the library shuts on a friday evening as you really need to keep studying. It really is a calling, and its something that only those with dedication and hard work get through (only 7 in 10 people who start a PhD in the UK complete it. And only 1 in 10 people who get a PhD in the UK go on to get an academic post. See? Stress!). It is for all those other reasons that I do not have time for colleagues without PhDs who say - "oh, I could have done a PhD. But I chose not to!" - you either go for it or you dont. Dont patronise my time spent working as a cleaner, the broken relationships, the moving house 25 times in 10 years to chase cheap rent, as something you "could have done". The fact is, you didnt. And dont buy one of the Internet. We can tell if its an accredited qualification, you know!

Sainsbury's selling this as "Dr Gillian McKeith" products is therefore as wrong to me as them advertising something as Organic, when it isnt, or "suitable for Vegetarians", when it isnt. It wont hurt or kill you if you eat it (unlike something "nut free" that contains nuts, or something "gluten free" that has gluten in). But it leaves a bad taste when you realise you've been sold a mistruth.

(As if I'd buy a granola bar at £1.55 anyway!).

I'm going to send this to Sainsburys and see what they say. And what the heck, I may as well copy a letter to the Advertising Standards Authority, and the Food Standards Agency.

As for Ms McKeith? If she shows me hers, I'll show her mine.

Digitisation, Copyright, and Public Interest

You'll of course be aware of the row between Wikipedia and the National Portrait Gallery:
The online encyclopaedia has accused the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) of betraying its public service mission.

But the gallery has said it needs to recoup the £1m cost of its digitisation programme and claims Wikipedia has misrepresented its position

Its a good overview of both side's story. (But I have to say I'm on the NPG's side on this one - its involving images pieced together to deliberately get round NPG's attempts at looking after their high res images).

Thursday 16 July 2009

Grand Day Out

I had a grand day out yesterday, to Clare College at Cambridge. I was one of the invited speakers at the ARLIS (Art Libraries Society)conference, where I was asked to give a paper on the "changing visual image", so I did one called "Should we just send a copy? digitization, usefulness and users".

I was nervous: a) it was a long time ago that I studied art history, and here was I talking to art librarians and b) I teach librarians and archivists (at MA level) how the interweb works, but that doesnt mean I know too much about being a librarian on a day to day level. But I'm pleased to report that they were all very friendly (and stylish), very welcoming, and seemed to like my rant regarding the fact we know very little about how people use digital image archives.

I'm going to write it up as a paper for their journal, and I'll see if I can post it somewhere at some point, as its going to be a personal opinion piece. Looking forward to writing it up, really (writing is easily my favourite part of my job.)

I also really enjoyed the other papers I say yesterday, particularly Debby Shorley (Head of Library Services at Imperial)'s Keynote. Great speaker: provocative and engaging. Very rare I see a speaker who I both find what they say interesting, and find how they present it interesting. (Which is not to say that I expect people will find both in me!).

Some random thoughts:
- Nice to be at a conference where I am not on any committees. Havent helped organise it. Dont have to report to anyone, or take responsibility for IT fail, etc.
- Strange to be out of my comfort zone in a conference where I didnt know anyone. The feeling of being 5 years old in the playground again! Which is nice, actually. And as I said - plenty of friendly faces.
-It was in Husband's undergraduate college, which I've never really been into before. I'm in ur colleg, climin ur staircasez!

Call for Book Proposals in Digital Classics

Gorgias Press is expanding its interest in technology and classics and welcomes book proposals regarding digital classics research, for both monographs (including revised dissertations) and edited collections (based on conference sessions or otherwise). Proposals should be no more than 4 pages pdf and include contact details and a biography of the author(s), an overview of the topic and its importance, a brief description of all chapters, and a summation of how this text will relate to other texts in the field. This is an open call. Please send proposals to

Monday 13 July 2009

Academic Blogging

Interesting post by Bill Caraher, on "Reflecting on Academic Blogging". Something I've been thinking about recently. Why bother? What tone of voice should I use? Who is reading this? (a recent applicant in a job interview that I was on the hiring panel for said "nice blog, by the way!" which made me sit up a little. I would also file it under things not to say at a job interview. No, it doesnt mean you know me).

I've been blogging for over a year now, and I still feel like I'm finding my feet. Whereas on Facebook, its clear who I am (personal, random, familiar), and on twitter (@melissaterras) I'm professional and informational - I think here I'm trying to find the space between the two, which is difficult. I dont update this enough (or have the time to read the whole interweb anymore to have many scoops to post) for it to be a news blog. Yet I am aware of the... brand?!! and dont want to rant personally without editing.

I know a little about my regular readers, who may or may not be in the habit of commenting, but its a careful space nevertheless.

(And I feel a little bad for angsty teenagers these days spilling out their lives on blogs and not thinking who will be able to access this information in ten years time, when they will be very different people. At least I have spared myself that!)

Back to the Silicon Mines

I dont think I've mentioned it here before - but remember the DHQ issue I edited alongside Greg Crane (Tufts/Perseus): Changing the Center of Gravity: Transforming Classical Studies Through Cyberinfrastructure? Well, its going to printed up a as book, by Gorgias Press.

Which means its my job to turn it from spangly lovely efficient DHQ XML into camera ready copy by means of.... MS Word templates, supplied by the publisher. Sigh. But I have put on my work gloves and back to the silicon face I go. (I figure for something so small, as a one off, there's no point wrestling with the XSLT to-PDF transformation for this particular stylesheet).

Its the kind of repetitive task that is both frustrating and yet enjoyable on some level - making sure that everything is fine, slotting in an hour a day to do this over the next few months so its doesnt become too tedious. Right. Here I go. First hour, then I get to do some *proper* editing and writing for the rest of the day.

Wednesday 8 July 2009

Another post

... regarding my paper at DH09, which was also blogged about by Jeanne Kramer-Smyth over at Spellbound.

Some really interesting points added by Jeanne, too! Thanks for the input!

Tuesday 7 July 2009

Shed Life

Its been a crazy few five or six weeks. The schedule has gone something like:

Hame, London, Hame, Glasgow, Hame, San Francisco, Victoria BC, Vancouver, Chicago, Washington, Maryland, Hame, Norfolk Coast (holiday), Hame, Reading, Hame, London, Hame...

And that, my friends, is how pandemics spread quickly these days.

Tomorrow I gets to work in my shed at the bottom of the garden. Hurrah! Let some sort of routine prevail, for the next few weeks!

Friday 26 June 2009

Where were you? (probably online)

when the news broke, the Internet slowed down.

I was actually in the hotel lobby at UMUC, just waiting to leave from DH09. Someone came into the lobby and screamed the news - and everyone turned to the web to verify, amongst a chorus of "no ways!" and some screams.

Thursday 25 June 2009


Its worth reading the comments on this guardian story, asking people to "share your novel in 140 characters or less!" to see just how over twitter some people are getting.

Wednesday 24 June 2009

whoa, dh09

Just going out to the banquet at DH09, so this will be a quickie. Its been a great conference. Lots of attendees, and a good energy. The stand out thing, though, has to be the amount and detail of blogging going on (see this synposis of my paper. Hmmm, I thought I had at least two or three months to write it up - and here it is already in the blogosphere!) and the overwhelming use of twitter before, in, and after sessions (search tag #dh09. I'm @melissaterras).

Check out the feed whilst it is still rolling - at around 100+ tweets an hour. The challenge for the organisers will be how to archive this resource usefully for future reference!

Sunday 21 June 2009

self portrait

Originally uploaded by monkeysorama
...with spaceman's helmet. Smithsonian Air and Space Museum

Saturday 20 June 2009

Academic Speak Explained

"In my experience..." (Once.)

"In case after case..." (Twice.)

"In a series of cases..." (Thrice.)

More here.

Friday 19 June 2009

Last stop on the tour

Greetings from the University of Maryland, where I've just arrived for the Digital Humanities annual conference, and pre-conference meetings. Had a few days off inbetween Victoria and Maryland, kicking about central Washington DC with Husband and the Boy. Now back to work.

While in DC, we did our fair share of seeing as much as the Smithsonian as an 11 month old can take. It was really interesting to see how much use the Smithsonian is making of twitter, flickr, etc - and how much they were promoting it everywhere. Mental note - must get a masters student to do a dissertation on how memory institutions are using "status updates" to communicate with their audience. Now is the time to do it, with so many institutions coming on line. This is "digital ephemera" - in a few years these records will be lost unless we pay attention now.

Will no doubt report some thoughts back from DH...

Tuesday 9 June 2009

On the Road

Greetings from sunny Victoria, British Columbia. I'm here for a week for the Digital Humanities Summer Institute:, where there are 150 keen students taking really fascinating short courses on digital humanities. I'm here to give a plenary talk, on digital images. Am slightly jealous that I dont have the time to sit in on any of the courses (again, I wish I was plankton and could split myself in two), but inbetween various guest teaching engagements I will probably get more work done this week than I usually do at home. A combination of jet lag, and being away from household chores and family duties, means being productive at crazy-o-clock.

But today I hope to slip off for an hour and go to the Royal BC Museum, which I missed last time I was in town, in particular to see some First Nation's carvings.

It amused me, though, that I've come 24 hour across the globe away from Bloomsbury, and what is the big exhibition at the moment?.... Treasures from the British Museum!

Tuesday 26 May 2009

I'm Hiring!

... for a Research Assistant, for a new project looking at users, web 2.0 technologies, and how virtual research environments can be designed in the best way...

Applications are invited for the full-time post of Research Assistant in the UCL Department of Information Studies to work on LinkSphere: a joint research project with the University of Reading, funded by the JISC Virtual Research Environment 3 programme. The project will develop a virtual research environment which will allow cross-repository searching across various digital collections and archives, producing a useful user interface to various disparate digital collections. The project will study the way that social networking technologies are used by academics and how they might be integrated into a VRE. Development of the technologies will be undertaken at the University of Reading, with user analysis and usability from the team at UCL.

The post will involve: conducting qualitative studies and recording, analysing and writing up the results as part of a research team at UCL, collaborating with the team at Reading University, and with the wider academic community utilizing the system. We aim to discover how researchers are using advanced technology, virtual research environments, and web 2.0 and social networking applications. We wish to design the virtual research environment to ensure that the needs of both actual and potential users are represented.

Further information on the LinkSphere project will be available shortly from the project website (

The duration of this full-time appointment will be 1 October 2009 to 31 March 2011 and the salary will be at UCL Grade 6, spine point 24, £24,877 per annum plus £2,781 per annum London Allowance. Applications must be emailed to Kerstin Michaels, Departmental Administrator, UCL Department if Information Studies in two PDF files:-

1. a covering letter, CV and contact details of three referees to be submitted together in one file called X_LinkSphere.pdf (where X is the applicant's surname).

2. the completed UCL form, including equal opportunities monitoring form, to be submitted as one file called X_UCL.pdf (where X is the applicant's surname).

Interested candidates can also contact Dr Claire Warwick (, tel: 020 7679 2548) or Dr Melissa Terras (, tel: 020 7679 7206).

Further information, including the job description and UCL form, can be downloaded from:

Interviews will be held on Tuesday, 7 July 2009.

UCL Taking Action For Equality.

The closing date for applications is Wednesday, 10th June 2009.

Tuesday 19 May 2009

Digital Classicist Summer Seminars

Digital Classicist/ICS Work in Progress Seminar, Summer 2009

Fridays at 16:30 in STB3/6 (Stewart House), Senate House, Malet Street,
London, WC1E 7HU
(July 17th seminar in British Library, 96 Euston Rd, NW1 2DW)

June 5 Bart Van Beek (Leuven)
Onomastics and Name-extraction in Graeco-Egyptian Papyri
June 12 Philip Murgatroyd (Birmingham)
Starting out on the Journey to Manzikert: Agent-based modelling and
Mediaeval warfare logistics
June 19 Gregory Crane (Perseus Project, Tufts)
No Unmediated Analysis: Digital services constrain and enable both
traditional and novel tasks
June 26 Marco Buechler & Annette Loos (Leipzig)
Textual Re-use of Ancient Greek Texts: A case study on Plato's works
July 3 Roger Boyle & Kia Ng (Leeds)
Extracting the Hidden: Paper Watermark Location and Identification
July 10 Cristina Vertan (Hamburg)
Teuchos: An Online Knowledge-based Platform for Classical Philology
July 17 Christine Pappelau (Berlin) *NB: in British Library*
Roman Spolia in 3D: High Resolution Leica 3D Laser-scanner meets
ancient building structures
July 24 Elton Barker (Oxford)
Herodotos Encoded Space-Text-Imaging Archive
July 31 Leif Isaksen (Southampton)
Linking Archaeological Data
August 7 Alexandra Trachsel (Hamburg)
An Online Edition of the Fragments of Demetrios of Skepsis


We are inviting both students and established researchers involved in
the application of the digital humanities to the study of the ancient
world to come and introduce their work. The focus of this seminar series
is the interdisciplinary and collaborative work that results at the
interface of expertise in Classics or Archaeology and Computer Science.

The seminar will be followed by wine and refreshments.

For more information please contact,,, or, or
see the seminar website at

Friday 15 May 2009

Thinking Cap On

Just back from a couple of days in Oxford, where we had a great workshop for the e-Science, Technology and Documents project [link]. Good presentations from all the team, and we are making strong progress.
Am all fired up now to crack on with this - a concentrated day and a half on one project always makes the way to proceed much clearer.

But for now, back to reality, and that email pile to tackle...


... for your emails re: the below post. If you havent received one back yet, you soon will!

Tuesday 12 May 2009

Are you a user?

I'm doing a little study into high quality, but non-academic, and non-institutional web resources. The type of "virtual museums" or online communities created by enthusiasts, producing varied and exhaustive documentation of ephemera. How and why are these created? How do they link to existing institutional resources? and does anyone use - or will admit to using - resources created by amateur enthusiasts in academic research?

There is a wide community that glance at this blog, so if you fancy pausing for a minute do drop me a line with your opinions (m.terras AT, or post your comments below. Any comments made will be anonymised if/when I write this up properly (it depends on what I find out - this is very much preliminary research at the moment).

I really is a fascinating area - more and more virtual communities are emerging that are using platforms such as flickr to host their "virtual archives", producing exhaustive documentation about topics hitherto ignored by many memory institutions. But I could rant on for ages... here are some questions to think about, if you have a minute. Thanks!

Part A. About you and your research
1. Can you describe your area of academic interest?
2. At what stage of your academic career are you? (student, postgraduate student, research assistant, lecturer, professor, etc)
3. Do you commonly use digital resources (of any nature) in your research? If so, can you provide a few examples of commonly consulted resources?
4. Do you use social networking and Web 2.0 resources, such as Flickr or Wikipedia, outside of your academic work?

Part B. Non-Institutional Digital Resources

5. Have you ever used amateur or non-institutional digital resources to aid you in your research? (This may include wikis, blogs, online collections, virtual museums, Flickr groups, etc).
6. Can you think of any examples where consulting such material has provided information you could not find elsewhere? Or been more efficient than looking for the research in a traditional “memory institution”?
7. Would you trust digital resources that do not come with the imprimatur of an established institution? What are your reactions to such resources?

Part C. Any Further Comments?

8. Is there anything else you would like to add regarding your attitude, views, impressions, concerns, use, interest (or disinterest) in digital resources created by amateurs and enthusiasts?

Friday 8 May 2009

The Ancient World in Silent Cinema

An afternoon & evening of silent film screenings with piano accompaniment and related talks for silent films with settings in Biblical or Near Eastern Antiquity. As with the first screening of films set in ancient Greece & Rome which we held in January, almost all of the films to be screened in June are not available for purchase in video or DVD format, and are rarely shown in cinemas. They survive as viewing copies in film archives. The event is open to the public and admission is free. ALL ARE WELCOME.

Monday 22 June 2009,
at UCL Bloomsbury Theatre, 15 Gordon Street, London, WC1H 0AH

More info here:

(Unfortunately I'll be in the states. bah.)

Wednesday 6 May 2009

back to the future II.

“We can try a little experiment. Let us resort to the fiction of programming an information transducer, a machine to read [ancient] texts. While so far only human beings have learned it, it is equally possible, and may one day be tried, to teach this skill to a machine …”
Erica Reiner (1973) “How We Read Cuneiform Texts.” Journal of Cuneiform Studies 25: 3 -58, p.6.

(and see our project:

Digital Heroes

Great video about digital preservation, in a Ren and Stimpy stylie:

Friday 1 May 2009

Back to the future.

I have a real soft spot for chancing across things written about technological change prior to, say, the 1960s or 1970s. I dont mean things like "we'll all be living on the moon, wearing reflective suits!" but asides made in academic texts about the state of affairs then, that take on a whole new meaning when you realise the Internet was just around the corner. Take this for example, from Clarke, M. L. (1959), “Classical Education in Britain 1500-1900”, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, p. 175-6.

We have moved still further from the Ancient World. In literature and the arts we have seen a startling break with tradition, and above all the technological revolution which we are witnessing is transforming our lives and insensibly affecting our outlook, encouraging us to live in the present, judging everything by the standard of technical efficiency and assuming that the latest is always the best. Descartes compared the study of antiquity to foreign travel; it was useful, he said, to know something of the manners of different nations, but when too much time was spent in travelling, men became strangers to their own country ‘and the overcurious in the customs of the past are generally ignorant of those of the present’. Today, there is very little danger of living in the past...

Tuesday 28 April 2009

recaptcha Fail

Great story about breaking recaptcha to manipulate online polls. [link] (Thanks, Duncs!)

Digital Fail

I experienced my own interesting Digital Fail this week - which probably shows more about my own search habits than faults in Digital Library structure.

I'm just finishing up that chapter for Gabby and Simon, which is about interdisciplinarity and the Digital Classicist. So, as well as talking about disciplines, and learning, and interdisciplinarity, at some stage you have to look at the history of classics as a University discipline.

But could I find much about it on my usual online searches, and searches of online catalogues? Turns out that "classics" is "history" in a lot of catalogues. The searches turned up thousands, if not millions of hits. Noise Noise Noise. Impossible to find the gem I needed in the midst of it*

As I said - probably says more about my own scattergun searching techniques, and I'm pushed for time at the moment. So off I go to the actual library, and ask an actual librarian, and she directs me to an actual room, and I comb the actual shelves, and I find an actual book!

How very retro. And I wonder what else I've been missing the last few years that I've relied more and more heavily on catalogues and online searches...

* The book I was looking for was "Classical Education in Britain 1500-1900, by M. L. Clarke. (CUP) But I didnt know it was called that when searching for it. Has an interesting 2 page chapter on the "new universities": such as University College London and Kings College London. And how their teaching will never be up to scratch...

Mobile Free Literature

Juliet: Fakn death. C U Latr.

Romeo: gud plan.

Interesting comment in the NY Times on the affect modern day communication technology is having in plot and suspense in literature and film. [link]

Wednesday 15 April 2009

For my next trick

.... Gabby and Simon, I'm working on that book chapter for you.


Send Me a Postcard, Drop Me a Line

The (very generous) maternity leave laws in the UK stipulate that you can have ten "keeping in touch" days with your work whilst on leave (which then get tacked on as extra holiday to your period of leave... and the holiday you accrue whilst on leave... did I mention the word generous?) Anyway, I've now got to make a note of what I did in my ten "keeping in touch" days for my back to work meeting with my boss next week.

So I thought I'd point you to some of the things of interest:
  1. I chased the book, Digital Images for the Information Professional, through from submission (just before I went off on leave) to publication. Heck, I even designed the cover myself. And no, its not fun to go over the proofs with a fine tooth comb in less than a week when you have an 8 week old baby to look after full time, in case anyone would think it was a good idea.
  2. I edited, alongside Greg Crane of the Perseus Project, a fantastic special issue of Digital Humanities Quarterly called "Changing the Center of Gravity: Transforming Classical Studies Through Cyberinfrastructure" in memory of Ross Scaife. I should have mentioned it before here: a really provocative and strong collection of essays about where digital classicists are going, and what classics will be like in ten years time.
  3. I saw a paper, written with Paul Gooding, through revisions and through to publication: "'Grand Theft Archive': a quantitative analysis of the current state of computer game preservation" in The International Journal of Digital Curation.
  4. I took part in the Day in the Life of Digital Humanities blogging experiment.
  5. I got the ball rolling, with Brent Nelson, for a couple of volumes on Digitizing Medieval and Early Modern Material Culture. Hopefully, the contributors should be sending in essays soon - and we are looking for a quick turnaround (ie publication within the next year).
  6. I went to Digital Resources in the Humanities and Arts Conference, for the afternoon, to see a paper about the VERA project.
  7. I answered a tonne of email. As usual.
There were other things not really of relevance outwith my immediate community - Digital Humanities Town Meeting, Computing Science Away Day, visit to the eSAD project at Oxford. Involved in a few grant applications. Wrote a book chapter. Got a couple of papers accepted for conferences. You know, the usual.

The eagle eyed amongst you will probably spot that this probably took up more than ten days of my time. Well, I didnt mind. For a start, it kept my mind ticking over (and I was completely housebound for over 4 months, you have to do something lest you go crazy). And I'm not at all phased about being back at work... my mind has never really been away...

Tuesday 7 April 2009

Whistle While You Work!

So, its back to work for me today, after 10 (!) months of being on Maternity Leave.

Allow me to post one more soppy picture of The Wee Man afore I gets really started.

Over the next few weeks I'll no doubt post updates and overviews of what I've been up to - and what I plan to get up to in the near future. First off, I have an email mountain to tackle (apologies to those who are waiting on a reply for something).

The last year or so has been a strange time - balancing mummy duties with also keeping my head in gear. Those of you who know me will also know I spent most of 2008 in extreme pain, and it took me six months to learn to walk/move again after pregnancy related damage to my spine and pelvis. Life is, thankfully, approximating towards normal - with the small pirate in tow for added hilarity. Phew. Glad that phase is over.

Right. Here I go, wish me luck....

Sunday 22 March 2009

Testing, testing

... my first broadcast from my new shed...

in preparation for the return to work in a few weeks!

Wednesday 18 March 2009

Day in the Life

... today is the Day In The Life of Digital Humanities, which is worth breaking radio silence for, as I'm one of the bloggers.

There's been some discussion of the ethics of posting photos of people, and it was agreed not to post images of children. But here, off-blog, is a picture of he-who-keeps-me-from-work, getting stuck into some elementary coding. Start em young!

Thursday 8 January 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy New year everyone. Things are going to be slow here for the next couple of months - I'm taking some proper leave whilst I am on leave, and now more mobile, so am going to step away from the machine and get out the house more, before returning to work full time in April. Normal service will resume then!