Jul 20

Exploring Issues at the Intersection of Humanities and Computing with LADL

Representing Knowledge in the Digital Humanities (Saturday, September 24, 2011)
Conference Schedule

Aist, Gregory. Assistant Professor, Communication Studies Program, Iowa State University (KR conference presentation)

Title: Exploring Issues at the Intersection of Humanities and Computing with LADL.

Abstract: This presentation focuses on a key aspect of intellectual engagement in the humanities: encountering, examining, and learning from multiple texts, both traditional written texts and multimedia. LADL, the Learning Activity Description Language, provides a way to consistently describe both the information structure and the interaction structure of an interactive experience, and allows for automatically constructing a single interactive Web page that allows for viewing and comparing of multiple source documents together with online tools and custom–‐written components as well. For example, an interactive exploration of historical and cultural material from Roman Britain that involves the examination of several different online artifacts –‐ such as a virtual tour of part of Hadrian’s Wall (1), an online edition of writing tables from a Roman fort in northern England (2), and a classical biography of Hadrian (3) –‐ might be designed and built in LADL. Written reflections that a reader produces when encountering a text are carried forward in the experience, through Javascript code that LADL produces automatically from the interaction structure. LADL is designed to support a variety of scholarly and pedagogical purposes in the humanities.

This presentation focuses on an area where issues in the humanities such as ethics and culture come in contact with information and computing technologies: the use of the computational support provided by LADL and the theoretical framework of culturally relevant pedagogy to design exercises that explore how ethical and cultural issues of interest to girls of color – young women of Black, Hispanic, or Native origin – relate to computer science topics. The fourteen exercises present a sample of topics from each of fourteen areas identified in a recent curriculum outline by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the IEEE Computer Society, two leading computing societies. The issues linked to the topics by the exercises include ethical issues such as racial profiling, language issues such as representing names with accent marks in computer systems, issues of place and space such as challenges to Internet access in poor or rural areas, and cultural issues such as what kinds of relationships between simulated characters are supported by computer games. The exercises include custom–‐written explanations of concepts as well as the examination of video and written texts from online sources that are germane to the matter at hand.

In terms of knowledge representation and the humanities, LADL addresses several of the issues raised by the workshop. First, LADL is designed to support scholarly integrity (and respect of copyright) by providing views of online documents through inline frames and linked windows; LADL neither captures nor rehosts content. Second, the underlying LADL elements that display of existing online texts also allow for (simple) annotation of their sources and a minimal form of digital curation to keep links alive and sources consistent. Finally, activities written in the LADL language are themselves a form of knowledge representation in that they describe both the information structure of a document – how the parts are logically related – and the interaction structure – ways in which the reader may experience the document.

1 Housesteads Forts, www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/romans/launch_vt_housesteads.shtml

2 Vindolanda Tablets Online, vindolanda.csad.ox.ac.uk/

3 Life of Hadrian, penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Historia_Augusta/Hadrian/1.html

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