Call For Presentations: Kickstarting the GO::DH Minimal Computing Working Group @ DH2014

Want to participate but cannot attend?  We have a Skype option!  Just contact John Simpson in advance to be added in.  Reach him at john dot simpson at ualberta dot ca or on Skype with the username "symulation".  The workshop is 9am to 12pm CEST (2 hours in advance of UTC/GMT). The GO::DH Minimal Computing Working Group is looking to kickstart itself with a workshop at this year's DH conference in Lausanne, Switzerland.  We are looking to collect upwards of thirty presenters from the global DH community to share their current experiences with minimal computing in a lightning talk format.  This series of showcase talks will be followed by a focused collection of ideas for how the working group should proceed and some initial decision making about which of these ideas to pursue and who should lead them.

What is Minimal Computing?

The GO::DH Minimal Computer Working Group uses “minimal computing” to simultaneously capture the maintenance, refurbishing, and use of machines to do DH work out of necessity along with the use of new streamlined computing hardware like the Raspberry Pi or the Arduino micro controller to do DH work by choice.  This dichotomy of choice vs. necessity focuses the group on computing that is decidedly not high-performance and importantly not first-world desktop computing.  By operating at this intersection between choice and necessity minimal computing forces important concepts and practices within the DH community to the fore.  In this way minimal computing is also an intellectual concept, akin to environmentalism, asking for balance between gains and costs in related areas that include social justice issues and de-manufacturing and reuse, not to mention re-thinking high-income assumptions about “e-waste” and what people do with it.

Workshop Format

The workshop will be divided into three distinct components arranged in an order that will allow all attendees to build their background knowledge and contribute:

  1. A series of lightning talks (2-5 minutes) about current research or work being done with or in a minimal computing environment.  These will be drawn in advance with this CFP.  Those unable to attend the workshop but wishing to present are invited to share videos or other media.

  2. A facilitated brainstorming session directed at collecting ideas and projects that the Minimal Computing Working Group or its members should consider pursuing.  It is hoped that some form of participation will be open to those not on site, but this will depend or the infrastructure that is available.  This goes for the third stage as well.

  3. The selection of a set of tasks, directives, and/or projects that the Minimal Computing Working Group will coordinate and support.  These will follow directly from the previous stages but might look something like programs to:

    • provide training to the DH community to use minimal computing tools

    • share/ship computing resources to areas that might better use them

    • track hardware and software use in the humanities on a global scale

    • provide or recommend packages of hardware and software that are effective and proven

Workshop Participation and Presentation Requirements

If you just wish to participate in the workshop then all you need to do is register for DH and sign-up for this pre-conference workshop as you would for any of the other DH pre-conference workshops.  Easy. If you would like to present as part of the lightning talks at the very beginning of the workshop then you will need to do two things: submit a summary of your minimal computing work and register for the workshop. If you would like to participate or present but cannot attend then there are options for you as well.  We are working with conference organizers to find an option that will allow those not physically present to participate as much as possible (live streaming, online conferencing, etc.).  Those who would like to present but cannot attend are invited to send in their summaries just the same and simply be prepared to produce a short video to stand in for an in-person presentation and to submit that video by June 16. If you would like to get involved with the behind the scenes work of the Minimal Computing Working Group before the workshop officially kicks us off (perhaps you'd like to help organize the workshop?) then just send an email to workshop coordinator John Simpson (john.simpson@ualberta.ca) with a short explanation of what you would like to do and we'll look to get you on board.

Summary Requirements

  • Be a stand-alone summary of your minimal computing work.  This is not an abstract, but an opportunity to showcase what you are actually doing along with a glimpse of the whys and the hows.
  • Fit on a single 8 1/2" x 11" page.  That's right, there is no word count and only the minimal requirements shared here to follow.  Choose a layout that is effective for showcasing your work.
  • Be in a standard PDF format.  There should be no locks or other restrictions that would prevent the submission from being bound with other submissions and distributed.
  • Include a title, name(s) of author(s)/presenter(s), organizational affiliation (if any), country (or countries) the project represents, and the contact information that you would like to expose.  We are looking to ensure as balanced a representative sample as possible with the presentations (in terms of gender, geographic origin, cultural affiliation, academic career arc, etc.)  and this information will help make this easy to assess.  It will also make it easy for people to find you.
  • The language of preference for submissions is English because it stands as a common denominator for all those who might see your submission.  However, if you would like to submit in another language then you are free to do so (and we will do everything reasonable to find a way to adjudicate it).
  • Include a media element other than text in the submission.  This could be something as easy to include as a photograph/diagram or something more adventurous, like an audio or visual recording.  As long as you can include it in a PDF on a single page such that it can still be combined with other PDFs then go for it.
  • Be sent to workshop coordinator John Simpson (john.simpson@ualberta.ca) before May 1 expires in whatever time zone you live in.  That's right, no need for confusing time zone calculations.  Just send it in before May 2 in your home time zone and you're good (and if you want to do confusing timezone calculations know that we'll accept submissions until May 1, 2014 passes in the very last time zone).

Workshop Planning Timeline

Date Action Required

May 1

(Only just finding out about this?  Send us a note and we'll happily work out a short extension.)

Submission of summaries.  These are to be "camera ready", single page, submissions that outline current work or research with minimal computing.  See above for explanation.

May 15

Acceptance notifications.  We plan to take up to 30 presentations.  Since we are looking to provide a synopsis of current activity in the field and around the world, our preference will be to “accept” or “accept with revisions” as many submissions as possible.  Those summaries that are not accepted as presentations will be automatically considered for inclusion in the PDF collection of summaries that will be made available prior to the workshop.

June 16

Submission of slides/videos and final one page summaries.  Following acceptance we will work with the authors/presenters to produce summaries that are maximally useful.  Those presentations that have been accepted but for which there is no presenter able to attend will have until this date to submit a video (or suitable alternative) in place of attending.

June 23

Distribution of PDF bound summaries.  They will be available on this page.

July 8

The workshop is currently scheduled for the afternoon session of the DH2014 pre-conference workshop series.  We are working with conference organizers to include those not able to physically attend via online methods.

July 25

Distribution of lightning talk videos on GO::DH site.  Ideally we would like to record the entire event, but the details of what is possible are still unclear and so it is not certain that this can or will happen.

Supplementary CFP Information

The content that was used to pitch this workshop to the DH2014 committee follows.  It differs from the actual submission because some parts have been pulled out and used above or modified to read correctly given that the workshop has now been accepted.  We are including this content here in case it might answer questions that other people might have as well.

What is the purpose of this workshop?

Establish a mandate for the Global Outlook::Digital Humanities (GO::DH) Minimal Computing Working Group so that it can serve the DH minimal computing community as it wants and needs to be served.

What questions will the workshop answer?

What is the current state of minimal computing in the DH community?

What will be done to further support minimal computing users within the DH community?

Why this workshop?  Why should the DH community care about minimal computing?

With machines like the Tihane-2, a 33.86 petaflop computer featuring 3.12 million cores and only the most recent machine to best the high-performance computing (HPC) Top 500, the current push within large parts of the DH community to get access to and ultimately use such machines (cf. Bonnett 2009; Leetaru 2012; Terras 2009; The NEH High Performance Computing Collaboratory), and the desire to do big things with a whole lot of data and slightly less powerful machines (cf. The Digging into Data program; HuNI; ARC; CWRC; various OCLC initiatives; <insert acronym of your choice here>) why the DH community should pay any attention to minimal computing certainly needs to be addressed.

The GO::DH Minimal Computer Working Group uses “minimal computing” to simultaneously capture the maintenance, refurbishing, and use of machines to do DH work out of necessity along with the use of new streamlined computing hardware like the Raspberry Pi or the Arduino micro controller to do DH work by choice.  This dichotomy of choice vs. necessity focuses the group on computing that is decidedly not high-performance and importantly not first-world desktop computing.  By operating at this intersection between choice and necessity minimal computing forces important concepts and practices within the DH community to the fore.  In this way minimal computing is also an intellectual concept, akin to environmentalism, asking for balance between gains and costs in related areas that include social justice issues and de-manufacturing and reuse, not to mention re-thinking high-income assumptions about “e-waste” and what people do with it.

Interest in minimal computing can already be seen via workshops at places like Princeton, Carleton, McGill, MITH, Victoria, and HASTAC, each of which is just a small drop in the bucket compared to the growing Internet resources available for such projects.  But this is just the side of minimal computing that currently has enough cache and geek-chic to have caught the momentary attention of a sliver of the Internet.  As became apparent to the participants of the INKE conference held in Cuba in 2012, for roughly 60% of the world minimal computing is a fact of life rather than a tweet-worthy hobby and very little is known about this.  Still, DH practitioners facing these conditions are finding ways to overcome these barriers in ways that are at once smart and sensible.

Bringing together those who do minimal computing by necessity with those who do it by choice stands to benefit not only those with a stake in minimal computing by facilitating knowledge and expertise exchange but the DH community as a whole by shining a spotlight on a large portion of humanities work that is currently going unnoticed, enabling further research to take place in these areas.

Why a DH2014 workshop?

The Minimal Computing Working Group will operate as an extension of GO::DH, which is in turn a special interest group of the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations.  Given this pedigree holding the workshop that will craft the overall direction of the working group at the annual conference of ADHO makes good sense.

Who is the target audience and how many attendees are expected?

The workshop targets two audiences: those who do DH related minimal computing by choice and those who do it of necessity.  Those who do it by choice are by far the smaller portion of the global DH community but they are also the most likely to be able to attend the event given costs.  We would be delighted if we were able to achieve a 50/50 split amongst the attendees across these two groups.  Given that this workshop has a broad general appeal and offers a greater opportunity for participation both at the workshop and afterwards we’re hopeful that we will be able to draw 40 participants and allow about half of these to present a lightning talk.

How long will the workshop be?

We are asking for for a half-day workshop on the assumption that this will allow three hours plus short breaks to complete the outlined program by roughly dividing it into one hour sections.

What will be the cost of the workshop?

There should be no cost to the workshop or the conference as a whole beyond the provision of audio-visual resources requested below.  If it turns out that there is a cost for those that this workshop would need to bear then we will look for funding or go without.

What resources will be required by the conference organizers?

To provide the broadest possible access we have already begun a conversation with Melissa Terras and the organizing committee to find a way to accomplish as many of the following items as possible:

  • Provide the option for presenters to deliver their lightning talks as videos

  • Record the workshop or at least key components

  • Offer video/voice conferencing

Who are the workshop organizers?

John Simpson will be the principal organizer and facilitator of the workshop.  His work will be initially supported by Jentery Sayers, who is the other Minimal Computing Working Group co-chair, and Dan O’Donnell, current chair of GO::DH, and Alex Gil, GO::DH vice-chair.

References

Bonnett, John. “High-Performance Computing: An Agenda for the Social Sciences and the Humanities in Canada.” Digital Studies / Le Champ Numérique 1, no. 2 (June 16, 2009). http://www.digitalstudies.org/ojs/index.php/digital_studies/article/view/168.

“Digging Into Data > Home.” Accessed February 19, 2014. http://www.diggingintodata.org/.

“High Performance Computing Collaboratory | National Endowment for the Humanities.” Accessed February 19, 2014. http://www.neh.gov/divisions/odh/institutes/high-performance-computing-collaboratory.

“Home | TOP500 Supercomputer Sites.” Accessed February 19, 2014. http://www.top500.org/.

Leetaru, K.H. “Towards HPC for the Digital Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences: Needs and Challenges of Adapting Academic HPC for Big Data.” In 2012 IEEE 8th International Conference on E-Science (e-Science), 1–6, 2012. doi:10.1109/eScience.2012.6404439.

“Personal Computers (per Capita) Statistics - Countries Compared - NationMaster.” Accessed February 14, 2014. http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/med_per_com_percap-media-personal-computers-per-capita.

Terras, Melissa M. “The Potential and Problems in Using High Performance Computing in the Arts and Humanities: The Researching E-Science Analysis of Census Holdings (ReACH) Project.” 3, no. 4 (2009). http://www.digitalhumanities.org/dhq/vol/3/4/000070/000070.html.

“Statistics.” Accessed February 19, 2014. http://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Statistics/Pages/stat/default.aspx.

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