Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Extending university events into the online world

The Australian National University College of Engineering and Computer Science held a Poster Day on the topic of "Connecting Research to Business" on 22 June 200 in Canberra. Unfortunately I could not attend as I was at Parliament Hose talking about Government 2.0. It occurred to me that it would be useful to extend the poster day into the online world, so as to allow those who could not be there in person to take part. I suggested this to the College and have been invited to put some ideas on how to do it, with the easiest options first. Some thoughts on this follow and suggestions would be welcome.

In the case of the CECS day, the posters are PDF files, designed to be printed as one page AO size documents in landscape layout. It is intended that the poster is placed on a wall and read from a distance of about one to two metres. The author(s) of the poster stand nearby, give a brief presentation and answer questions.

Put the Posters Online

The first obvious suggestion is to provide the posters online. This could be done, after on, or preferably before, the poster day. This would allow those attending to study the posters in more detail later, allow those planning to attend to preview the work and for those not attending. It would also provide a permanent archive of the work and would allow those interested in a topic to find the information (and CECS) using a web search.

Provide a directory of the posters

In addition to the individual posters a directory of the posters would be of use. This would have the title and author of each poster, and perhaps a one paragraph summary, with a hypertext link on each title to the poster. The template for posters should include a hypertext link back to the directory.

The directory could be done as a PDF document, but would be better as a simple web page in HTML. The document can be designed using CSS media types so that when printed it can be used as the directory of the posters on the day.

Provide Posters Which Can Be Read Online

Posters designed for printing A0 size are not be easy to read online. A desktop computer screen is the equivalent to about one A4 page. An A0 page is sixteen times the size of an A4 page and so only a limited amount of the content will fit on the screen. Also if printed at A4, the poster will be unreadable. As an example the Example poster provided by CECS has text too small to read when displayed on a desktop 15 inch screen and when printed on an A4 page.

The poster content should be formatted so that it will display on a computer screen and print on A4 pages, in a readable format, as well as A0. This can be done by formatting the poster using the reflow option in PDF, or preferably using fluid web page design. In this way, when displayed on screen, the content will reformat to fit the smaller space automatically.

PD has an option to "reflow" the content of a page to automatically fit the display screen. However, this option is not available in older versions of PDF viewers and does not work correctly with some later versions. CSS fluid formatting in HTML will produce more reliable reflowing of a web page than PDF.

Add hypertext links

References in posters can by hypertext linked to related documents. These links can be suppressed so they do not display in the printed version using CSS media types.

Add additional material

An audio or video description of the poster can be offered to accompany the online version. This can be simply a recording of the presentation the author gives for the poster. The digital audio or video file can be provided in a hypertext link in the directory and/or the poster. There is no need to provide automated playing of the recording, nor synchronisation with the display of the poster, just a link will do.

Invite Comments Online

Online comments and questions can be invited for a period, before, during or after the poster day. This can be managed using a forum tool, such as that provided in the Moodle Learning Management System used by ANU for courses, or OJS as supported by CECS for IFIP publications. These tools can also be used to manage the soliciting for and submission of the posters, and to publish them.

Stream Poster sessions

Presentations of the posters can be streamed live via the web with audio, video or web casting. However, this requires considerable preparation and planning.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Designing Australian English

A Workshop on Designing the Australian National Corpus is being held in Sydney 4-5 December 2008. The aim is to create a collection of Australian English text, inlcuding transcripts of spoken English, similar to the American National Corpus. This data is then used for researching the use of language. However, I have my doubts as to how realistic a "national" corpus is and how well the manual processes currently used to create such collections are. The automated tools used with web search engines would seem to be able to collect far larger volumes of material without the arbitrary "national" label.

As part of SummerFest 2008, to be held at UNSW in the week of December 1st—5th 2008, HCSNet (the ARC Research Network in Human Communication) is organising a workshop on Designing the Australian National Corpus

This workshop focuses on current developments and emerging possibilities in corpus construction and usage for researchers working in Human Communication Sciences. Its aim is to bring together researchers with expertise in data representation and corpus building, as well as corpus annotation and interrogation, in a single forum in order (1) to disseminate leading work on corpus construction and usage to the broader research community in Australia and thereby contribute to collective knowledge about data collection and representation, and (2) to work towards the design and construction of an Australian National Corpus that is innovative in exploiting the full potential of the interface between language and technologies. ...


Submissions for presentation at the workshop are sought. Topics of interest include but are not limited to:

  • corpus linguistics
  • corpus data
  • web-based corpora
  • linguistic and multimodal data representation
  • audio(visual) text transcription
  • language documentation
  • corpus interrogation
  • corpus annotation
  • corpus design and construction
  • language data ethics
  • corpus-based research

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Crawling Australian English

Evolving Identities: The English Language in Singapore and Malaysia by Vincent B. Y. OoiVincent Ooi, Associate Professor, National University of Singapore gave an entertaining and informative seminar on "The 5-Concentric Circles Model & the Australian English Dictionary", at the ANU in Canberra, 10 October 2008. I was a little intimidated when I arrived as everyone else at the seminar had a mug in front of them with "Oxford Dictionary Project" on it. As an IT person who can't write without a computer spell checker, it was daunting to be surrounded by the people who define the English language. However, Vincent kept the talk relatively jargon free and very relevant to the everyday.

As I understood it the argument was that dictionary makers tend to use pejorative terms such as "Slang" for Australian English words. In many cases words which are labelled as "colloquial" are in use by respected sources such as the editorials of broadsheet newspapers. Vincent illustrated a diglossia as a series of concentric circles with core English in the middle, and the the Australian expressions around in two circles, with the more accepted Australian English words in the middle region and the more colloquial around the outside.

However, I would prefer to see something like overlapping clouds of statistical probabilities, than concentric circles. A cloud would represent the likely hood of a particular word being used by a particular person. At the large scale the clouds would form groups, which might relate to nationality, but would also take into account other factors.

People such as David Hawking, Chief Scientist at Funnelback have spent decades on analysis large amount of online (and offline) text for use in search engines. This approach could be applied to dictionary making in a similar way to the use of automated machines for the It seems to me that large scale analysis of words, much like was done for sequencing the human genome. Rather than people spending decades carrying out manual analysis of a few thousands occurrences of words, the computers could work on billions of words in days.

Current dictionary work appears to be organised as a cottage industry, much as human genome sequencing was. However, whereas the human genome does not change quickly, the English language is probably changing faster than the dictionary makers can cope with using manual processes.

At the practical level I would like to have a dictionary which could advise me what words to use when writing to a specific group of people. As an example, if my ANU class in 30% Chinese mainland educated and 70% Australian secondary school, then what specific set of words can I use that they have in common to a specific level of probably?

At present I am designing desks for computer classrooms and I can refer to analysis to show the size the desk needs to be to fit the 99 percentile of a particular population of students. Can I do something similar for the language to suit that group of people? Can the dictionary tell me what the probability a particular population will be understand what I have written?

Some years ago I attempted to find a basic English dictionary which I could use to write courses which could be understood by English speakers internationally. What surprised me was that while there was talk of such basic English, there seemed no common agreement as to what it was nor any analytical basis to a set of criteria to decide on it, outside a few very technical specific areas, such as Simplified English for aerospace. If dictionary makers don't do this it is likely that those who create web search engines will and we will and end up speaking Google English. ;-)

Dr. Ooi mentioned the concentric circle designs of Walter Burley Griffin in his talk as an analogy for word diagrams. Griffin designed Canberra as a series of circles joined by triangles. Perhaps that would make a useful model, where the circles are words and the lines of the triangles are the relationships of the people using them. In the end it is not the words themselves which are interesting but what it says about relationships between people.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Codifying Australian English

Evolving Identities: The English Language in Singapore and Malaysia by Vincent B. Y. OoiVincent Ooi, Associate Professor, National University of Singapore will speak on "The 5-Concentric Circles Model & the Australian English Dictionary", in Canberra, 10 October 2008:
Seminar: The 5-Concentric Circles Model & the Australian English Dictionary

Australian English is a norm-prescribing variety which is codified in the dictionary by means of markers such as ‘taboo’, ‘colloquial’ and ‘slang’. In this seminar, Professor Ooi will re-examine the use of these markers with two primary suggestions: firstly, such markers should be based on a wider body of linguistic evidence and, secondly, there is a need to go beyond such markers for a more inclusive codification. A first means to do this is to view the language in terms of a ‘5-concentric circles’ model.

Vincent B Y Ooi, PhD, is Associate Professor at the Department of English Language and Literature, National University of Singapore. His teaching and research interests involve lexicology and lexicography, varieties of English, corpus linguistics, language and the Internet, and computer-mediated communication. He is, among others, the author of Computer Corpus Lexicography, the editor of Evolving Identities: The English Language in Singapore and Malaysia, and co-chief editor of The Times Chambers Essential English Dictionary (2nd edition). Ooi’s website is at http://courses.nus.edu.sg/course/ellooiby.

Speaker/Host: Vincent B Y Ooi, The Australian National Dictionary Centre
Venue: CEDAM Seminar Room, Building #96
Date: Friday, 10 October 2008
Time: 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Website: http://www.anu.edu.au/ANDC/
Enquiries: Bruce Moore on 6125 2615
See also books:

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Teaching Computer-Mediated Communication for Governance

At the Varietas Multidisciplinary Teaching Interest Group on Wednesday we discussed what was required for a learning management system (LMS). What quickly became apparent was that selecting an LMS should be treated like other requirements analysis for an ICT system. Rather than start with a shopping list of features found in typical LMS, we should work out what the learning objectives are, the appropriate learning styles for that learning and then how ICT can support it.

LMS can have document creation and document/record management facilities, person to person and person to group communication, meeting management, assessment management and course delivery features. What many of these have in common is computer-mediated communication (CMC):
Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) is defined as any communicative transaction which occurs through the use of two or more networked computers.[1] While the term has traditionally referred to those communications that occur via computer-mediated formats (i.e., instant messages, e-mails, chat rooms) it has also been applied to other forms of text-based interaction such as text messaging. [2] Research on CMC focuses largely on the social effects of different computer-supported communication technologies. Many recent studies involve Internet-based social networking supported by social software.

From: Computer-Mediated Communication, Wikipedia, 28 September 2008, at 11:06
Even the document/record management facilities and assessment, could be considered a form of communication. The record management facilities are used for communicating from now to the future, and the assessed is the assessor communicating to those who may wish to employ the student.

This analysis should work well for the courses on web design and electronic document management I present, as the topic of the course is also Computer-Mediated Communication.

To test if this would be a useful approach I tried the same technique wh9och I had used with "learning commons". A web search on CMC, returned about 2.5 million hits. Narrowing the search to the last 24 hours, produced just over 10,000 documents. This suggested the term was widely used, but the real surprise came when I narrowed the search to CMC for 24 hours at ANU, which found 4 documents, including an announcement of a seminar a few hundred metres from my office by an expert in lexicography and computer-mediated communication: The 5-Concentric Circles Model & the Australian English Dictionary, Vincent B Y Ooi, The Australian National Dictionary Centre, CEDAM Seminar Room, Building #96, 10 October 2008.

Rather than arguing the merits of Wiki, Blog, Podcast, Webinar, Feed or whatever new technology may be around the corner, it should be possible to apply the analysis developed for CMC, such as synchronicity, persistence, multimodality, privacy and security.

My courses on web design and e-document management largely address the needs of governance. This could be generalised as CMC for governance; that is using computer based systems to coordinate an organisation, or a society. In this way we can step back from the detail of how email or word processing documents should be archived in a company or a government agency and look at how computers can be used to make decisions, have those decisions implemented and satisfy the community the process was properly carried out. Different forms of CMC can then be assessed to see how they assist governance.

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