CCCT seminar.

CCCT seminar. Speakers: Sally Wyatt (University of Maastricht and KNAW) and Toine Pieters (University of Utrecht and Decartes Centre)


January 17, 2014

Center for Creation, Content and Technology (CCCT) Seminar

Friday 17 January 2014, 16.00-17.00 (followed by drinks), Science Park 904, room C1.112.

Under the CCCT umbrella, researchers from the humanities, the social and behavioral sciences, and the natural sciences collaborate in a multidisciplinary setting on information-rich research topics. CCCT is organizing monthly seminars in which speakers report on research activities that are of shared interest.

Speaker: Sally Wyatt (University of Maastricht and  KNAW)

Self-reported data in medical and social research


Self-reported data is regarded by medical researchers as invalid and less reliable than data produced by experts in clinical settings, yet nowadays people often voluntarily contribute details of their health via online platforms. And not only information, but also bodily material. What does this ‘participatory turn’ in healthcare research mean for what counts as valid and reliable information for medical research? The presentation focuses on 23andMe, a genetic testing company that has been collecting genetic material and self-reported information about disease from its customers since 2008. There are several kinds of trust relationships embedded in the information exchange: trust in customers’ data; trust between researchers/company and research subjects; trust in genetics; trust in the machine. My skepticism of the company’s motives for building trust with its customers means I also have to consider my own motives. How does the use of customer data for research purposes by 23andMe differ from the research practices of social scientists, especially those who also study digital traces? By looking at the use of self-reported data in the genetic testing context, I also want to examine the ethical responsibilities in studying the digital selves of others using internet methods. How researchers trust data, how participants trust researchers, and how technologies are trusted are all important considerations in studying the social life of digital data.


Speaker: Toine Pieters (University of Utrecht and Decartes Centre)

Towards historical text mining in public media: WAHSP/BILAND


The history of science and technology and cultural history –disciplines which have traditionally distanced themselves from computer based research– arguably have the most to gain from digital methodologies. A central feature of both disciplines is the close examination of written, spoken and visual source material as a means of exploring discursive formations and historical patterns of continuity and discontinuity. Tracking cultural and scientific ideas, notions and discussions in the digital age holds the promise of exciting new insights in long-term patterns of economic, scientific and cultural change. 

The WAHSP/BILAND research teams so far found that, in terms of methodology, semi-automatic document selection fits rather well with historical research as an alternative to manual browsing or random sampling, facilitating the combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches. Through text mining and visualisation, new insights can be gained from an initial selection. Word clouds based on word counts depicting the linguistic context within which keywords occur are instrumental in helping the historian with expert knowledge of the domain to combine and compare different historical periods in a free associative manner. Each query immediately yields a document selection without laborious sampling. This speeds up the heuristic process considerably. Exploring word associations and metadata, as well as histogram visualisations of the documents over time, can lead to improved queries and therefore to a more representative document selection. Such quantitative analysis enhances the knowledge of the historian. A clear benefit of using exploratory searches is to allow the historian to recycle previous insights to investigate new research questions. Comparing document selections using quantitative analysis helps to validate these selections, making them less arbitrary and thus more representative.



Moderator: Maarten de Rijke (Informatics Institute, UvA)
Date and Time: Friday 17 January 2014, 16.00-17.00 (followed by drinks)
Science Park, room: C1.112

Science Park 904
1098 XH Amsterdam
Free entrance

Sally Wyatt is professor of Digital Cultures in Development at Maastricht University (, and programme leader of the eHumanities group of the KNAW ( She is also Director of the Netherlands Graduate Research School for Science, Technology and Modern Culture ( She originally studied economics (BA McGill, 1976; MA Sussex, 1979), but later did a PhD in science and technology studies (Maastricht, 1998), which focused on different ways of transmitting data over networks. She has more than 30 years’ experience in teaching and research about technology policy, and about the relationship between technological and social change, focusing particularly on issues of social exclusion and inequality.Toine Pieters is professor of the history of pharmacy and allied sciences at the University of Utrecht and member of the Descartes Centre for the History and Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities. He is project leader and research coordinator of multiple projects in the field of digital humanities (WAHSP [CLARIN], BILAND [CLARIN], Translantis [NWO] and Time Capsule [NWO- topsector creative industry]