Course: Kaplan

[Course] Frédéric Kaplan: Time Machines from on Vimeo.


Collaborative notes taken by paricipants of the DH Summer School Switzerland:
Download as PDF

[Course] Frédéric Kaplan (@frederickaplan), Time Machines [How to Build a Time Machine] 

[Kaplan’s personal web page: ]
Project Website:
– changes to Geneva (prior it was almost a walled medieval city)
– panoramic view of Geneva – reconstruction of Geneva in 1850:
– relief Magnin, at Maison Davel: shows the city in ca. 1850
– using “bird’s eye view” as a tool without realizing how revolutionary it is
– What is missing of Google’s Maps & Street views is the time factor based on google street view thanks to the work of google that made the space machine-readable (ie not only visible) : we now live in a huge map \o/ => did he say so or not ?
– Check this game based on Google street view :
– we are living in a “big now” – relationship between time and space (high intensity “now”)
– Hilarious depiction of year 2000 prediction: “en l’an 2000” images:
– Travelling through space and through time: can we build the tools to do it?
Can we build Google Map of Past, Facebook or other social networking for past?
Digitization of information available can help with that as well as extrapolation of information (simulation).
Used Digitization and Simulation for VENICE TIME MACHINE:
80km of archives of Venetian history over 1000 years written in different languages, documenting every detail of Venetian history
Goal: Transform 80 km of Archivial documents spreaded on 1000 years in a single digital knowledge system
Digitizing 450 volumes per day! And so 10 years. (First step of the project).
Maturing techniques to improve efficiency
– digitize, transcribe (crowdsourcing), translate, index documents
– demonstrates the development of language and also the meta-development of documents/documentation
– speech recognition software might show a way to improve OCR of historical documents if we know what kind of text we expect
– next step: semantic extraction of 10 billion events for different type of information search from it.
It will allow us to discover how Venice developed as a city as well as an empire
– from this data, we can also extract information about, say, maritime routes (and we can build a Mediterranean simulator)
— allows for a recreation of maritime habits (i.e. if I were living in 1323, how would I get from point A to point B)  [“routerank of the past”]
Inconsistencies have to be taken care of while generating these simulations. These include:
B. Errors
C. Falsification
in primary sources; 
A. Inconsistencies and Contradictions (intra as well as inter document)
B. Errors in transcriptions
C. Interpretive Biases
in secondary sources
Also, some additional ones during processing and pre-processing of documents.
Coding metadata permits to speak about the notion of “fictional space” (in order to say that we speak about possible representations, and we always deal with a “truth”).
Metadata coding will not ensure correctness but a procedure for correcting whenever it is found. A kind of inconsistencies tracker.
Coding uses RDF standards and some additional TRICKS….
Problems of the word fiction: he prefers the word fiction because it has the potential of being true
Who is this tool for? propels us into second half of talk
– larger goal is to create a sense of attachment (the VTM is their project)
one strategy: make  the search/visualization/contribution tools disappear…
– Aimed audience composed by researchers AND a large audience to engage them in various ways to evaluate using some evaluation matrices.
The missing piece: students, prepare them for a change, which can happen  or is seen as happening as it did in life sciences. So that they are ready for the Paradigm shift in the Humanities: large-scale projects
Course of Kaplan: #DH101 –>  give them the feeling of being part of something larger than the course
The missing piece: students, prepare them for a change, which can happen  or is seen as happening as it did in life sciences. So that they are ready for the Paradigm
Guiding Challenges while teaching the students:
MOOC courses as a way of teaching students and engage them in such large scale projects and engage them in a distributed manner where they learn while working on REAL project.  (and crowdsourcing)
The project tries to invent a new kind of large-scale academic projects.
Question: What about financial aspect ? Well… it’s a scientific adventure…
Question: What kind of team is already in place?
– a big one… but one that always has room for more.  😉
Question: How can you be so optimistic about manuscript OCR?