Update on OSL Activities

19 March 2020

Dear members of the OSL community,

We hope this message finds you well, despite the extraordinary circumstances we are in. As you know, given the ongoing developments with the COVID-19 situation, all educational activities at Dutch universities have been suspended or moved online.

We are writing to let you know that we are working to transfer all (or most) of our events online through Google Hangouts Meet or other platforms, and to provide e-learning support wherever necessary. We are liaising with all OSL staff and instructors, especially with those involved in our March, April and May programme. If you have registered / are registering for one or more of our upcoming events, you will receive more updates very soon; a general update will also be circulated through the next newsletter.

Best wishes / Stay safe,

The OSL Executive Team

Big Books / Big Data: Size and Scale in Literature, Digital Media and Architecture

University of Amsterdam | TBA

This event has been postponed until further notice.

Influenced by digitalization and the rise of big data, we see increasing attention to the topic of size and scale in culture, media, and literature, but also as topics of investigation in the humanities and social sciences at large. Such issues are particularly timely in an era in which processes of digitalization and globalization converge and intersect, and during which the scale on which we consider aesthetic, ethical, and political relations is expanding. This seminar brings together scholars from different disciplines to discuss the role of size, scale, monumentality, or gigantism in relation to books and literature, other media, and architecture, in the light of digitalizatiton and datafication.

Henriette Steiner, associate professor Landscape Architecture and Planning, and Kristin Veel, associate professor in the department of Arts and Cultural Studies, both from the University of Copenhagen, will talk about their book A Tower to Tower: Gigantism in Architecture and Digital Culture (MIT Press, 2020)In this work, they map and critique the trajectory of gigantism in architecture and digital culture―the convergence of tall buildings and networked infrastructures―from the Eiffel Tower to One World Trade Center.

Inge van de Ven, assistant professor Culture Studies at Tilburg University, will present on her book Big Books in Times of Big Data (Leiden U.P. 2019), which examines recent trends of size and scale in the novel in terms of the shift from the bound book to the newer materialities of the digital, in works by authors such as Mark Z. Danielewski, Roberto Bolaño, Elena Ferrante, and Karl Ove Knausgård, George R.R. Martin, Jonathan Franzen, and William T. Vollmann.

Kiene Brillenburg Wuth, full professor of Literature and Media and Utrecht University, will present on the sublime and the materiality of literature in a digital age.

Registration: please send an email to nica-fgw@uva.nl and do not forget to mention your affiliation.

Credits: For RMA and PhD-students, there is the possibility to obtain 2 ECTS for attending the event, reading a selection from Inge van de Ven’s Big Books in Times of Big Data, and writing a short (1000-2000 word) essay on the basis of this. The best essays will be published on Diggit Magazine. For more information and access to the text, contact Inge at i.g.m.vdven@uvt.nl

This event is sponsored by NICA and OSL.

From Distant Reading to Distant Viewing:  Using Computer Vision to Enrich Historical and Literary Research

The Hague | NB: Postponed to February – March 2021; more details will follow as soon as possible.

Venue: Dutch Royal Library (Koninklijke Bibliotheek), Prins Willem-Alexanderhof 5, 2595 BE The Hague. Open to: PhD candidates and RMA students who are a member of a Dutch National Research School. Members of OSL and the Huizinga Institute have first access.

Available places: 20 (lecture programme + workshop) and an additional 20 places for auditors (lecture programme only).

Credits: More details on credits and assignments will be available soon; registration will open in early April.

Coordination: Sophie van den Elzen and Thomas Smits (Utrecht University)
Keynote: Leo Impett (Bibliotheca Hertziana, Rome); more guests will be announced soon.


Digital humanities research has long been strongly textually oriented (Arnold and Tilton 2019). Increasingly, however, methods are being developed to incorporate the visual into DH analyses. This workshop will introduce participants to the basics of “distant viewing”: cutting-edge computer vision techniques in humanities research.
Like distant reading, these methods have proven useful to perform (historical) cultural analyses at a macro-scale. They can be used, for instance, to analyze the relationship between text and image in the nineteenth-century transnational press, to map the circulation of images in internet culture, to do visual stylometry (authorship attribution), or to study pictorial traditions, genres and motives in thousands of paintings. However, technological gains in computer vision go beyond merely increasing the scale at which we can research cultural phenomena. They also have the potential to change how we understand the cultural work of the visual vs. the textual, as they challenge traditional views of how images are consumed, cognitively processed, and assigned meaning (Moretti and Impett 2017; Arnold and Tilton 2019).
The day is intended for early-stage researchers who would like to learn about the principles, possibilities and pitfalls of research methods based on computer vision. Learning more about this may complement what you already know about digital humanities methods of ‘distant reading’, or help you think about how your current research questions could be operationalized at the larger scale. Or it may inspire you to formulate new project ideas. In any case, by the end of the day, you will have a sense of 1) what sorts of new research questions you can formulate with these methods, 2) what the workflow of this research looks like and 3) where to start: what are some collections, at the KB and beyond, which you can begin to explore using these techniques.
The day will start with a keynote by Leo Impett, whose work applies computer vision to analyze Aby Warburg’s Bilderatlas. After this, the trainers will give brief presentations on their own research, which are intended to inspire you to look at the possibilities of these methods for your own research interests. The afternoon consists of a hands-on workshop for max. 20 participants, in which we will go on a guided computational exploration of a dataset using the programming language Python. The day will also offer ample opportunity to discuss research ideas with trainers, peers and members of the KB team.

OSL joins the Institute for World Literature (IWL)

We are happy to announce that OSL has just become a member of the Institute for World Literature (IWL). IWL is directed by David Damrosch (Harvard), and has several affiliated institutions all over the world; OSL is the only member institution for the Netherlands.
Every summer, IWL organizes a four-week programme at one of its associated venues, featuring an outstanding line-up of leading scholars in comparative literature. In 2020, the IWL programme will take place in Belgrade, from 6 to 30 July. Affiliated institutions have guaranteed places for two participants every year, who will also benefit from a 50% discount on tuition fees (please find more details here).
OSL PhD candidates can submit their application via this online form by 1 February 2020. However, in order to facilitate the procedure, OSL will have a round of internal selection before that. To this end, if you are interested in applying please send us a cv + short letter of motivation (maximum 750 words) by Monday 13 January 2020. All applications should be sent to osl@rug.nl; please feel free to contact us for more information regarding the procedure.