Presentation at the Department of History and Classics, Acadia University

  • Posted on: 5 March 2015
  • By: warren


Mapping the Western Front: the British and German experiences
March 26th, 7pm, BAC241
The static nature and scale of the battles on the Western Front was unwelcome to both Entente and Central powers during the Great War. Faced with logistical requirements on an unprecedented scale, standardized maps at different scales had to be produced of the battlefield quickly for both tactical and strategic purposes. This was a minor revolution in military thinking: previously cavalry officers were expected to ride with a sketch-board to map out terrain and enemy positions for their commanders.
In this talk I will contrast the Entente and Central efforts at mapping battlefields, highlight the differences in the approaches they took as well as evidence about local military intelligence activities. Both British and German coordinate systems will be explained as well as how to geo-reference these maps into modern mapping software.

Do a billion documents change the First World War?

  • Posted on: 1 February 2011
  • By: warren


Do a billion documents change the First World War?
Wednesday, March 30th, 2011, 19:00-21:00
Waterloo Stratford Campus Digital Media Series
Presented by Rob Warren and Shelley Hulan


The First World War has come alive for later generations via their close reading of individual works on the war. But this war was the first lengthy international conflict to keep records on hundreds of thousands of displaced people and military personnel as they moved all around the globe, and the documents generated by them provide a rich source of insight into the times, and in the wake of the large-scale digitization of paper-based data from pre-digital periods, First World War records have the potential to touch readers anew.
Where soldiers' journals and longer accounts bring the conflict to light in a very personal way, the digitization of millions of forms and official documents concerning the "war to end all wars" allows for the detection of global patterns of migration, communication, and disease previously impossible to find using manual research methods. Mining Great War data might be feared to rob the war of its power to illuminate the costs of modern conflict, a power that has historically lain in the personal tragedies and triumphs identified with it and the revelations they offer about human suffering and human potential, not the more anonymous and repetitive information on official forms. In a discussion of the patterns and trends detectable by analyzing millions of data mine-able Red Cross files, however, we will suggest that data mining both significantly alters our understanding of the war and yet continues to move us in surprising ways.

Presentation at CASBS 2010: Muninn Project

  • Posted on: 1 June 2010
  • By: warren


The Muninn Project
Tracking, Transcribing, and Tagging Government: Building Digital Records for Computational Social Science
Tuesday June 22, 2010, 14:15-15:15
Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences
The Muninn Project is a multidisciplinary, 
multinational, academic research project investigating millions of records pertaining to 
the First World War in archives around the world.

In this talk I will review some of the methods being used in the Muninn project to 
extract information from the scanned documents of historical archives. Previous data 
extraction efforts for historical research were done through the human review of 
documents, one at a time. We employ an approach where computing power is used to collate 
similar document types to extract the information from them.

The Great War era produced a mix of hand-written and type-written documents that require 
processing using computer extraction methods assisted by the manual reviews of specific 
cases by human volunteers. I will contrast this with previous methods that have been used 
to digitize documents, such as recapchat, and close with some observations about managing 
archival data in a high-volume setting.