Sketches from London: “Where are you from?” as Microaggression

I read ‘“No, I meant where are you really from?” on being black and German‘ by Ella Achola the other day. It’s a post from August 2014 that did the rounds again on my Twitter feeds and that remains much relevant. She rightly points out that the question “where are you really from?” is a micro-agression.

This is an experience I have had many times whilst living in the UK. I am surprised that a fully multicultural city such as London can still be a place where this kind of attitudes are prevalent. It tends to happen to me and other Mexican friends in London that we are often asked “where are you from?” as a non-sequitur to something we asked or said.

At the airport the other day en route to a conference a white British academic I struck casual conversation with while queuing insisted on asking me where I was really from in response to a conversation about literary festivals, and insisted after I answered I lived in South London. “No, where are you really from? Colombia? Mexico?”, this person with a professorship insisted on asking me. It ended up exasperating me: “seriously, why is knowing where I was born so important for you?” “I want to place your accent”, she told me.

It’s not that I mind saying where I’m really from, I am proud of my background, of being of dual citizenship. I am also aware I do have an accent, but I am now acutely sensitive to being asked this question when it has nothing to do with the conversation one is having. It’s as if one had not been understood, as if one’s accent and appearance obliterated any possibility of meaningful engagement beyond the placement of the Other as an Other.

I have a very good friend with whom I go to gigs frequently. Last night, standing in the crowd at Koko, my friend started feeling uncomfortable as he was aware that two white guys were talking about him and making gestures about him, standing way too close to him, even for a mosh pit crowd before the gig started. The conversation that ensued was like this:

Me: “Hey, you alright? This is gonna be good, yeah?”

Bloke 1: “Where are you guys from?”

Me: “Why, I live in South London and he lives in East London. You?”

[Bloke 2 laughs]

Bloke 1: “No, really, where are you from?”

Me: [exasperated]. “We are originally from Mexico but we live here in London. And you?”

Bloke 1: “I’m from Surrey, mate”.

Me: “I see, so, do you live in London?”

[Bloke 2 laughs]

Bloke 1 [laughing]: “No…”

Me: “Well, welcome to London, mate. I hope you guys enjoy the gig”.


It is, frankly, exhausting.

It’s not the question that’s necessarly an issue. It’s the non-sequitur.

I insist it’s not about the question per se; it’s the obsession with figuring out where someone is really from, a question that makes us feel like we cannot possibly be from here, and that no matter what we may be saying, no matter what we may have in common in terms of context at a given time, it is our otherness that takes centre stage, urging a pressing need to solve the mystery of provenance, of origin. Where do these aliens come from? Anyway, that’s how it feels.

So next time you meet someone who in your opinion does not appear to be from where you come from (whatever that means), wait before you get to know them better before you drop that bomb of a question. It is loaded, and it is indeed aggressive as it emphasises difference and exclusion, even if you mean it in good faith. If you don’t know them and they ask you, say, “do you take sugar?”, or “do you work in finance?”, or “would you like another drink?”, or “what’s your reading of Kant’s categorical imperative?”, whatever, never, ever, answer that non-sequitur of a question out of the blue: “where are you from?”. Think of what people are telling you, not of where they can possibly ‘be from’. Please.

The fact I have taken the time to blog about it will tell you all you need to know about how fed up I am with being asked the same thing out of context again and again.

This is my home, mate. It’s yours too…









Don’t Walk Away: The Aporetics of Information in the Age of Twitter Overload

“The Oxford English Dictionary includes two forms of the word: the adjective “aporetic”, which it defines as “to be at a loss”, “impassable”, and “inclined to doubt, or to raise objections”; and the noun form “aporia”, which it defines as the “state of the aporetic” and “a perplexity or difficulty”.”

– from the Wikipedia entry for ‘Aporia’

Like you, I’ve read the news today.

One immediately wants to write something. One also feels lost for words. We used to be, as humanity, ‘lost for words’ when facing something unspeakable, because it had not been said before. There were no words for it because it exceeded the limits of our understanding, of current and previous systems of belief. That for which we had no words for was unknown and unknowable. And now, words flow. Please bear with me.

Tragically, incidents like the Manchester Arena attack are no longer ‘new’. Steadily, mostly thanks to the almost immediate global mass dissemination of information, we already have a discourse and therefore a vocabulary of reaction. Online and on print, everyone feeds from incidents ‘like this’ (language is a minefield). Organizations, communities and individuals struggle to make sense of our own being in the world by becoming present through utterances. We say/write/post, therefore we exist. There should be no doubt that many of the reactions are in good faith, as an expression of humanity. Extending one’s hand for a handshake or an embrace.

There is also, however, a negative side. It is the ongoing feeding of fear, the promotion of the terror that through loopy repetition gets ingrained in our minds. The effects are double: the terror is widely known, in detail, and impossible to ignore, changing society at its core, but the terror also gets normalised, and therefore muted. Multiplicity of sources, angles, opinions create confusion. So better to look away, focus on what keeps our lives ‘normal’. Just another day on Planet Earth. Carry on, nothing to see here. This is the effect we should try more actively to avoid, but how? As usual when I write, I am aware that this very post is contributing to the problematic phenomenon I am trying to make sense of by writing. This is why I think we have in front of us an aporia, a perplexing problem which is or seems impossible for us to crack.

The world today avoids problematic situations. The term ‘problematic’ is indeed now every sociologist’s and academic’s cliché. In the English-speaking tradition, practical solutions through practicable methods and measurable solutions are preferred to the Romance languages’ preference for the essay that by definition attempts or rehearses an approach around a problem. Essaying is ‘problematising’, but this is incredibly frustrating when there is a pressing need to just get on with things and face what cannot be avoided and requires a ‘solution‘. As soon as we use that word, however, echoes of the unspeakable come back to haunt us, sometimes consciously, sometimes not.

In times of alarm and pain, there is a responsibility in saying as much as there is a responsibility in not saying. Knowing when and how to participate online is a skill to be developed, individually, as communities, societies and cultures. I am motivated to write by the following questions/writing this has made me think of these questions:

  • When everyone with a social media account contributes to the infosphere in which we are immersed in, how do we balance the need to say, to participate in society, while being aware of how each of us may be contributing to the steady deterioration and erosion of public discourse?
  • What are the effects that our postings have on others, and can we ever fully have control over these possible effects?
  • How do we build ‘healthy’ networks of support, online and offline, without alienating others who are also at the producing-and-receiving end of the information flow?

Obviously I have no answers to these questions.

Many respectable folk have written about the ethics of storytelling and the need to actively resist the horror through art and documentation.*  This documentation will one day be the testament of our era, an immense archive of humanity’s consciousness, spoken out loud. Social media today replicates many of the bad practices of the mainstream media (in the UK, the tabloid press has a lot to answer for), and we must look into the role that the pervasive broadcasting of information has on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Victims and affected communities are vulnerable and in pain, and constant semi-immersive and excessive broadcasting can contribute and exacerbate the pain, as well as the social divisions that make extremism thrive.

At present, however, the way we live rarely allows us to stop and reflect, and more importantly, to listen to each other. Issues on international mainstream news that affect us all are constantly considered outside the limits of professional practice, regardless of what we may do for a living, and the pragmatism of everyday survival trumps more considered attempts to prioritise the building of relationships, a commons of solidarity and understanding (and also respectful disagreement) seeking to build and maintain the public good. We mute accounts tweeting and retweeting the hashtag or event du jour. We lament not more young people even register to vote, but we have embraced politics (and the social consequences of politics) as a form of entertainment. At most, we have allowed most political ‘engagement’ to become a version of Gogglebox. In our everyday lives, we walk away from all the chatter to remain sane and to focus. We cannot deal with so much and get back to our work, and the clamour ‘outside’ overshadows the individual tragedies and issues, becoming pure noise and fury. In the age in which methods of production of information have been made widely available to the masses, actual resistance, we know well, has been almost completely deactivated.

And so we ‘carry on’, we tell ourselves, but the problems remain, and the need to share, to make sense of it all still somehow remains as well. Whether it is murdered journalists in Mexico or teenagers in a pop concert in Manchester, the terror is real. People are suffering right now. Attacks, victims are not mere metrics, nor ‘content’, nor objects of study. Incidents like the Manchester Arena attack are no longer ‘new’, we said, but each death and the pain of each parent, relative, friend, fellow citizen, human being is absolutely unique. The tragedy is never repeatable, it is absolute uniqueness, and this is what makes it so utterly painful, shocking, and perplexing.

As the crowds pour their thoughts and pain online, this is paradoxically a crucial moment to reconsider our understanding of the meaning of ‘engagement’. As algorithmic relevance defines concrete realities and the attention economy becomes so fierce that most people are seen but not heard, the temptation is to back off and walk away in silence. This seems to me to be exactly what those seeking to terrorise want. For us to hide, to close up, to not go out, to not be together. For us to forget who we are and what makes us human.

As I worked on this interview, and once it was published as I shared it, I was visited by fears that it did not matter, that it made no difference. Friends ironically, jokingly, said they would share it with friends who couldn’t care less. Friends and family directly affected by the situation documented in the article reacted to it with distance. I could literally touch the fear. I was aware that in my ability to translate it into English I was already exercising a privilege not altogether disconnected from the inequality that is one of the causes of the horrors I was trying to document. I was also aware of my distance from the events, even if I feel very close to them. The alternative, not to do anything, not to at least try to contribute to avoiding the complicitous silence denounced by the interviewee did not seem to me like an option. I had to face the contradictions.

There is the feeling that there is already enough information out there, and that therefore we don’t need anyone else’s contribution. So much information is perceived as an ‘excess’, and its effect is to alienate us and disempower us. The point is precisely to make us feel like nothing we can do really matters – and if it matters it does for different reasons to the message conveyed- because it brings some kind of capital to the author, or because it provides authors with a sense of identity, of singularity or importance in a world where it is harder and harder to stand out. Black Mirror stuff.

This is an important part of this aporetic nature of being online and being a citizen: how to balance the rights of individual expression with the need to consider the effects it has on others given the current infrastructures for communication and the discourse they enable, encourage and actively produce. Terrorism and mass social media have something in common: one of their side effects is to make individuals and communities feel like there’s nothing they can do to make a difference, that no resistance is likely to make a difference, that no awareness or documentation of the terror will stop the pain.

I said I felt lost for words, and now I’ve written more than 1500 words. The irony is painful and awareness has its limitations.

To be honest I don’t know how to end this post. I just want to resist repressing the grief and the concern. I want to think there are still ways we can share our feelings, report on what we believe deserves to be known, and be active part of our communities.

The logic of Terrorism and the commodification of all human communication, of human pain, packaged as ‘content’,  cannot triumph, even if our humble means to resist it are always-already the same tools used to advance it. It’s perhaps a question of remembering the precious singularity, the absolute uniqueness of each human being in this world.


*Not just people like Paul Ricoeur and Dominick LaCapra, just look at this 2015 conference programme for more recent work.

People, Government: Top 300 Terms in the Conservative and Labour Manifestos 2017 (Counts and Trends)

A word cloud of the most frequent 500 terms in the Conservative Manifesto 2017. Word cloud created with Voyant Tools.
A word cloud of the most frequent 500 terms in the Conservative Manifesto 2017. Word cloud created with Voyant Tools.

The Labour and Conservative Manifestos 2017 are arguably two of the most important public documents in the UK these days. I have just deposited the following data on figshare:

Priego, Ernesto (2017): Top 300 Terms in the Conservative and Labour Manifestos 2017 (Counts and Trends). figshare.

I thought some may be interested in practicing some distant reading, or have some fun composing your own Manifesto…

A Library is Not a Library is Not a Library

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 09.00.46

This morning many of us in the UK woke up to these headlines: ‘Libraries lose a quarter of staff as hundreds close’ (BBC); ‘Libraries: The decline of a profession? (BBC)’; ‘Libraries facing ‘greatest crisis’ in their history’ (Guardian). [Post-publication Update: at the same time I was publishing this post, the Telegraph published a piece titled ‘Don’t mourn the loss of libraries – the internet has made them obsolete’].

You will notice that the three headlines start with the term ‘Libraries’.  The second headline suggests ‘a profession’ (we are to understand ‘librarianship’) is or might be in decline. Like many people I saw the headline shared on Twitter. I suppose the headline is meant to promise the reader an answer in the linked piece; it is designed to make the reader click on the link and therefore read the piece: is the library profession as a whole in decline?

In this brief comment I will not be providing the reader with alternative statistics (those so inclined can look at Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals‘ CEO Nick Poole’s CILIP 2020 strategy slides). I was however moved to write this quick post as a means to briefly expand on some thoughts I have already shared this morning on Twitter.

The BBC Freedom of Information requests results have been made available as a Google spreadsheet. The BBC offered some insights:

Change across UK

4,290 Council-run libraries in 2010

3,765 Council-run libraries now

343 libraries closed, 207 of them buildings, 132 mobile and four “other”

232 transferred, 174 to community groups and 58 outsourced

50 new libraries started, 20 of them buildings, 8 mobile and 22 “other”

111 proposed for closure over the next year

Source: BBC FOI requests

These are, no doubt, distressing figures, and they provide evidence of the extent of  public budget cuts to Council-run libraries. I don’t think there is anyone remotely related to the Library and Information sector who won’t think this is frankly terrible, but I don’t think there is any of us who were suprised by this news. It mainly confirms the extent of the damage of the government funding policy in the last six years to the public library sector.

What I would like to say here though is that the way the news have been disseminated, and this includes the way it is being shared and discussed in the media including social media, shows to me there is now more than ever before a need for Library and Information Science skills. Take for example the obvious absence of the adjective ‘Public’ or the adjectival phrase ‘Council-run’ from the headlines and bodies of the BBC and Guardian news items linked to in my first paragraph. The result is the confusion of  public or council-run libraries and the library sector as a whole.

A library is not a library is not a library because not all ‘libraries’ face the same challenges and not all librarians do the same jobs. Abbreviating ‘public libraries’ to merely ‘libraries’ creates misinformation as it feeds cultural anxieties regarding the role of information professionals in a digital age.  Confusing ‘public libraries’ with all libraries and even worse with a whole profession confuses a specific situation (public library closures in the UK due to public funding cuts) with ‘the demise of a profession’. The library profession is practised well beyond the specific realm of public or council-run libraries, and often in places that at first sight do not look at all like what many people would idenfity as a ‘library’.  Like GPs and other medical specialists, or lawyers, or most other professionals, those in the library profession are active in many sectors requiring advanced information and knowledge literacy and management skills, which in the 21st century amounts to most organisations in most if not all domains.

Like Gertude Stein’s rose in her ‘Sacred Emily‘ poem (1913), the word ‘library’ names a phenomenon which invokes the imagery and emotions that individuals in a particular context associate with it. All libraries, of course, have something essential in common. At the very least they share the professional, systematic selection, organisation, storage, management, preservation and dissemination of information, amongst other taks requiring specialised skills. However, it is important to be able to make distinctions, and state what may seem obvious, that not all libraries are the same: public or council-run libraries face a series of quite specific challenges, in the same way that academic libraries, or libraries in say legal or media organisations face different challenges that public libraries do not.

Everyone interested in libraries as a whole should be concerned about the demise of public funding for council-run libraries, but this does not mean that the whole library profession is facing a ‘demise’.  Everyone interested in the public good should be concerned about the demise of public funding for public services, and this includes council-run libraries. The vicious circle is clear, as media coverage and public discourse around the closure of public libraries often goes back to expressing cultural anxieties regarding the role of libraries in general in a digital age. Innovation is accepted as a pressing need, but without funding technological innovation including the hiring of specialised human resources proves harder if not impossible. You need the funding to up your game but if you don’t up your game, the official narrative goes, you won’t get any funding because you haven’t upped your game.

Technological ‘solutionism‘ is a great cover for politically motivated budget cuts to public services. This is where lack of context leads to even more misinformation, and where the debate expresses, to a meta level, the pressing need for specialised Library and Information Science skills as 21st century critical information literacy skills. Take as an example the public opinions of a news editor of a ‘free market think-tank’ this morning on Twitter: [screenshot anonymised]


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These opinions are well-known by most information professionals, as they reflect a widespread misunderstanding about access to information today, namely, in the case of the example above, that 1) reading as an activity (particularly fiction) is a ‘hobby’ and therefore not important for a society’s welfare, that 2) owning a smart phone can replace billions spent on libraries, and that 3) Google Scholar provides access to millions of documents directly, making libraries unnecessary.

The example above is only a needle in a massive haystack of myths and misunderstandings about how the Internet and the Web operate, and more importantly about what it is that public libraries do. Let’s focus only in the third opinion above. For the sake of argument let’s suppose everyone in the UK has access to fast, robust, reliable Internet at home and own and know how to use a reliable up-to-date device to access it (we know this is not the case).  If you can access any full content of quality through Google Scholar it is because a library or network of libraries were doing hard and expensive work behind. Even if all academic content were Open Access, or at least publicly freely available to read online, it would also have been the result of concerted efforts with libraries and librarians, even if you accessed it from the comfort of your home or train carriage. The publishing  and discovery of said hypothetical content online via Google Scholar  would have always-already meant the result of specific library and information skills and technologies, such as mark-up languages like XML, including taxonomies and ontologies, schemas and search algorithms, all working for your enjoyment behind the scenes. And that is just a superficial, quick example.

The narrative we need to see more of is that Library and Information Science skills are today more needed than ever before. Precisely because of important technological and cultural developments such as widespread access to the mobile Internet and search engine indexing services such as Google Scholar, LIS skills must come to the public fore as an essential critical skillset to idenfity, filter, curate, disseminate and interpret data and information of all types.

The news today have revealed again that the political arena is a rapidly-changing information landscape. The crisis of UK public libraries is a political problem. It is a situation created by a political, ideological agenda that has chosen to privilege free market as extreme individualism (the privileging of algorthimc access to information is free market ideology in full effect). The crisis of UK public libraries is not simple, but a main driver for the current crisis is not the lack of relevance of librarianship as a profession, but very clearly the result of ideologically-motivated budget cuts to public services.

I suggest that at the very least we should avoid an apocalyptic tone in discussions about libraries in general. We must be able to contextualise and to focus on the specifics of each phenomenon. Phenomena can be related to each other, and solidarity and empathy are important, but this does not exclude the importance of distinguishing domains. We must frame the crisis of ‘UK libraries’ as presented in the news today as a crisis caused by particular public funding policies affecting the everyday functions of council-run libraries. The crisis of ‘UK libraries’ is part of a larger crisis caused by, essentially, funding cuts to public services.

The larger cultural context of digital transformations demands from all of us interested in libraries and information to up our game in successfully demonstrating why the word ‘library’ means many different things to different people, and why ‘the profession’ should be more needed than ever in an age of overwhelming data deluge and information overload.

If the unfounded, misinformed opinion that smartphones or Google can replace all types of libraries and information professionals keeps gaining currency, the future will look increasingly grim. It will be grim because it will mean the triumph of an impoverished vision that privileges only the hyper-privileged, leaving the rest of the public doomed to accessing only the information they are given or the information they can personally afford.

Suggesting that librariship as a whole is in crisis and that the ‘solution’ lies in giving people smartphones only benefits those who benefit from dismantling public services, including the public right to council-run libraries as professional, reliable, fair, safe spaces for creativity, education, research, entertainment, and in a nutshell good ol’ public good.


The Twelve Days of REF: A #REF2014 Archive

Cirrus word cloud visualisation of a corpus of 23,791 #REF2014 Tweets

I have uploaded a new dataset to figshare:

Priego, Ernesto (2014): The Twelve Days of REF- A #REF2014 Archive. figshare.

The file contains approximately 31,855 unique Tweets published publicly and tagged with #REF2014 during a 12-day period between 08/12/2014 11:18 and 20/12/2014 10:13 GMT.

For some context and an initial partial analysis, please see my previous blog post from 18 December 2014.

As always, this dataset is shared to encourage open research into scholarly activity on Twitter. If you use or refer to this data in any way please cite and link back using the citation information above.

Happy Christmas everybody.

The REF According to Twitter: A #REF2014 Update (18/12/14 16:28 GMT)

As everyone in some way aware of UK higher education knows, the results from the REF 2014 were announced in the first minute of the 18th of december 2014. Two main hashtags have been used to refer to it on Twitter; #REF and the more popular (“official”?) #REF2014.

There’s been of course other variations of these hashtags, including discussion about it not ‘hashing’ the term REF at all. Here I share a quick first look at a sample corpus of  texts from Tweets publicly tagged with #REF2014.

This is just a quick update of a work in progress. No qualitative conclusions are offered, and the quantitative data shared and analysed is provisional. Complete data sets will be published openly once the collection has been completed and the data has been further refined.

The Numbers

I looked at a sample corpus of 23,791 #REF2014 Tweets published by 10,654 unique users between 08/12/2014 11:18 GMT and 18/12/2014 16:32 GMT.

  • The sample corpus only included Tweets from users with a minimum of two followers.
  • The sample corpus consists of 1 document with a total of 454,425 words and 16,968 unique words.
  • The range of Tweets per user varied between 70 and 1, with the average being 2.3 Tweets per user.
  • Only 8 of the total of 10,654 unique users in the corpus published between 50 and 80 Tweets; 30 users published more than 30 Tweets, with 9,473 users publishing between 1 and 5 Tweets only.
  • 6,585 users in the corpus published one Tweet only.

A Quick Text Analysis

Voyant Tools was used to analyse the corpus of 23,791 Tweet texts. A customised English stop words list was applied globally. The most frequent word was “research”, repeated 8,760 times in the corpus; it was included in the stop-word list (as well as, logically, #REF2014).

A word cloud of the whole corpus using the Voyant Cirrus tool looked like this (you can click on the image to enlarge it):

Cirrus word cloud visualisation of a corpus of 23,791 #REF2014 Tweets

#REF2014  Top 50 Most frequent words so far

Word Count
uk 4605
results 4558
top 2784
impact 2091
university 1940
@timeshighered 1790
ranked 1777
world-leading 1314
excellence 1302
universities 1067
world 1040
quality 1012
internationally 933
excellent 931
overall 910
great 827
staff 827
academics 811
proud 794
congratulations 690
rated 690
power 666
@cardiffuni 653
oxford 645
leading 641
best 629
news 616
education 567
5th 561
@gdnhighered 556
@phil_baty 548
ucl 546
number 545
law 544
today 536
table 513
analysis 486
work 482
higher 470
uni 460
result 453
time 447
day 446
cambridge 430
just 428
@ref2014official 427
group 422
science 421
big 420
delighted 410


The map is not the territory. Please note that both research and experience show that the Twitter search API isn’t 100% reliable. Large tweet volumes affect the search collection process. The API might “over-represent the more central users”, not offering “an accurate picture of peripheral activity” (González-Bailón, Sandra, et al. 2012). It is not guaranteed this file contains each and every Tweet tagged with the archived hashtag during the indicated period. Further dedpulication of the dataset will be required to validate this initial look at the data, and it is shared now merely as an update of a work in progress.


Gonzalez-Bailon, Sandra and Wang, Ning and Rivero, Alejandro and Borge-Holthoefer, Javier and Moreno, Yamir, “Assessing the Bias in Samples of Large Online Networks” (December 4, 2012). Forthcoming in Social Networks. Available at SSRN: or

ACLAIIR AGM & Seminar 2014 – OPEN ACCESS: The future of academic publication?

Looking forward to participating in the ACLAIIR AGM & Seminar 2014 in Cambridge on Open Access: “The future of academic publication?” (17 June 2014).


AGM 2014 wordle picJoin us in Cambridge for the ACLAIIR AGM & Seminar 2014, the topic of which is Open Access. We are pleased to welcome speakers from a variety of areas to give their perspectives on OA and its impact on the world of research, teaching and publishing.

Speakers: Ellen Collins (OAPEN UK); Daniel Pearce (CUP); Dr. Rupert Gatti (Open Book Publishers); Dr. Martin Eve (University of Lincoln); Dr. Ernesto Priego (City University, London); Dr. Jenny Bunn (University College, London)

Open Access is curently a hot topic across the globe due to its wide-ranging effects. Many policies and practices are in a state of rapid change, so we hope you will join us to keep up to date with this important subject and contribute to the debate.

The full programme including speaker profiles and registration form are available on our Events page. Please register by Monday 9 June to secure your place!

View original post 8 more words

BBC Politics Election Tweets: A Quick Text Analysis

I collected 100 tweets from the official @BBCPolitics Twitter account posted between 26/05/2014 00:14:31 and  26/05/2014 12:59:10 BST. I collected the tweets using Martin Hawksey‘s TAGS.

I copied the text of the tweets and ran a basic text analysis using Voyant Tools by Stéfan Sinclair & Geoffrey Rockwell. I customised the English ‘Taporware’ stop word list to include reporting-specific terms (such as ‘says’–this should be further refined, as I accidentally left ‘declared’) and Twitter-specific terms likely to be over-represented, like ‘http’, ‘rt’ and ‘’.  (Some shortened URLs remained).  I left the hashtags ‘#EP2014’ and ‘#vote2014’ in the corpus on purpose.

There is 1 document in this corpus with a total of 1,956 words and 695 unique words.

If needed, click on image to enlarge.

Cirrus cloud visualising most frequent terms in corpus of 100 tweets from the official @BBCPolitics Twitter account posted between 26/05/2014 00:14:31 and  26/05/2014 12:59:10 BST.  Cloud CC-BY Ernesto Priego. Created with Voyant Tools by Stéfan Sinclair & Geoffrey Rockwell (©2014). Source data and more info at
Cirrus cloud visualising most frequent terms in corpus of 100 tweets from @BBCPolitics posted between 26/05/2014 00:14:31 and 26/05/2014 12:59:10 BST.

Words in the Entire Corpus
Corpus Term Frequencies provides an ordered list for all the terms’ frequencies appearing in a corpus. The first column indicates the keyword in order of frequency; the second column the number of times it appears in the corpus. The other columns can be toggled to show other statistical information, including a small line graph for term frequency across the corpus.

Words in the Entire Corpus. Corpus Term Frequencies provides an ordered list for all the terms’ frequencies appearing in a corpus. As well additional columns can be toggled to show other statistical information, including a small line graph for term frequency across the corpus. Created with Voyant Tools by Stéfan Sinclair & Geoffrey Rockwell (©2014).
#vote2014 32 5.10 172.3 0.000
ukip 18 2.66 96.9 0.000
election 17 2.49 91.5 0.000
lib 17 2.49 91.5 0.000
elections 15 2.14 80.8 0.000
european 15 2.14 80.8 0.000
results 15 2.14 80.8 0.000
#ep2014 13 1.79 70.0 0.000
vote 13 1.79 70.0 0.000
@bbcr4today 11 1.44 59.2 0.000
lab 11 1.44 59.2 0.000
party 11 1.44 59.2 0.000
green 10 1.27 53.9 0.000
@chrismasonbbc 9 1.09 48.5 0.000
dem 9 1.09 48.5 0.000
eu 9 1.09 48.5 0.000
farage 9 1.09 48.5 0.000
labour 9 1.09 48.5 0.000
meps 9 1.09 48.5 0.000
result 9 1.09 48.5 0.000
uk 9 1.09 48.5 0.000
@bbcbreaking 8 0.92 43.1 0.000
david 8 0.92 43.1 0.000
dems 8 0.92 43.1 0.000
far 8 0.92 43.1 0.000
seat 8 0.92 43.1 0.000
#r4today 7 0.74 37.7 0.000
@bbcnormans 7 0.74 37.7 0.000
cameron 7 0.74 37.7 0.000
coverage 7 0.74 37.7 0.000
london 7 0.74 37.7 0.000
snp 7 0.74 37.7 0.000
@rebeccakeating 6 0.57 32.3 0.000
scotland 6 0.57 32.3 0.000
votes 6 0.57 32.3 0.000
euro 5 0.39 26.9 0.000
new 5 0.39 26.9 0.000
nick 5 0.39 26.9 0.000
parties 5 0.39 26.9 0.000
people 5 0.39 26.9 0.000
pm 5 0.39 26.9 0.000
seats 5 0.39 26.9 0.000
video 5 0.39 26.9 0.000
big 4 0.22 21.5 0.000
bnp 4 0.22 21.5 0.000
clegg 4 0.22 21.5 0.000
declared 4 0.22 21.5 0.000


I also collected 49 tweets posted by @bbcnickrobinson between 18/05/2014 21:21:34 and 26/05/2014 02:34:07 BST. I followed the same procedure as above, producing the following Cirrus cloud (if needed, click on image to enlarge) and frequency list.

There is 1 document in this corpus with a total of 946 words and 458 unique words.

Cirrus cloud visualising most frequent terms in corpus of 49 tweets from @bbcknickrobinson posted between 18/05/2014 21:21:34 and 26/05/2014 02:34:07 BST.
Cirrus cloud visualising most frequent terms in corpus of 49 tweets from @bbcknickrobinson posted between 18/05/2014 21:21:34 and 26/05/2014 02:34:07 BST.

Words in the Entire Corpus
Corpus Term Frequencies provides an ordered list for all the terms’ frequencies appearing in a corpus. The first column indicates the keyword in order of frequency; the second column the number of itmes it appears in the corpus. The other columns can be toggled to show other statistical information, including a small line graph for term frequency across the corpus.

Words in the Entire Corpus. Corpus Term Frequencies provides an ordered list for all the terms’ frequencies appearing in a corpus. As well additional columns can be toggled to show other statistical information, including a small line graph for term frequency across the corpus. Created with Voyant Tools by Stéfan Sinclair & Geoffrey Rockwell (©2014).
farage 10 2.71 106.0 0.000
ukip 9 2.36 95.4 0.000
blog 7 1.68 74.2 0.000
vote 7 1.68 74.2 0.000
lib 6 1.34 63.6 0.000
@bbcpolitics 5 1.00 53.0 0.000
clegg 5 1.00 53.0 0.000
election 5 1.00 53.0 0.000
nigel 5 1.00 53.0 0.000
night 5 1.00 53.0 0.000
power 5 1.00 53.0 0.000
@bbcnickrobinson 4 0.66 42.4 0.000
@nick 4 0.66 42.4 0.000
dem 4 0.66 42.4 0.000
european 4 0.66 42.4 0.000
just 4 0.66 42.4 0.000
morning 4 0.66 42.4 0.000
romanians 4 0.66 42.4 0.000
#ep2014 3 0.32 31.8 0.000
#vote2014 3 0.32 31.8 0.000
david 3 0.32 31.8 0.000
dimbleby 3 0.32 31.8 0.000
elections 3 0.32 31.8 0.000
got 3 0.32 31.8 0.000
interview 3 0.32 31.8 0.000
know 3 0.32 31.8 0.000
labour 3 0.32 31.8 0.000
millwall 3 0.32 31.8 0.000
poll 3 0.32 31.8 0.000
says 3 0.32 31.8 0.000
send 3 0.32 31.8 0.000
tories 3 0.32 31.8 0.000
uk 3 0.32 31.8 0.000
win 3 0.32 31.8 0.000
words 3 0.32 31.8 0.000
@bbcnews 2 -0.02 21.2 0.000
@nigel 2 -0.02 21.2 0.000
@thelawyercatrin 2 -0.02 21.2 0.000
answer 2 -0.02 21.2 0.000
band 2 -0.02 21.2 0.000
beaming 2 -0.02 21.2 0.000
capital 2 -0.02 21.2 0.000
completely 2 -0.02 21.2 0.000
coverage 2 -0.02 21.2 0.000
day 2 -0.02 21.2 0.000
dems 2 -0.02 21.2 0.000
didn’t 2 -0.02 21.2 0.000
doing 2 -0.02 21.2 0.000
ed 2 -0.02 21.2 0.000
europe 2 -0.02 21.2 0.000

It is significant that in these two small corpora from the two major BBC Politics Twitter accounts the top results had some clear coincidences. It’s up to the reader to draw conclusions. I have uploaded the source data to figshare:

Priego, Ernesto (2014): Corpora of 100 Tweets from BBCPolitics and 49 Tweets from bbcnickrobinson in context of European Election Results 2014. figshare.

Two #teachDH Outputs

View of Lewes Castle, 2014-05-07 11.39.09 BST photo by Ernesto Priego CC-BY
View of Lewes Castle, 2014-05-07 11.39.09 BST

We were lucky enough to be one of the participants in the Higher Education Academy’s Digital Humanities Summit, an invitation-only series of workshops that took place last week on Wednesday 7 and Thursday 8 May 2014 in the lovely town of Lewes, UK. The summit had the #teachDH tag on Twitter.

From the summit itself I posted some (not very good) photos I took with my mobile phone of the ideas jotted down by participants during the “Narrowing the Focus” session on 8 May 2014. They are on this blog here and you can click on the photos to enlarge them and hopefully read the words. I think the ideas there represent some kind of collective stream of consciousness on our part as participants interested in the digital humanities; many pointed out the differences between say “Dream” and “Solve”… it might also show differences (and similarities) in how “DH” is conceptualised in the UK in comparison to other countries.

Last week I also uploaded two summit outputs to figshare. The first is a quick slide show our group created and presented at the summit and the second is a #teachDH Twitter archive.  Citations below.

Deswarte, Richard; Mahoney, Simon; Priego, Ernesto; Tiedau, Urlich (2014): DH-DA The Digital Humanities Devil’s Advocate figshare.

Priego, Ernesto (2014): #teachDH Digital Humanities Summit Tweets Archive Monday 28 April to Friday 09 May 09 2014. figshare.

The uploads also include links to other summit outputs published online by other participants.

We could of course have left a private event private, with only the hand-picked participants benefiting from the proceedings. But that’s not how we do things today, is it? Anyway, I really hope these materials are of some interest to some of you.

Digital Humanities: Narrowing the Focus #teachDH

Photos from the ideas jotted down by participants of the Higher Education Academy’s Digital Humanities Summit, 7-8 May 2014, Lewes, UK, during the “Narrowing the Focus” session on 8 May 2014. Click on images to enlarge.

Think #teachDH 8 May 2014
Think #teachDH 8 May 2014
Solve #teachDH 8 May 2014
Solve #teachDH 8 May 2014
Do, #teachDH 8 May 2014
Do #teachDH 8 May 2014
Make, #teachDH, 8 May 2014
Make #teachDH, 8 May 2014
Dream #teachDH 8 May 2014
Dream #teachDH 8 May 2014



A Visit to Down House

Down House sign

Many times I have written before that I want to write more. Life during and after a PhD can do things to one’s attitudes to writing and particularly public writing. Blogging is an excercise that requires practice. Blogging post-Facebook and post-Twitter is very different to what it was before them. A culture of constant surveilance is paradoxically entrenched in a hyper-competitive economy of attention in which people won’t click on your links even if you pay them to.

When people in a competitive culture realize that attention is a commodity, and that ‘sharing’ can be measured, those not keen to non-self-interested collaboration are likely to use lack of attention as a form of capital. I personally find it hilarious some people are so keen on paywalling their research in this climate, in which no one seems to care about what anyone else is doing. The selfie is the sign of the times after all. (Remember those years in which the main criticism of blogging was that it was all about narcissism? How little did we know of the joys of social media and “viral” selfies!).

Anyway I wanted to write this quick blog post about our visit last weekend to Down House. It was a gorgeous Spring day and that was perfect as the house has a lovely garden, and one can go walk along the beautiful Sandwalk, Darwin’s own “thinking path”. The web site in the previous link will give you a good idea of how awesome this place is and what an excellent job has English Heritage done to preserve it and keep it open to the public. It is more than worth the entry price and visiting it will be a great experience for adults and children alike. I took a lot of pictures but the ones on the Down House web site (and the 360 panoramics if you have the right software in your computer) will give you a very good idea of how gorgeous the place is.

I have been fascinated and intrigued by Darwin’s life and work since I was a kid.  (Simon Gurr and Eugene Byrne‘s Darwin: A Graphic Biography is a lovely book that should get anyone who isn’t already into Darwin). Visiting Down House was a very good complement to the fragmented knowledge I had of Darwin’s life. Some bullet points of the ideas I took with me:

  • The vital importance of the work that English Heritage does in preserving England’s historical buildings and cultural memory, keeping them alive for the enjoyment of the community and visitors alike, turning an educational activity into one of leisure and enjoyment and vice versa
  • The beauty of the Kent countryside in Spring
  • Confirming that Darwin was born into social, economic and intellectual privilege, and that his name and fame are not independent from that of his ancestors, the same way some of his children’s academic careers cannot be disconnected from that of their father
  • Confirming that Darwin’s greatest achievement was a consequence of his leaving England and traveling on the Beagle
  • Confirming that intellectual/academic/scientific work cannot be disconnected from its social and material conditions of production
  • Confirming that Darwin couldn’t have possibly worked and published his theories had he suffered adverse material and social conditions
  • Discovering how much Darwin packed into his day, even when he was physically ill, performing lots of physical activities such as handwriting, working in his garden, doing his walk every day before lunchtime
  • Confirming he did not have to do the washing up and other domestic chores
  • Confirming that walking and exercising are important parts of the researcher’s day, providing time and space to think differently
  • Discovering the importance that the post had for Darwin’s work; he used written correspondence over the post the way some of us use email, blogs and social media to communicate with our colleagues
  • Confirming that in spite of the long itme he self-embargoed his Origin, Darwin did share a lot of information with others, via the post
  • Confirming that Darwin used librarianship and information science skills to do what he did; that collecting, cataloguing, classification and curating were essential parts of his research;
  • Confirming that taxonomies, schemes, metadata creation was a contribution to knowledge
  • Seeing with my very own eyes how beautiful and amazing his journal and notebooks were; that he wrote and drew, combining the written word with visual thinking
  • That his scientific publishing career was defined by the culture and conditions of his time, and also spurred by competition rather than collaboration
  • That there’s no such thing as total originality, and that scientific/academic success is not just about the ideas or the work (ask Wallace)
  • That research that does not get disseminated becomes forgotten and ignored, and that ideas that get widely disseminated do live a life of their own outside their original platforms/vehicles of dissemination
  • That “science”, in spite of its pretense of “objectivity”, is always-already the result of empyrical experience and the particular conditions/positioning of the subject that does the research
  • That gardens are a work of art and a source of scientific and literary/poetic inspiration and discovery

Visiting Down House definitely inspired me to try to keep on writing more, to keep using my notebooks and to keep doodling and sketching.

Ah, and we bought Ruth Patel’s Darwin: A life in Poems at the shop. Listening to a couple of the poems in the voice of the author in the audio guide along the Sandwalk was a moving experience, though one also felt the urge to remove the earphones to listen to the sounds of that beautiful English Spring day.