[Humanist] 30.791 events: British Post Office cfp (London); doctoral seminar (Glasgow)

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Tue Feb 28 07:19:44 CET 2017

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 30, No. 791.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Andrew Prescott <Andrew.Prescott at glasgow.ac.uk>           (16)
        Subject: Seminar

  [2]   From:    Jacob Ward <jacob.william.ward at GMAIL.COM>                 (68)
        Subject: CfP: The British Post Office in the Telecommunications Era

        Date: Mon, 27 Feb 2017 10:18:58 +0000
        From: Andrew Prescott <Andrew.Prescott at glasgow.ac.uk>
        Subject: Seminar

You are cordially invited to attend a University of Glasgow English Language Seminar on Thursday March 2, at 4.15pm, in Boyd Orr Lecture Theatre B (Rm 412),  by two of our postgraduates nearing completion:

1. Ross Deans Mclachlan


Sentiment analysis and ‘affective texture’ in illness writing


In a series of recent articles on his personal website, the digital literary scholar Matthew Jockers published Syuzhet, a new package written for the programming language R. At root, the syuzhet package is built around a method drawn from text mining known as Sentiment Analysis. Jockers claims that syuzhet can be used to reveal the ‘emotional trajectory’ and the ‘plot arcs’ of literary texts. This claim has been met with a reasonable degree of suspicion and hesitation. However, in this talk, I argue that syuzhet does in fact show something of interest for the study of discourse, rhetoric, and style. To illustrate this, I use a number of examples taken from non-fiction writing dealing with the experience of illness. I aim to show how a sentiment-based approach may highlight potentially ‘foregrounded’ discourse and tentatively propose the idea of ‘affective texture’. This talk will be of interest to anyone interested in digital and cognitive approaches to written text analysis, as well as those with an interest in medical humanities.


Ross Deans McLachlan is a 3rd year PhD student in the English Language and Linguistics working under the supervision of Professor Marc Alexander and Dr. Catherine Emmott.  His thesis combines digital and cognitive approaches to text analysis. In particular, he is interested in the rhetorical and argumentative uses of narrative discourse, especially in the area of medical ‘life writing’.

 2. Robert Lennon:


 Fussed, second, thud: Mouse tracking reveals implicit perception of ambiguous /r/ in Glasgow


In Glasgow, speakers are stereotypically rhotic, pronouncing /r/ in words like 'car' and 'hurt' (Wells 1982). However, although rhoticity is increasing in middle class Glaswegian (Lawson et al. 2011; Lennon 2012), there is a trend towards the loss of postvocalic /r/ in working class speech (Stuart-Smith 2007). Misperception occurs when listeners hear minimal pairs such as 'hut/hurt' spoken by working class speakers, due to the perceptual and acoustic similarity of the /r/ with the preceding vowel (Lennon 2014; 2015). Increased long-term experience decreases this difficulty, and short-term exposure promotes changes in perception (ibid. 2016). The present experiment investigated the timecourse of this perception, using the mouse tracking paradigm (Spivey et al. 2005). Words (e.g. 'hut', 'hurt', 'fussed', 'first', 'thud', 'third'; produced by one working class and one middle class speaker) were played over headphones, and Glaswegian listeners clicked on the onscreen options displaying the words they thought they heard - as they moved the mouse towards their chosen response the cursor trajectories were recorded. A suite of analysis methods revealed that listeners found it significantly harder to distinguish working class minimal pairs than middle class minimal pairs, following predictions. Additionally, middle class pairs were easier to distinguish when they were heard in isolation, than when they were heard alongside working class words. This appears to demonstrate the difficulty of perceptually switching between two speakers (Mullenix & Pisoni 1990), even though all speakers and listeners in the experiment were native to Glasgow. 


Robert Lennon is in the final year of his PhD in English Language and Linguistics at the University of Glasgow. He is working under the supervision of Professor Jane Stuart Smith and Dr. Rachel Smith

        Date: Mon, 27 Feb 2017 14:08:01 +0000
        From: Jacob Ward <jacob.william.ward at GMAIL.COM>
        Subject: CfP: The British Post Office in the Telecommunications Era

The British Post Office in the Telecommunications Era

This is a call for papers for a workshop which will explore the history 
of the British Post Office from its monopolisation of the telegraph 
service in 1869 under control of the state until the privatisation of 
the telecommunications business as British Telecom. The history of the 
Post Office’s communication networks has, until recently, long been one 
of state monopoly, and the twentieth-century Post Office was both one of 
the UK’s largest state bureaucracies and largest employers. However, in 
contrast, it is apparent that histories of the Post Office are as 
disconnected as they are diverse, and so this workshop will synthesise 
these approaches and foreground the Post Office. We are influenced by 
numerous histories where the Post Office is explored on diverse registers.

For example, Duncan Campbell-Smith (2012) explores the history of the 
Post Office as a business organisation since its inception, whereas 
Patrick Joyce (2013) locates the Post Office as central to the networks 
and systems of the state used to communicate power. Business and the 
state alone, however, are not our foci: from Frank Bealey’s (1976) 
observation of the unique position of Post Office engineering staff as 
Civil Servants, to Iwan Rhys Morus’ (2000) analysis of the telegraph’s 
promise of “instant intelligence” to Victorian society and the state, 
there has long been recognised an intrinsic technological element to the 
modern Post Office.

How might these histories be synthesised? There are histories which 
include the Post Office’s role in regulating the emergence of radio 
astronomy (Agar, 1998), the interaction of computerisation and 
mechanisation with gender workplace relations (Hicks, 2017), and with 
the Post Office Savings Bank (Campbell-Kelly, 1998). There are now 
projects which explore the Post Office’s role in developing assistive 
technologies for hearing loss (AHRC/Action for Hearing Loss) and as a 
site of government research (AHRC/The Science Museum).

This range of subjects will therefore draw on and speak to different 
specialties: general history, political history, science and technology 
studies (including history of science and technology), business history, 
and cultural history. This call for papers recognises this fact, whilst 
seeking to focus discussion productively by asking for papers that 
satisfy the following criteria: a) papers that take a primarily 
historical approach; b) papers that focus on the British Post Office; c) 
papers that broadly discuss the Post Office and technology; d) papers 
that focus on the Post Office commencing from its monopolisation of 
telecommunications networks.

Possible subjects include, but are not restricted to:

  * Technological systems and the Post Office
  * The bureaucratic Post Office (the “Government Machine”)
  * The material and visual culture of the telephone and telegraph services
  * The telephone and telegraph services in popular culture
  * Architecture, exchange buildings and sorting offices
  * Mechanisation, parcel sorting and exchange automation
  * Involvement in wartime science and technology projects (e.g. Colossus)
  * Gender and Post Office telecom, from telephone users to operators
  * The Post Office and assistive technologies (e.g. hearing aids,
    amplified telephones)
  * Financial technologies (“FinTech”) in historical context, e.g.
    National Giro, Post Office Savings Bank
  * Regulation, broadcasting and the airwaves, from pirate radio to
    radio telescopes
  * The Post Office and privatisation, the creation of British Telecom
  * Comparative/connective national historiographies of the Post Office

'The British Post Office in the Telecommunications Era' will take place 
at The Science Museum on 31st August 2017. Registration will be free.

We invite proposals for twenty-minute papers. Proposals of no more than 
350 words, together with the name and institutional affiliation of the 
speaker should be sent to Jacob Ward at jacob.ward.12 at ucl.ac.uk. The 
closing date for submissions is 1st May 2017.

The workshop is convened by PhD candidates Rachel Boon, University of 
Manchester, Alice Haigh, University of Leeds, and Jacob Ward, UCL, in 
conjunction with The Science Museum.

Kind regards,

Rachel Boon, Alice Haigh, and Jacob Ward

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