News

Sukrit Venkatagiri selected as Rita Allen Misinformation Forum Graduate Fellow

Rita Allen Foundation Logo

Congratulations to Crowd Lab Ph.D. student Sukrit Venkatagiri on his selection as one of 12 Graduate Student Fellows of the Rita Allen Foundation’s Misinformation Solutions Forum, which took place in October 2018 in Washington, DC. As a Graduate Fellow, Sukrit received a travel grant to attend the Forum and co-authored (with Amy Zhang of MIT) an essay that was published in the Forum’s proceedings.

Public launch of Civil War Photo Sleuth website

Assistant Surgeon Francis Marion Eveleth, identified by Dr. Luther via Civil War Photo Sleuth website

On August 1, we held our public launch party for the Civil War Photo Sleuth website at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. Our team spent the day helping new users (in person and online) get signed up and contributing to the site. Dr. Luther and Military Images editor Ron Coddington gave brief remarks, and we were joined by many distinguished guests, including Library of Congress and National Archives staff. The National Archives’ Innovation Hub provided the perfect setting for the event. We were also grateful for VT Computer Science and Civil War Times for event photography and social media coverage (more photos are available here).

A highlight of the event was sharing a new identification — made via the website — of a previously unknown Civil War soldier tintype from the Library of Congress collection. The donor of the photo, Tom Liljenquist, was present to receive the identification.

Article accepted for IEEE TVCG

Highlight propagation: entity-based (A) and bicluster-based (B).
Highlighted entities are colored in orange. A user hovered or selected
entity is marked with a blue border. Entities in the normal state are blue.

Maoyuan Sun, assistant professor of computer and information science at UMass-Dartmouth, recently published an article, titled, “The Effect of Edge Bundling and Seriation on Sensemaking of Biclusters in Bipartite Graphs,” in the journal IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics (TVCG). The co-authors are Jian Zhao, Hao Wu, Dr. Luther, Chris North, and Naren Ramakrishnan. The article’s abstract is as follows:

Exploring coordinated relationships (e.g., shared relationships between two sets of entities) is an important analytics task in a variety of real-world applications, such as discovering similarly behaved genes in bioinformatics, detecting malware collusions in cyber security, and identifying products bundles in marketing analysis. Coordinated relationships can be formalized as biclusters. In order to support visual exploration of biclusters, bipartite graphs based visualizations have been proposed, and edge bundling is used to show biclusters. However, it suffers from edge crossings due to possible overlaps of biclusters, and lacks in-depth understanding of its impact on user exploring biclusters in bipartite graphs. To address these, we propose a novel bicluster-based seriation technique that can reduce edge crossings in bipartite graphs drawing and conducted a user experiment to study the effect of edge bundling and this proposed technique on visualizing biclusters in bipartite graphs. We found that they both had impact on reducing entity visits for users exploring biclusters, and edge bundles helped them find more justified answers. Moreover, we identified four key trade-offs that inform the design of future bicluster visualizations. The study results suggest that edge bundling is critical for exploring biclusters in bipartite graphs, which helps to reduce low-level perceptual problems and support high-level inferences.

Keynote at Stories of War Symposium

Attendees of the Stories of War symposium

Dr. Luther gave an invited keynote presentation at Vietnam War / American War Stories: A Symposium on Conflict and Civic Engagement, hosted by the Institute for Digital Arts & Humanities at Indiana University-Bloomington. Other keynote speakers included included David Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States; and John Bodnar, Distinguished and Chancellor’s Professor of History at IU. Dr. Luther’s presentation was titled, “Rediscovering American War Experiences through Crowdsourcing and Computation,” and the abstract was as follows:

Stories of war are complex, varied, powerful, and fundamentally human. Thus, crowdsourcing can be a natural fit for deepening our understanding of war, both by scaling up research efforts and by providing compelling learning experiences. Yet, few crowdsourced history projects help the public to do more than read, collect, or transcribe primary sources. In this talk, I present three examples of augmenting crowdsourcing efforts with computational techniques to enable deeper public engagement and more advanced historical analysis around stories of war. In “Mapping the Fourth of July in the Civil War Era,” funded by the NHPRC, we explore how crowdsourcing and natural language processing  (NLP) tools help participants learn historical thinking skills while connecting American Civil War-era documents to scholarly topics of interest. In “Civil War Photo Sleuth,” funded by the NSF, we combine crowdsourcing with face recognition technology to help participants rediscover the lost identities of photographs of American Civil War soldiers and sailors. And in “The American Soldier in World War II,” funded by the NEH, we bring together crowdsourcing, NLP, and visualization to help participants explore the attitudes of American GIs in their own words. Across all three projects, I discuss broader principles for designing tools, interfaces, and online communities to support more meaningful and valuable crowdsourced contributions to scholarship about war and conflict. 

Beta release of Photo Sleuth software in Gettysburg

The Civil War Photo Sleuth team. From left: Intern Natalie Robinson, Lab Director Kurt Luther, Intern Ryan Russell, and Ph.D. Student Vikram Mohanty.

The Civil War Photo Sleuth team released a beta version of our software for identifying unknown Civil War photos at the 45th Civil War Artifact and Collectibles Show in Gettysburg, PA. Our table was set up next to our partners at Military Images Magazine. The team was excited to help dozens of attendees sign up for the site, and these new users tentatively identified several unknown soldier photos during the show.

We also demoed an earlier version of the Photo Sleuth software at the previous year’s Gettysburg show in 2017. More details here.

Poster presented at HCIC 2018

Crowd Lab Ph.D. student Sukrit Venkatagiri and postdoc Jacob Thebault-Spieker presented a poster on their research using crowdsourcing to analyze satellite imagery for geolocation purposes at the Human-Computer Interaction Consortium (HCIC 2018) conference in Watsonville, CA. The poster, seen below, was titled, “Verifying Truth from the Ground: Leveraging Human Strengths in the Image Geolocation Process“.

HCIC poster

Welcome, Summer 2018 interns!

We are excited to welcome three undergraduate interns to the Crowd Lab’s Arlington location this summer. Their research is funded by the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program of the National Science Foundation.

Aliza Camacho is a Computer Science and Anthropology double-major at Wellesley College. She will be working on the GroundTruth project.

Ryan Russell is a Computer and Information Sciences major at Virginia Military Institute. He will be working on the Photo Sleuth project.

Natalie Robinson is a History and Public Relations double-major at the University of Georgia. She will be working on the Photo Sleuth project.

The American Soldier in World War II launched on Zooniverse

On May 8, the anniversary of Victory in Europe (V-E) Day, we launched The American Soldier in World War II, a crowdsourced transcription project featured on the Zooniverse platform. This project is the result of a year-long collaboration between Virginia Tech’s History and Computer Science departments, University Libraries, the National Archives, and Zooniverse, with funding by the NEH. VT History professor Ed Gitre is the PI. Dr. Luther is Co-PI and technical lead of the project, and Crowd Lab Ph.D. candidate Nai-Ching Wang is the lead developer.

Our launch included a transcribe-a-thon event at multiple physical and online locations and was based in the Athenaeum digital humanities center at VT. In its first 24 hours, the project attracted over 5,000 contributions. More photos of the event are available on VT Department of Computer Science’s Facebook page.

Thanks to our many collaborators and transcribers for making the event a success!

Please check out some of the publicity for the project to learn more: