Tech Labs: Ons Tweede Huis Festival & Virtual Reality

Health care organization “Ons Tweede Huis” (Our Second Home) held a fun and informative festival in order to celebrate their 50th anniversary. To show what the future could hold for engaging, entertaining and caring for their patients, the Tech Labs of the Network Institute lent a set of Virtual Reality equipment. Using the head-mounted-display visitors got an idea of what this relatively new technology could mean for them and their family in care of Ons Tweede Huis.
The festival was a great success and many visitors tried on the VR set.

Read more about the festival at the Parool website (dutch).

The Network Institute hosts WebSci’18 at VU from 27-30 May 2018

The Network Institute hosts the 10th ACM Conference on Web Science, 27-30 May 2018. It is a wonderful opportunity and a great pleasure for the Network Institute to be able host the 10th ACM conference on Web Science, WebSci’18, at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam this year.

Web Science is a unique conference where a multitude of disciplines converge in a creative and critical dialogue with the aim of understanding the Web and its impacts. Web Science participants are from diverse fields including (but not limited to) art, anthropology, computer and information sciences, communication, economics, humanities, informatics, law, linguistics, philosophy, political science, psychology, and sociology. The conference particularly welcomes contributions that seek to cross traditional disciplinary boundaries, that describe original research, analysis, and practice in the field of Web Science, and that discusses novel and thought-provoking ideas.

WebSci’18 is chaired by former network Institute director Hans Akkermans. Keynote speakers will be, amongst others, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, and recipient of the 2016 Turing award, and José van Dijck, president of the KNAW.

Call for Network Institute Academy Assistant projects

Apply for interdisciplinary research projects with 2 student assistants
Deadline 8 June 2018 at 12.00 pm

The Network Institute’s (NI) Academy Assistants program (NIAA) is now entering its eighth year. Initially funded through a KNAW grant and aimed at combining social sciences and computer science research, it has since been adopted by the Network Institute and opened up for other interdisciplinary projects which fall within the NI’s research themes. The Academy Assistants program aims at promising high-potential master students who want to conduct scientific research and possibly pursue an academic career. Last year, six Academy Assistant proposals were funded, this year, the program will also be able to fund six to seven projects.

This is a call for new proposals to start from October 2018 onwards. The program aims to bring together scientists from different disciplines; therefore the projects must combine methods and themes from two different disciplines affiliated with the NI. For each awarded project, the program funds two student research assistants (0,2 FTE) for a period of ten months. The intended outcome of the projects should be papers and/or research proposals. In addition, at the end of the project (July 2019) we will publish proceedings of this year’s project.

Ministry of Interior pays visit to the Network Institute

On Friday 26 Jan the Network Institute received a visit from a high ranking delegation of the Ministry of the Interior (“Binnenlandse Zaken”), headed by Mevr. Simone Roos, one of the highest ranking civil servants in The Hague. Mrs. Roos was accompanied by a number of her colleagues from The Hague, and by Mrs. Marjolein Janssen, member of the Board of the University. The delegation had an inspiring session with researchers from the Network Institute consisting of Academy Assistants, PhD students and senior academic staff. Topics of discussion were the social effects of the increasing digitisation of society, and the roles and responsibilities of citizens and government in this process. They were impressed with how successful the Network Institute is in bridging the gap between different academic disciplines, and how it uses this interdisciplinary setting to study questions with a high social relevance.

VU voorop met interdisciplinair onderzoek

Michel ter Hark, decaan Geesteswetenschappen, vindt dat nergens zo gemakkelijk interdisciplinaire vraagstukken lijken te ontstaan als aan de VU. De organisatie van het onderzoek in de vorm van iOzi’s draagt hier zeker toe bij. Maar het aantal iOzi’s dat behalve interdisciplinair ook interfacultair is, is beperkt en juist hier liggen de kansen van onderzoeksgebonden onderwijs dat aansluit bij de brede belangstelling van bachelorstudenten.

Lees zijn blog.

Piek Vossen en Frank van Harmelen lid van de KNAW

Piek Vossen, prominent lid van het Netwerk Instituut, en Frank van Harmelen, lid en voormalig directeur van het Netwerk Instituut zijn beiden benoemd als leden van de Koninklijke Nederlandse Academie van Wetenschappen. De KNAW telt 550 leden uit alle geledingen van de wetenschap, en leden worden voor het leven benoemd.

Frank van Harmelen is hoogleraar kennisrepresentatie en redeneren aan de Afdeling Informatica. Hij is een prominent onderzoeker op het gebied van de kunstmatige intelligentie. Het doel van zijn onderzoek is dat computers zelf kunnen denken en redeneren. Daarvoor moet informatie op een voor computers logische manier beschikbaar zijn. Van Harmelen is een van de grondleggers van het zogeheten semantische web, een beschrijving van informatie op het internet waarmee computers aan de slag kunnen. De regels voor een semantisch web zijn inmiddels opgenomen in de standaarden voor www. Ook maakte Van Harmelen met zijn groep de Nederlandse richtlijn voor borstkanker begrijpelijk voor computers.

Piek Vossen is hoogleraar computationele lexicologie. Hij ontwikkelt computermodellen die taal begrijpen. Vossen leidde EuroWordNet, een project waarbij woorden in acht talen via hun betekenis met elkaar verbonden worden en samen een groot netwerk (spinnenweb) vormen. Computers gebruiken zulke netwerken om het verschil te zien tussen bijvoorbeeld bank als spaarbank en zitbank in een tekst. Verder wordt Vossen beschouwd als de belangrijkste Nederlandse onderzoeker op het gebied van text-mining. Hij bedacht de ‘Geschiedenisrecorder’: een computersysteem dat massaal nieuwsberichten leest, gebeurtenissen herkent en aan elkaar koppelt om zo automatisch de geschiedenis over jaren vast te leggen. Vossen werkte zo’n tien jaar in het bedrijfsleven voor zijn bliksemcarrière in de wetenschap begon.


Tech Labs VR featured in Discovery Channel documentary

As most of you have probably seen in the Tech Labs Newsletters, the Tech Labs have been working on a virtual neighborhood for studying burglary. These studies are a collaboration between the NSCR (Jean-Louis van Gelder), the University of Porstmouth (Claire Nee) and the Network Institute’s Tech Labs (Marco Otte). The previous version of the Virtual Environment was used in several studies including one carried out in British prisons using actual criminals.

Discovery Channel made a short documentary of this study which features our virtual neighborhood.

At the moment we are working on the second version of the neighborhood featuring many more houses with different features offering an even more realistic environment to use in studies.

VU Regreening research exhibited at the Museon

The VU research on Regreening features in the new permanent exhibition of the Museon in The Hague. The exhibition interactively visualizes the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030. As content partner of the Museon, the W4RA programme of VU has contributed ideas, visuals and texts for the exposition related to SDG No. 15, entitled Plant in het Zand – Regreening. [more…]

Web Science Trust celebrates 10 year anniversary

2016 marks the tenth anniversary of the academic discipline of Web Science.
The authors called for the new discipline of Web Science to be inherently interdisciplinary, to tackle research challenges around ownership and access to data, and to provide better understanding of the social and publicpolicy challenges that can determine the transformative value of the information available on the Web.

This volume celebrates Web Science in all its manifestation and the many directions in which it has developed over the 10 years of its existence. It highlights the events and institutions which continue to support its future development and, most importantly, the people of Web Science – from leading researchers to students around the world, with their hopes for the future. It celebrates the global network of WSTNet labs whose support has enabled Web Science to promote distinctive agendas – from Tsinghua in China to the Annenberg Network in California. It charts some of the key landmarks achieved in research, education, and thought leadership, and looks forward to what can be expected in the future from Web Science and its growing community.


Course High Performance Computing @VU

Is modelling on your pc taking longer than getting a cup of coffee? Take now this four day course on High Performance Computing from 3-20 October at the VU.

The objective of this course is to learn how to use High Performance Computing for research activities. High Performance Computing refers to the practice of aggregating computing power in a way that delivers much higher performance than one could get out of a typical desktop computer in order to solve big data analysis. In this course you will learn about tools and workflows that you can use in your research to manage big data and/or big computation tasks. After the course you will have a broader and deeper knowledge and hands-on experience with HPC and data analytics to use in your own research.

The course will combine lectures with hands-on workshops. Examples from daily practice will be used. You will learn to use Linux computers and supercomputers to deploy computationally intensive tasks. To use cloud systems and Apache Spark software on the Hadoop cluster to perform big data analyses.

The course is designed for PhD students and researchers that want to improve their data computing skills. No basic skills are required. The lectures are provided by VU researchers in cooperation with SURFsara. A similar course had very positive reactions by participants at the University of Amsterdam.

For more information and detailed course schedule see the HPC website.
Register here to this course.

International Symposium: Abstract Concepts: Debating Their Structure, Processing, and Modeling

Abstract Concepts: Debating Their Structure, Processing, and Modeling

On which dimensions of meaning do abstract and concrete concepts differ?
How does perceptual experience affect abstract concept processing and representation?
What is the role of language in shaping and indexing the content of concrete vs abstract concepts? How and in which contexts are abstract concepts understood through metaphors?

Abstract concepts are a controversial and widely debated topic, within the theoretical discussion about the embodied vs symbolic nature of language and meaning.
The aim of this project is to bring together current views about the structure, processing, and modeling of abstract concepts.

Eight eminent scholars have been invited to Amsterdam to discuss the nature, structure, processing, and modeling of abstract concepts in various disciplines.
During the symposium the panelists will present in turn their view and will receive structured comments (prepared in advance) from their peers. A general discussion among all panelists and the audience will follow.

Invited Keynote Speakers and Provisional titles

  • Prof. Friedemann Pulvermueller – Concrete mechanisms for abstract meaning
  • Prof. Gun Semin – The place of metaphors in the order of things
  • Prof. Piek Vossen – Granularity and identity of event descriptions
  • Dr. Diane Pecher – Curb your embodiment
  • Prof. Max Louwerse – Language statistics explain conceptual processing
  • Prof. Alessandro Lenci – The Emotions of Abstracts: A Distributional Semantic Analysis
  • Prof. Ken McRae – Situations, perceptual information and abstract concepts
  • Prof. Gabriella Vigliocco – Learning and processing abstract concepts: the role of language and the role of emotion

Call for Papers
Given the structure and program of the symposium, with 8 keynote speakers, submissions are welcome and encouraged for poster presentations. Posters will be displayed on the conference venue for the whole day, and the delegates will be able to comment and discuss the posters over the lunch break, which will take place at the conference venue.

Applicants are asked to submit (max) 250 words abstracts and register online through the symposium website:

Submission deadline: 15th September
Notification of acceptance: 30th September
Symposium date: 18th November

The event is organized by the COGVIM project team (EU Marie Curie IEF, awarded to Dr Marianna Bolognesi – n° 629076) and sponsored by ABC Amsterdam Brain and Cognition, Network Institute, and KNAW Dutch Royal Academy of Science.