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.

Wereldprimeur: robots planten zich voort

Science fiction become reality: Professor Guszti Eiben (Vrije University Amsterdam, Artificial Intelligence) and his team have for the first time ever succeeded in creating robots that can procreate themselves.

This break-through is an important first step in Industrail Evolution and could play a major role in a future colonization of the planet Mars. On May 26, 2016 during the Campus Party at the Jaarbeurs in Utrecht, two of Eiben’s robots mated and the first robot baby was revealed.

Because of this method of reproduction the robots not only are able to evolve their brains, but also their bodies. The robot-parents search and choose a suitable partner with certain desirable characteristics to improve the intelligence and physical form in their offspring. They adapt to their surroundings and the tasks their have to fulfill. This ability to evolve makes these robots suitable for use in environments that are not clearly defined at the start, like under water mines or other planets.

[bron: VU]

Watch the video below are explore the links below to learn more about this project.

News article on Scientias (Dutch)
Full text on the VU web site (Dutch)
Prof Guszti Eiben’s web site with additional links


From Dream to Realities: Adapting History in the Assassin’s Creed video game series

The past is a puzzle of which we lost most pieces and miss the art cover. Maxime Durand will introduce us to the unique method developed by the Ubisoft teams working on the Assassins Creed. They mastered to interpret the past through breathtaking digital environments. From assumed inaccuracies to unnoticeable historical details, the procedure is complex but rewarding with tens of millions of fans.
Since 2007, Ubisoft has produced the Assassins Creed video game series set in different historical periods such as the Italian Renaissance, the French revolution and Victorian England. These games have become globally renowned for their detailed historical settings, based on the historical research of Ubisoft’s in-house historians.

Lecture From Dream to Realities: Adapting History in the Assassin’s Creed video game series

  • 15:00-16:30 in 14A-00
  • 16:30-17:30 in 12A-37 drinks and workshop presentations


Click here to download the full poster

InNet presents at The Network Society Conference

One group presenting at the VU Lustrum (see below) will show off their demo of visualizing networked data using the Network Institute as source. Check out their online demo at:

The VU is organising next Friday, 18 March, 12h30-17h30.

With speakers like Piek Vossen (on his NewsReader), Herbert Bos (on white hackers), and Anna Bon (on ICT4Development),
and with workshops on Social Media in organisations, on the implications of digitisation for the modern city, and on the ethics of AI (among others), this promises to be a very interesting event, with a very prominent Network Institute flavour.

Hope to see you all on the afternoon of next Friday, 18 March in the Auditorium in the main buidling.
Register here:


Mark Hoogendoorn and Heleen Riper on Radio Swammerdam

On Sunday 6 March, Mark Hoogendoorn (Computational Intelligence Group at the VU) and Heleen Riper (Professor of e-Mental Health at the Faculty of Behavioral and Movement Sciences at the VU) were interviewed for Radio Swammerdam, the scientific radio program of Amsterdam FM. During the program, the possibilities and challenges of Big Data in the domain of (e-)health were discussed. The complete recording of the program (in Dutch) can be found on the website of Amsterdam FM.


Reminder: Guide to the network society

We warmly recommend the event that the VU is organising next Friday, 18 March, 12h30-17h30.

With speakers like Piek Vossen (on his NewsReader), Herbert Bos (on white hackers), and Anna Bon (on ICT4Development),
and with workshops on Social Media in organisations, on the implications of digitisation for the modern city, and on the ethics of AI (among others), this promises to be a very interesting event, with a very prominent Network Institute flavour.

Hope to see you all on the afternoon of next Friday, 18 March in the Auditorium in the main buidling.
Register here:


Southampton Web Science – Research Exchange Meeting

Southampton Web Science – Network Institute Amsterdam Research Exchange Meeting
Thursday 31 March and Friday 01 April 2016 at VU Amsterdam

We invite you to an interdisciplinary research exchange meeting between young researchers and senior staff of the Southampton U Web Science Institute and the Network Institute Amsterdam, to be held Thursday 31 March and Friday 01 April 2016 at VU Amsterdam.
Both institutes happen to share a very similar interdisciplinary research philosophy covering multiple faculties (ranging from informatics/computer science, various social sciences, to linguistics and humanities).
The idea behind the meeting is to share interdisciplinary research experiences and approaches, enrich our understanding of them and, even more ambitiously, actually getting some collaborative interdisciplinary research done. Evidently we hope that this will lead (1) to strengthen views on how to do high-quality interdisciplinary research; (2) hopefully, to more long term-collaborations between our institutes.

Provisional programme
Thursday 31 March

09.30 Welcome and Opening
09.30-12.00 Your Current Research – Plenary: short pitches + poster/demo market
Everyone: making yourself known: prepare a brief (1-minute madness) pitch + poster (and/or demo) on the research you are doing. (Your posters will be publicized on the institute websites).
12.00-13.30 Lunch
13.30-14.00 Kick-off challenge research work in groups
The idea is to work on a number of outstanding and interesting interdisciplinary research challenges in small (around 4) and mixed (location as well as discipline) teams during the exchange meeting. For a preliminary idea of the research challenges, see below.
14.00-16.30 Self-work session I on research challenge in project groups
16.30-17.30 Invited talk
17h30- …  Dinner plus social event somewhere at a nice place in Amsterdam

Please appreciate that the “small hours” in Amsterdam easily become pretty BIG, but that the next morning we will start 09.30 (as if nothing has happened). 

Friday 01 April:
09.30-10.15 Plenary: Brief reporting back on progress by all research challenge groups
About 5 minutes per challenge/group
10.15 -12.30 Self-work session II on research challenge in project groups
And in parallel: Break-out senior staff meeting Web Science I – Network I.
12.30-13.30 Lunch
13.30-15.30 Plenary: Presentations on work on research challenges by all project groups
So tentatively, about 15 minutes for each challenge/group.
15.30-16.30 Plenary discussion of future collaboration: themes & methods
16.30 Closure

BTW: Not yet formally scheduled, but the Network Institute will ensure coffee (for the Dutch-inclined) and tea (for the English-inclined) during the whole meeting.

We cater for around 20 participants from Southampton and a similar number from Amsterdam.

The organizers:
Prof. Leslie Carr, Southampton
Prof. Susan Halford, Southampton
Prof. Frank van Harmelen, Amsterdam
Dr. Ivar Vermeulen, Amsterdam
Prof. Hans Akkermans, Amsterdam

Interdisciplinary Research Challenges in Web/Network Science (draft 2)
This is a preliminary longlist of interdisciplinary research challenges people may like to work on.


  • Background: Around 16 Southampton PhD students and around 4 faculty members will visit the Network Institute on March 31 / April 01
  • In Amsterdam they will be met by a similar number of PhD students / Academy Assistants and faculty members
  • In a Skype meeting both sides agreed that the main part of the two-day exchange should consist of a project wherein students would be divided in around 8 mixed (i.e., South/A’dam; computer/social science; seniority) groups of 4 and work on a web/network science challenge.
  • The following is a suggestion for some of these challenges as well as the general approach.


  • Challenges should be interesting, demanding, require hard thinking, and be fun!
  • Challenges should require an interdisciplinary approach.
  • Challenges should be methodologically focused (concepts, theory, methods, tools, data, ethics; concentrating on all or part of this process)
  • Groups are expected to provide indicative outputs/outcomes from their methodological investigation.
  • Presentations are limited to about 10 minutes
  • Support: groups should have access to web data via e.g. the Southampton Web Observatory, the VU LODLaundromat & others.

Example Challenges:

  1. Describe Donald Trump in one characteristic word or phrase. How does this change over time? How does this change per target group?
  2. What characterizes news stories that first emerge through social media (rather than trough the official news media)?
  3. If you would be a refugee from Syria, which EU country should you go to? (cross-platform examination of government policy, social and economic opportunities, racism, etc).
  4. Which word elicits most anger? (How can we understand emotion online? How do different techniques of sentiment analysis characterize emotion).
  5. How is Amsterdam represented online? [beyond geotags, key words, photographs perhaps, representations by different communities – different vernacular geographies).
  6. What measures of consumer confidence might we find on social media? Do they differ, and if so in what ways, from conventional data (such as surveys)?
  7. Can one actually predict next week’s hype on social media such as Twitter?
  8. What is it (contentwise, empirically) that makes a pop song a “hit”?
  9. What characterizes jokes on Twitter that are widely perceived as “very funny”?
  10. Does the Web have anything to say on what are the most important success factors for startups? How does this differ from traditional theory and advice from business schools, banks/investors, consultancies, chambers of commerce etc?
  11. These days, almost any city in the world is proclaimed to be “smart”. Is it possible to devise a measure as to the degree of smartness of cities in a way that can be empirically grounded through Web data?
  12. Civil society, citizen engagement: The Web is often positioned as an instrument for empowerment and democratic debate (e.g. by TBL himself). Countervoices claim however that digital debates such as on social media are often hijacked by the most noisy, with often extreme opinions, and so in fact reduce (representative) democracy. Q: How can one give some grounding on this issue of the Web as an instrument (or not) for democracy?
  13. A global issue: What is it to be “poor”, or “disadvantaged” or “underprivileged”? A common definition is that being poor = having to live off an income less than 2 dollars a day. This definition comes from various global institutional sources. But what do “the poor” themselves think of this? What evidence do the Web and social media give on their perspective on this global issue?

The organizers

Network Institute evaluated “very positively”

The recent national evaluation report on the quality of Computer Science research in The Netherlands speaks very positively about the role of the Network Institute. The Network Institute is mentioned repeatedly in the evaluation of the Computer Science research groups at both VU and UvA, and praises the focus on interdisciplinary research:
“A  major  result  […]  is  the  establishment  of  the  “Network Institute”,  an  interdisciplinary  research  collaboration  concerned  with  the  Networked  World. The  institute  includes  the  impact  of  networks  on  issues  related  to  security  and  privacy.  Its cross-­‐disciplinary  character  is  apparent  as  it  also  includes  the  faculties  of  Humanities,  of  Economics  and  Business,  and  of  Social  Sciences.”

This echo’s a similar view by the research evaluation committee for Communication Sciences in 2015, which also spoke highly of the added value of the Network Institute for the research in the Department.


“Organizing for Digital Innovation” workshop

KIN Research hosts international workshop ‘Organizing for Digital Innovation’ – March 11 & 12
19 February 2016
Several of the world’s thought leaders in (managing) digital innovation will meet in Amsterdam on 11 and 12 March at the workshop ‘Organizing for Digital Innovation’, that is hosted by KIN Research. Dick Boland, Ola Henfridsson, Youngjin Yoo, Michael Barrett, Raghu Garud, Patrick Cohendet and Brian Pentland are among the list of international renowned academics who join the workshop to present and discuss their latest work and to craft an agenda for future research that includes digital innovation in communities and ecosystems, digital products, services and infrastructures, digital work practices and routines, and strategy and digitalization.