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Text Mining Parliamentary Data Seminar: What is Really Going on?

Time Thursday 14 October, 2021 at 17:00 - 19:00
Place ZOOM - registration required

What is going on in parliaments is often difficult to work out: sometimes what appears to be happening on the surface disguises a lot of things that are happening on underneath it. The meaning of any particular speech-act (or indeed other intervention) is not always as it is presented. Quite apart from the natural complexity of legislation itself, there are always sub-texts of even greater complexity. One piece of business may be artificially extended in order to prevent something else happening; procedural debates are used to advance or resist particular political agendas; legislators may say something different to what they think because of particular circumstances; they may be speaking beyond their colleagues on the benches to audiences outside, in their constituencies or through the newspapers. Speakers can be ironic or elliptical; they may use jokes which make no sense if you weren’t there; they may refer to something going on on the chamber floor which we can no longer reconstruct, or respond to unrecorded comments or heckling. Recorded speeches have already been rendered into more or less coherent sense by Hansard writers, often accidentally disguising some of the uncertainty of the speech itself. How do those who record debates deal with the complex inter-textuality (as it were) of what is happening on the floor of a chamber? Can one use digital sources to help to work out what is really going on?




Tim Hitchcock, University of Sussex, UK, “Historical speech in three dimensions - the Old Bailey courtroom as a performance space”

Parliaments, courts, theatres, and churches - they all witnessed complex, highly choreographed verbal exchanges, that have come down to us as flat printed text. By reconstructing the courtroom as a precise digital space, and coding for speech and speakers it becomes possible to reconstruct the dynamic interchange that preceded print. This presentation suggests that by adding speech and space to the Old Bailey Proceedings the changing character of the historical trial can be revealed and evidenced.


Josephine Hoegaerts, Helsinki University, Finland, “Sound readings, sensuous recordings. Attending to the senses in transcripts of political speech”

Records of political speech - like parliamentary reports such as Hansard or the Annales Parlementaires, but also reports of public speech in the press - are most readily seen as transcripts of discourse. They have been analysed for their content, their ideological charge, their style, their cultural connotations, but they also contain important clues about the embodied behaviour that accompanied political speech, and perhaps most notably about the acoustic aspects of political speech and its practices. Approaching them as recordings, and not only as records, opens up new avenues of research in political practice and performance, including for those periods that precede audio-visual technology. Relying on the new possibilities offered by digitized records as well as sound studies approaches to recording, I hope to gesture toward some of those avenues.


Kaspar Beelen and Maria Coll Ardanuy, Turing Institute, UK, “Studying parliamentary discourse at scale requires a more profound analysis of texts”

One that goes beyond the surface structure (i.e. the sequence of words) and penetrates the level of meaning, taking into account the subtle distinctions and ambiguities that permeate the language of MPs. In this presentation, we demonstrate how computational methods can assist with the semantic analysis of historical texts, focussing on fine-grained sense detection in nineteenth century documents. We also show that making methods and models sensitive to time—the historical context in which texts were produced—generally improves the accuracy of automatic sense disambiguation.


Registration and Participation 

This session is held in ZOOM and to participate you will need to register. Sign up using the form below to recieve a link to the meeting.




Organizer: Humlab
Event type: Lecture
Fredrik Norén
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