Making sense of digital spaghetti

CLARIAH and Utrecht University are putting together a two-week immersion course on getting to grips with Big Data.

Location: Utrecht & Woudenberg
Date: 4-jan-2016 - 15-jan-2016
Time: 9:00 (welcome with coffee)


Increasingly, research in all disciplines, from the natural sciences to social sciences and humanities, involves big data. The availability of vast amounts of textual, audio-visual and structured data from digital sources is revolutionizing research in the humanities and social sciences. The most advanced scholarship in these areas, currently and in the foreseeable future, relies on the use of sophisticated tools for accessing, processing, analysing and presenting this data.

General goals

CLARIAH, together with University College Utrecht, offer a short two-week module in which we give a small group of undergraduate, graduate students, and professional researchers the opportunity to gain familiarity and experience with some common approaches to handling very large datasets. Together, we’ll use a batch of current Twitter™ data as a vehicle for practicing computational thinking, and the general concepts that data analysis with computers involves.

As part of an inclusive approach to large-scale research, this module stimulates the kind of thinking that CLARIAH hopes to engender: basic programming techniques, the use of multiple paradigms to solve problems, drawing on reasoning, logic, analysis, hypothesis-testing, and formal problem-solving methods, enabling all researchers, regardless of discipline, to engage fully with their own research.

Course format

The first week takes place in the computer lab at University College Utrecht, where participants are introduced to the basic concepts necessary for the project. We have themed sessions on, for example, command line scripting, regular expressions, and introduction to Python, R and LaTeX.

In the second week, we go residential in Woudenberg, in the province of Utrecht. Here, we work in small groups on we work on four different themes, and the module culminates in the group execution of a project where we analyse a large data set, extract relevant information from it in an automatic fashion, display it visually, and make our work transparent and useful for others. There is a focus on team-forming and project work, and at the end of the week, our work will be brought together in one coherent result of which everyone can, rightfully, be proud!

Contact information

If you’re interested in joining the course, please send a brief statement about your goals in the course (not more than 100 words), to Rosemary Orr (), who will process your application and get back to you.