Talk from Professor Martin Volk and Panel Discussion on ChatGPT

Talk from Professor Martin Volk and Panel Discussion on ChatGPT

Professor Martin Volk introduces his project an explores some of the current uses of large language models such as ChatGPT in the Digital Humanities and speculates about future opportunities.

  • When: Thursday 13th April 2023, 2pm to 4pm
  • Where: Room 01-W332 - Forgan Smith Building, UQ, St Lucia

Please register your attendance so we can adhere to room capacity. If you find you are no longer able to attend after you have registered, please cancel your tickets.

About this event

Keynote speaker: Professor Martin Volk (University of Zurich)

Over the last couple of years our team at the University of Zurich has worked on the digitization of the correspondence of 16th century reformer Heinrich Bullinger ( Around 2000 letters that he wrote and another 10,000 letters that he received have been preserved. 3000 of these letters have been professionally transcribed, edited and published as PDFs in recent decades. Another 5000 letters have been transcribed by various scholars over the years. We turned all of this into a large XML corpus of 3 million words in Latin and 1 million in Early New High German.

In collaboration with the Zurich cantonal archive and the Zurich central library we had all letters scanned so that we can provide images of the originals next to the transcriptions. We ran 2000 of the remaining 4000 letters through automatic handwriting recognition (HTR) with character error rates between 5% and 8%. We also built a machine translation system to convert the 16th-century Latin into German.

With the advent of ChatGPT new opportunities arose: Its machine translation capabilities surpass Google Translate on Latin to German, and it also translates the old German variety surprisingly well into modern German (or English). Moreover the GPT technology offers suggestions for comments and footnotes for the historical letters.

In this talk I will introduce our project and demonstrate our search system. I will show examples of ChatGPT usage, and I will speculate about future opportunities for large language models in the Digital Humanities.

Martin Volk is a professor of Computational Linguistics at the University of Zurich. His research focuses on multilingual systems, in particular on Machine Translation. His group has been investigating domain adaptation techniques for statistical machine translation, discourse-aware machine translation, hybrid machine translation for lesser resourced languages (in particular Quechua), and machine translation into Swiss sign language. He is also known for his work on machine translation of film and TV subtitles where he has been involved in developing and implementing machine translation systems for English and the Scandinavian languages.

Martin Volk holds a Masters in Artificial Intelligence from the University of Georgia (USA) and a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Koblenz-Landau (Germany). He has been lecturer on language technology at the Dolmetscherschule Zurich from 1999 until 2002 and professor of Computational Linguistics at Stockholm University from 2003 to 2011.


Dr Luke Munn (UQ) is a Research Fellow in Digital Cultures & Societies at the University of Queensland. His wide-ranging work investigates the sociocultural impacts of digital cultures, from data infrastructures in Asia to platform labor and far-right radicalisation, and has been featured in highly regarded journals such as Cultural Politics, Big Data & Society, and New Media & Society as well as popular forums like the Guardian, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post. He has written five books: Unmaking the Algorithm (2018), Logic of Feeling (2020), Automation is a Myth (2022), Countering the Cloud (2022), and Technical Territories (2023 forthcoming). His work combines diverse digital methods with critical analysis that draws on media, race, and cultural studies.

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