Postgraduate: September 11; Irish painters; text mining

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The Independent Online

More than 2,000 survivors of the September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre are to be interviewed by academics and postgraduate students.

More than 2,000 survivors of the September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre are to be interviewed by academics and postgraduate students. The researchers want to understand how the office workers behaved during the disaster. This knowledge will help architects to design safer buildings and safety officers to develop better evacuation strategies. Questions for the survivors will include: did you evacuate immediately or continue to work? When did you realise you were in danger? Did you form groups as you escaped? The three-year, £1.6m project will be run by Greenwich, Liverpool and Ulster universities, starting in September this year.

* How many Irish painters can you name? None, quite possibly - Ireland is better known for its writers. But the country has produced some interesting artists, says Professor Liam Kelly of Ulster University, who has set up an MA in Irish Visual Culture. It will consider art in its social and political context. The Troubles have, paradoxically, brought a new confidence to the visual arts in Ireland, says Professor Kelly. "Artists have wanted to tell their story. Many, from the North and the South, have been invited to exhibit internationally during this time - they are starting to take their place in the art world."

Philip Napier is one such artist. His installation, Gauge, features 14 speakers playing a recording of a voice saying sorry, each of which hangs from a weighing device whose needle seems to be measuring the sincerity of the apology. The speakers number 14 because that is how many people were killed on Bloody Sunday, says Professor Kelly. Other notable artists to be covered on the course include Willie Doherty, who has twice been nominated for the Turner Prize, and Dorothy Cross, who has worked with cow skins and udders. An example of her recent work is Storm in a Teacup, a video sequence of a floral-patterned teacup, with a black-and-white film of men rowing a traditional Irish boat superimposed.

The course will also look at the art of the mural, a feature of Northern Irish streets. "They tend to be put up quickly, and serve as a kind of communal noticeboard," says Professor Kelly. For further information, e-mail: l.kelly1@ulster.ac.uk

* Search engines such as Google are useful, but they are limited, says Professor John Keane, of Umist's computation department, who is working on this "text mining" problem. "If you tap in, for example, 'David Beckham', you will get text mentioning that name, but the programmes can't make sense of more specific requests, such as, 'not David Beckham'." Professor Keane and his colleagues are setting up a £1m text-mining centre with Manchester, Liverpool and Salford universities, whose activities will include doctoral programmes. Text miners are developing tools that will not only search known information, but make new discoveries by extracting and associating facts from myriad sources. Applications will include genome analysis and the internet.

g.mccann@independent.co.uk

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