By Simon Mahony, on 8 December 2018
I was reminded recently of my Classics background and about the link between art and technology, how new technological advances would push forward the development of, particularly, the plastic arts. The same is true now and I was delighted to be invited to speak at CAFA, the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, at their International Conference on Education, Art, Science and Technology.
My keynote talk, ‘Digital Humanities teaching and Research at UCL: connecting the curriculum’, was part of their Global Landscape session and followed by a panel on engaging pedagogy with art-based research. This was their 2nd EAST Season with a long-term objective to create a global alliance of art and technology institutions, research and education centres to spread and exchange ideas. The conference brought together practitioners and researchers, technologists and educators, design and gallery professionals. Live translation made the talks accessible to all.
CAFA is currently celebrating its 100th anniversary.
I was also asked to run a workshop to introduce an understanding of some aspect of digital humanities. I chose, what is to my mind, one of our distinguishing features and that is our cross-disciplinary nature and the importance of collaborative working. My aim was to introduce the concept of collaborative writing with a practical to develop skills needed for multi-authored documents.
So, a talk on the importance of group work followed by a writing-sprint; in small groups they were tasked to write a short piece with a choice of either a short story or something about their experience of the conference. All the groups chose the short story option and managed an impressive output which they presented, as groups, after 90 minutes. The participants had wide ranging backgrounds and were almost all staff and professionals. The stories revolved around a fascination with AI, robotics and gender, fantasy and dreams. Google docs (which I would normally use) is, of course blocked in China and they introduced me to their equivalent: Shimo. I learn new things and make new contacts at every trip.
By Simon Mahony, on 1 December 2018
UCLDH hosted its second hackathon focusing this time on visualising museum data sets. This was organised in partnership with the Media Centre and the Chair of Didactics of Computer Sciences of the TU Dresden. See also their news post.
The prize-winning participants, students from the Digital Humanities programme and from TU Dresden, produced a really interesting collaborative project: UrbanHitory3D combining AR with historical images of Dresden.
Many thanks to all those who helped to organise the event and to support the students with their project development. Thanks also to Dresden 2025 for their generous sponsoring of the prize being awarded in the photo.
By Simon Mahony, on 1 November 2018
One of the nice things about having working partnerships with other institutions is that you get invited to their events. When the invitation is from the Postal Museum for a Mail Rail event you get to explore their underground museum, enjoy their hospitality but even more importantly, you get to ride on the underground Mail Train (now converted to take passengers rather than mail sacks).
These are the tunnels under London where the mail from the Mount Pleasant sorting office (in the background of the image) that was destined for London would be sorted and distributed by a network of underground tunnels.
With a colleague from UCLDH, we met with their CEO and researchers, enjoyed their hospitality, discussed possible collaborations while eagerly awaiting our turn on the train.
The network was, of course, built to carry mail sacks and so the carriages are necessarily small to fit in the narrow tunnels, so this no place for the claustrophobic.
We have had students at the Postal Museum for several years now and riding the mail train has always been identified in their reports and one of the highlights. And all just a short walk from UCL.
By Simon Mahony, on 1 November 2018
I was very pleased to be invited back to the Shanghai Library and this time to speak in the Digital Humanities strand of the 9th Shanghai International Library Forum (SILF 2018). The municipal library of Shanghai is the second largest public/research library in China (after the National Library in Beijing) and also houses the Shanghai Institute of Scientific and Technical Information.
The building is certainly impressive and a fitting venue for an extremely wide-ranging conference. I felt privileged to be included among the VIP foreign speakers.
The theme for the conference was ‘Library for All: Towards a Smarter and Inclusive Society’ with eight sub-themes including ‘smart age and smart libraries’, ‘the transformation and innovation of libraries in the age of the “internet+”‘, ‘design ideas in libraries’ and more. My session, ‘digital humanities and library services’ allowed me to talk about and highlight some of the important initiatives taking place in the West: Open Access, Open Publishing and Open Science.
And that context gave a welcome opportunity to once again showcase UCL Press with its strong stand on open and the recent celebration of 1 million downloads.
It was particularly pleasing to be able to be joined at the conference by two DIS students: Yamin Fu, who gave an excellent paper, taken from her PhD research, titled ‘Cognitive mapping in exploring library user experiences’, and a completing MSc Information Studies student, Yifan Wang. My thanks to them both for the photos of me above and for making sure that I didn’t get lost (too often).
As always, the hospitality was exemplary with a VIP welcome dinner plus a conference banquet featuring the many multi-talented library professionals demonstrating skills ranging from calligraphy, a traditional tea ceremony, modern and traditional dancing (not all at the same time). The conference was rounded off with a visit to the original Shanghai Library in Yangpu, which has recently been opened to the public after considerable restoration. Do take a look at the images on the website link.
The Digital Humanities research team at the Shanghai Library are involved in an impressive array of research projects with much of their output and many data sets freely and openly available. They produced a document flyer for the conference: From Digital Library to Digital Humanities – The Practice of Shanghai Library and I include images of that here.
By Rudolf Ammann, on 26 October 2018
Earlier this week: Melissa Terras presents her work at the Cambridge University Press Bookshop in Cambridge. (Photo credit: @AnneWelsh)
UCLDH’s co-founder and former director Melissa Terras launched two open-access books of hers during this year’s Open Access Week: Picture-Book Professors: Academia and Children’s Literature from Cambridge University Press and The Professor in Children’s Literature: An Anthology from Fincham Press.
In the research presented, Melissa studies the representation of academics in juvenile literature from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. She lays out her findings in an academic monograph [free PDF] and supplements this work with an anthology of selected out-of-copyright works [free PDF].
In a post today Melissa notes on open access book publishing in the humanities:
We are at a juncture where the sands are shifting: the major funders and government bodies are moving towards requirements for open access monographs. We don’t have a choice; we have to embrace these requirements, but there is a lot of work yet to be done about who will pay the costs for production. I believe that most universities could afford to absorb the costs of open access monograph production, much in the same way that they pay for lab costs or scientific equipment: it should be viewed as a centrally borne cost necessary for creating and sharing academic knowledge. It shouldn’t happen that individuals are asked to pay these costs themselves, as that is untenable. I can see people are concerned about how their personal costs will be met — and it is up to universities and presses to grapple with this. The danger is the open access premium: that only those who can afford to publish in open access will reap the benefits of having their work made accessible to a wide audience, and we have to keep our eyes open to that, as the academy needs diverse voices (as Picture-Book Professors and The Professor in Children’s Literature say!)
By Lucy J Stagg, on 28 September 2018
UCLDH is delighted to have two team members giving UCL Lunch-Hour Lectures this term.
Team member Dr. Rachele De Felice will be discussing ‘What’s Really Going On in Hillary Clinton’s Emails?’ on 16 October 2018. Dr De Felice will explore questions of manners, who gets stuck with the boring tasks, and what kind of boss Clinton is.
Dr Oliver Duke-Williams will speak on 27th November on ‘What Can the ONS Longitudinal Study Tell Us about Time Travel and about the Force?’ Dt Duke-Williams will outline what the study is and explain how to apply to use it by drawing on two examples: the film Back To The Future; and the Star Wars films.
The UCL Lunch-Hour lectures are free and open to the public, but booking is recommended. Lectures are also live streamed. The UCL Events page explains:
Lunch Hour Lectures are an opportunity for anyone to sample the exceptional research work taking place at UCL, in bite sized chunks. Speakers are drawn from across the university, and lectures frequently showcase new research and recent academic publications.
By Lucy J Stagg, on 24 August 2018
The journal Heritage Science has released a video abstract of the paper UCLDH team members co-authored on advanced imaging for investigating inscribed papyrus in mummy cartonnage.
By Simon Mahony, on 28 July 2018
When we think about Digital Humanities from our base here at UCL, it is all too easy to think about the anglophone world and the predominance of Western Europe and North America, and particularly the UK, USA and Canada. So, it was good to see this year’s ADHO conference being held in Mexico City at UNAM (DH2018) as a move to a more global digital humanities. With its theme, “PUENTES/BRIDGES”, it was also pleasing to see to that the organisers had taken a multi-lingual approach with proposals, presentations and conference material in languages other than just English. This was the first ADHO conference in Latin America and the global south.
I was very pleased to be able to visit UNAM, Isabel Galina Russell and the National Library last year and so I was not too disappointed in not being able to attend DH2018 – although I did miss networking and catching up with many DH friends and colleagues. Instead, two weeks earlier, I took the opportunity to move beyond the anglophone world myself and presented a paper at the main DH event in China, held for the third time at UCL’s strategic partner Peking University (PKU).
The 3rd Peking University Digital Humanities Forum had the theme: ‘Incubation and Application: How Digital Humanities Projects Cater to Academic Needs’. I had the full experience of what it must be like to attend an English speaking conference if you do not speak the language – everything was in Chinese with no translations. I was the only ‘foreigner’ (non-Chinese) at the Forum which also had several speakers from Taiwan and Chinese scholars based in the USA.
Although mine was the only non-Mandarin presentation, there were a surprising number of familiar words in many of the others (metadata, big data, linked data and several others, again pointing to the dominance of the English language in our field). My presentation was in collaboration with my Chinese PhD student, Jin Gao (who could not attend as she was presenting her work at DH2018), and benefited from her translations to enable bilingual (English and Mandarin) slides to aid the audience.
I was not alone and so all was well; there were many friends there and hosts from my earlier networking visits to Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan and Nanjing – I was not short of company. In addition, the day before the Forum I had been invited to give a presentation to the DH group at Renmin (The People’s) University in the School of Information Resource Management, following their visit to UCL DIS last year.
The delegates from Renmin very kindly picked me up from my hotel and dropped me back after dinner – always worrying that this ‘foreigner’ might get lost. I explained that I was a seasoned traveler (and sailor) so there was no problem, except perhaps crossing the road! Renmin is not far from PKU and I had strategically picked a hotel midway on the road that linked the two. PKU is a large and sprawling campus and so I was very grateful for being so well looked after. For anyone wondering about visiting China, their hospitality is exceptional and they are very welcoming to foreign visitors.
There was, in addition, a DIS student from the Information Science programme at the Forum and a PhD candidate from King’s Department of Digital Humanities who between them, together with their phone camera translations of the slides, updated me with what was being said.
The visit to PKU was rounded off with a talk in the PKU Faculty of Social Sciences.
And, of course and as always, the Beijing visit was completed with a dinner in the warm company of former students.
By Simon Mahony, on 9 July 2018
I was very pleased to be able to accept an invitation to speak at the 2018 World Historical & Cultural Cities Expo in Nanjing in May. The organisers (Traditionow – Xihan Action) have a strategic partnership with UNESCO to protect the World historical & cultural cities and their cultural heritage. Xian Action is an NGO working on the protection and promotion of intangible heritage, especially handcraft technique, knowledge and recreation.
There is a danger that in an industrialised and fast developing society that traditional crafts and skills will be lost. This two-day event, Forum of Dynamic Inheritance of Intangible Cultural Heritage, had presentations from academics, craft practitioners and entrepreneurs, all interested in cultural heritage and its preservation. I was able to draw on UCLDIS colleagues’ oral history research, emphasising the importance of talking to craft practitioners to protect the skill’s memory; I used the traditional craft of paper-cutting as a case study and specifically the unusual ‘black paper cutting’ from the Nangou Village where the older inhabitants live in caves decorated with their work.
As part of the event, there was a really inspiring exhibition of traditional craft work, which also included modern interpretations of traditional design work.
This trip allowed another opportunity to enjoy the hospitality of Nanjing University and the Digital Humanities research group there. This included a guest lecture to staff and students in the Faculty of Arts and Cultural studies as well as meetings in their Institute of Advanced Studies of Social Science and Humanities to discuss possible future collaborations and further visits.
By Lucy J Stagg, on 6 July 2018
UCLDH are delighted to be offering three 4-day RTI training courses this summer. There are still a few spaces left on each of the dates – book now to avoid disappointment!
During the course you will cover the complete RTI digital imaging work flow, from planning to archiving and publication. You will gain practical knowledge about equipment, image capture setups, and software, using examples from different areas of cultural heritage. You will follow a step-by-step guide through processing the images and how to use different viewing modes to examine details of the image.
These courses are perfect for: museum, library, and photographic staff working in conservation and education; archaeologists, historians, and anyone working with collections; anyone interested in Reflectance Transformation Imaging technology and its practical application.
You can find dates and booking details on the UCLDH website.