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Managing library collections with friends, favours and a spoonful of sugar

DavidBeavan31 March 2017

Last week I had the great pleasure to host our most recent UCLDH Seminar. Our guest speaker was Claudia Mendias, Manager of the Library Digital Services team at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), who addressed a full room of DHers and Librarians from across London and beyond. Entitled ‘Managing library collections with friends, favours and a spoonful of sugar’, Claudia took us on an enlightening journey of the amazing digital content SOAS holds, and the library systems and research tools which support scholarship. From the advantages and responsibilities of open source platforms, to the systems and tools used to manage the growing digital resources within the collections, you too can enjoy the talk.


Many thanks to Claudia for agreeing to share her slides.

Museums and Virtual Reality: VR in the Grant Museum

Lucy JStagg24 March 2017

Virtual reality and augmented reality are creating new avenues of exploration for museums, allowing their visitors greater interaction with their content and materials. Nicholas Klein, Timothy Lambden and Hector Leach-Clay from UCL Natural Sciences, and Alex Muller, a UCL alumnus, recently tested a virtual reality app in UCL’s Grant Museum:

The reaction to VR:Cell at the Grant Museum was overwhelmingly positive – once people saw it they wanted to try it. Queues formed quickly at the sight of the obvious delight expressed by other visitors using the headset, as people snatched at thin air trying to grab parts of the virtual cell with big grins on their faces. Even parents were itching to try it after seeing their children’s reactions and, to our entertainment, behaved similarly to their children once they finally got to have a go!

Read more on the UCL Museums and Collections blog

The Digital Music Lab: A Big Data Infrastructure for Digital Musicology

Lucy JStagg20 March 2017

A paper describing the infrastructure of the Digital Music Lab framework has been published in the ACM Journal on Computing and Cultural Heritage (JOCCH). The paper is available to download from UCL Discovery. The project also got a write-up in Motherboard

Digital Music Lab is an AHRC project aiming to to develop research methods and software infrastructure for exploring and analysing large-scale music collections. The £560k project is being carried out collaboratively between City University London, Queen Mary University of London, University College London, and the British Library.

Digital Publishing workshop at the Shanghai Institute of Design

SimonMahony24 January 2017

I was back in Shanghai again at the close of 2016 to follow up my earlier guest lecture at the Shanghai Institute of Design with a week long workshop. They have a Master’s level programme on Digital Publishing in the Department of Digital Publishing and Exhibition Design but with little Faculty expertise on the web or Internet. After discussion with the Institute’s President and the Programme Convenor we decided on the title, ‘Getting over the Great Wall’, where I would cover the history and development of the Internet, cultural influences on design, publishing online, accessibility and usability design, and information design (it is the Institute of Design). This would be finished off with student presentations of their projects: to design a digital product (for the web or mobile device) that in some way brought together aspects of cultural difference. The cultural differences could be within China itself as none of the students had traveled outside China. The first task was to ban Flash and Dreamweaver and explain why this was the case!

This workshop, of course, also afforded the opportunity to showcase UCL.

Introducing UCL at the start of the workshop

Introducing UCL at the start of the workshop with greetings on the chalk board.

Interestingly, I’m the only one not wearing a coat here and that only happened on the first day. Not only is there no internet connection or wifi in the teaching rooms (something we take for granted) but there is no heating either – only fans (look carefully at the photos below) to keep cool in the summer; apparently south of the Yellow River building regulations permit buildings with no heating.

Students in the teaching room

Students in the teaching room – note the coats, hats and scarves.

A workstation and projector is set up in each room but my outstanding TA had to improvise as the remote control was missing (sounds familiar!). Much of my teaching material had been kindly translated by current UCLDH students but I still needed an interpreter/translator. Everything was presented in English and Chinese as they are all learning English too.

Analogue remote control in the hands of my TA

Analogue remote control in the hands of my outstanding TA & translator (Qiongpei Kong – UCL IoA alumna)

They felt sorry for me when the temperature dropped further and moved my class to the executive lecture room which has heating. The heater, however, only pointed at the lecture station and it was not possible to move it to warm the students who still needed their coats and scarves. Interestingly, no one sat in the front row (clearly a Chinese tradition too).

The executive lecture room

The executive lecture room – with heating but only for the lecturer.

As well as lectures, we had a series of group tutorials where we discussed the student projects while wearing many layers of clothing. As a Design Institute, they have very talented artists among the students. The images shown here were ideas for new style masks for the Peking Opera to encourage a younger audience. Interesting and considering how central it is to Chinese culture, only two projects featured food; others were concerned with opera, architecture, local dialects and one with traditional Chinese designs being used on sneakers.

Student tutorials

Student tutorials – here featuring a new design for Opera masks.

On the final day of the workshop, the students presented their work. Without exception, it was all visually stunning (it is the foremost Institute of Design with high academic standards) and very impressive as they only had a short time to decide on and design their projects. Overall, what they managed with only a couple of days for preparation was really outstanding.

Giving feedback at the presentations

Giving feedback at the presentations

By the end of the week, the students were relaxed and comfortable, no longer shy. Those that spoke some English took pride in talking to me and forgave my extremely limited Mandarin.

I wrapped things up with a roundup and general remarks on their work as well as some thoughts on the value of education, cultural exchange and what we can learn from each other.

Wrapping up the presentations

Wrapping up the presentations with my translator close at hand.

 

We had to schedule another half-hour at the end of the workshop for the mandatory photo session which starts with several group ones and finishes with individual and group ‘selfies’! These get shared across the Chinese social media platforms, particularly WeChat which is ubiquitous there.

Group photo

Group photo as the finale of the workshop

I need to add a few words about what I gained from this experience. Once again I enjoyed the warmth and hospitality of the Institute and particularly of the President, Professor Wu, who had invited me and who insisted on cooking (superbly and with great pride) almost every evening of my stay. But it goes further, I needed to research the history and legislation of the Internet in China, how it operates under the government’s control, legislation about Copyright and Intellectual Property and how these fit it in with the wider world. This was all new to me and will be fed into my own teaching about cultural and global differences. Above all, I learned more from the students about their culture, about their hopes and aspirations, about our similarities as well as our differences. The students were attentive and enthusiastic and I very much look forward to future visits.

Digital Classicist London seminar series

SimonMahony17 May 2016

digiclas

The Digital Classicist London seminar series

Institute of Classical Studies

Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Fridays at 16:30 in room 234

 

  • Jun 3: Gregory Crane (Leipzig & Tufts), ‘Philological Education and Citizenship in the 21st Century’
  • Jun 10: Matteo Romanello (Lausanne & DAI), ‘Of People, Places and References: Extracting information from Classics publications’
  • Jun 17: Eleanor Robson (University College London), ‘From the ground to the cloud: digital edition of freshly excavated cuneiform tablets on Oracc’
  • Jun 24: Stuart Dunn (King’s College London), ‘Reading text with GIS: Different digital lenses for Ancient World Geography’
  • Jul 1: Valeria Vitale (King’s College London), ‘The use and abuse of 3D visualisation in the study of the Ancient World’
  • Jul 8: Chiara Palladino (Leipzig & Bari), ‘Annotating geospatial patterns in ancient texts: problems and strategies’
  • Jul 15: Daniel Pett (British Museum) & George Oates (Museum in a Box), ‘3D in Museums, Museums in 3D’
  • Jul 22: Stelios Chronopoulos (Freiburg), ‘New Life into Old Courses? Using Digital Tools in Reading and Prose Composition Classes’
  • Jul 29: Silke Vanbeselaere (KU Leuven), ‘Exploring ancient sources with data visualisation’

Each seminar will offer an overview of the subject suitable for postgraduate students or interested colleagues in Archaeology, Classics, Digital Humanities and related fields, along with suggested reading, practical exercise and discussion topics. No advance preparation is required, but you will get the most out of these seminars if you check out the short bibliographies suggested on the programme website.

ALL WELCOME

A visit to the China Academy of Art, Shanghai Institute of Design

SimonMahony21 April 2016

As part of my recent visit to Shanghai, I was honoured to be the guest of the President of the China Academy of Art, Shanghai Institute of Design. The China Academy of Art (CAA) is the premier Art Academy in China and the Shanghai campus is the foremost Design Institute. Aparently the CAA is also the first art university and first graduate school in China.

Shanghai Institute of Design, China Academy of Art

Shanghai Institute of Design, China Academy of Art

During my stay I met with academics, discussed cultural differences in teaching and learning, assisted in an English language teaching session and met students showcasing their impressive work on UI design and App design in the Department of Digital Publishing and Exhibition Design.

Students at the Institute of Design

Students at the Institute of Design

I was also able to highlight some UCLDH research and students’ work in my guest lecture: ‘Designing a Digital Publishing Product’.

Guest lecture at the Institute of Design

Guest lecture at the Institute of Design

What was most impressive was the lecture poster; I was expecting A4 but, after all, this is indeed China’s premier design institute. The image was a quick draw caricture of me and the President by one of his students.

Poster: Shanghai Institute of Design

Poster: Shanghai Institute of Design

The Shanghai Zhangjiang Campus is a small one and the main parts of the university are situated at two locations in nearby Hangzhou, both with very distinctive and award winning architecture. The original campus at Nanshan overlooks the famous West Lake and the Xiangshan Central Campus (the largest site) on the outskirts of Hangzhou has become a tourist attraction in its own right and features the Crafts (Folk Art) Museum (which was unfortunately closed on the day I visited but that provides a good excuse for a follow up visit and next time to stay on that campus).

China Academy of Art, Hangzou

China Academy of Art, Hangzou

 

Guadalajara International Book Fair (FIL)

SimonMahony1 January 2016

Banner for the International Book Fair (FIL) Guadalajara

International Book Fair (FIL) Guadalajara banner

2015 was the year of Mexico in the UK and the UK in Mexico. As part of this the British Council organised a series of events including several at the Guadalajara International Book Fair (FIL) (26/11/2015 – 09/12/2015) which is the largest literary festival and most important publishing gathering in Latin America. I was invited to take part in the Academic Programme and speak at the XIX International Meeting of Educational Research organised by the Department of Educational Studies of the University of Guadalajara. I was introduced to warm Mexican hospitality and well looked after by the representatives of the British Council and also by the convenor of the Academic Programme and Head of the Department of Educational Studies, Dr. Antonio Ponce Rojo who runs a Master’s programme there.

British Council poster

British Council poster: Museums without walls

My planned talk, ‘Reflections on knowledge production within the framework of UK academic institutions’, was part of the panel ‘The Challenges of Knowledge Production in Modern Societies’ and I volunteered for a second on the following day to fill in for another speaker from the UK who had been unable to attend through illness and hastily put together ‘Digital Humanities Pedagogy: digital culture and education’ for the panel on technology in education. The second session also saw the launch of a British Council bilingual publication ‘Education Systems in Mexico and UK’ and I was very pleased to meet and to get signed copies from the two authors Lena Milosevic (British Council) and Sonia Reynaga Obregon (Universidad de Guadalajara). There will be a publication forthcoming with the talks presented at the various panels in the Academic Programme.

Among the publications I was highlighting, it was after all a book fair, was the new publication by DIS colleagues Rebecca Lyons and Samantha Rayner, ‘The Academic Book of the Future’, which featured as the finale of my first talk on knowledge production. This allowed some product placement (see photo) and for me to offer the two copies generously donated by the editors to the University library (thus ensuring them an international and trans-continental ‘impact factor’) along with some other volumes also generously donated by Ashgate publishers.

Academic panel at FIL

Academic panel at FIL (note the books on display)

The FIL itself was definitely impressive and certainly lived up to its reputation as the biggest book fair in the world after the one held at Frankfurt: so many books and so many publishers.

 

BASE KX Excursion …and a thought about Digital Humanities

NicoleIngra19 November 2015

 

Last night, there was an excursion to the BASE King’s Cross, which is a brand new innovation hub (a.k.a. a place) for people with bright ideas to come and work. There is a similar venue in Shoreditch, called IDEALondon.  From what I understood, they are part of UCL Advances, which is the entrepreneurial arm of UCL, supporting students successfully launch their business. They offer funding, free training and some interesting events – check them out!

 

BASE KX

BASE King’s Cross communal area.   Photo: Sarah Davenport

 

We also heard some interesting people talking about their business…

Playbrush is a device that you can attach to any toothbrush and it will turn your brushing routine into a fun game, where you help a tooth fairy defeat some horrible bacteria. It’s to be used by children, but yeah, some grown people might enjoy it too (no self-pointing fingers). The device is a bit pricey, but because it’s detachable and reusable, you’ll only need one per household. In case you’re interested in buying, you can use the code base15, which will give you 15% discount until the end of November. The iOS version of the game launches next week and the Android version two weeks after, and they are shipping for Christmas.

Next, there was Interesting Content.  With clients like Disney, Tesco and 7thingsmedia, they are a digital video production agency, admittedly telling stories informed by data (our BFF in DH), creating online content.  They are located at BASE King’s Cross and are also hiring! Although I don’t remember the mention of an email address, there is a contact form in the website.

Before these two guys, there was a girl who spoke about how pitching her business idea to UCL Advances was the best decision she’s took. Maybe she said it was the best experience she’s had. Either way, she said it was really good, and spoke highly favourably about it. Like most of us, UCLDH students, she has a humanities background, but that didn’t stop her from pitching her tech business idea – and it should not stop anyone. If you are a UCL student and have an idea that you think it’s brilliant, get in touch with them. They might be able to advise you and point you into the right direction. You might even get some funding!

 

One extra thought!

I noticed that even though the speakers were into humanities and worked with digital, they had no clue what Digital Humanities is. Well, I guess most of us don’t really know, but we should at least aim to make it more fashionable (like using italics). We have a mixture of undergrad (and cultural) backgrounds and different academic and professional aims – and that’s a huge advantage! We know different things, look at problems from different points of views and will have different solutions. That probably means we will have different definitions of what DH is because DH will be applied differently by each one of us. But there’s one common thread, somewhere, beyond JavaScript and XML.

I’d love to know your thoughts about this, so if you’d like to get together to talk about this over a coffee, get in touch!

CASA/Survey of London project awarded AHRC funding

SarahDavenport22 September 2015

Congratulations to UCLDH team member Martin Austwick (CASA), who is involved in a project that has just been awarded a major grant from the AHRC. He, and other members of CASA, will be working with Survey of London on a three-year collaboration exploring the Whitechapel area, to develop an online platform to find new ways to engage audiences with the work of the Survey.  Martin has written a blog post about this, and another Bartlett-funded collaboration with Survey of London focusing on the Oxford Street area.

Digital Classicist seminar: dissertation special

SimonMahony23 June 2015

Digital Classicist seminar logoDigital Classicist London & Institute of Classical Studies Seminar 2015

Friday June 26th at 16:30, in Room G31, Foster Court, Malet Place, WC1E 6BT

The seminar this week features Digital Humanities / Digital Classics MA and MSc students from both UCL and KCL giving short presentations on their dissertation research. Two are on the MA/MSc DH programme and one on MSc IS.

Note the different location as this week’s seminar is in room G31 at Foster Court.

As always this will be followed by wine and refreshments and all are welcome.

Emma King (KCL): ‘Strand Lane Baths 1776-1778: 3D modelling historic spaces’

Lauren Knight (KCL): ‘The City of London as a Museum’

Ioanna Kyvernitou (UCL): ‘Reconstructing a historical knowledge representation of “Women” on the Semantic Web’

Argula Rublack (KCL): ‘Digitally interlinking manuscripts of the twelfth-century Arabic-Latin translation movement’

Katherine Steiner (UCL): ‘Digital methods in classical research: an EpiDoc case study’

Lucia Vannini (UCL): ‘Virtual reunification of papyrus fragments’

Abstracts are available on the programme page.

The full 2015 programme is available on the Digital Classicist London seminar page.