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Digital Humanities in Wuhan, Shanghai and Nanjing

SimonMahony8 May 2018

Within the UK academic calendar, it is probably the Easter break that affords the longest uninterrupted time for travel and this year I took the opportunity to complete my series of talks and research meetings enabled by the UCL Global Engagement fund.

Wuhan University

Wuhan University: School of Information Management

This began with a visit to the University of Wuhan (WHU) which is home to the first DH Centre established in China (2011). Professor Wang at the Department of Publishing Science hosted me for the visit which included a tour of the university and a guest lecture to staff, students and Faculty (details and poster at this link) followed by a lecture for their sophomore Publishing Science students on Designing for Online Publishing.

Wuhan University guest lecture

Wuhan University guest lecture

WHU has a huge sprawling campus adjacent to the East Lake which is built on and around a hill with a castle, which was the old library and is now the student union and student accommodation – lucky students, at the top.

Wuhan University Castle

Wuhan University Castle

Stopping off at Shanghai enabled me to visit friends and deliver two guest lectures at the China Academy of Art, Shanghai Institute of Design. I enjoyed their usual open hospitality and met with visiting professors and students from HFBK Hamburg who were setting up an exhibition of their work on design.

Design exhibition at CAA, SID

Design exhibition at CAA, SID

This trip also allowed me to accept an invitation, received at my January visit, from the Digital Humanities team at the Shanghai Library to deliver a guest lecture on UCLDH and our research here at UCL as part of their research seminar series.

Shanghai Library guest lecture

Shanghai Library guest lecture

The final stop on this tour was at the University of Nanjing (NJU) to give a guest lecture to faculty and graduate students. This was followed by discussions about teaching and research at their newly established (2017) DH Centre, which is located in their History Department with close links to NJU Computer Science. The visit was rounded off with an introduction to the dedicated DH GIS lab there and a demonstration of their keynote GIS (such as Six Dynasty Archeology) and 3D projects.

Nanjing University Library

Nanjing University Library

The support, gratefully received from UCL’s Global Engagement scheme, financed the flights which enabled these meetings, discussions and lectures to take place (as well as my earlier visit and workshop in January). The trip facilitated new connections and possibilities in the areas of teaching and research between UCLDH and DH Centres in China. In addition to this, the funding has enabled me to employ a current UCL DIS research student, as part of the UCL Connected Curriculum initiative, to translate and adapt the teaching materials used for the lectures and workshops; these will be released as bilingual (English and Chinese) OERs on the new UCL Open Educational Repository later this summer.

Networking event for the Enlightenment Architectures project

JulianneNyhan20 February 2018

UCLDH was happy to sponsor a networking reception at the British Museum on Thursday 15 March 2018. The event was organised in conjunction with Leverhulme-funded ‘Enlightenment Architectures: Sir Hans Sloane’s Catalogues of his Collections’ project (2016-19), a collaboration between the British Museum and UCL. The project is investigating Sir Hans Sloane’s (1660-1753) original manuscript catalogues of his collections. It is using Digital Humanities and Humanities methodologies to understand the highly complex information architecture and the intellectual legacies of this ‘meta-data of the Enlightenment’. The project is led by PI Kim Sloan, Curator of British Drawings and Watercolours before 1880 and the Francis Finlay Curator of the Enlightenment Gallery, British Musuem and myself, co-I Julianne Nyhan, Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) of Digital Information Studies, UCL and Associate Director of UCLDH.

UCLDH 'bar' poster

UCLDH ‘bar’ poster

The UCLDH sponsored ‘bar’, pictured above, provided welcome sustenance to attendees of the workshop that the Enlightenment Architectures project had convened that day, thanks to funding from the British Museum Research Fund. The workshop included presentations from the ‘Enlightenment Architectures’ PI, co-I and some project team members (including Research Assistants Victoria Pickering, Alexandra Ortolja-Baird and the project-based PhD candidate Deborah Leem). A number of eminent, international colleagues from Digital Humanities and Early Modern Studies acted as respondents to their papers. They included: Kalliopi Zervanou (Utrecht University); Arthur MacGregor (Journal of the History of Collections); Susanne Al-Eryani (SUB Goettingen); Jaap Verhuel (Utrecht University); Katherine McDonough (Stanford University). Needless to say, lively conversations characterised both the workshop and the networking event!

The second day of the workshop comprised four keynote presentations. Speakers were again drawn from a number of disciplines including the History of Science, Digital Humanities, Data Analytics and Library and Information Science. Keynotes were given by: Sachiko Kusukawa (University of Cambridge / Royal Society); Michael Sperberg McQueen (Black Mesa Technologies);  Paul Caton and Samantha Callaghan (Georgian Papers online, Kings Digital Laboratory KCL); and Stefanie Ruehle (SUB Goettingen). The workshop closed with a strategy and funding foresight seminar led by Martha Fleming, Senior Research Assistant to the Enlightenment Architectures project.

More DH networking in China

SimonMahony6 February 2018

Recently, I have been very pleased to be able to accept more networking and speaking invitations from the ever-growing number of DH groups in China. In November I was an invited speaker for the DH strand at the Cross-cultural, Cross-group and Comparative Modernity Conference in Fudan University Shanghai along with delegates from many different nationalities; interestingly (and fortunately for me) all the presentations were in English.

Conference banner

Banner for the conference at Fudan University Shanghai

December took me to Shenzhen, via Hong Kong, and the University Town Library there for the International Conference on Library and Digital Humanities. They had speakers, on a range of themes, from the UK and USA as well as China, and interestingly mostly from libraries where DH centres in China and the USA are usually found; my slot was in the Higher Education and Digital Humanities strand which enabled many conversations and new connections to be made.

Shenzhen conference photo

International conference at the University Town Library, Shenzhen

One new such connection was with DH researchers at the Library of Shanghai, a public as well as an academic and research library with a strong and committed DH team. In January of this year I was greeted there with a magnificent lunch, a tour of their preservation and research labs, and introduced to their research projects involving both genealogy and the historic local built environment.

Shanghai Library

Shanghai Library

The January visit to Shanghai was enabled by funding from the UCL Global Engagement Fund that I received to support networking and research into interdisciplinary and cross-cultural education. Some of this funding was marked for the translation of teaching material for an undergraduate workshop at the China Academy of Art, Shanghai Institute of Design (that I have visited several times now) and as a follow up to the workshop I ran there in January 2017.

Workshop in Shanghai Institute of Design

Workshop in Shanghai Institute of Design

This is a design institute and the students are great at producing videos but have no background in the Internet or the web and so this workshop mostly covers the coding of webpages along with the all important usability and accessibility built into the design. I, of course, have a translator but this helps with their English language learning too.

Group photo of students at the workshop

Group photo of students at the workshop

Remember when giving talks to Chinese students, always allow extra time at the end for group photos and selfies.

UCL’s Global Engagement funding covered the flights for the Shanghai visit and money to pay a student to help with translating the teaching materials which will go into a collection to later be released under an open licence as Open Educational Resources. Accommodation and hospitality was generously provided by the host institution.

Graphics and Cultural Heritage (GCH)

Lucy JStagg2 May 2017

UCLDH Acting Director, Professor Tim Weyrich, will be the papers chair at Graphics and Cultural Heritage (GCH), an international workshop in Graz, Austria in September 2017. The workshop invites works from both the heritage and engineering sectors:

It aims to foster an international dialogue between ICT experts and CH scientists to advance the understanding of critical requirements for processing, managing, and delivering cultural information to a broad audience.

Papers are due for submission by Friday 5th May 2017.

Papers aplenty

Lucy JStagg28 April 2017

We’re very busy here at UCLDH, delivering papers and promoting our wonderfully diverse portfolio of research

Martin Zaltz Austwick, our Associate Director and Senior Lecturer in Advanced Spatial Analysis and Visualization, has been reporting on the Survey of London: Whitechapel project at the annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers in Boston, at a seminar for Geospatial Innovations in the Digital Humanities in Lancaster, and at a workshop on Visualizations and other digital possibilities at Birkbeck, London.

Duncan Hay, Research Associate at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, spoke at an event for World Poetry Day, organised by the Digital Scholarship team at the British Library.

Andreas Vlachidis and Antonis Bikakis will be presenting their paper on “Semantic Representation and Enrichment of Cultural Heritage Information for Fostering Reinterpretation and Reflection on the European History” at the ITN-DCH Final Conference on Digital Heritage, on 23-25 May 2017.

Pete Williams will be giving a paper at the IJAS International Conference for Academic Disciplines in Venice, on 20- 23 June 2017.

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.

Audiences & Cultural Experiences in the Digital Age – workshop, Thursday 7 May

SarahDavenport13 March 2015

A team of DIS/UCLDH PhD students has been awarded a grant by the Joint Faculty Institute of Graduate Studies to hold a participatory workshop on Audiences and Cultural Experiences in the Digital Age. The workshop will be run in collaboration with PhD students from the City University London and Middlesex University. It will take place on Thursday 7 May and will bring together scholars and students from the broader area of Arts & Humanities and Social Sciences.

Further details and registration:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/audiences-cultural-experiences-in-the-digital-age-tickets-16381350059

For more information, please contact Christina Kamposiori directly at christina.kamposiori.11@ucl.ac.uk.​

The British Library Big Data Experiment

SarahDavenport30 May 2014

If you are an arts and humanities researcher, please consider signing up for this focus group:

The British Library Big Data Experiment – call for focus group (6 June 2014, British Library)

The British Library and University College London are working together on an experimental approach to opening up the digital collections at the BL to a wider academic audience, particularly to benefit those undertaking research in the arts and humanities. UCL Computer Science and UCLDH are helping to shape the development of these systems, but it is vitally important that we have access to the thoughts of academic researchers who wish to have improved access to the BL’s digital content, or have opinions about what they need to help undertake their research.

To start the process, they are looking for a small number of researchers in the arts and humanities to attend a focus group at the British Library on the afternoon of 6th June 2014. The focus group will inform and shape the MSc project work of a team of Systems Engineering students from University College London working on experimental platforms for access to and interrogation of the British Library’s public domain digital collections using the Microsoft Azure cloud infrastructure. Arts and humanities researchers from a range of backgrounds, both thematic and technical, are welcomed.

For further details or to register your interest, please contact James Baker (Curator, Digital Research, British Library) at james.baker@bl.uk.

Cross-Currents – Rural Cultural Practice and the Digital Economy in India and the UK

Chris JDillon23 May 2014

Monday 12 – Wednesday 14 May at IIIT-B

The purpose of this workshop at the International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore was to promote knowledge exchange between academics in the UK and India as well as with the IT industry in Bangalore, focusing on how digital technologies can be used to develop cultural, arts, heritage and relevant business practices at the community level in rural areas.

img: temple carvings

temple carvings

I’ve written short notes on each session below, with links to further information when available for those interested in the various areas. There was a very warm atmosphere.

Are you working on something similar and interested in adding an Indian dimension? Why not contact the people who gave the talks.

Day 1

The workshop was opened by Professor Debabrata Das, Dean Academics and R&D, IIT-B and Dr David Beel, University of Aberdeen.

Professor Alan Dix, University of Birmingham, spoke about Technology at the edge – connectivity issues in India, Wales and Tiree.

Rajeev Kuchhal spoke on Rural enterprises involving IT – connectivity and IT resource issues in India and Africa.

Dr Leanne Townsend, University of Aberdeen spoke about SIRA (Satellite Internet for Rural Access).
Broadband access can solve issues in rural areas, if it’s available. Broadband Delivery UK is attacking this problem and running pilot projects. SIRA is looking at satellite broadband, especially for the creative industries. She mentioned several case studies.

Dr Prithvi Raj spoke on the Digital Hampi (Heritage) Project.
I spoke to him and he agreed to put me in contact with people working on language at Hampi.

I gave a short presentation on Bridge to China.

Professor Navjyoti Singh spoke about Community Empowerment through Local Information Generalization and Utilization.

Dr David Beel and Dr Gemma Webster, Univ. of Aberdeen presented the CURIOS project about how digital archives can support local interest in local heritage and contribute to community regeneration and strengthened community cohesion. It has developed software tools to help remote rural communities collaboratively to maintain and present information about their cultural heritage. The objective is to investigate the use of semantic web / linked data technology to build a general, flexible and “future proof” software platform that could help such projects to come into existence and be sustainable over time.

T.B. Dinesh, Janastu spoke on Re-narration culture and the social Web. Janastu only uses open source software. Web pages recognise users and produce Web pages in another language. The Indian Digital Hampi website lists all the groups working on the project. It is likely that Dinesh will be visiting UCL in June.

Jonathan Sapsed, University of Brighton spoke about Superfusion – how arts and digital technology are combining to boost economic growth.

  • The Brighton Fuse
  • How the Creative-Digital-IT cluster is recasting economic value
  • The intersection between STEM and A&H creates growth.
  • They found that fusion is linked to growth – super fused companies grow three ties more- quickly.
  • A&H is key to interdisciplinary interaction and innovation and economic growth.

Magda Tyzlik-Carver presented the University of the Village project via Skype.

Vijayanand and Lokesh Bhat spoke on the Use of digital technologies for a community cooperative initiative – history and field experiences.

Emile Devereux spoke about LawDigital: Digital cartography, participatory media, and the limits of legal discourse via video and Skype. This concerned simplifying legal language.

Helen Pritchard spoke on the Affectsphere of computational practices.

Day 2

This was a visit to Mysore, an old town about four hours away from Bangalore by bus. It has wide avenues and spacious buildings designed to be naturally cool.

Our first visit was to the Oriental Research Institute, followed by the Folklore Museum.

We had an Indian lunch at the Vishwa-Kshema Trust.
In 1996 a group of young men established an informal but active group to vivify the most enduring, ageless and immortal wisdom of Hindu lore and culture with a focus on the younger generation. Since then, Sanskrit awareness, Yoga and Meditation camps and social welfare activities including regular performance of Vedic rituals have been conducted in various parts of the country. These informal activities culminated in the year 2000 in the birth of “VISHVAKSHEMA”, a registered public charitable trust, with a clear idea of its objectives, philosophy and mission.

We made a visit to the MYRA School of Business where we were welcomed by Dr Shalini Urs, the Executive Director.

On the way home we made a visit to Mysore Palace to se a dispay of electric lights, unfortunately beyond the specification of my camera.

Day 3

Narasimhan M.G., Samskrti Foundaiton, Mysore spoke about An indigenous cryptographic system. The encryption works in a matrix.

M.A. Alwar spoke on A detailed bibliography of important manuscripts available on science and technology in ancient India. This included very useful website for practising Indian scripts – one of the best systems I’ve ever seen!

Nandini spoke on IT for Change – Exploring ICT possibilities for empowering marginalised women’s collectives.

I ran the “Languages and Scripts” research theme session.
ICANN is looking for experts for its Neo Brahmi Generation Panel.
There was a suggestion for a wiki based at UCL on Indian scripts for scholars and dealing initially with Sanskrit, with plans for Hindi and other Indian languages.

Amusing moment

Lack of rain caused hydroelectric problems in the Bangalore area and one became used to the power going off. The water supply is not affected at such times – as I discovered having a shower.


Further information: www.cross-currents.appspot.com and #XCurrents on Twitter.

Getting into Digital Humanities! A free afternoon workshop for UCL undergraduates, from UCLDH

SarahDavenport13 March 2013

Wednesday 24th April 2013, 2.30-5pm

Digital Humanities is an exciting area of research and teaching that aims to use and develop computational methods for use in the humanities, culture and heritage. How can we best use internet technologies to benefit humanities scholars? What new tools and techniques can DH bring to humanities research? How can digital methods change the scope of the humanities in the 21st Century? Where would you even start to learn about this?

This free, half day workshop by UCL Centre for Digital Humanities will introduce the main aspects of Digital Humanities by leaders in the field, providing a hands-on guide to getting started with text analysis, Geographic Information Systems, Social Media Analysis, and more. The event is open to all interested undergraduates at UCL: please sign up at http://gettingintodh.eventbrite.co.uk. For more information about Digital Humanities, please see the UCLDH webpage at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/dh/

Schedule

Torrington (1-19) 115 Galton LT
2.30-3.30pm: Introduction to Digital Humanities

Melissa Terras – Digitisation
Claire Warwick – Social Media and museums
Simon Mahony – Markup/document analysis in the Digital Humanities Oliver Duke-Williams – Mapping
David Beavan – Text analysis/corpus studies
3.30.4.00pm
Coffee and cake!

B29, Foster Court
4.00-5.00pm: Workshop

We will move to a cluster room where you will have the chance to choose an activity that you are interested in and would like to learn more about, and get some hands-on experience. You will be given a worksheet to go through and staff will be on hand to help and answer any questions you have.