Nov 112013

This afternoon I am attending “A digital humanties workshop in four keys: medicine, law, bibliography and crime“, a University of Edinburgh Digital Humanities and Social Sciences event. I will be liveblogging throughout the event and you can keep an eye on related tweets on the #digitalhss tag. The event sees four post doctoral researchers discussing their digital humanities work.

As usual this is a liveblog so my notes may include the odd error or typo – please let me have your thoughts or corrections in the comments below!

Alison Crockford – Digital articulations: writing medicine in Edinburgh

In addition to the four keys we identified we also thoughts about the four ways you can engage with the humanities field more widely. And in addition to medicine I will be talking about motions of public engagement.

Digital articulations plays on the idea of the crossover of humanities and medicine. So both the state of being flexibly joined together and of expressing the self. The idea came from the Issecting Edinburgh exhibition at Surgeons Hall. Edinburgh has a very unique history of medicine when compared to other areas of the UK. But scholars don’t give much consideration to the regional history and how medicine in an area may be reflected in literature. So you get British texts or anthologies with may be one or two Scottish writers bundled in. Edinburgh is one of the most prominent city in the history of medicine. My own research is concerned with the late 19th century but this trend really goes back at least as far as the fifteenth century. As an early career researcher I can’t access the multimillion pound grants from the ESRC you might need… So digital humanities became a kind of natural platform. I wanted to build a better more trans historical perspective on literature and medicine, would need input from specialists across those areas, I would also need ways to visualise this research in a way that would make sense to researchers and other audiences. I was considering building an anthology and spoke to a colleague creating a digital anthology. I chose to do it this way with a tool called omecca, in part because of its accessibility to other audiences. Public engagement is seen as increasingly favourable, particularly for early career researchers I’m interested in tools to foster research but also to do so in digital spaces that are public, and what that means.

I don’t have a background in digital humanities and there doesn’t seem to be a single clear definition. But I’m going to talk about some of the possibilities, what drives a project, how does that influence the result, etc. I will take my cues from Matthew Kirshenball’s 2002 essay on digital humanities and English literature. He sees it as concerned with scholarship and pedagoguey being more public, more collaborative, and more connected to infrastructure.

I was reassured to know I am not alone in looking at this issue and to have questions, there was a blog post on HASTAC – the humanities, arts, science and technology alliance and cOllaboratory. This was looking at the intersection between the digital humanities and public engagement, despite that organisation being already active in that space. I get the sense that this topic comes up as being there, but perhaps only recently ave there been deliberate reflections on the implications for that.

The digital humanities manifesto 2.0 which talks about increasingly public spheres. There’s a kind of deprivation in kirshenberg’s take on digital humanities and public engagement. I’m not sure public engagement deserves such derisive treatment, even though I am concerned about how public engagement and similar values judgement is increasingly chipping away at the humanities. But there is more potential there…

Many digital humanities tools are web based apps, they are potentially public spaces, and there are implications on our perspectives on any digital humanities, or indeed any humanities work. For instance the Oxford digital humanities conference last year, lookin at impact, nonetheless talked about public engagement as something more than just dissemination, but also something richer. Thinking about the participation of your audience, their needs and interests, not just your own.

Bowarst states that humanities scholars may risk letting existing technologies dictate their work, rather than being the inventors and designers of their tool. Whilst we may be more likely o be adopters I do not think that it is always the case nor neccassarily a problem. Working as Wikipedian in Residence at NLS I have been impressed with the number of GLAM collaborations embracing a range of existing kit: flickr, WordPress, Omeka, Drupal.

Omeka is designed for non technical users, it is based around templates and editable content. It is about presentation of materials. They are designed for researchers, those already interested… Who will SE it as a tool fr their research but not for wider audiences (e.g. Digitising historical serialised fiction and depictions of disability in nineteenth century literature). But these can look samey as websites, there are limitations without design support. However looki b at Lincoln 200 or Indeed George Arthus Plimpton rare book and manuscript page vs treasures of the New York Public Library website which is more visual and appealing. So I am interested in having the appeal of a public orientated website with the quality of a scholarly tool.

So looking At Gothic Past we see something that is both visual and of quality. You can save materials. The ways these plugins, opportunities for discourse etc. in Omeka etc. one up public engagement in richer ways…

Returning to medical humanities.. I think it has inherent links to public engagement, it helps enhance understand perceptions of health and illness. It’s impact can be so universal. Viewing medicine through the lens of literature enables a massively diverse audience who have their own interest, experience and perspectives to share. Giving a local focus also connects to the large community interested in local history. And designing the resource for that diverse audience with these many perspectives will help shape the tool. Restricting a resource to researchers


Q) really interesting oaicularly the problems of digital humanities and research… Could yo say more about Omeka and how you plan to use it?
A) I have a wish list for what I want to make from Omeka. I would like logins, the ability to save material, and to have user added content and keywords to drive the site, so that there is input from other audiences, not just researchers but also public audiences. For instance exhibitions around digital patienthood. I hoe to be a good customer. If you don’t have the technological skills, you still have to put in the time to understand the software, to create good briefs, two months in I’m still working with the web team to create a good resource. I want to be a good customer so that I get what I want without making the teams life hell!

Q) what do you think being a good client means for our students. Bergson mentions that the more we rely on existing technologies, the harder it becomes. Think outside the box.
A) I think some f those coming up behind me have a better nderstanding of things digital… But those are the corporately driven websites, but they don’t neccassarily look. Eying that. Maybe you need something akin to research methods, looking at open source materials and resources. But realistically that may not be possible.

Q) I wanted to ask abut the way the digital humanities is perceived as a thing. In your public engagement work is that phrase used?
A) I think largely people think that these are the humanities and these are digital tools. There are parallel conversations in humanities and in the cultural contexts… The ideas of the digital library just being the library. So this doesn’t seem to be specific to academia, it is a struggle fr others to work out how to incorporate the digital into your experience.
Q) we are alread post digital?
A) kind of… The ideas of a digital resource from a library being a different tool doesn’t really seem to be what you actively consider, you see a cool tool.

Q) do you think the schism between research and public engagement exists in the cultural sector?
A) they have a better potential chance to do that. They must provide materials for research and also public engagement and public audiences. We think about research and sharing further but these organisations think inherently about their audiences, but the resources are great for research, for instance the historical post office directory research. The sector is a good place to look to to see what we might do.

Chen Wei Zhu – Rethinking property: copyright law and digital humanities research

Chen Wei did his research on open source but spen much of that time at the British Library.

I will be doing a whistle stop tour of copyright law, mainly drawing on the non digital. Just to set the scene… When did the digital humanities staRt? 1946 is a convenient start date, an Italian Jesuit priest tried to index the massive work of Thimas Equinus, they were digitised, put onto CDROM and now online. But at that time the term wasn’t digital humanities but “humanities computing”. I tried Googles n-gram viewer and based on that corpus you see that “humanities computing” comes in in the 1970s but “digital humanities” emerges in the 1990s. Humanities computing is still hugely used but will be interesting to see when “digital humanities” becomes dominant or bigger. A health warning here… Best between 1820s and 1922. 1922 in the US marks the beginning of copyright, but in Europe materials published before then were already in copyright. And another Heath warning… oigkes scanning kit isn’t perfect before 1820s because of print inconsistencies and changes. E.g. “f” instead of “s”. It fell out of use after times newspaper dropped the long f/s in 1893. So much data to clear up.

So what are the digital humanists opinion and understanding of copyright. I feel that digital humanities scholars are quite frustrated. E.g. burdock et al 2012 sees it this way. Cohen and Rosenzweig 2005 see it as an issue of Things never being fixed? [check this reference]

The US copyright office is shutdown… The US federal government closure included the copyright office being shut down. It is still saying it is shut… There will be a huge backlog for registering copyright.

So how did copyright law begin? What is the connection between the loch ness monster and copyright? The story goes that st columba is not only the first sighted of Nessie, and the first person engaged in copyright dispute. There is a mythical connection too…

The first copyright dispute is sometimes called the patron saint of copyright, huge misunderstanding, he is more the first pirate, copying a manuscript without the permission of his tutor. When he was caught secretly copying the book of psalms st finnian was very angry, he wanted to restrict the copy. The idea “to every cow belongs her calf, therefore to every book belongs its copy”. So this was the first copyright case. Columba had the decision go against him, and he rose up against the king s he led something of a bloodbath.

Now in this case there was no clear author of either finnian or columba. Ad no publishing planned r taking place. SL skip forward to 12th century china we see Cheng Sheren, the first publisher to register their copyright. We see a picture like Pre 18th century England, where the publisher has copyright. In china as in 16th and 17th century England is all about censorship not copyright in any other sense.

The Statute of Anne 1710 is the first copyright act, which brings in the rights of authors and does not include censorship clauses. The first modern copyright law. But author based copyright didn’t really take off until the early nineteenth century, think this was another ethos. Only as authors are seen as romantic genius in the romantic age does this model takes off. Publishers recede to the background to manage economic aspects and authors move to the forefront.

Enter stage left the authors guild. So Authors Guild vs HathiTrust (2012). The Authors Guild has around 8000 members at present. The authors ar encouraging decision that the distinct judge recognised a fair use defence for HathiTrust Trust to digitise copies of texts. The judge argued two types of transformations: full text search, and accessibility of text. That is very very important as an aspect of the ruling. And the judge was convinced of fair use defence. Some humanities scholars submitted, matthew jocker did an analysis of the use of digitised text.

Where we are… We started from the year 1550 and ended in 2012. The meaning of copy has changed. Is digitisation the same as copying by hand? And for digital humanist and copyright lawyer we have to reimagine the role of copyright and the role of the author in copyright. Could see authors as intellectual property owners. We didnt see intellectual property as a term emerge until 1960s when we saw an influential book and the IPO set up, but that idea does change our thoughts of copyright to some extent. But we also see open source, coined in 1988.. There are parallel growth there… We are more a steward and custodian rather tha exclusive intellectual property owner.


Q) just to be a pedant here… Your discussion of the romantic author… I think you got it reversed… The law precedes the author by a distance. In the 18th century original works, poems, epic poems like the work of alexander pope etc. for the sake of erectile, their rank of gentlemen, and royal sponsors made books of vellum, extremely expensive.. The way the publishers got around the need to publish these expensive texts was to republish out of copyright works, recycled materials (including shakespeare), etc. cheap material on recycled rag paper. When new works appear, when paper costs drop, then you see new types of writing replacing old writing and publishers have little say… And in the early nineteenth century you see authors assert power. Profit and capitalisation of ideas in republishing of works is so crucial to current Authors Guild debate is important.

A) I’m glad you mentioedn Alexander pope, he is quoted in 1771 case. Almost all cases in 1710s onwards are between publishers but pope actually sued his publisher in that time. That is a gradual change… Going o the nineteenth century.

Q) us versus uk
A) divergence of law… In 1922… Us copyright act was a 56 year act. In 1978 that was in place… Anything Pre 1922 Out of copyright. UK it is 70 years after authors death. Canada 50 years, sheet music sites in Canada. Stuff out of copyright in Canada but not in the uk. But you can access in the uk. Definitely territorial but internet access is not.

Q) interesting you raised music, a whole other complicated history there.
A) absolutely, very complex. For instance Stravinskys work was very difficult for him to copyright because of Russia’s take on property.

Q) the ease of violating copyright law… Working fr Wikipedia and Wikipedia UK… It can be twisted around. The NLS we frequently have conversations about releasing digitised materials. In the uk unlike the us new digitised material has new rights attached. But we have just been putting content out there.
Comment) the British library lets you use copies of less that 3000 copies but if you have an ebook contract you have to pay huge sums for an image.
Q) it costs more to enforce copyright and fees. The NLS have a non commercial clause for digitised materials, usually we won’t charge if the come and ask us. But cost of enforcement can be higher than perusing. Is this unique to digital?

Gregory Adam Scott – The digital bibliography of Chinese Buddhism as a research and reference tool

Gregory is a digital humanities post doctoral fellow at IASH, his doctorate looked at printing and publishing in early Buddhist cultures. His talk has a new title “building and rebuilding a digital catalogue for modern Chinese buddhism”.

I chose this title inspired bynjorge Louis borges’ “the library of babel” containing the sum of all possible knowledges, versions with all typographic mistakes, the catalogue itself… I evoke this to represent the challenge we face today in looking at mountains of data, whilst the text may be less random we still risk becoming lost in our own library of babel.

My own work looks at a more narrow range of data. I began studying the digital catalogue of Chinese Buddhism cataloging texts from 1866 and 1950. But first a whistle stop tour of printing and religious printing in china. A woodblock print edition if the diamond Astra from 886 CE remains the earliest printed text that records the year of printing. In ore modern east Asian print history religious texts we some of the most frequently printed texts. The printing blocks of the Korean buddy canon was an enormous undertaking in terms of time, cost and political support. Often the costs were supported by ideas that contributing to publishing religious works would be something of a merit economy, bringing good things to you and to your family, which can then be gifted to others – s these texts often include a credit to donors in which they dedicated the texts to loved ones.

Yang Wenhui (1837-1911) and his students published hundreds of texts, thousands of copies and was a hugely influential lay Buddhist publisher. As we see the introduction of movable type and western printing processes this was hugely important, more work was printed in a thirty seven year window than in the previous two thousand years. This is great interma of accessing primary sources but problematic for understanding printing cultures. We see publishers opening up. The history of modern china is pepped with conflict and political and cultural change. And religious studies were often overlooked in the move towards secularisation, this is now slowly changing. And libraries were often free from key religious texts and it can be particularly hard to track the history of print in this time because of variance of names, of contributors, of texts, and of cataloging.

So I wanted to go back to original sources to understand what has been published. S I started with five key sources who had created bibliographies based on accessing original materials rather than relying on primary sources. There were still errors and inconsistencies. I merged these together where appropriate. I wanted to maintain citations so that original published sources could be accessed, that the work could be understood properly.

I did this by transcribing the data. I used a simple bare bones methods with XML. Separating the data and the display of the data. If someone wants to transform the data this format will allow them to do that. This is used simply, tags and descriptions are as human readable as possible. I want future researchers to be able to understand this. I also used Python for some automated tasks for indexing some of these texts.

Looking at the web interface that I put online, it uses Php, the same stack as Omeka. The database runs on SQL. There is a search interface where you can enter Chinese keywords and eventually you will be able to search by year or pairs of years. It returns an index number, title, involved author etc. simple but helpful information. It includes 2328 entries whe the spike at the golden age of china in 1902 is very evident. And then each item has its own static HTML page. That is easy to cite and includes all information I know about this text. S far I think this resource has been useful to produce data t pint the way towards future work… Less the end f research, more the beginning. This work has let me see previously undiscovered texts, you can also look across trends, across connections, the relationships to the larger historical picture. It could also be applied to other disciplines regions.

All of my input to this project is provided under creative commons (non commercial). Bibliographic data isn’t copyright able as it is lucid knowledge but the collection of that could be seen to be original work so I’ve said it is my work that I am happy for others to use.

The reason there is such a spike in 1902, where a date is not known it is assigned to that date free which all texts will have a date.

This catalogue is different from book suppliers data as the purpose is so different, my research use is not for purchase in the same way. I want to add features and finesse this somewhat but my dream is if doing what I’d call “Biblio-Biographies” to see the appearance of text over time, seeing nowhere it appears in publishers catalogues… and how the pricing and presentation changes. For instance looking at the Diamond Sutra we see different numbers of editors, one offers a special price for 1000 copies. I used bibliographic sources but there are so many more forms and formats that I will need to consider, each source will be treated differently. Adverts may appear for publications that were never produced. Have moved from bibliography, to catalogue to something else.


Q) why not use existing catalogue tools
A) didn’t have anything with the right sort if fields, very different roles of authors, editors, etc. not in a standard format, consider MARC but it wailed be relatively easy to transform the XML to MARC.

Q) are you thinking about that next stage, about having ways for more people to contribute.
A) I have been involved in the wiki based dictionary of Chinese buddhism, we opened it up to colleagues and nothing happened. But only us, the co-editors contributed. Big issue is about getting credit for your work which may be the issue for contribution.
Comment) have a look at the website Branch on nineteenth century literature, have asked for short articles and campaigned for MLA bibliographies inclusion and that helps with prestige. Just need big names to write one thing…

Q) could you say something more about other sources
A) there are periodicals, a huge number of the,. A lot of these focus in on ocular printings of texts, some include advertisements, etc. so these texts point off to other nodes and records.

Q) you talked about deliberately designing your catalogue for onwards for transformation, and whether you’ve thought about how you will move forward with the structure for the data…
A) I’m not sure yet but I will stick to the principle that simple is good and reusable, and transform ale are good.
Comment) you might want to look at records of music and musical performance.
A) I’ll keep that in mind, Readings of these texts are often referred to as performances so that may be a useful parallel.

Louise Settle – Digitally mapping Crime in Edinburgh, 1900-1939

Louise is a digital humanities post doctoral fellow at IASH and her work builds upon her PhD research on gender and crime in the nineteenth century.

I want to talk about digital technologies and visualisation of data, particularly visualisation of spatial data. I will draw upon my own research data on prostitution. And considering the potential fr data analysis.

My thesis looked at prostitution in Scotland from 1892 and 1939. The first half looked at the work of reformers, and the second half looks at how that impacted on the life of women at this time. S why do crime statistics matter? Well it sets prostitution in context, recording changes and changing attitudes. My data comes from the borough court records, where arrests took place, where police looked for arrests, and the locations of brothels at this time. Obviously I’m only looking a offences, so the women who were caught, and that’s important in terms of understanding the data. Because these were paper records, not digitised, I looked at four years only coinciding with census years, or the years with full data nearest census years.

I used Edinburgh Map Builder, developed as part of the Visualising Urban Geographies project led by Professor Richard Roger who helped me use this tool, although it is a very simple tool to use. This allows you to use NLS historical maps, Google Maps and your own data. There are a range of maps available so you pick the right map, you can zoom in and out, find the appropriate area to focus on. To map the addresses, you input your data either manually or you can upload a spreadsheet and then you press “start geocoding” to have your records appear on the map. You can change pin colours etc. and calculate the difference between different points. Do have a look and play around with it yourself.

The visual aspect is a very simple and clear way to explore your subject, and the visual element is particularly good for non specialist audiences, but it also helps you spot trends and patterns you may not have noticed before. So looking at maps of my data from 1903, 1911, 1921 and 1931. The maps visualise the location of offences, for example it was clear from the maps that the location changed over time, particularly the move from the old town to the new town. In 1903 offences are spread across the city. In 1911 many more offences particularly around the mound. In 1921 move to new town further evident. By 1931 the new town shift is more evident, some on Calton hill too.

The visual patterns tell us a lot, in the context of the research, about the social geography of edinburgh. Often old town is seen as working class area and new town as a middle class area. Prostitution appears to move towards to centre but that is also the grin statistician, the shopping areas, the tourist areas. This tells us there is more work there. They keep being arrested there but that does not deter them. Small fines and prison spells did not deter. Entertainment locations were more important than policing policies. You can see that a project that is not neccassarily about geography has benefitted from that spatial analysis aspect.

If you have spatial information in your own research then do have a look at Edinburgh Map Builder. But if you have data for elsewhere in the UK you can use Digimap which includes both contemporary and historical maps. There are workshops at Edinburgh University, and the website on the bottom there. That’s UK-wide. And a new thing I’ve been playing with is HistoryPin – this uses historical photography. You can set up profiles, pictures, paints, etc. you can plot these according to location. You can plot particular events, from your computer or smartphone. Yo can look at historical images and data. So I have been plotting prostitution related locations such as the Kosmo Club, the coffee stalls on The Mound. You can add your data and plot them on the map. Very easy to use site and this idea of public engagement, this is a great tool for doing this.


Q) I was quite interested in those visual tools and the linking of events tying them to geographical places. And there are other ways to visualise social network maps, I wonder how it would be to map those in your work, there must be social connections ther. Social network analysis can look very similar… I wanted to know if you have considered that or come across that sort of linkage.
A) I haven’t but that sounds really exciting.

Q) I wanted to ask you about the distribution and policing. If one were to return to the maps. Some marked differences in the number of offences – arrests? – how much detail did you take out of it? You said they were going back and were not deterred. In 1911 markedly different numbers. But even at the times when there was actually more policing towards the old town, the police were just sticking to the main routes. So was the old town a lawless zone at that time? Police not wanting to venture into dark alleys. And how long does Edinburgh’s tolerance zone persist. And it’s curious o see that without Leith too! As now the city operates a more direct reflection but perhaps before the amalgamation of the authorities perhaps there wasn’t such a direct deflection affect?
A) in terms of Keith it was occurring there. The argument is coming from the suggestion that it was informally tolerated in the old town… I don’t disagree that it happened in the old town but my arguement is that it is also happening in the new town and measures there don’t stop it when they should. And my research also sees the police not always caring and judges and juries moving for reform rather than harsher sentences. Cafes and ice cream parlours were a cause of concern in Glasgow in 1911 which may impact the figures then. The 1903 records are not correct, it may be an outlier as the general trend is of decreasing offences over time…

Q) about the visualisation tool, you have tremendous amount of interest in those maps, are this emails important for research design, for research questions. Or would you wish for a tool with more possibility for contextualisation. Fr instance statistics from authorities etc, to interpret your findings. What possibilities for researchers to have these tools yield more stuff?
A) the maps are interesting, they are more appealing. But these need to be used with tables, charts, statistics. If just presenting on the work I would have included those other factors. So in 1903 you lose some density when all dots are in the same place. But an interactive tool to do that would be great.

Comment) what is so attractive of visualisation is speed and efficiency but that also means there is a risk in concluding too quickly, of not necessarily reflecting reality of prostitution – the reader may read your map of offences in that way, that will be easy to do but the methodology can be dull to people and that can mean misunderstandings.
A) absolutely. This needs to be in context.

Q) could you have layers comparing income against offences etc. if you’d found any projects that were developing more complex…
A) the big project is the Edinburgh Atlas, there is a mini conference on hidden histories and geographies of edinburgh on mapping crime, it’s on the IASH mailing list, there are others doing that.

Q) you talked about women seduced by foreigners in edinburgh?
A) in edinburgh there was concern about Italians at ice cream parlours, brazilians were the concern in Glasgow. And in edinburgh there was also a German Jewish pimp of concern as well.

Discussion more widely…

Comment) I’m primarily a learnin technologist and I send my life trying to get people to start from the activity they want to undertake, and not starting with the tools. I found it refreshing tat you all started with your data and looking for tools with the right affordances. How did you find you were helped with that search for a tool.
Louise) it was human contacts. I saw a lecture from professor Richard roger.
Ally) it was similar for me, I found a software through a contact but found it hard to find what else was out there. It basically came down to Omeka or Drupal that the web team knew about. but it would have been great to know what was out there, what the differences are, what resources there are. Even looking through DHNow and DH Quarterly there isn’t a sense of easily identifying the options for the tools. That can be a bit of an issue.
Greg) I used the tools colleagues were using to build my own…
Comment) HCI has the notion of affordances, what it easily enables you to do and what else it could enable yo to do. Is there something there about describing affordances for the humanities. My sense is that often they are pitched towards the sciences, sometimes terminology varies event, so understanding affordances varies.
Ally) sometimes developing your own tools is good, but even a little knowledge and terminology let’s me get better results from these tools, if. Come to these tools end these colleagues with no knowledge then I will not have a successful outcome. I want to really explore Omeka so that I feel confident and able with it.

Question) have the tools changed your research questions or ways of working?
Louise) not me
Ally) for me the have. I was introduced to the 19th century disability reader digital anthology and knowing what was capable with the tools changed what I wanted to d with my project. It did to some degree. By the basic aim was I want to know more about late nineteenth century medical history hasn’t changed. But the project has
Wei Chen) I find the legal documents, creative commons licenses etc. most useful, I was able to be involved in the first version of the Chinese Creative Commons license.
Greg) it hasn’t changed my questions but the scale of work possible and how I might explore it has changed for me.

Question) what advice would yo give for people thinking about digital tools for research
Greg) don’t be afraid to just try things out, work out what’s possible…
Louise) do ask for help, do take advantage of courses…

Question) I was struck with the issue of time when you gave your presentations. Have you reflected on the process of the use of time. How to use jt creatively and consain it. And how that use of time perhaps changed your view of get, of hard copy materials.
Ally) with digital projects you can find you go with the additional time used. Yo should not underestimate the time neccassary. But at the same time I would spend hours and hours leafing through texts to answer a research question. I want t use this tool to reduce the time to find the data I need, to access it, to interpret it. But this project is about developing this oll to benefit myself and others later. You need to be realistic, step back, and be realistic about what is possible.
Louise) that’s part of the issue of digital humanities. My work will be in a traditional book format but the Historypin work, very engaging, but not counting towards career, towards a job. That’s a challenge fr digital humanities and for early career researchers, it’s why our scholarships are so good.
Wei Chen) and there is the distant versus close reading difference. Close reading still has a role but that distant reading allows us to interrogate that reading, to find that resource, etc.
Greg) nothing we are doing are unrecognisable research but we are able to perhaps examine more material, or to do things more quickly. We are not doing everything differently but using new tools in our work.

Question) do you think this investment in tools is changing humanities as a result f this temporal and labour investment in tools. Ally you talked about putting off other work…
Ally) well I am song research, You always have to manage many projects at once. And ther will be an impact. But. Chose the digital path because time and financial limitations changed what was possible. It could have been done another very expensive way. So I’m not putting off research, I would probably be spending years collating information… Instead I am setting something up to facilitate my own research in the future. The relationship between distant and close reading. That divide isn’t as fiery as it appears.
Comment) the superficial view of the digital is happening in teaching. Universities jump on the digitisation bandwagon in a way that changes how humanists are employed, how software are copyrighted and licensed. All these tools help universities save money. One can overreact… Ealignments f labour and resources makes not so positive inroads…
Ally) it’s a huge problem, I have huge concerns about the University’s MOOC programme. There was discussion of open access individuals to talk about what these means…
Louise) not sure but I know colleagues are concerned.
Wei Chen) open access is about economic growth, not hardcore humanist values. Humanist values should be at the core for digital humanists, there will be an increasingly curatorial role fr all formats of material
Comment) abit critical engagements

Question) one of my concerns about this sort of work, and the work in geography in ways of making and curating an archive. I was wondering about the length of time an archive is available after a project. There was a BBC project to save our sound and it finished and the map is no longer accessible… So who looks after and preserves data.
Greg) I think it’s hard to “lose” data, it’s abit implementation not methods.
Ally) I think it’s about how digital humanities adopt tools, about reflecting on project aftermath. When looking into project funding you don’t want that tool lost. It’s not an issue f methodology or individuals but it has implications for future archiving.
Comment) which is why Greg’s work in XML matters
Me) and the use of research data management plans and research data repositories to help ensure planning and curating of data at the outset, and to ensure lon terms access and sustainability.

May 022013

Today I am blogging from the University of Edinburgh Digital Scholarship Day of Ideas 2, a day long look at research in the digital humanities and social sciences. You can find out more on the event on the Digital HSS website. As usual these are live blog posts so apologies for any spelling errors, typos, etc. And please do leave your comments and corrections here.

Professor Dorothy Miell, head of college of Huminities and Social Sciences is introducing the day. Last year we shaped the day around external speakers but we are well aware that there is such a wealth of work taking place here in Edinburgh so this year we have reshaped the event to include more input from researchers here in Edinburgh, with break out sessions and discussion time. The event is part of a programme of events in the Digital HSS thread, led by Sian Bayne. The programme includes workshops and a range of other events. Just yesterday a group of us were discussing how to take forward this work, how to help groups gather around applications for grants etc, developing fora for post graduates etc. If you have any ideas please do contact Sian and let her know.

Our first speaker is Tara McPherson who is based in the School of Cinematic Arts at USC in Los Angeles. She is a researcher on cinema and gender. Her new media research concentrates on computation, gender and race as well as new paradigms of publishing and authorship.

Scholarship across scales: humanities research in a networked world – Dr Tara McPherson, School of Cinematic Arts, University Southern California

We are often told we are living in an era of big data, of large digital data sets and the speed of their expansion. And so much of this work is created by citizens, “vernacular archives” such as Flickr and YouTube. And those spaces are the data for emerging scholars. And we are already further along in how big data and linked data can support scholarship. There is a project called DataONE – Data Observation Network for Earth  – is a grant project for scientists, the grand archive of knowledge. This is the sort of data aggregation Foucault warned us about! But it’s not just in the scientists. In the humanities we also have huge data sets, the Holocaust Testimony video collection is an example of that – we can use that as visual evidence in  a way that was previously unavailable to us. Study of expression, of memory, of visual aspects can be explored alongside more traditional ways of exploring those testimonies. And we can begin to ask ourselves about what happens when we begin to visualise big data in new ways. If communication is increasingly in forms like video what are the opportunities for scholarship to take advantage of that new material, the vernaculars, and what does it mean that we can now have interpretation presented in parallel to evidence. Whilst many humanities scholars have been sceptical about the combination of human and machine interpretations there are rich possibilities for thinking about these not as alternative forms but as a contiunuum. And we will see shifts in how we collaborate, in sharing the outcomes of our knowledge. Rather than thinking of our outputs as texts, as publications, we also need to think about data sets, as software. Stuff that exists at multiple levels from bite size records – metadata that records our work for instance, to book size, to bigger. And we need to think about how we credit work, how we recognise effort, how we assess that work. How do we reward and assess innovation – how do we do that for research that may not lead to immediate articles but be much longer, much bigger scale.

Going back to DataONE there is a sub project called eBird, a tool to allow birdwatchers to gather data on birds. They are somewhat ahead of the game in thinking about crowdsourced science. Colleagues at Dartmouth are starting to look at crowdsourcing data. My son plays a game that lets you fold proteins that contributes to scientific research. There are examples from Wikipedia, to protein folding to metadata games, etc. which also challenge traditional publishing. The Shakespeare Quarterly challenges peer review with an open process – an often challenging form of peer review. Gary Hall and colleagues at Goldsmiths are also innovating with open journals. But we also see a change from academic knowledge as something which should be locked away, a move away from the book as fetish object etc. In the UK we saw JISC fund – from open access science but curated by humanists and scientists.

And we see information that can be discovered and represented in many ways. We can get hung up on Google or library catalogue search dynamics but actually searches can be quite different. So for something like Textmap we get an idea of different modes of discovering and browsing and searching the archive, opportunities for academics to reinterpret and reuse data. The opportunity to manipulate and reuse data gives our archive much more fludity. We can engage on many different registers. You can imagine the Shoah Foundation archive which I showed earlier having a K12 interface, as well as interfaces for researchers, for publishers etc. Some may be functional interfaces but some may be much more playful, more experimental.

Humanities scholars and artists are helping to design some of these spaces. The tools will not take the form that we need them to as particular humanities scholars unless we are part of that process. We often don’t think of ourselves as having that role but we have to shape those ways to communicate our data, to visualising it etc. Humanities scholars have spent years interpreting text, visual aspects, emotion, embodiment, we are extremely well placed to contribute, to help us build better tools, better visualisations etc. There is no logical fit between the design of the database and the type of fit with the work of humanities researcher. Data can have inconsistencies, nuances, multiple interpretations, they don’t easily fit into a database but databases can be designed to do that. Mukurtu ( is an ethnographic database and exploration space, the researcher has worked with the world intellectual property association and indiginous groups to record and access data according to their knowledge protocol, that reflect kinship relations, codings of trust. We also have much to learn from experimental interactive design. The Open Ended Group ( do large scale digitisation. They have digisted a huge closed detroit factory, and used 3D visualisation. It’s for an experimental art space not a science museum. It’s a powerful piece to experience and inhabit and explores the grammers of visuality. It’s not about literal reinterpretation but creative and immersive explorations.

Another example: Sharon Daniel – database driven documentary from IV drug users in a needle exchange programme in San Francisco. 100 hours of audio to be explored through the interface, work in Vectors. Vectors is a journal I edit, an experiment on the boundary of humanities research, visual interpretation and screen culture. Can you play an argument like a video game? Can you be emersed in an argument like a film? Another example here is an audio exploration of the largest womens prisons in California. Curated to make an arguement about our complicity in the rhetoric of imprisonment by the state. The piece has a tree based structure which allows exploration based on where you have been. You can navigate the piece through a variety of themes. You can follow one woman’s story through the archive in a variety of ways, and incarceration and the paradigms on which it depends. The piece is quite different to a typical journal article – it will be different every time. Which raises interesting questions for the assessment of scholarship. It’s fairly typical of what else is in the archive. We pair scholars with minimal or no programming experience with staff in design and programming staff in the lab. A fantastic co-creative process but not scalable, especially as many of these pieces are in Flash. But we have identified many research questions and areas for exploration here.

I work in a cinema schools, looking at visual cultures. We found we needed tools, we didn’t want to build tools but the scholarly interpretation needed by our scholars does not fit into existing rigid strcutures. Since we began to work in this area we’ve moved to thinking about potential around vernacular knowledge, collaboration with the Shoah Foundation, temporal and geographical maps from Hypercities that let you explore materials in space and time. And from those partnership we have formed a group, the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture ( funded by Carnegie Mellon(?) with partners from the Internet Archive, with the SHoah Foundation, with traditional humanities research centres, with design partners, 8 university presses to explore none traditional scholarly publications and those presses have committed to publishing these born digital scholarly materials. And you can begin to think about scholarship across scales, with new combinations, ways to draw in the archives. Traditionally humanities scholars have a vampiric relationships with the archive! We can imagine in the world of Linked Data that the round tripping of our scholarly knowledge back to the archive might become quicker and more effective. So we’ve been building a prototype… this is a born digital book about YouTube by a media scholar, which takes the form of YouTube. It’s an open access book but peer reviewed in the same way as any other. So we have built a platform called “Scalar”, a publishing platforum for scholars who use visual materials. Anyone can log in, to play with the software, to try to create and engage with the software. It’s connected to archives – partners, YouTube, Vimeo, etc. and particularly to Critical Commons – an archive that includes some commercial materials (under US copyright law) and also links to the metadata around that material. And it lets you create different structures that allow you to take multiple paths through materials, through data, more like a scholarly form but not neccassarily in linear routes. So, for example, “We are all children of Algeria” by Nicolas Mirzoeff. He had a book coming out in print but when submitted the Arab Spring took place and was very relevant to the book so he created a companion piece. As you built the piece on Scalar a number of visualisations are generated on the fly to show you data on the content of the book, visual Table of Contents, metadata, the paths, etc. Another recent project, “The Nicest Kids in Town” – on American Bandstand that includes video that couldn’t be in the book. Also Diana Taylor and the Hermispheric Institute

Henry Jenkins and colleagues interactive book on digital cultures. Third World Majority an activist archive and scholarly expert pathways through that archive. Blurring the boundary between edited collection and archival collection. And the Knotted Line blurs public humanities and public curation. It explores incarceration in the US and this is based on the Scalar API with their own interface which is quite tactile.

These tools allow us to explore the outputs of scholarly research in different ways, the relationship to evidence, but also to think about teaching differently. See programme in the humanities and media studies, at intersection of theory and practice, where students must “make” a dissertation rather than write a dissertation. See also Rethinking Learning – a series of cards and materials from which students could create peer to peer learning. It is also a dissertation. The author Jeff Watson will be in a tenureship track role in Canada in the fall. Susana Ruiz has created a dissertation prototype which is a model of learning around games and video archives. But both of these projects look at new possibilities for teaching and learning.

We are building tools here for humanities scolars not “digital” humanities scholars. We build upon rich traditions of scholarly citation and annotation. Our evidence can live side by side by the analysis which increases the potential rigour of scholarship, the reader has far more opportunity to question or asses those arguemens. And the user/reader has an opportunity to remix. This isn’t about watering down our scholarship or making it ritzy, rather it is about making our scholarship flexible to an ever changing world and accessible in new ways.


Q1 – Richard Coyne, Architecture & ECA) You raised the question of citation and academic and scholarly practices. Visual materials can be difficult to that

A) We tried stuff out here. A flash project is really hard to quote, accessing a specific audio file in Sharon Daniels work is really challenging. But in scalar each object has a unique identifier and URI, and you can export as XML and PDF, and you can use the API. It’s a traditional relational database with quite an idiosyncratic semantic layer on top. So you can build interesting stuff because of that combination.

Q2) You talked about emotion. There can be excitement around this sort of material but for some there is a sense of fear around knowing how to engage, particularly when incorporating into our own curricula and research. We can be quite traditional when we return to our desks. Any simple start up ramps to get through the fear barrier?

A2) It’s been a slog, even at USC. Dealing with visual rhetorics and argument. We have an institute in visual literacy for practice based PhD and interactive undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. We have guidelines and rubrics developed there for multimedia work and assessment and those have been useful rubrics for other schools in the university. At university level for tenures and promotion committee we have created criteria for assessing digital scholarship, the different ways to evaluate that work. The issue is less the form of the work but actually assessing the contribution of such a wide range of collaborators with very different skills. We have borrowed from the sciences but that’s not a simple mapping, there are issues. We have had only four digital media PhDs completed so far but all have gone on to good things. Visual temporality have traditions that it can draw upon… it will be an unevenly distributed move for next 10 years or so at least.

Q3 – Clara O’Shea, School of Education) the engagement with living archive, and the role of the scholar in that – what are the ethical implications? And what ways are your work changing the way scholars assess their own work?

A3) I’m just starting to look at assessing the role of the digital archive and the radical shift in purpose than the traditional archive. The library is about access, the archive to preserve. Digitally that split isn’t as relevant. Ethically it is very tricky though. The Shoah Foundation recorded materials long before the web, this was set up by Stephen Spielberg. Now they did sign away their rights to materials but we have been working with the board of the Shoah Foundation around what is and is not appropriate to do with the materials. There are projects for kids to remix video – so we have developed an ethical editing guideline for those students. At Dartmouth with that metadata game there has been a need to really think about the ethical and quality implications – exploring by layer, the difference of “expert” and crowdsourced, is a way that has been handled. In terms of scholars it changes the relationship to evidence and to scholars own work. So back to the Shoah material they have a policy of not providing transcripts as they want researchers to actually watch the video, to understand hesitancy and emotion. They have had scholars who have gotten students to make transcripts for them, analysed that and the Shoah foundation queries the analysis and whether scholars had seen the films. When those scholars actually watched the films their experience and analysis was quite different.

I was trained as a feminist film scholar when it was hard to find the film. I had read about the films before seeing them, often long before, and you could be left wondering if the scholar you had read was based on the same thing. Having the evidence there changes that, gives you a more direct relationship. Also writing small sections of arguments, writing more modually, that is what you start to do rather than long form structures we are used to, and that can be really appropriate for humanities scholars in some areas.

And now many thank yous and onto breakouts. I am going to Breakout 2, chaired by Professor Robin Williams:
I will be talking about  a project from the last three years looking at electronic literature as a model for creative innovation and practice. It’s mainly about networked communities of data analysts and practitioners. I was looking at ideas, concepts and new ontologies, of creativity in particular. And focusing on co-creation and collaboration. I say that is novel but really it isn’t, co-creation and collaboration pre-dates the digital era, pre-dates publishing in craftsmanship traditions. I was looking at both amateur and professional artists and practitioners, in a transnational, transcultural contexts. How we use the internet to create, say, art. So this is about exploring process, creativity, community, these sorts of aspects.
We came across the idea of creativity as a social ontology. Creativity as “an activity of exchange that enables (creates) people and communities” (Simon Biggs). You need interaction in the making process of this sort of ontology. In the communities I engaged with creativity was a subsequent activity of the collaborative community. They were interested in the making process rather than the objects of the making. Ethnographically I took a post-modern multi cited approach as a framework: follow the community; follow the artefact; follow the metaphor; follow the story; follow the life; follow the conflict; and I added the idea of follow the line (follow the rhizome). The communities are dynamic, changing, they move in different directions. The same in the voices, how many are there within those communities… The fieldwork was very nomadic both offline and online. I started following one community, then found many others connected. I followed online but also offline (within Europe). I looked at a network physically based in London, other communities started with New Zealand, moved to Germany, Italy, etc. and online presences moved beyond this.
I was looking at the idea of a “creative land” sat between place, artefact, practice. The practices are connected, through a community of bodies that make these assemblages happen. I look at the theoretical approach by (?) of creative lands. I didn’t just look at the creation of objects but also the creation of communities. Looking at creativity of Synergy and Assemblance. So I looked at, probably largest digital arts community in Europe. They have an offline gallery in London where I undertook fieldwork in January 2011 and this is still ongoing. This comes from the idea of being further than the leftfield, their basis is political and based in politics of late 1970s but also with criticism of commercialism of the New British Artists and Saachi’s influence on the arts. I looked at the daily activities, how they communicated their activities, and it is very equally distributed, not hierachical. For example one co-founder Mark Garrat talked of the community as “the medium” for this work. The artists were involved could come from sound, to network, to cyber performance, quite an open approach by Furtherfield. They have created the idea of DIWO – Do-It-With-Others, the making of art and artistic practice. This is defined on the website and clearly requires social interaction and collaboration as part of this work, about heteroarchy. The DIWO ethos is about contemporary forms of collaboration, an open and political praxis, about peer-to-peer processes for learning and sharing knowledge and making knowledge. And the idea of media art ecologies – based on Bucht who believes in a continuum of humans and environment, and from George Babbetson who talked about ecologies of mind, as multifunctional and different ideas and cultures coming together to make an assemblance.
The particular projects using digital platforms tend to focus on social change, particularly environmental change. And there is a movement called “make-shift”. Two groups, one around the world, one in Exeter. They have cyberperformances. And they have an open source “App Space” performance space for video, for materials, tweets, etc. This is one kind of process, of use of ideas. The artists have particular materials for performance including facilities to allow multiple audiences, multiple mixing, multiple points of access to be part of the performance. Another performance brings in comments from Facebook. As well as her belongings from the last 5 years, juxtaposing this with other forms of collection.
Another project, Read/Write Reality and their work Art is Open Source. Their idea is creating academies of knowledge. They share the knowledge of how to use open source tools to make art. So one project of Art is Open Source uses ubiquitous realities movies with WordPress. Their work is about co-creation and collaboration. I am also looking at AOS: Ubiquitous Pompeii through autoethnographic processes. This works with high school children in Pompeii, looking at designing and imagining possibilities to see the city in different ways. And co-creating and remixing material with schools. Using ubiquitous technology to co-create cities. It is still about peer-to-peer processes, about co-design… We are seeing the process of working together. The largest and best known project of Art is Open Source is La Cura – the call for a cure for a brain tumour, sharing medical information and scans etc. openly on the web.
Q1) We have a project on open source and film, how do people engaging in these works actually make money from them?
A1) Furtherfield are using crowdfunding, education projects etc. to keep running. Art is Open Source runs educational and other projects and provides funding to make some of these projects happen.
Q2) You write in scholarly journals etc. Did the keynote give you thoughts about how the projects you look at may be written up in new ways.
A2) Yes, I think one thing that is interesting is the idea of being open source but I would also like to see collaborative writing. The monograph is all about me. But I would like to see multi voice texts and would like to look at this for sure.

Copyright, authorship and ownership in digital co-creative practices – Dr Smita Kheria

My work arose from Penny’s previous project. Some of the participants will be common to Penny’s presentation just now. My research interest is in exploring the norms of collaborative practices so far as copyright and ownership are concerned. I am a copyright lawyer and I am interest in how authors relate to copyright law in their practices. Copyright law poses 2 problems. Firstly how it conceives authorship and how that author is credited; and the second problem is how collaborative authors are perceived and how that works in practice, and particularly in emerging collaborative processes online.

So, just to ensure we are all in the same place. Copyright protects the work, it must be an original work. There must be some originality, some effort, skill and judgement. Usually the first author is the first owner, they are the copyright holder and has the economic rights. In collaborative work there are particular assumptions. In co-authorship – for example distinct book chapters in a book – each author has the rights for their contribution. When a joint authoer is perceived, a collaborative authorship, then all contributions have rights. But there is no distinctions within the concept of a joint author. And that has implications for the perception of authorship.

Last year Penny and I worked on a six month AHRC project looking at creation and publication of the “Digital Manual” and looking at authority, authorship and voice. Explored through interviews and focus groups. Participants were working with open source mechanisms. We asked participants – and creators – what the role and meaning of collaborative authorship was for them. What they felt about this, rules of attribution etc. And we found no set rules here, some ideas of how they should perceive authorship. Some commonalities across all four communities – which included MakeShift (from UpStage) and Art is Open Source. What they created was built in real time, changing regularly, grounded heavily in collaboration. The first case study on Art is Open Source we saw a very hands off approach to authorship and ownership. They are a network, they provide open source platforms and software, and also a fake competition in the project we were looking at. They were clear about the ownership of the platform and the software – open source and GPL licensed. But in terms of authors they wanted to disappear, they don’t want control, do not mind what others do with the material they have created. So for instance a book which came out of the project was discussed, they felt forced to be on the cover by publishers. They did take responsibility for the process but didn’t want to engage in what was made with what they made available. They felt attribution was important, generally important but they were not concerned about attribution of their own work.

This was very different to Sauti ya Wakulima. This is a collaborative knowledge base project set up by a set of farmers in Tanzania who share materials gathered via smartphone. There is an ongoing community around farming practices, climate change, etc. The person who set up this project took a very active role in terms of the content created and in the platform etc. They spoke to farmers about the licensing of content etc. This was made available under Creative Commons. His own perception of authorship was different. He did see himself as the author of the software, although he talks about using others materials and code. He was the author but no “not everything came from my own mind”.

Looking at UpStage from make-shift. The platform is totally open. But what about the performances? Well they left that to  performers. There was no licence fee payment option within platform for instance. Performance organisers used the term “brokers” of collaborative performances in the space but, when asked about the performance, capture of the performance for instance, they conceived themselves as authors. They wanted to disassociated themselves from notions of authorships but that was very much their own perceptions. And there was ambiguity about contributed images around performances as well.

And the final case study was FLOSS Manuals – collection of manuals on free and open source software. It is entirely open and editable. A collaborative publishing platform. A lot of manuals there. When editing videos we had taken in this work I actually used one of their manuals for my own work. The platform is open but what about the content? The platform takes a very active role in the content. They have clear licensing, using GPL. Anyone can publish, sell, reuse content. Within the community creating the manuals there was no consensus, it was imposed by the platform owners. And the creative community here radically expanded attribution – anyone who had done anything at all (a single letter, a font face, etc) was credited. Some uncertainty when we spoke to them as the community was unsure about attribution and licensing.

This was a small study but it is clear that collaboration and co-creating has huge implications for perceptions of authorship and huge relevance for copyright law.


Q1 – Ewan Klein, Informatics) A comment more than a question: GPL does not let you do what you like. But do you think that Creative Commons would have provided a trail of attribution in the right way?

A1) Yes Creative Commons would allow that but not all of those we spoke to had the same feeling about attribution, about how work should be attributed and whether there is to be attributed. And under the law some may not be a copyright work (e.g. 1 line in a manual). Here attribution and copright ownership would be split. Do you attribute the collective or the individuals? The farmers went for collaborative attribution… that solves the problem but not the issue of who should be attributed.

Q2 – Chris Speed) something here to do with reciprocity. In terms of commons, in commons land… implicit models of not taking all your sheep… could that translate to copyright

A2) Reciprocity did come up as a suggestion on the basis of which attribution could be made. But how do you assess reciprocity? This comes back to Robin’s question of funding. All of these projects were started by grants, thereafter funded by second jobs, projects, PhDs, voluntary contributors. So if coming in voluntarily is attribution the least you can do (e.g. FLOSS), but maybe if getting a performance that is reciprocity enough? Now these were very different projects and that does need bearing in mind, but those differences were interesting.

Simon: There is a model in Open Source Software of attribution. In open source films we see this work at first but it falls apart when it gets to being an interface from enthusasim and creation and the longer term sustainability.

Penny: FLOSS is an interesting one. This is sort of a benevolent dictator model. He was reluctant to be involved. They do not have money, looking in different directions… This open source, almost utopian community have realised that they need funding to continue.

Smita: and they had an issue. They could publish those manuals but so could anyone else. It would be good to go back in a year’s time to see what had happened.

— And a break whilst I spoke at the Scottish Crucible —

“It’s a computer m’lord”: law and regulation for the digital economy – Prof Burkhard Schafer

I have come in a little late here but Burkhard is talking about new forms of data, such as monitoring data on older people, for the monitoring of their health but potentially ethical and legal concerns. What if you use technology to help people with their memory – what if it has legal issues? What if it leads to a criminal investigation? New forms of data collection invalidate traditional metaphors, traditional divisions of law.

I am based at the law school, notoriously the scene of a crime – the body snatchers of Edinburgh. The law tried to manage supply side, that led

Regulation through Architecture (Larry Lessig) – they restricted access, they build fencing around graves, they patented thick metal coffins that allowed you to view the decomposition before burying, to avoid body snatchers. I call this DRM (Death Risk Management!). But this does relate to the loss of things that are precious. There was a case of a father who gave his daughter, who was dying of cancer, a phone with unlimited voice mail box. But the phone was in her name and when she died the messages were deleted. He took legal action but this is not an easy case.

Whose assets are they, whose privacy is at stake? What happens to the digital artefacts after death? This is complex. This work is part of a multidisciplinary research project, not just informatics and lawyers but across anthropologists, sociologists etc. We came up with radical suggestions far from that of these judges. For instance the “Dead Man’s Switch” – a way to wipe your hard drive and remove embarrassing stuff on your death. There were joke companies promising to look after pets in the case of the rapture to ensure your pets were taken care of by good aethists. But there are serious questions about a service here… about legal liability when taking action on behalf of a dead person.

What about disintermediation? The body snatchers were banned so they cut out the middle man, killing for bodies rather than digging them up again. But could it happen again? Well child trafficking and sex abuse sits in some of the same places of preying on the nieve. We work on this area, looking at ways to understand the role of social workers, teachers, police so that they can extract information they need to evidence a case without breaching data protection law or compromising privacy. This is one of our more technical projects around encryption. And this includes consideration of risk to informants, what can be shared and how, to make sure that there is sharing of neccassary data without exposing others in responsible roles’ as informers on their clients or communities.

Robots bring deep seated problems. They will be something more than machines. They change how we think or interact with technology. To give examples is it appropriate legally, ethically… to give someone suffering with althzeimers a robot that speaks like her husband even if it comforts here? It may be justifiable emotionally but it is a massive deception. Similarly is it ethical to have robots looking like people, should that be another law of robotics.

Meanwhile we have Sensecam devices that automatically take images of their day. Althzeimers patients have been given these to go through their day and work through them with their support worker – to go through their day, remember what they have done, this seems to have benefits for retrieval. They use these devices on dogs too (for more fun purposes). Legally… well in galleries, theatres, movies… photography is banned but should there be an overriding right to take pictures. In Germany public buildings are copyrighted and images cannot be taken. We let guide dogs go where other dogs cannot, maybe this is a similar justification.

And a final example: David Valentine records his performances: “Duellists” and “The Commercial” in public space – demands made on council for CCTV films of his performance for his performers rights. Legally in the UK this is complex!


Q1 – Jen Ross, School of Education) In recent release of Google Glass some restaurants and business banned Google Glass and I’m wondering about the social response and impact of these technologies.

A) Google “St Patricks Day Google Glass” for amusing example. One of the concerns I have… these are being designed in health settings and medical settings but are being designed for live blogging. This is sort of a trojan horse for changing privacy laws and expectation. Private time has origins in latin for robbing time from others, we expect to be alone. It’s fine if we are OK to have images taken etc. But without ability to be alone, if privacy is a public good not a private good then we may not want people to give it up so easily. It becomes very complicated. Lots of frivolous uses trying to get public use on the back of essentially medical technologies.

Q2) I worked on a project with Charles Wab on data sharing. A thing I found in that context is that once you’ve released data into that space… you’ve talked about advocacy role of the social worker… but once released how do you retrench into your social role?

A2) It’s not surprising that in case of child abuse evidence was there but have not been shared. Rules have been changed but it still doesn’t work. People find a way around that. If I don’t trust the recording mechanism I don’t share the data. If I’m concerned about use of my data then I don’t write them down any longer. I don’t think all the evidence we’ve found from the social scientists, the political scientists is that technology doesn’t change that. People respond to requests in our approach, not dumping all their data as they just won’t comply in any manner of creative ways. And it’s a distributed system, rather than centralised for the same reason.

Letting your digits do the walking: on the road with Ben Jonson, 1618 & 2013 – Prof James Loxley  and
Dr Anna Groundwater

We are at the beginning of our digital journey in comparison to others who have been talking today. I will tell you a bit about the manuscript we are looking us, it’s significance and the journey we think it could take us on. In 1618 Ben Jonson walked from London to Edinburgh on foot – an extended walk with no evidence until James Loxley came across an account by a walking companion, a treasure trove of primary evidence for researchers, and a window into life along the Great North Road. So I will talk a bit about how we can recreat that world, to understand that using primary and digital resources.

My experience of digital online resources as a user was as a beginner. I physically dug around in regional and national archives along the Great North Road. Digital catalogues have really helped me to do this, it has allowed me to achieve much more and in a much more cost effective manner. Tools like EEBO have helped me speed up the collation of materials online, to gather biographical information alongside literary texts. Most apposite here is EDINA’s Digimap, I’ve been using it on a daily basis, a way to reinterpret and consider networks, social spaces in early modern britain.

And the literature allows us to understand social spaces, social practices. We can look at practices of hospitality at that time, the experience Jonson was having. Welbeck Abbey for instance is discussed in the manuscript, with specific descriptions of taking over the house from Sir William. Also mention of Mr Bonner the Sherief in Newcastle. Some of this text we have been able to verify. We have been able to use OED to understand some of the terminology e.g. hullock, a wine for very important people.

The texts also provide a history of cultural interests, antiquarianism of tourism and travel.Of the places visited, of the castles, buildings and grand houses along the way. And the route taken there. From Belvoir Castle through to Pettifour Well in Kinghorn. So Edinburgh castle, for instance, was one of his stops. We can use art and images of that era to recreate that voyage. We can physically make these journals, but we can make these journals digitally too. The digital journey remaking the mental and physical connections of that historical journey.

Over to James: I will touch on the dimensions of the project which have emerged as we have been going along. Dimensions of which we have become aware. This was a digital project right from the start, since we have been talking about the project and the manuscript, many have asked about how the manuscript came to light and why this has happened now. The story is a disappointing one. In fact it involved me sitting down to consider the potential for a set of digitised set of catalogues, done by the National Archives, which are catalogues of archives around the UK in a project called Access to Archive. This allowed discovery of collection and structure of collections. I was looking through materials and how they worked, I was able to find literary manuscripts and where it sat in the collection… seemed to refer to Ben Jonson but the spelling was such that no one searching would have found it. There was no rummaging in archive attics. But we have been further exploring digital dimensions.

Because we have a journey here, because it is not like Boswell’s account of Samual Johnson but is instead a list of people, places, food, etc. We can see dimensions that are not classically those that a literary scholar are looking for, what we see as a quantifiable text I suppose. For instance an account talks of the time a journey began, the time of arrival, the locations. And can work out the distance of 9.5 miles, a time of 3 hours, what the walking pace was. Jonson seems to be at about 3.17 mph (modern human average 3.3 mph). An interesting one since Jonson in his own notes says he is around 20 stone. maybe something is not quite right there?

We don’t know who wrote the account, we have candidates but the companion is still anonimous. We can work out the height of the companion using surviving architectural drawings of a venue visited. We can work out that he is 5’5!

We are inevitably working with small data here. We have places, times, distances, speed etc. allows us to visualise the journey in ways we maybe would not have been able to do before, a manifestation beyond the annotated text. We’ve initially been exploring that in terms of a map. (see This inital map on our website gives a sense of places visited (via map pins) and on those pins we include the time they were there and notes which is growing as metadata (excellent sweet water at York!). This is a starting point to begin to map out the data the walk has presented us with. This is really at “rehearsal” stage. There is a performative aspect to this walk – Jonson is greeted by crowds, by property owners, etc. markers etc. People have told us that we must reenact the walk! So we are doing a virtual walk, on 8th July he will tweet in real time on Twitter, that will be linked into the map and the information on the blog site, an interaction between those channels. Hopefully Ben will get into conversations as he is on his way, that’s part of what we’d like to do!

We are already thinking about the possibilities of expanding this for future projects. There is an example called Mapping the Lakes, a team at University of Lancaster made this tracking Thomas Grey and Coleridge journeys around the lakes, created with a GIS to visualise the walks. They have mapped obvious markers but have also tried to map more subjective things such as mood of the walk. You can look at them separately or together. That seems a way of thinking about the literary journey that we would like to develop for ourselves. We would like to think beyond the map we are “performing” this summer… There is clearly an interplay between sites and routes… some are easier to map and work out than others. In some places there was a guide to take them on their way – very hard to find the obvious route. Thinking also about how the mapping of the journey could bring in different possibilities, views, prospects, meaning of sites, etc. We haven’t represented those on the map but we would love to, particularly to compare their walk to modern walks. How do different models of the walk undertaken “for the sake of it” compare? And how can we take that walk, preserve that experience, feed in other materials etc. We hope to be able to approach the AHRC for follow on funding and we would love to talk to anyone interested in the spatiality of walking who might be interested in engaging.


Q1) A connection: Joseph Burlaff, an artist in the US, recreated Gandhi’s walk using a treadmill and hooked up to Second Life avatar and reproduced that there… possible digital precursor

A1) Interesting possibility. Could get gradients in perhaps. There are analogues or comparitives out there to explore. There is a deepening tension and intensifying interest in the process and practice of walking. And how that carries with it expectations and kinds of appropriate representational modelling, do some justice to spatiality but not assuming a single model is all that we need.. need to weave different senses of the spatial within literary walk.

Q2 – Rocio) Comment on idea of the walk: making a collective walk, ask people in surrounding areas to do a bit of it, make it interactive and add their part of the journey… If you can’t do it yourself.

A) Exactly what we hope to do. Want to bring in local history societies and walking groups etc. on the old roads and feed that in.

Old light on new media: medieval practices in the digital age – Dr Eyal Poleg

We are working on a project called Manuscript Studies in an Interoperable Digital Environment funded by the Mellon Foundation. We have found interesting parallels between the reading of medieval manuscripts and medieval practices. Perhaps we can learn from Medieval practices to think about developing digital practices. In many ways printed books are an interim step here between practices we see across old and new media.

Lets start with hypertext. Hypertext is very common in medieval manuscripts, particularly in the Bible. The problem with the New Testament is the Gospels, how do you jump from one to another. You can explore a version at University of Toronto for instance. But in the manuscript era we get the usepian cannons, in the margins of each episode the usepian cannons and use the tables to jump from one to another, very similar to click on a link. This starts something new in exploring the text.

In the 12th Century there is a beautiful text in France. It is a working manuscripts. It has physical cut and paste. It shows the authors wrestling with technology, with experiments in navigating the text. Inventing references. And they tie that to the “late medieval bible” – Gutenberg bible is a replication of one of these bibles. The innovation of these bibles is evident in the chapter division, previously no divisions in the text. From 1230 onwards, with help of Stephen Langton the Archbishop of Canterbury, we have the chapter divisions. And we begin to get Book and Chapter divisions. This fits into mindset of Christian Exegetists at the time of the linkages within the bible. But this linking etc. took off like wildfile – the most efficient way to link and navigate. When we think about hypertext in the Medieval we have to also think of the web of illusions that people also had. So when reading a text, for example a psalter, there is an interaction of text, image and sound. For monks reading the text created a world of illusion. So we can, using digital technology, replicate that to an extent. By adding musical strata of the text, intricate links that evoke the memory of the men and women who would read these texts.

The wiki is a structure we also see in medieval texts. Even now the interaction one has with a printed book is limited. In Middle ages books were different, they were communal objects even for the monks. Annotations were seen to add value to the text, a communal project to read the text. You can read generations of commentators through the margins of the text. The way it took place.. and this is worth considering… is by giving amply space to interact, to comment on the text. Space deliberately left, intermedial and marginal glosses, spaces for comments and annotation. You can see the different hands, texts, monks reflected in the communal commenting on the text. And you see some commentators responding to each other. In one manuscript in Glasgow an O character has been vandalised, a later reader finds this offensive, erases for future readers… so how much can readers interact, erase, changes to the text do we allow? That would have been a nice image…

There is also a sort of Open Code emerging in manuscripts. a Printed book is not that open. But looking across the same manuscripts we see differences – some are errors or changes by the scribe. In the medieval ages the scribe assumes the text could have been faulty, they try to correct them, the text was in flux. Scholars use this to reproduce the text and we can also explore connections between one manuscripts and another. But of course what is a text? What is a changed text? What is a fixed text?

And finally we have non linear texts here, this can be created now in digital environments. Not necessarily beginning, middle and end. Navigation can be very different. For instance a medieval teaching manual uses images and associated ideas to explore but these are non linear, the image point us in directions within the text. And this ties into a late medieval aesthetic vision of ellisons. The idea of a network of ellisions.


Q1) This is a fascinating talk, there are several very orchestrated ways to explore medieval manuscripts that this relates to. You touch on websites reflecting print books, not neccasarily taking advantage of the multimodal opportunities of the web.

A1) That was the starting point to the project. Mellon saw medievel manuscripts increasingly being digitised but that people were using them as printed texts and it wanted to look at new ways of working. So for instance you can see the Summarium, a prototype that uses TEI annotating a non-linear version of the texts, in a communal way.

Q2) Is there a connection between the idea of hypertext in medieval texts and the role of the church as an information system. There have been times where the physical church acted as an information system for state information etc. I’m not sure if that is true of the medieval era.

A2) In the middle ages, unlike the reformation, this is less about inforcement and more about the reality of texts. You live the texts. Monks especially live and breath the text and information. You wake and pray 7 times a day, you are surrounded by images, you are embedded within the textuality.

Q3) Do you find any dilution of the text transferring them to digital technologies? I am sure that institutions are very careful about this

A3) This is not an issue for us. The texts are not of interest to religious institutions today. Very early or very later texts might be an issue but these are not an issue

Q4) Have you ever come across work on roman law reception in the middle ages in codex, I think he came to similar conclusions analysing legal texts as hypertext and wikis. He has a secular models of the same phenomenon

A4) Yes I wasn’t aware of that but I will be interested to have the references. The manuscript texts were a little behind legal texts but it would be very interesting to compare.

And now onto the closing from Sian Bayne saying that it really has been a day of new ideas, very inspiring. And thank yous to the audience and the organisers and of course to all of our speakers.