Category Archives: DDH in the wild

Decoding Digital Humanities London – 2012

Decoding Digital Humanities London (DDHL) is a series of informal monthly meetings for anyone interested in research at the intersection of computational technologies and the humanities. These gatherings provide an opportunity to discuss readings and raise questions, but also to mingle and share ideas with others in the field of digital humanities.

The series was founded at University College London and is now aiming at involving a larger number of institutions across London. PhD, MA students and staff at UCL, King’s College London and Goldmisth’s University of London are amongst the organizers this year.

The first meeting will be on January 31st at 6.30pm at The Plough (upstairs), 27 Museum st, WC1A 1LH. We will discuss the Digital Humanities Manifesto:

No registration is needed but an email would be appreciated. Please write to

Digital Humanities Software Developers Workshop

This post was co-edited by Geoffoy Noel and Miguel Vieira.

The first workshop for Digital Humanities Software Developers took place at the University of Cologne from the 28th to the 29th of November. The main aim of the workshop was to bring together the DH developers, discuss ideas, and work collaborative in projects. Around 40 participants attended to the workshop, with a large majority of developers and some researchers. Continue reading Digital Humanities Software Developers Workshop

OAPEN-UK focus group on open access academic publishing

On TuesdayI took part in a focus group on open access academic publishing at the British Library, organized by OAPEN-UK, the British branch of the Open Access Publishing in European Networks project. Six academics with an interest in open access publishing were asked to consider from the point of view both of authors and or readers various issues around the free, online publication of academic monographs. (Publishers were represented at a parallel meeting earlier in the week.) The remit of the three-year OAPEN-UK project is to consult with publishers, librarians, funders, academics and various other stakeholders, and analyse the most important issues surrounding open access publication with a view to making recommendations based on wide discussion and hard evidence. (The project includes an experimental element whereby thirty pairs of books from various publishers, one open access the other not, will be compared over the course of the three years to analyse the impact on sales, profit, circulation, impact and citation.

In addition to myself, the group included Gabriel Egan (Loughburough), Peter Heslin (Durham), Panu Minkkinen (Leicester), Thierry Rayna (London Metropolitan) and David Zeitlyn (Oxford), and was convened by Ellen Collins (BL) and Caren Milloy (JISC). Some of the major issues that were raised in the discussion included:

  • financial questions surrounding the costs undertaken, tasks carried out and risks taken by publishers, such as commissioning/editing, copyediting and printing
  • the issue of prestige and metrics; the imprimatur brought to a monograph by virtue of having been peer reviewed and accepted by a major publishing house, which is important to scholars seeking tenure, promotion, etc.
  • the difference between basic open access (merely cost-free to read) and full open access (legally free to re-use and distribute)
  • the fact that many of the important intellectual roles in publishing are carried out by other academics, usually for no pay: peer reviewers, referees, series editors, etc. A learned society ought to be just as well-placed to administer this work as a publisher

There seems to have been a lot of interest in the idea of combining the traditional publication of hard-copy (or even e-pub copy) for sale, with a rolling wall allowing open access publication or self-archiving of digital copy perhaps a year or two after the first publication, when almost all the profit a publisher is going to earn has been made. It remains to be seen whether publishers will be as enthusiastic about this model, or whether we will need to continue to see research grants paying publishers subventions to allow open access publication, as happens in some scientific and medical disciplines.

It was a fascinating and rich discussion with a wide range of interest and expertise, and I certainly haven’t done it justice in this brief summary. I look forward to seeing the official report on the OAPEN-UK website.

Digital Epigraphy panel at BES AGM

I was just at the British Epigraphy Society‘s annual meeting and AGM in Senate House today, and I spoke in a short panel on “Virtual Epigraphy”. The three presentations were designed as short reports on digital projects, and were squeezed in just before the afternoon coffee break.

Dr Karen Radner (UCL) spoke about the State Archives of Assyria online, one of the core datasets of the the Open Richly Annotated Cuneiform Corpus (ORACC) database which aggregates some 20 collections of Cuneiform language inscriptions. Karen talked about the scale of the project, the value of aggregating multiple datasets in a single interface, and the power of search tools for mastering a very large corpus, especially lemmatized text search which enables the comparison of words across texts in different forms, dialects, etc. She also stressed the importance of established standards and open source technologies for building a corpus of this scale.

Professor Silvia Orlandi (La Sapienza, Rome) began with a bit of history of the EAGLE (Electronic Archive of Greek and Latin Epigraphy) federation, and then illustrated the value of a database that gives detailed contextual and supporting information as well as searchable text, using her database of inscription from Italia, EDR. She finished by talking about the next phase of work on EDR, which will involve harnessing the power of the Internet to create a massively collaborative community of Roman epigraphers (on the model of the for papyri) to contribute bibliography, photographs, improved readings, or even new texts.

I then spoke pretty briefly (I didn’t want to be the man standing between a room full of epigraphers and their hot coffee) about the planned Inscriptions of Libya platform that I’m helping to put together (with Hafed Walda and Charlotte Roueché here at King’s, and other colleagues in Bologna, Macerata and Paris). InsLib will bring together IRT, the forthcoming IRCyr, an in-progress IGCyr, and the Ostraka from Bu Ngem (available in XML at, in a single search and browse interface that will address issues of authority, versioning, surfacing old readings and apparatus criticus and (hopefully one day) an implementation of the SoSOL software for collaborative editing and improvement of these texts.

Hafed Walda, media presence

The World Today 31/10/2011 06:05–07:00
7 days left to listen

Live news and current affairs, business and sport from around the world.

An Interview about the Treasure of Benghazi.

Here is the link tp the BBC i Player: Start 0:48:45

Treasure of Benghazi Stolen in One of the Biggest Heists in …

Continue reading Hafed Walda, media presence

DH at Reading

DH at Reading logoThis Friday, the University of Reading discusses Digital Humanities at the one-day event DH at Reading.
High-profile Digital Humanities speakers will introduce fundamental topics of research in the field, and will be followed by a round table led by Ph.D. students with a strong DH component in their work.

Elena Pierazzo, from the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College will introduce Medieval and Modern Manuscripts in the Digital Age; while the round table will be joined by the department’s PhD students Øyvind Eide, Tom Salyers and Raffaele Viglianti.

We’re excited to talk DH at Reading and contribute to the dissemination of the disciplines to those institutions interested in participating more to the field.

DH’11 Poster: Virtual Touch

© A. Bentkowska-Kafel & D. Prytherch

In case you didn’t know, touching is exciting!

We can ‘turn’ a page of a virtual manuscript, look round a virtual statue, ‘walk-through’ a virtual building, our avatar can ‘perform’ in a virtual amphitheatre or ‘sit’ and watch others acting. Wouldn’t it be exiting to also be able to ‘touch’ and ‘feel’ the virtual objects around us? Over the years very many 3D computer models of artefacts have been created, and many got neglected. Their use in  research and education could be much wider, and benefit new users, if optimised for haptic display. As part of the Digital Arts and Culture module, our DH postgraduates have tried and tested a haptic system in the classroom. They ‘handled’ 3D models of museum objects that cannot be touched by the public. Students’ feedback was very encouraging: this is an exciting area of technology! We, the Digital Humanists should try to influence its future development by voicing our needs and expectations.

You are invited to have your say at ART AND SCIENCE OF TOUCH

Anna Bentkowska-Kafel, David Prytherch and Christos Giachritsis

Our DH’11 poster can be seen in Gabby’s photo right behind Raffaele Viglianti, see Gabby’s post of 21 June.

DDH posters at DH2011

Colleagues from DDH presented four posters at the Digital Humanities conference in Stanford this year. As far as I can see all posters were popular, and despite the unfortunate fact that they were only up for a few hours on the afternoon of the poster session itself (so I doubt anybody had the chance to see everything they might have been interested in) it was a good fun session with lots of interaction and interest all around.

I managed to snap a couple of shots of our colleagues in action:

John Bradley and Timothy Hill, When WordHoard met Pliny: breaking down of interaction silos between applications

John presented this poster on the subject of some recent developments he and Tim have been making on his award-winning research organization and annotation tool, Pliny (not an acronym, but named after the Roman polymath writer Pliny the Elder), and in the short time I was nearby he interacted enthusiastically with a steady stream of visitors. John said, “Yes quite a few people came over to talk about the poster. Because I’ve been building Pliny for some years, a lot of questions were from people who didn’t know about it at all and so I needed to explain; I should maybe also have brought along my first ever poster which gives the background to the whole project. But I did have the opportunity to talk to some of them about the topic of this poster, which is our approach to applying annotations to moving targets, such as dynamic web pages.”


Gerhard Brey, The Wellcome Arabic Manuscript Cataloguing Partnership

Gerhard’s poster is on a very cool project which involves digitizing and cataloguing some 500 manuscripts in collaboration with the Wellcome Library and the Biblioteca Alexandrina, and is exemplary both in digital innovation and curatorial practice. As we’d expect, he engaged with his visitors on the whole range from pedantic technical queries to large-scale theoretical discussion. Gerhard told me, “I was surprised by just how many people were so interested in the project; a dozen people stopped and asked me detailed questions about it, for example about the unique qualities and peculiarities of Arabic manuscripts, or how the projects tools could be applicable to Persian texts. I think there are a lot of opportunities for further work in this area.”

Eleonora Litta, Geoffroy Noel and Elena Pierazzo, Modelling a Web-based editing environment for critical editions

Eleonora presented this poster on an editorial environment developed at King’s for the scholars involved in the Early English Laws project. The corner of the room she was based in was so crowded I didn’t get a chance to ask her about the poster and the project itself, but afterwards she told me, “What struck me was that so many of the people who came and spoke to me asked the same thing: namely whether I thought the editorial framework we had implemented for EEL was repurposable for other projects creating digital critical editions. This is clearly something that a lot of people are thinking about.”

Raffaele Viglianti, Adapting EATS for crowdsourcing: Register Medicorum Medii Aevi

Raffaele’s poster is on the RMMA project, which involves collecting and relating prosopographical records of mediaeval doctors from the Byzantine, Arabic, Anglo-Saxon and neighboring worlds, by many different scholars with potentially very different interests and needs, into a single controlled dataset with editorial board, rigorous publication standards and stable versions. Raffaele said, “There was a lot of general interest; a couple of people from the field of mediaeval medicine were interested in contributing, and several others were interested in the publication mechanism and the system that includes peer review as well as collaborative authorship.”