On 5 May, the School of Advanced Study (SAS) is hosting ‘Beyond the Digital Humanities’, the final in a series of important events on the future of digital humanities organised by the European Science Foundation (ESF) research network NeDiMAH (Network for Digital Methods in the Arts and Humanities). It will be chaired by Professor Lorna Hughes (below left), SAS’s first chair in digital humanities and Professor Andrew Prescott from the University of Glasgow.
Since May 2011, NeDiMAH has run a programme of activities and built a collaborative research forum to investigate the use of digital methods in arts and humanities research. The network has explored key areas of theory and practice in a number of methodological areas, including: the analysis of time and space, visualisation, linked data, large-scale data analysis, editing, manuscript imaging, temporal modeling and scholarly communications.
The reach of these events has been documented in a series of maps of digital humanities activities across Europe. This has allowed the Network to get a sense of the diversity of practice as well as understand and demonstrate the collaborative and trans-national nature of digital humanities and the integration of digital approaches into all aspects of the research lifecycle.
Our objective has been to understand better the impact that digital methods have had on transforming scholarship in the arts and humanities, and the potential for extending the benefits of digital research to the creative industries, industry and public policy and planning.
Collaboration has been key. And this has ranged from working with scientific and technical disciplines, data science and libraries to archives and museums, existing European research infrastructures (including CLARIN and DARIAH in addition to commercial entities. The very complexity of the digital environment means individual researchers and small groups are less able to exploit it effectively, so collaborative models are emerging as the norm.
As we look forward ‘beyond the digital humanities’, the evidence base created by NeDiMAH is an excellent basis for understanding the impact of ongoing digital research: the seamless integration of data, and a critical engagement with its management and preservation as part of the humanities research life-cycle; the ability to scale up (and down) working with disparate data from diverse sources; skills for the critical analysis and interpretation of data created locally and by commercial organisations; and the experience of embedding digital scholarship in contexts of culture and community.
At a time when attempts to define the digital humanities grow contentious, NeDIMAH has provided a powerful example that the digital humanities is about practice, rather than attempting to define itself. Moreover, its work reveals that a critical framework for digital research within the ‘big tent’ of digital humanities must be based on a reflection of the diverse and rich work that has been carried out to date. This will be the basis for future knowledge production in the humanities that takes advantage of digital tools, methods and content.
Formalising digital humanities: NeDiMAH Methods Ontology
Our main output has been the NeDiMAH Methods Ontology (NeMo), a formal expression of the practice of digital humanities that explores this richness and complexity, and provides a valuable resource for critical and peer review of digital outputs.
NeMO also demonstrates directly the scholarly ecosystem that underlies digital research in the arts and humanities as a distinctive intellectual practice with considerable impact within and without the Academy. As we move beyond the current state of the art in the digital humanities, it is more important than ever to understand the nature of digital humanities and its wider impact, or to summarise:
‘What do you do with all this digital stuff?’
Beyond the Digital Humanities
The event will focus on the key issues and challenges in what has been called the ‘post digital era’, and we are delighted that an amazing group of international experts have agreed to participate in the event.
Presenters and panellists include: Lucy Kimbell (Brighton), Brett Bobbley, (National Endowment for the Humanities), Alessio Assonitis (The Medici Archive Project), Florence Helle Porsdam(Copenhagen), Jon Pratty (digital producer), Teal Triggs (Royal College of Art), Sean Ryder (NUI Galway/HERA), Keri Facer (Bristol), Jacqueline Hicks (Royal Netherlands Institute of south-east Asian and Caribbean studies), Catherine Moriarty (Brighton), Jessica Parland von Essen (Helsinki), Barry Smith(SAS), Patrik Svensson (Umeå University), Milena Zic-Fuchs (Zagreb and European Science Foundation).
Follow Professor Lorna Hughes on Twitter @lornamhughes.