2017 Bursary Holders Reports
For information about the bursaries offered in 2017, visit our Bursaries page.
Sophie Quantrell, Library Assistant, University of Oxford
Introduction to Digital Humanities
What is it?
DHOxSS is a summer school dedicated to the intersection of Humanities research and technology. What type of technology, I hear you ask? Well, whatever you can come up with! There were eight workshop strands available covering subjects from the creation of digital text and computational methods in musicology, to linked data and citizen science. This amateur, though, opted for the Introduction to Digital Humanities. Good move. I only just kept up.
Who was there?
I think the question is more, ‘who wasn’t?’. We had representatives from a lot of different countries, universities, research centres, job types, and fields of study. All were doing wonderful and creative things combining useful technology with their research. It was brilliant to sit down at lunchtime with participants from, for example, Iceland, Sweden, Australia, the Netherlands, Iran, Italy, and the US. Discussions around how education and research systems differ across the globe were intense and informative, broken only by incredulity that it was brightly sunny and yet raining in one specific area of St. Anne’s courtyard.
Just to put it in perspective, I filled an entire notebook this week. It was all fascinating and useful and the speakers were, without exception, expert and engaging. In the words of Inigo Montoya: “Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.”
Some stand-out bits:
Stephen Downie: Machine Learning and Music. In his brilliantly engaging style, Stephen Downie took the group through multiple aspects including representing data visually to better cluster it, making the most of your dataset by using different parts of it as both test and training data, and various techniques for gathering and analysing data. One of the best bits of this talk was being able to analyse which types of music were most similar to each other based on the mistakes that the machine had made.
Iain Emsley: Reproducible Research. If there was one thing no participant left the summer school without, it was the vital importance of being able to rerun, reproduce and share data. Iain took us through what to do if we wanted our data and research to reside, unreusable and untestable, alone in a locked silo. We learned never to cite our sources or add helpful comments to our code; we learned the utter foolishness of publishing anything but the end result and above all, never to let others have our data and methodology lest they find a mistake.
Pip Willcox: T(ext) E(ncoding) I(nitiative). This was a revelation in terms of making texts (especially non-modern ones) intelligible to a machine and therefore, a user search. It provides a way to formally encode all the weird bits of texts and create a digital version of a text (not a facsimile, a text in its own right). In a further rush of excitement, we also got to learn how to write a bit of TEI! Never one to be biased, whilst extolling the virtues of TEI all week, Pip also invited Nicholas Cole, for whom TEI was not an option. This made for a fun rivalry and showed us all that you have to pick the right tool for your research and not just because it’s a great tool generally.
Kevin Page: Linked Data in the Humanities. Is Very Powerful. And Exponentially Complex. So we realised part of the way through this session. As well as teaching us how to produce triples and link our data, Kevin managed to get across the importance of unambiguous links and authority control, making human patterns out of machine automation, and, through a mind-boggling practical involving writing and linking triples, a sense of relief that the machine usually does that bit.
Multiple speakers: Machine-learning. A recurring topic throughout the week was the improvement and use of machine learning: teaching computers how to refine their own programs so that they become more accurate. One example which caught the imaginations of all the grown-ups in the room was the idea of crowd-sourcing research through enterprises such as Zooniverse. People sign in to click on pictures of penguins (not rocks) to teach image-recognition software, through provision of countless examples, to correctly identify objects as penguins (and not rocks). Similar projects asked non-professionals to identify types of galaxy which has led to ground-breaking new space objects being spotted by members of the public as well as fulfilling the original research need.
Three summary themes
• All data is subjective (and there’s one very enthusiastic opponent to this statement)
• Sharing and openness with data is everything good in this world
• Start with the question, then use or make the tools (avoids ‘must-use-fancy-new-software’ syndrome)
Best bit of the week
For me, the best bits of the week were finally understanding Linked Data and how exciting it is, and getting to do some actual coding in legitimate conjunction with the Humanities! The second best bit was definitely grinning every time Stephen Downie referred to something as ‘groovy’. To be completely fair to him, it usually was.
This could also be titled ‘People of whom I am now in awe’:
James Cummings – The founding co-director.
Pip Willcox – co-director and all around centre of enthusiasm and positivity.
They and countless other people worked extremely hard to make it a useful, smooth-running and enjoyable week.
In sum: one fantastically successful summer school!
Theodor Costea, Research Assistant, Technische Universität Berlin
Data Science for the Humanities
Simona Di Folco, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Edinburgh
Social Humanities: Citizens at Scale
As a humanist interested in Psychology and Social Sciences, I have always given an indisputable value to human relationships, face-to-face communication, and live interactions. However, recently, I have been fascinated by the digital world and its possible opportunities to outreach a wider audience in education and research. This was the drive underlining my application for the DHOxSS. When I was awarded a bursary I thought I could not miss the opportunity to explore a little bit more the future potentiality of engaging with the digital world for my work.
I should confess that, although I like technology, I also discovered myself afraid of the extended and massive impact (the dark side) this is having on our lives, almost dehumanising humanity, to some extent. However, I should also mention that probably I was not fully aware of the positive side of the story, the massive and incredible power of engaging with digital tools on a world wide scale for collaborative research purposes.
Attending the DHOxSS represented for me the opening of Pandora's box. For five days I have absorbed knowledge (or at least I have tried to....apologies for some Tweeting @Simona_Di_Folco in between!) on a huge variety of systems, software, or website to effectively engage with the public on a large scale for research. This sort of collaborative research, based on a direct engagement with citizens who are empowered of being scientists, was completely new to me, as I have been trained to the traditional and old-fashioned way of coding texts, transcripts, images, and live interactions and at doing it in isolation, at maximum with two other reliable coders.
In attending the #sochums strand I have been initiated to the idea that there is a more collaborative, money wise and time-worthy way to do research, engaging directly with the audience to gather their own contribution and help in shaping the meaning of your data (e.g. images, books, transcripts, photos). Here it comes the concept of "Social Machine". Dear reader, I guess you also do not know we engage thousands of times with social machines (e.g Google, Twitter, Fb, LinkedIn) in our everyday life. I didn't know either. Far from being a mere tech artefact, a social machine is a creative process, where humans do the creative bit, letting the machine administer and deliver the output on a large scale.
Brainwashed with this notion for most of the time, I think at the end I also was turned into a social machine. Dear reader, be aware that when I meant I was turned into a social machine we could break up the meaning of this expression: the first part, the most rewarding, "social", due to the opportunities for networking, making friendships, and experiencing indulgent time breaks (coffee and cake, tea and cake...I had always a cup of coffee/tea in my hands!); whereas the second part of the expression, is the machine. The machine could be identified in my brain processing knowledge, details, information, absorbing and trying to create a network of meaning, despite at time this was really far away and remote from my "safe zone" of knowledge, it created huge dissonance with my former beliefs and I felt I was totally out of the right place.
The discrepancy from what I knew before and what I was learning (that is what in psychology is called a zone of proximal development), lead to an outcome: another social machine based on a platform called Zooniverse, used to engage the public in a wide scale project. The whole process of setting up this platform implied cooperation, collaboration, sharing and plenty of discussions with other social machines = nice and knowledgeable colleagues attending the #sochums stand. The international atmosphere and the huge variety of contributions (ethnography, linguistic, archivist, arts, software design) were the hotbeds of creative ideas in those days. Yes, a social machine is a very creative process!
At the end, the definition of Social Machine I decided to embrace, sounded more or less like this "rather than being an intentionally engineered piece of software - the substrate of accumulated human cross-system information sharing activities". I felt even my humanist side could accomplish with it and it contributed to warm up the atmosphere, melting all the technical information into the comprehensive and warm-sounded word "humanities". Thus, when it was the turn to design a prototype of the social machine, along with my colleague Sonia, we proposed a social diary. Backed up with our own experience of migration (for me) and moves (for her) and looking forward to finding a way to facilitate people building up connections when they relocate, we drew the picture below, which displays the product of our brainstorming.
At the end of the five hectic and engaging days, the sadness of packing and leaving melted in my eyes and I had to surrender to it, realising that, yes, believe it or not, I am also a social machine... (hopefully a good working one!) and after this experience I am brand-new to generate ideas and collaborative projects on a large scale! Attending the DHOxSS and more specifically the #sochums strand just reset my brain. The road for collaborative research lies in human creativity and cooperation at the end. This is the beauty and richness of research in the humanities to me. However, this goal cannot be achieved without engaging with the digital world to outreach real humans’s participation.
Dr Simona Di Folco
Katie Chapman, Doctoral Student, Indiana University, Bloomington
DHOxSS was a fantastic experience. The workshop strand I attended, Digital Musicology, presented a wide range of tools and perspectives that will be useful for me both immediately in my dissertation work as well as in future projects for my own research and in teaching. There are a few tools like aspects of the interaction with OMR and IIF expanding possibilities that are particularly relevant to my planned projects; I plan to work with Python and MusicXML, MEI and likely Music 21 while I finish work on my dissertation project in the next year. The opportunity to meet the other participants in my strand as well as lecturers was also a wonderful experience, both during the workshop and the evening activities. My strand had participants with a wide range of backgrounds in the digital and the musicological that made it a very interesting group to be with during the sessions and for conversations during breaks and meals. I learned a lot, have a good start to learn more on those tools most relevant to my work, and made several wonderful contacts.
Amy Franks, University of Iceland
An Introduction to Digital Humanities
Before I’d had the chance to adjust to being back in my home country for the first time in six months, I was on the train to Oxford to continue broadening my horizons and learning as much as I could. During the first year of my two year MA programme in Viking and Medieval Norse Studies at the University of Iceland, the impact and scope of the digital humanities had not passed me by, so the opportunity to spend a week dedicated to learning about this thriving field was one I was excited to take.
I chose the strand ‘An Introduction to the Digital Humanities’ as this field is still very new to me, and my technological abilities are relatively basic. This strand really opened my mind to the ways in which digital technologies can be used in the humanities, particularly dispelling my perception that the use of digital technologies created digital outputs for research only, and can also be hugely beneficial for the research process.
One thing that particularly struck me about the importance of the digital humanities is the way it allows scholarship to become more accessible in a variety of ways. As Andrew Prescott noted in his closing keynote, digitisation of manuscripts allows them to be used by people who would otherwise be unable to move them, if visit them at all, due to factors such as physical strength and disabilities.
This theme was recurrent throughout various talks. It was often noted, for example, that in creating searchable databases of information, relevant data could be more quickly collated, giving researchers more time for analysis. Similarly, by digitising manuscripts and physical artefacts and using editing software, comparisons can be made without having to travel potentially such extreme distances. This is of particularly huge benefit to graduate students and early career researchers, who often find themselves lacking funding, and have huge pressures to meet ever increasing deadlines in line with institutions’ funding needs. It is further important to remember the intersectionality of these groups, and the further disadvantages experienced by researchers from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, who are non-white, visibly queer, mentally ill, and physically disabled. The digital humanities allows these groups to engage in research in ways that would otherwise be inaccessible. The insights these groups have into medieval studies is often creative and hugely impactful to our understanding of the medieval period. I can therefore see that digital humanities is having a huge impact on our fields, and I am very excited about the skills DHOxSS has given me and being able to put these into use in my future projects.
Paula Loreto Granados García, PhD research student, Open University
Linked Data for Digital Humanities
Since I started my PhD at the Open University in October, I have always felt a bit intimidated about the technical side of my research and the digital skills I would need to acquire. I consider myself more as an archaeologist than a ‘digital humanist’ and apart from the module I took in Digital Classics during my MA in Kings College London, I had not received any previous education in digital tools.
My PhD project looks at the application of Linked Open Data resources in the study of Spanish archaeological heritage from the 2nd century BC to the 1st century AD, and although I knew how to deal with LOD from the beginning, I was aware of the several technical skills I would need to acquire if I wanted to fully exploit the potential of this technology. On one hand, this situation was very encouraging first, because I have always loved to learn new things, and second, because I knew that all these new capacities would play a main role in my future career development. Nevertheless, on the other hand, this fact was also a little bit scary, I have never been a ‘techy person’ and the process of learning something new from scratch can be intimidating.
Because of this, when my PhD supervisor suggested the possibility to attend the Digital Humanities Summer School at Oxford University, I suddenly became the happiest scholar in the world. The idea of receiving training about Linked Open Data for a whole week and being able to attend the development process from the very beginning couldn’t sound better. Things improved indeed when I realised I would have the opportunity to attend morning lectures on different Digital Humanities fields as well as meeting different scholars from all over the world that were already using digital technologies in their research.
During the week at the Linked Open Data workshop, I learnt how to produce, query and develop my own database of LOD and my experience at the Digital Humanities Summer school couldn’t have been better. Terhi and John were amazing tutors, they were always available and ready to answer any specific question from the group. I also enjoyed the small size of our class, it made it easier to follow the explanations and to get to know everybody.
I was amazed to discover the big presence that the Linked Ancient World Data community had in this workshop and the importance that Classics and Archaeology have today in the development of these technologies. I really enjoyed the presentations of Andrew Meadows about Nomisma, Elton Barker and Valeria Vitale from the Pelagios Commons on the Recogito Annotation tool as well as Dominic Oldman´s presentation on the Research Space query interface. These are all very useful resources that I aim to use in my investigation. I am very grateful to the university of Oxford for granting me one of the 14 bursaries to attend the summer school and the opportunity to experience such an enjoyable and instructing time.
Today, almost two weeks after our last session, I am very happy to say that the Oxford University Summer School has been a fundamental step for my PhD research development. I am looking forward to next year!
Erik Henriksson, Doctoral Student, University of Helsinki
Data Science for the Humanities
I had the pleasure of participating in the Oxford Digital Humanities Summer School, July 3–7 2017. My attendance was made possible in part by funding from my home university, the University of Helsinki, as well as a bursary I was lucky to be awarded by the Oxford Summer School. It was a busy but enjoyable week that included keynote presentations, lectures and workshop sessions.
The opening keynote, titled "Jack of all Trades, Master of One", was given by dr. Diane Jakacki. It addressed the important role of collaboration in digital humanities projects, which often require expertise from a multidisciplinary team of researchers. The lecture provided a nice backdrop to the rest of the week, suggesting that the summer school should be as much about getting to know people from different backgrounds as it is about participating in the workshops and lectures. The other lectures and panels I attended ranged from experimental digital humanities to text encoding and the development of online platforms for digital content. The range of topics opened my eyes to the versatility of the field of digital humanities: It seems to happily stretch beyond research in the strictest sense to creative experimentation in such different areas as music, visual arts and printed objects, to mention but a few.
The workshop I followed was called "Data Science for the Humanities: Exploring Machine Learning". Teaching responsibilities were shared between Christopher Wolfram and Dr. Anton Antonov, both experts in the field of data science. During the first couple of days we were introduced to a high-level programming language called Wolfram by Chris Wolfram (son to the founder of the language), and the remaining days were devoted to putting our new skills to use by examining various real-life machine learning tasks. We tried, for example, clustering pictures using Wolfram's automatic feature extraction functionality. The fast pace of progression was possible due to the platform we used, Wolfram Mathematica, which provides an easy access to complex machine learning algorithms via an easy-to-learn user interface. The primary strength of Mathematica, as I see it, is the way it makes it possible for researchers to try out new ideas relatively quickly, without being forced to learn the inner workings of the system. The downside is that the software is proprietary, putting it on an inevitable collision course with the increasingly open source oriented digital humanities research community.
Other activities of the summer school included a walking tour of Oxford and a splendid dinner at Exeter college; a generous amount of spare time was also proffered for mingling and exploring Oxford's many pubs and museums. Overall, it was an exciting week and recommended for anyone interested in immersing themselves in the blooming field of digital humanities and taking joy in the rare glory of Oxford's summer days.
Emily Parsons, Graduate Student, University of Iceland
Humanities Data: A Hands-on Approach
Prior to being admitted to a humanities graduate program at Háskolí Íslands, I was a social science undergraduate in western Canada. I came to my program and to my supervisor with ideas of analyzing Scandinavian textiles and art history, using Icelandic annals and museum collections to get at an interpretation of cloth production for the Icelandic medieval context. Productive meetings ensued, research questions were established, and then I asked the fundamental question: how exactly would I answer them? My materials and my data were scattered across about six different databases and in about five different languages – only two of which I had any familiarity with. The disparate museum catalogues, online and otherwise, presented unique challenges for getting metadata, much less for making my research accessible for reproducibility, editing, and dissemination. My supervisor, when faced with my dilemma, looked at me blankly and said, “Aren’t you young people all computer types?”.
I would consider myself a digitally-literate person, and it is true that I’ve always been around computers, the internet, smartphones, and other means of access into the digital world. Being socialized into a given environment, however, is not the same as being able to manipulate it. Digital literacy implies linguistic familiarity with a cultural system, whereas technological savviness denotes a mastery of tools that I most certainly lack. There were no YouTube tutorials for database creation, metadata collection, or archival storage. I knew what I had to do – but I wasn’t sure how to gain the skills to do it.
Using none other than the internet itself, I found and enrolled myself in the Digital Humanities Oxford Summer School in the “Humanities Data: A Hands On Approach” stream. The mix of approaches in the strand appealed to my propensity for immersion and practicality. I was particularly looking forward to getting a taste of coding—to me, all things are easier to master if you understand the language behind them. One thing that separates digital literacy from technological proficiency in my usage, is that digital literacy means being able to understand that somewhere out there is a digital tool that will help you get from Point A – raw data – to Point B – processed and therefore, useful data – even if you can’t yet identify it. Through DHOxSS, I hoped to discover the most appropriate digital tool for me.
My strand had a nearly equal mix of hands-on sessions and theory. Within the practical applications, we covered Excel, Openrefine, SQLite, and briefly, Python coding. Within the theory portion, lecturers discussed metadata cultivation, data archiving strategies, and minimal viable curation. For my own purposes, Python and Openrefine (a data cleaning tool) offered the greatest possibilities for use on my gnarled, difficult, many-language set of data. As someone with an archaeology background, metadata inclusion is a mundane aspect of research, yet I struggled to see how to integrate it within my humanities graduate research. With the theory talks given by both strand instructors and visitors, I began to get a clearer picture of how humanities metadata could be included along with the finished work.
One of the most pressing things touched on in my stream was that of accessibility. In my opinion, accessibility is one of the more exciting avenues of discussion offered by digital humanities. The professional make-up of the hands-on data curation stream was almost equally split between librarians and art historians, researchers whose work must be manageable, spread and read widely – and thus accessible. For our instructors, special attention was thus paid to how researchers can make their work available in an ethical and responsible way. Special lectures by Andrew Prescott, David de Roure, Pip Wilcox and Emily Howard showed the incredible possibilities that arise when artists, digital technologies, and digital humanities collaborate. Similarly, our instructors told stories of the magic that can happen when ‘tech.’ people work alongside ‘humanities’ people – more generally, when the fields of technology and humanities interact with one another. These examples served as a constant reminder that humanities and technology have always been entangled, and that the value of this entanglement can always be better maximized.
I was surprised that working on a computer for one week would amount to one of the most rewarding experiences in my academic career thus far – right up there with the finding of my first artifact. Digital Humanities Oxford Summer School refreshed my love for research, offered much-needed clarity, and provided me with invaluable tools and connections to embody the actually technologically-savvy researcher my supervisor believes me to be. I am grateful to all those who made the experience possible, and thank them greatly for the opportunity.
Isabel Stokholm, University of Cambridge
An Introduction to Digital Humanities
I have been fascinated by Digital Humanities ever since writing my Master’s dissertation in 2014, but before attending the Digital Humanities at Oxford Summer School I had received no formal training in the field. The Introduction to Digital Humanities strand offered the perfect induction to this wide and varied discipline, giving me a foundation in digital tools, theory, methodologies and current activity in the field. I would highly recommend this strand to undergraduate and graduate students for whom, unfortunately, Digital Humanities often remains inaccessible. Looking at my own experience at three different universities, from BA to MA and PhD level, I was never made aware of the possibilities – or even the existence – of digital methods in scholarship.
Five days of concentrated training showed me how DH methods can not only speed up scholarly work, but also pose entirely new questions. Two keynotes, sixteen lectures and two masterclasses covered an impressive range of subjects: from hot topics like Big Data and Machine Learning – ever present in the news, but of which I had little understanding before – to technical tools such as hyperspectral imaging, digital visualisation and digitisation, to digital image recognition, text editions, markup and mapping. Many of the lectures were directly related to my own work and gave me ideas of how to apply digital methods to my doctoral research. I learned, for example, how to curate my data, build advanced databases, digitise the texts I work with through Optical Character Recognition, explore my topic using Linked Data through Wikipedia’s sister projects, and build citizen science projects through the Zooniverse (and with videos of lectures now available online, I can follow up on the sessions I missed).
Before attending the summer school, I was keenly interested in using Social Network Analysis (SNA) and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) tools in my research. Now I see that the extent to which DH methods can benefit my work is even greater. My field, the history of 19th- and early 20th-century Russian art, is beginning to open up to these approaches, but has a long way to go yet. I am excited to think of ways in which I might develop my interest in this field beyond the completion of my PhD. One point that all speakers at the summer school emphasised was the extent to which DH is inherently collaborative and multi-disciplinary. The life of a historian is extremely solitary (and this is simply the nature of the work that we do), thus making collaborative projects all the more appealing. In the long run, I hope to develop just such a project with other scholars of Russian art, literature, film and music. Appealing also is the idea of good academic citizenship: that you are creating a tool or database that can be openly accessed and used by others.
DHOxSS was a truly informative and enjoyable introduction to this ever-growing discipline – one that opened up a dizzying number of subjects, as well as contact with many specialists in the field and other beginners like myself. I give me heartfelt thanks to the University of Oxford, the Oxford e-Research Centre and its sponsors for making my participation possible with a generous bursary. Until next year!
Ioanna Kyvernitou, PhD student, National University of Ireland
Linked Data for Digital Humanities
Between the 3rd and the 7th of July, I attended the Digital Humanities at Oxford Summer School, an annual training event in digital humanities. My attendance was made possible thanks to DHOxSS who offered me one of their bursaries, funded by the Electronic Enlightenment (EE) project. For this, I am grateful to Robert McNamee, Director of the EE project, and to the Digital Humanities at Oxford Summer School team who gave me this insightful opportunity to broaden my knowledge and practical experience in linked data.
My interest in attending DHOxSS derived from my research as a PhD student in Digital Arts and Humanities at NUI Galway, Ireland on early modern women’s writings. My project aims to model intellectual arguments, topics of discourse, and intertextual practices of three women philosophers (Anne Conway, Damaris Masham, and Mary Astell) by using semantic technologies. The Linked Data for Digital Humanities (LD4DH) workshop strand helped me to further develop my skills and to meet researchers who share similar interests and research methods.
LD4DH Workshop Strand
The LD4DH workshop comprised a series of lectures and hands-on tutorials taught by Terhi Nurmikko-Fuller, the course leader, and John Pybus. A timeline of the workshop’s tweets is available via Storify. It shows the main topics covered during the week: the Resource Description Framework (RDF) format; modelling data and publishing to the Web; Linked Data; querying RDF data using SPARQL; and choosing, designing, and evaluating vocabularies and ontologies.
The first session, Scaling Digital Humanities on (and utilising) the Web: The Semantic Web and Why You Should Care, introduced us to the concept of semantic web and to the practical aspects of using linked data in our own work. During this session, I had the chance to talk with both of the tutors and get some insights from their experiences and advice on how to pursue my project. Then the Hands On RDF for Digital Humanities Researchers: an example in Early English literature session gave us the opportunity to see ElEPHaT, a prototype project centring on Early English literature and explore RDF triples.
We then moved from RDF to Ontologies, and to Hands on: Building your own ontology session, where we collaborated to create our own ontology to capture and represent a given subject domain. My project’s topic on representing early modern women’s argumentations and intertextual practices was taken as a paradigm/use case for all teams to work upon. For this, I am grateful to the tutors and to all participants of the workshop because by designing various models for the same topic, I was able to see different design approaches, take part into interesting discussions and get some useful feedback for my research.
Further, the Hands on: Triplestores, and SPARQL session enhanced our skills in querying and retrieving information encoded as RDF using SPARQL (the query language of the semantic web). The last session, Discussion group and Solutions surgery: How you might apply the semantic web to your work, was dedicated to the discussion of project-specific issues. It helped me acquire a deeper understanding of the approaches, methods and uses of semantic technologies.
Invited Lectures on nomisma.org, Linked Data for Musicology, Oxford Linked Open Data, British Museum Semantic Web Collection Online, Recogito & Annalist
The invited lecturers provided stimulating talks regarding their projects and offered useful great examples of different tools and of the use of linked data in their work. Specifically, Andrew Meadows’s talk on Sharing the wealth, Linking Discipline: Linked Open Data for numismatic illustrated how nomisma.org, a namespace and ontology for numismatic concepts was created and is used. Kevin Page’s talk on Linked Data for Musicology presented several projects within the sphere of digital Musicology that utilise linked data.
In the session From the type writer to the semantic web: a personal perspective on the University of Oxford’s OXLOD (Oxford Linked Open Data) Professor Donna Kurtz, in conversation with Jon Ray and Terhi Nurmiko-Fuller, shared her personal experiences in implementing projects in collaboration with various institutions and their current work in Oxford Linked Open Data.
Dominic Oldman and Diana Tanase’s session in Exploring and using the British Museum Endpoint, from mapping to representation and semantic query introduced us to the British Museum’s Linked Data and SPARQL service. We gained practical experience in using SPARQL to query RDF data from the British Museum collection and we had the chance to reflect on the various steps of data modeling.
Valeria Vitale and Elton Barker talked us through the use of Linked Open Geodata with Recogito, an online tool developed by Pelagios Commons to annotate named entities. We learned how to use Recogito to create collaborative semantic annotations and its usefulness in connecting our data with other data on the Web as well as in exporting our data for further use. Lastly, Graham Klyne’s presentation of Annalist taught us how to use Annalist to create linked data for Early Modern Letters Online (EMLO).
Poster Session at the Drinks Reception (abstracts)
During the Drinks Reception, I had the opportunity to present my poster on Intellectual Networks and Arguments of Three Early Modern Women Philosophers. This gave me chance to share my work and get some valuable feedback from DHOxSS participants. Many thanks to DHOxSS team for this opportunity!
Morning Lectures and Evening Activities
DHOxSS offered the opportunity to participants to listen to keynotes and lectures covering a broad range of topics in the DH realm, outside our workshop selection. I had the chance to attend three morning lectures: 15cBOOKTRADE. The visualization of the circulation of books over time and space and Image-searching tool: How we got there, Big Data and the Humanities and Working with very large corpora — building your worksets in the HathiTrust.
DHOxSS has made available videos of the morning lectures and keynotes at iTunesU
Megan Cytron, Doctoral Student, Universidad Complutense, Madrid
Introduction to Guidelines of the TEI
I was delighted to receive a bursary to attend the TEI strand at Digital Humanities at the 2017 Oxford Summer School.
I am a first-year doctoral student at the Universidad Complutense working on a literary cartography of Madrid. In my professional life, I have oscillated between editorial work and programming over the past two decades. When I moved to Spain 13 years ago and embarked on a second degree in Spanish literature and linguistics, I immediately saw the potential for integrating programming into the philological method, and instinctively started using XML to encode long realist novels as a study aid. In doing this, I began to notice the mechanisms that authors use to create geographic awareness in the mind of the reader and became fascinated (really obsessed) with the ways that real and literary paths overlap on the urban landscape and respond to its topography, history, and social stratification. I started looking for a new way to extract this information so I could analyze and visualize it.
In the beginning, I worked with straight XML, but I was fortunate to discover the TEI guidelines and quickly realized that it would be much more effective to join its boisterous, scholarly community than to go it alone. I dove in and found myself a bit out of my depth. While the guidelines are meticulously documented, determining which modules to use and how to structure a TEI project can be daunting. While I tend to throw myself headlong into projects and take an autodidactic approach to programming, I felt that this would be a mistake with TEI, given the time I will invest in meticulously encoding my texts.
DHOxSS was my first academic summer school experience outside of Spain. The ambiance was that of a sophisticated adult summer camp in a peaceful, verdant setting with brilliant scholars from around the world, delicate British desserts under the courtyard tent, copious amounts of tea, and conversations that made it hard at times to go back to class. Given the strong, immediate imperative to put what I was learning into immediate practice, it was easy to hang on every word of every lecture, as I refined my methodology and corrected my mistakes before going too far down the wrong path.
I would be remiss if I didn't highlight the accessibility and focus of our workshop leaders. TEI is quite technical and is often used for esoteric purposes. One of the most exciting aspects of TEI is how widely applicable it is to describe and encode any textual manifestation - from Greek tablets to notes scribbled in the margins to embroidered adages to graphic poems or an artist's sketchbook. However, this presents a real challenge when teaching the standards to a diverse audience of scholars with their own ideas, priorities, and projects. The workshops were structured with plenty of time for questions, feedback, and camaraderie among the participants. This was not a strictly mechanical programming class. Our leaders - James Cummings, Sabine Seifert, Martina Scholger, Huw Jones, and Peter Stadler - are serious scholars working on fascinating projects that use TEI in radically different ways and this made all of the difference.
For example, Peter, James, and Sabine taught us about the potential to recreate "social networks" of the past from correspondence, appointment books, and notebooks. Martina encouraged us to reflect on the challenge of encoding and creating digital editions of complex sketches, graphic poems, collages, marked-up manuscripts, and so on. Huw spoke of the utility of using TEI's manuscript description functions for archival purposes and to facilitate collaborations with researchers at the Cambridge University Library.
I'm excited to share all that I have learned with others. One of my goals is to demystify the connection between programming and philology, particularly here in Spain where a rapprochement between these two worlds is still new and exciting. I feel strongly that humanists are the original "data miners" and we must claim our rightful place at the digital table! TEI is well-established for archiving text and enabling machine reading, but it will also help scholars collaborate with one another, share our work more effectively, capture our complex, deep readings of text, and preserve our work for future generations of scholars.
Once again, I would like to thank DHOxSS and all of its sponsors for this invaluable and unforgettable experience and, in particular, James Cummings, who ran a remarkably tight workshop with humor and grace.
Florian Cafiero, Lecturer, Ecole Nationale Des Chartes
Digital musicology is an emerging and very challenging field. Yet, very few programs teach about it. Trying to develop new researches in this area can often make you feel very lonely... I was thus extremely excited to attend this edition of DHOxSS in the Digital Musicology strand.
Speakers favoured a hands-on approach to this field, and gave examples of the latest results obtained with the techniques we learned about. This ranged from Optical Music Recognition to score encoding (Music Encoding Initiative) and analysis (Music 21) or to audio files analyis (Sonic Visualiser). We also were taught, briefly but efficiently, about some necessary computer science and mathematical background (Python, AI etc).
Learning about what we can do was extremely rewarding. Learning about what we cannot do is rarer, yet extremely useful. I am very glad that we were told about all the current technical limitations, theoretical problems, lack of data etc. This lead me to understand which questions I would be able to answer to in my own research, and which questions I should leave unanswered for a while. This also lead to me work on new topics – when you are told about new problems, you want to solve at least a few...
This particular strand attracted participants from very different backgrounds, which was extremely exciting and led to many interesting (and enjoyable) conversations. Yet, for the different speakers of this workshop, it could have been very difficult to manage: how technical can I get before I lose a part of the audience? How much time can I spend on more introductory matters without boring to death those who already know everything about them? Those are questions you frequently ask yourself when you give lectures in the Digital Humanities field. I was amazed at how well this issue was tackled, and I will probably gain a lot of teaching skills from this experience.
I am also very thankful to the speakers who presented their ongoing works, showed their very last piece of code etc., and gave us the opportunity to understand not only the present of digital musicology, but also its near future.
More generally, I have spent a wonderful time at the DH Oxford Summer School. I cannot stress enough how perfect the organisation was. Conferences, poster sessions and workshops programmed outside the strand were a great way to learn about other fields, and social events made us discover fascinating colleagues, as well as the beauty of Oxford.