Reflections on the 5th Annual DAH Institute

Thanks to students, tutors and interested parties that attended the 5th Annual DAH Institute on Friday 23rd October. There were many interesting talks on the theme ‘Networks: collaboration, connection, the future’. The slides from the various presentations will be online soon; in the meantime here is a blog outlining the day with photographs taken by the delegates.

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The Royal Irish Academy Meeting Room, on the morning of the Institute. Photo: Claire Bailey-Ross

When we were drafting the programme, we made a point of keeping this theme of ‘Networks’ in mind. We intended to bring in representatives from digital humanities, digital art, computer science and higher education research on board. We were lucky to get excellent speakers on all these themes and subjects.

The day’s events were kicked off by Dr. Natalie Harrower, Acting Director of DRI, who illustrated the importance of human and social networks with a fascinating story about online interactions that took place during a recent visit to the Pompidou Centre in Paris. During her presentation, Natalie noted that digital tools helped extend her engagement with the art.

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Dr. Natalie Harrower, Acting Director of Digital Repository of Ireland, opening the Institute. Photo: Karolina Badzmierowska

Next was Dr. Claire Bailey-Ross from the University of Durham, who spoke about the main theme of the conference. Claire’s talk was witty and clever, taking us down many deliberate ‘dead-ends’ before exploring a lot of the ways digital humanities practicioners can collaborate. Claire’s theme was that despite the name, digital humanities is centred around people rather than digital tools. She advised against top-down, hierarchal models of research, and encouraged collaborative models. How this could look in real life involved more multiple-authored papers and research rather than single-authored. She also advised informal networking – overcoming shyness and starting conversations with new people. Many of the delegates took her advice over the course of the day. Claire also illustrated her talk with pretty memorable images, including a donkey, a 1920s acrobat cartoon and a man dressed as a tomato!

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Dr. Claire Bailey-Ross of the University of Durham. Photos: Natalie Harrower

The next session was a series of Ignite presentations by second year DAH students. Each presentation was 5 minutes long and the students had the challenging job of summarising their research in that short period of time. Sara Kerr from Maynooth University spoke about her research analysing the frequency of term usage in the works of three 19th century women novelists. Next, Trine Riel of the Huston School, NUI Galway, discussed her digital art research, analysing whether works of philosophy be appropriated as a material within modes of artistic production. Jessica Jones of UCC followed up with a fascinating presentation titled ‘Curating the self: Considerations of Death and the Digital’. Patrick Egan, also of UCC, spoke about his experiences cataloguing and curating the Sean O Riada collection. Yiannis Doukas of NUI Galway presented his research looking at computer assisted reading and macroanalysis on ancient Greek texts. West Patrick Connolly of TCD finished up the Ignite session with his work on ‘Defining a Place to Practice Digital Direction’.

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Second Year DAH Ignite speakers. Photos: Orla Egan; Justin Tonra; Karolina Badzmierowska

The next speaker was Dr Michael Pierse of Queen’s University Belfast. Michael’s talk was entitled ‘Crowdsourcing and public humanities: some early findings from a Translating Cultures case study’. His research looked at the importance of establishing trust with communities whose memories and histories are incorporated into crowdsourcing projects.

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Slide from Dr Michael Pierse’s presentation. Photo: Digital Arts and Humanities Programme

After lunch, Rebecca Grant, Digital Archivist at DRI, spoke about the importance of preparing and preserving research data. This was especially useful for the students starting out on the PhD, as Rebecca emphasised the importance of setting up an effective data management plan and the benefits of sharing research data.

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Slide from Rebecca Grant’s presentation. Photo: Sara Jane Kerr

The next session was the DAH OpenSpace Networking Workshop. Dr Charles Travis of TCD got things going by encouraging the delegates to group into informal ‘unconferences’ around flip charts and to tease out a particular aspect of digital humanities. Later, each group presented the outcomes of their ‘mini-conferences’. The outcomes included statements like ‘The digital humanities needs to broker positive relationships…overcome challenges and negotiate boundaries’ – and not be a ‘wrecking ball!’, as well as ‘Is digital humanities just humanists playing with toys?’ – the answer to that was a resounding No! As one delegate put it on Twitter: ‘The “digitally challenged humanist” and the “humanities challenged computer scientist” [have a] need for mutual understanding & respect’.

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The OpenSpace Networking Workshop. Photos: Orla-Peach Power; Alex O’Connor

The next session was a talk by Dr Alex O’Connor of DCU, entitled ‘Text as Networks’. Alex described the process of topic modelling and other computer science approaches to digital humanities research, including machine learning and data analysis.

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Dr. Alex O’Connor of DCU. Photo: Karolina Badzmierowska

Following this was a session by two of the DAH fourth year students, who gave presentations reflecting on their experiences coming to the end of the programme.  Siobhan Keane Hopcraft of UCC spoke about the process of researching the archives of Bantry House and working her way through the PhD. Karolina Badzmierowska of TCD followed up with discussion of her work analysing 17th century Dutch painting using digital tools, and emphasised the importance of collaboration and avoiding isolation when working on a PhD.

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Karolina Badzmierowska of TCD presenting her research. Photo: Alex O’Connor

The final speaker of the day was Conor McGarrigle, a digital artist and lecturer in DIT, who spoke about the original, ground-breaking digital artists of the 1960s, leading attendees to reflect on the nature of the word ‘innovative’. Conor presented some of his own work, begun in the 1990s, and how it connects to past and future digital art.

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Slide from Conor McGarrigle’s talk. Photo: Clare Lanigan

With the day’s proceedings over, the group remained in the Royal Irish Academy for a relaxed wine reception where the informal networking recommended by Claire Bailey-Ross at the start of the day took place!

Many thanks to all those who took part, attended and helped out with the Institute – it was a very enjoyable experience. Looking forward to seeing you all again at upcoming events!

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