Digital Humanities at Oxford Summer School

Last month I was lucky enough to attend a week long Summer School in Oxford- and being the week that the heat wave kicked in, it really did feel like a Summer School! The course managed to be both varied and intensive, with large lectures, group workshops, surgeries where specialists would help you with your own project, evening events & even a guided tour of the Ashmolean.

The range of topics covered was staggering, but I think the ones that stuck out for me were Crowd Sourcing, Public Engagement/Knowledge Exchange, Social Media, ‘Openness’ in the Digital Humanities and Measuring Impact. I’d really like to share with you a couple of the wonderful Crowd Sourcing projects:

Zooniverse2Robert Simpson of the Zooniverse team gave a fascinating talk about the crowd sourcing portal they have developed. What started out as an experiment to see if they could find enough people interested in identifying planets from raw astrophysics data, developed into 17 separate projects across 5 Research fields & around 860,000 people taking part world-wide. Some of the projects include transcribing 2000yr old Papyri, identifying Whale language & mapping Martian weather- not a bad way to spend your lunch break! Robert thought the key to a good Crowd Sourcing project was a subject where human beings can interpret the data better than a computer & a hook that makes people want to be involved- even if it is as simple as the desire to contribute to the worlds knowledge. Zooniverse are great believers in the Open Source community & are happy to share both their knowledge & code.

WW1-1While Zooniverse is centred on developing online virtual data, another Crowd Sourcing project started out with a real crowd and analogue objects- Kate Lindsay really bought the Re-Imagining WWI project to life . This started out almost like an Antiques Road Show where the public was invited to bring along their family WW1 history: stories, letters, photo’s & memorabilia. Experts were on hand to look at the items & photographers to document them. In the first 12 weeks it proved so popular that they had 6500 submissions, and led onto an online submission system & further road shows across Europe- the submissions now are well into the tens of thousands.

All in all, the Summer School was an enjoyable & inspiring week which should prove invaluable as we endeavour to develop the potential of our digital archive.

Susan Pettigrew


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