27 July 2021 -
Having just wrapped up this year’s Oxford Digital Humanities Summer School (DHOXSS), this report gives a summary of my attendance at the school, my reasons for participating, an overview of the speakers and topics addressed over the four days of morning lectures and how what I have learnt might be applied to both my personal research as well as to the digital humanities strand of the DHS student-led reading groups, which Tai Cossich and I are leading in 2022.
The rationale behind my attending the 2021 DHOXSS was to gain a better understanding of the general discourse in the field, including theories, tools and methods. Introductions to scholars and networks in the digital humanities, as well as case studies of digital humanities projects, would also provide a broad view of active areas of research. This knowledge would be used to inform the aforementioned 2022 digital humanities reading group, the syllabus for which is still a work in progress.
The Summer School morning lectures ran from 9.30 to 12.45 BST, July 12-15. The first half-hour was an informal discussion with the day’s first speaker on their involvement with the digital humanities, followed by three 45-minute lectures. The invited speakers were largely UK-focused and included many who have been involved with the digital humanities programme at Oxford. Their talks ranged from introductions to practical tools and methods, such as Dr Terhi Nurmikko-Fuller’s introduction on linked data, Dr Ardanuy, Dr Beelen, and Dr Nanni’s talk on computational linguistics and natural language processing, and Huw Jones’ presentation to the Text Encoding Initiative and XML, to more theoretical discussions about digitisation and archiving, which was eloquently investigated in Dr Andrew Cusworth’s presentation, When Archives Become Digital. General standards and best practices for digital humanities tools and techniques in Neil Jeffries’ talk, Critically Evaluating Tools and Techniques, was also valuable for understanding best practices in creating different file formats, use of coding languages, and data models. The latter half of the week focused on case studies, with presentations by Dr Kevin Page on digital musicology, Dr Matteo Romanello and Dr Giovanni Colavizza, researchers using digitised records to study the plague in Venice, and Dr Lia Costiner and Matthew Nicholls who discussed the application of 3-D modelling to architecture and objects. The keynote speaker, Ruth Ahnert, discussed the interdisciplinary research of her team as part of the AHRC-funded project Living with Machines, and the variety of scholarly and public-facing outputs the project has reaped thus far.
In addition to the presentations, notes, bibliographies and other resources were posted on Canvas, Oxford’s knowledge-sharing platform, which is available to attendees until 1 September.
Throughout the week, I was consistently inspired by the speakers’ research and noted the many possibilities for digital humanities applications to design history. Personally, I have been prompted to consider widening my own technical skills in digital methods (with the help of websites such as The Programming Historian), which will allow me to incorporate digital ontologies as part of my research. However, the larger benefit will most certainly be for the 2022 DHS Digital Humanities reading group. In the coming days, I will be surveying the DHOXSS Canva page for readings and resources to incorporate into the digital humanities reading group syllabus. The drafted syllabus also leaves open the possibility for external speakers, and I will be short-listing several scholars from this week’s lectures as possible invitees. I have also asked to join the mailing list of the (En)coding Heritage Network, an interdisciplinary research group of scholars from the humanities, social sciences, and applied sciences, whose news I can pass onto members of the reading group, as well as encourage them to join. Through all of these efforts, I hope we can build a more robust digital humanities community within the DHS, which together might be able to participate in next year’s DHOXSS. The Summer School is expected to take place in person at Oxford in 2022, which offers the possibility to meet with scholars in other disciplines and the opportunity to attend hands-on workshops introducing digital tools. I do hope we might be able to represent the DHS at next year’s DHOXSS and participate in the interdisciplinary discussions that would enrich the field of design history and the (digital) humanities as a whole.
The DHOXSS was an extremely valuable, comprehensive introduction to the digital humanities, and I would like to thank the entire board at the DHS for supporting my attendance. The school has opened my eyes to the many opportunities for further exploration of the overlaps between the digital humanities and design history. As a newly aspiring digital humanist, I look forward to applying what I have learnt to my upcoming PhD project at the University of Edinburgh and working with members of the 2022 Design History and the Digital Humanities reading group.