I have always thought myself as a digitally literate person, but after attending the Digital Humanities Conference at the University of Manchester, I believe that I do not have adequate digital skills. The conference was absolutely an eye-opening experience for me to explore how digital humanities have advanced in recent years. Digital Humanities can be defined as multiple emerging domains of digital practice encompassing social media, archives and other digital initiatives. The keynote speaker of the conference raised a very crucial question of whether digital humanities are translational or transformative. If we reflect on the generative power of digital humanities, it can be argued that they will be more likely to become transformative in the near future as they influence not only the methods and techniques of inquiry, but also the nature of the inquiry itself. During the conference, we had the chance to see fascinating examples of visualisations, tools, projects and applications in the field of archaeology, history, computational linguistics, etc. Below are the conference highlights for me:
- Voyant Tools: As I am interested in corpus linguistics, I am excited to discover this tool! It is a web-based textual analysis tool that offers creative ways of visualisation of texts. Please check the Tools Index and try them.
- @CultureFM: It is a Twitter account combined with a radio station exploring arts, culture and heritage organisations. Very creative, isn’t it?
- Fedora Commons: It is digital repository software where you can manage, preserve and link your digital content. It is particularly useful for research groups and large-scale projects.
- Metadata Tools: Premis, File Information Tool Set, Dublin Core Metadata Initiative and Aid4Mail. They are especially helpful for researchers working in the fields of computational linguistics and data mining.
- Cave Writing: I am immensely impressed with Cave Writing which explores how 3D computerised environments could expand our understanding of the written word.
There are challenges of conducting these large-scale digital projects, such as collaboration, time, funding, expertise, training, space, equipment, institutional commitment, investment in knowledge and flexibility (The list seems to be endless!). Therefore, researchers in this area attach great importance to preservation and sustainability of digital resources. Another important consideration is to ensure the digitisation of these resources and increased public engagement with them. At the strategic round table, it is pointed out that PhD students may play a great role in building links across disciplines where methodologies, technologies and expertise can be shared in the realm of digital humanities. They highly recommend PhD students to improve their skills in digital humanities so that we can transfer these skills to a wide variety of career options in the future. There are certainly quite a few novel approaches and tools to explore! If you want to follow the conference conversations, you can search for #DHManchester hashtag on Twitter or read the tweets on Storify.