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Prospectus Cambridge Digital Humanities

Contents Introducing CDH CDH Research CDH Research Impact CDH Lab CDH Learning CDH Network How can you get involved Who we are

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Cambridge Digital Humanities

CDH Directorate Professor John Rink Director, Cambridge Digital Humanities Professor Lauren Kassell Co-director, CDH Research Professor Andrew Webber Co-director, CDH Research Lesley Gray Co-director, CDH Lab James Hargrave Co-director, CDH Lab Dr Anne Alexander Director, CDH Learning Sarah Williams DH Communications and Liaison Coordinator

Cambridge Digital Humanities Cambridge CB3 9DR W T 01223 331883 E

Introducing CDH Research in the field of Digital Humanities makes use of innovative tools and methods for investigating both traditional and new forms of data and media, in addition to pursuing oppor­tunities to interrogate and reflect on the knowledge and insight that ‘the digital’ affords. By its nature, Digital Humanities is collaborative, encouraging mutually creative interaction between those in the humanities disciplines and specialists in computing or digital technologies. Over the past twenty years, DH has acquired an increasingly central role in higher education and beyond because of its potential to transform people, practices and understanding. Cambridge Digital Humanities is committed to unlocking and augmenting the transformative powers of DH research. Established in 2017, CDH is the latest phase in a strategic process at the University of Cambridge that began with the foundation of the Digital Humanities Network in 2011. CDH has four main divisions: Research, Lab, Learning, and Network. � CDH Research is the foundation and focal point of the new initiative. It supports, promotes, enables and spearheads a wide range of projects, programmes and other activities across the University, in addition to forging links with the external DH research community, funding bodies, and business and industry. � The CDH Lab offers high-level project incubation advice and a tailored research support service, drawing upon the expertise of CDH Affiliates in the University Library and University Information Services, and a wealth of computational expertise distributed throughout a large number of Cambridge institutions. � CDH Learning delivers training in research methods and transferable skills to enable new and established researchers at all levels in order to create and exploit new practices of digital scholarship.

� The CDH Network provides a sense of community and identity among those working in Digital Humanities and cognate fields at Cambridge, in part by sponsoring events for internal and external audiences including a distinguished lecturer series and ‘Searching Questions’ symposia. CDH’s administrative office is located within the University Library, which is one of its main partners. There are also partnerships with Cambridge University Press, the University’s museums sector, and institutions and individuals beyond Cambridge. The CDH directorate is guided by steering groups and advisory boards drawn from these various constituencies. The DH research community at Cambridge itself extends across four of the University’s six Schools, along with the UL, Fitzwilliam Museum, and Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. In addition to DH researchers in the humanities and social sciences departments, colleagues in STEM subjects have taken an active part in DH projects. Some STEM researchers working in DH at Cambridge are undertaking research in computational linguistics and related topics, while others are interested in Big Data methods for social science, social media and policy, visual representation, aesthetic image processing, enduser development and interdisciplinary design. Yet others have applied imaging techniques in conservation work related to the arts, or undertaken network analysis in the humanities. Examples of this groundbreaking research are provided in the section on pp. 6–7. Cambridge Digital Humanities as a whole aims to offer both a dynamic framework to support the most advanced research in the field and a creative space for exploring and exchanging new ideas. It thrives on the input and engagement of the diverse community that defines it, with the potential to create and shape knowledge and to influence the ways in which we view the world around us. 3


Data and society Another cluster of research projects is exploring the ethical, political and social implications of the expansion of social media data in particular, and the creation of Big Data more generally. This cluster complements the work of researchers in the Psychometrics Laboratory and the Computer Laboratory, but it brings a distinctively social science/ humanities-based approach to bear on social media and Big Data research problems. Recent initiatives include the Conspiracy and Democracy project; the Technology, Democracy and Digital Society strands at the Cambridge Centre for Digital Knowledge (CCDK); the Africa’s Voices project at the Centre of Governance and Human Rights; and the interdisciplinary Ethics of Big Data research group. The Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, which is led by Cambridge, marks an important change in the landscape of DH research: it aims to create a new community of researchers in Artificial Intelligence, drawing on the intellectual resources of a variety of disciplines from engineering and computer science to the humanities and social sciences.

In recent years Cambridge’s DH researchers have been involved in over 100 major projects, many of which have gained significant financial support from external funders. Four principal thematic clusters have emerged within the broad landscape of DH research activity at the University. Digital editing Cambridge is internationally renowned for its work in digital editing, with a long track record of prestigious initiatives including the Casebooks Project, Arthur Schnitzler Digital, Darwin Correspondence Project, and Online Chopin Variorum Edition. These and other digital editing projects at Cambridge are actively exploring the possibilities of new digital methods for their work and for those using the emergent editions. The nature of these advances contributes to ever more sustainable tools and outputs that have a potentially global scale. The networked digital age has also opened the door to experimenting with crowdsourcing as a public engagement tool and to using network analysis and a range of data visualisation techniques that enable greater understanding of the relationships between people and places within texts.


Theories and practices for the humanities at scale The Concept Lab within the CCDK is playing a key role in encouraging the development of research in digital epistemology. It is endeavouring to generate and deploy computational methods and is working with large datasets in order to describe and analyse the functioning and historical development of conceptual forms. Other Cambridge projects in this area seek to utilise data science infrastructure and expertise from the Cambridge Computer Lab, Research Computing Services, Cambridge Big Data and the Alan Turing Institute in order to explore and analyse the rich collections of the University Library and Cambridge University Press in collaboration with humanities scholars, librarians and archivists.

Visual culture in the digital age From the twentieth century onward, the production and consumption of visual material have become central to our understanding of society, history and culture. Much of this material is now digital, through the proliferation of born-digital visual content or through the digitisation of historic media. Cambridge has a well-established presence in the field of visual culture research and teaching through the Cambridge Screen Media Research Group and select research projects. Visual Representations of the Third Plague Pandemic, which is building a comprehensive database of images of the bubonic plague pandemic, is one of a cluster of projects focusing on visual culture research. Making Visible explores the visual and graphic practices of the early Royal Society, while Seeing Things aims to create an interdisciplinary research environment for scholars of the early modern period to debate methodologies for the study of material and visual culture.



CDH Research Impact „„ The interdisciplinary Africa’s Voices research programme capitalises upon new opportunities for gathering and analysing citizen voices to benefit the empowerment and development of poor and vulnerable populations. Strong demand for AVF’s solutions leaves it poised for greater impact in achieving global development commitments to inclusive citizen engagement and to leaving no one behind.

Digital technologies are fundamentally changing how we think, feel, act and interact. More than ever, there is a need to gauge the implications of that redefinition and to harness the power offered by technology for exploring, defining and embodying new forms of knowledge and insight about the human condition. Hence the rapid growth of Digital Humanities in recent years. Cambridge Digital Humanities in particular has enormous potential to contribute to the discovery process in which DH as a whole is engaged, thanks to the innovative and distinctive modes of investigation, interrogation and reflection being developed in Cambridge. The impact of both individual initiatives and the research clusters and other groups described on pp. 4–5 has been felt in such diverse areas as artistic practice, medical history, architectural reconstruction, and policy-making, not to mention citizen engagement. The following thumbnails suggest why this research matters in ways that could not have been imagined until now.

„„ The Online Chopin Variorum Edition project offers direct, free access to highresolution digital images of the manuscripts and printed editions of Chopin’s music, along with sophisticated yet easy-to-use tools allowing users to trace its creative history. In addition, musicians gain the power to generate unique virtual editions of their own for use in performing or listening. Not only does the dynamic character of the OCVE resource yield new understanding of how musical notation can change over time, but it sheds light on the fluidity of music itself.


„„ The public, online database of Visual Representations of the Third Plague Pandemic offers historians, anthropologists, epidemiologists and visual scholars access to the first comprehensive online archive of photographs of any infectious disease epidemic in human history. Meticulously curated, this collection redraws the portrait of a particular disease that has caused one of the most devastating catastrophes in human history. „„ It is difficult to imagine that we could understand much about the world and ourselves without concepts, but what, exactly, are they? The Concept Lab begins with the axiom that words are not the same kind of thing as concepts. Using bespoke computational tools which operate with massive datasets of language, the Lab sets out to describe and parse conceptual behaviour. For the first time, these tools enable us to map how concepts link together and to inspect what lies deep within their structure.

� The Casebooks Project has transformed one of the largest surviving sets of private medical notes in history – the records of a pair of English astrologers of some 80,000 consultations from c. 1600 – into a digital archive. This has led to new ways of understanding the histories of medical encounters and bodily experiences, writing practices, and everyday life. The project also sheds light on how today’s medical professionals and their patients think about data and narrative. „„ The palimpsest manuscript Codex Zacynthius hides an early text under later writing, but the earliest layer, from c. 700 CE, can be exposed through sophisticated analysis of multi-spectral images, revealing a unique early commentary on the Gospel of Luke. Images and sophisticated transcription together help us to recover lost witnesses to the text of the New Testament and to reconstruct the textual history of a manuscript over time.



The CDH Lab offers advice on all aspects of project development from initial concept, through incubation and start-up, to implementation and sustainability. There is a wealth of specialist Digital Humanities skills and resources in Cambridge, and the CDH Lab steers researchers towards the best tools and advice in order to create strong funding applications and excellent scholarship and research. The Lab also provides longer-term developer support for some DH projects by allocating time from a technical team based in CDH, University Information Services and the University Library. High Performance Computing Services are available in collaboration with UIS for projects requiring additional processing power.

The CDH Lab provides Cambridge DH researchers with advice and assistance throughout the project lifecycle: 1. Project concept Once an idea has been initially formed, members of the CDH Lab work with individual researchers or groups thereof according to an established framework. The Lab’s expertise is critical in the formation and articulation of the concepts underlying the emerging research project.

The team behind the work of the CDH Lab includes the Co-directors, the CDH Developer, and CDH Affiliates drawn from the UL, UIS and other parts of the University. It has a base in the CDH Office located on the South Front of the University Library.


2. Project start-up After the concept and scope of a project have been determined, the CDH Lab can offer advice and consultancy on the technical components of research bids, provide a limited amount of direct technical support for DH projects, and help to broker resources in the wider University. The advice can range from the production of digital content (images, video, 3D) and metadata standards, through to the costing, sustainability and impact of DH projects. The CDH Lab can also offer guidance to existing DH projects which wish to put their workflows and research outputs onto a more sustainable footing, particularly with regard to standards and the use of existing infrastructure in the University.

wants to ensure that data will remain available for a considerable duration, the CDH Lab can help in three ways:

3. Project implementation The CDH Lab does not directly deliver most DH projects although it may do some direct implementation work on smaller-scale projects where the necessary skills and time are available. However, this does not mean that the CDH Lab is not involved in implementation. Having identified appropriate solutions as part of the project concept and start-up phases, the CDH Lab continues to work with researchers to ensure successful project delivery.

„„ Planning a website that can operate for an agreed period after the project ends and ensuring that this is hosted securely and kept up to date „„ Working with researchers to ensure that the data is also submitted to data repositories so that it continues to be available after the website ends „„ Ensuring that in cases where web applications supporting access to data are developed (e.g. for search, visualisation, or analysis), these are maintained and remain functional well into the future. The CDH Lab can also advise on appropriate file formats and standards in which to store data to ensure that it remains usable for as long as possible. What the CDH Lab offers Cambridge researchers »» Support for world-class initiatives in Digital Humanities research »» Technical advice on innovative DH methods and tools »» Assistance with identifying, digitising and licensing research materials »» Entry-level and advanced training in conjunction with the CDH Learning programme »» Project hosting »» A collaborative environment in which to work and consult experts »» Help with writing the technical components of funding bids »» A find-a-specialist service, putting researchers in touch with Cambridge DH specialists »» Advice on sustainability options beyond the period of funding »» Advice on the commercialisation and dissemination of Cambridge DH research

The main part of its work is continuing to act as a bridge between researchers and those delivering the project who may be in other parts of the University or external to it. The CDH Lab will continue to provide advice and support to researchers working with partners to help move the project forward. The CDH Lab can also suggest different solutions if things change during a project. Occasionally this might require the input of additional suppliers. 4. Project sustainability The CDH Lab can help to ensure the sustainability of research projects at Cambridge. This is a particular challenge for digital projects due to the difficulty in continuing to maintain technology such as a website over a period of time. Where a project 9


„„ In a world where massive, networked and distributed datasets play an essential role in communication, social interactions and the economy, our Ethics of Big Data theme explores the practical and ethical challenges of researching with Big Data. The programme for this theme is developed in collaboration with the Ethics of Big Data research group.

The CDH Learning programme helps Cambridge students, researchers and staff equip themselves with the tools and methods they need to carry on delivering world-class and world-changing research and teaching. CDH Learning runs introductory training courses, organises research-focused advanced workshops, and works with faculties and departments across the University to embed DH methods and approaches into academic practice. During 2017–18 hundreds of people registered for the broad range of events in the Learning programme, including PhD students, researchers from postdoctoral stage to principal investigators on major projects, librarians, archivists, and communications professionals.

„„ Building on the success of collaborative workshops held in previous years, Ways of Machine Seeing draws on insights from art history, film studies, Artificial Intelligence, human-computer interaction and machine vision to examine the interactions between art, culture and technology through a series of workshops and courses.

The CDH Learning Programme is organised around four themes: „„ The primary aim of Machine Reading the Archive is to help participants develop a deeper understanding of the challenges and possibilities of working with archival data in the digital age, drawing on theory, methods and practice from the humanities, computer science and the archival profession.


� Scholarly Communication in the Digital Age brings together elements of the Social Media Knowledge Exchange programme previously run by the Digital Humanities Network for early-career researchers, focusing on skills development in research dissemination and communication using social media, with sessions addressing a wider set of issues related to the practice of scholarship, including Open Access, digital collaboration tools, public engagement and impact.

CDH Learning also organises many standalone events which are unrelated to one specific theme or which cut across several. Many are co-hosted and organised with research projects, departments and faculties. We welcome suggestions for new content in the programme. The CDH Learning programme is divided into three strands: introductory, advanced, and multi-disciplinary. � Doing Research in the Digital Age is the introductory strand of CDH Learning. It showcases digital research which is relevant to the disciplines and interests of a wide community of students, researchers and teachers; organises ‘taster’ sessions in key methods; and provides opportunities to experiment and work with pre-prepared datasets. This strand is primarily aimed at those who want to experiment with and explore new methods to make betterinformed decisions about what to include in their methodological toolkit. „„ Our Advanced Workshops strand is targeted at a wide range of researchers, from PhD students to academics who are leaders in their field. Many of the workshops are open for registration or application from participants outside the University of Cambridge and over the past year have included many speakers and participants from outside academia, including representatives from creative industries, heritage organisations, the public sector and civil society. „„ The Critical Coding strand offers opportunities to gain experience of collaborative, interdisciplinary work on a design problem. Workshops and courses run through Critical Coding bring together graduate students and researchers from a mix of disciplines, including arts, humanities, social sciences and technology. Participants typically work in pairs or small groups, each with at least one technology student or researcher who provides peer-tutoring in basic programming skills.

Text- and Data-Mining Test Kitchen The TDM Test Kitchen is an experimental service supported by CDH, Cambridge University Press, and the Office of Scholarly Communication in the University Library, which aims to: „„ Explore the application of TDM (Text- and Data-Mining) methods to CUP and UL collections „„ Provide a ‘live’ learning environment where researchers, CUP and UL staff can learn more about TDM methods, share good practice and exchange knowledge about how to overcome challenges „„ Facilitate discussion between researchers, the UL and CUP about how to develop TDM methods and services in future. Projects supported by the Test Kitchen are offered a tailored package of advice covering issues such as IP rights, data access, corpus creation, access to High Performance Computing facilities, data visualisation methods and software sustainability. The goal is to create case studies focused on demonstrating the potentials and limitations of TDM methods in order to guide future research in this area. The work of the TDM Test Kitchen also feeds into the content of the CDH Learning programme through the introductory training sessions and advanced workshops organised under the Machine Reading the Archive theme.


place. CDH also works closely with DH centres at other leading UK universities in London, Oxford, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Exeter and elsewhere. Other external partners have contributed to CDH Learning, including the Transkribus project, The National Archives and Cambridgeshire County Council Archives, all of which have been involved in Machine Reading the Archive. These partners have helped to design and deliver sessions in the programme and will continue to work with CDH in developing future learning curricula.


CDH’s predecessor – the Digital Humanities Network (DHN) – was established in 2011 with funding from the University’s Research Policy Committee as part of a series of Strategic Research Initiatives and Networks, which are designed to encourage research across disciplinary and institutional boundaries. Many of the DHN’s original activities have now been assimilated within other divisions in Cambridge Digital Humanities, although the CDH Network retains the particular task of building a sense of community and identity across the large and diverse body of DH researchers at the University, in addition to providing a public face for their work. These functions are being undertaken in part through events for internal and external audiences, including the distinguished lecturer series to be launched in 2019 and CDH’s ‘Searching Questions’ symposia, the first of which was held in July 2018. The Network is also a catalyst and focal point for the collaborative links that CDH is pursuing both within the University and outside it, some of which are described in this prospectus. For example, CDH has a partnership with Paris Sciences et Lettres Research University, as a result of which joint workshops have taken


Alongside these and other institutional affiliations such as those with Malmö University and the National Library of Science in Beijing are innumerable project-specific collaborations, for example with King’s Digital Laboratory at KCL, Bodleian Library in Oxford, and HUMlab at Umeå University, and with the John Stevens Henslow Project, Joseph Dalton Hooker Correspondence Project at Kew, Correspondence of Michael Faraday, and Correspondence of John Tyndall, among others. Finally, CDH is actively pursuing Knowledge Transfer opportunities by developing plans for Incubation Awards for initiatives with links to business/industry or with impact beyond academe, a CDH Knowledge Exchange programme through which CDH would help to model solutions to designated industry problems, a workshop/conference competition focusing on business/industry learning events, and training sessions for representatives from business and industry, focusing on ethics, social media and data mining.

How can you get involved?

Cambridge Digital Humanities offers a creative space for dialogue, experimentation and discovery. Its main aim is to support, sustain and initiate the development of world-class excellence in an increasingly central and significant field of research and scholarship. Collaborative by nature, CDH depends upon and benefits from the input and engagement of a diverse community within and beyond the University of Cambridge. Members of the CDH team – including the directorate, staff and affiliates – are keen to liaise with others about new or existing research activities and about ideas that might be developed further in collaboration. The first step in any research initiative, whether in DH or another field, is to articulate the questions or problems that must be addressed if understanding and knowledge are to expand and develop further. CDH is ideally positioned to help members of the DH community at Cambridge embark on that process, whether through its Learning programme, by receiving high-level incubation advice and research support from members of the CDH Lab, by participating in CDH Network activities, or by liaising with individual PIs and other researchers involved in current projects.

CDH seeks additional collaborations within and outside the University, building upon the ongoing partnerships described above. Further Knowledge Transfer opportunities are also sought with members of the business and industry sector. Like Digital Humanities in general, CDH operates in a flexible, dynamic domain that transcends disciplinary boundaries. Its work is defined by the community at large – one which will continue to grow as CDH itself generates further momentum and critical mass. If you would like to discuss a possible DH project with members of the CDH team, then please send your initial ideas to More general enquiries about CDH Research can be made to the Director at Information about the CDH Learning programme can be obtained by writing to, and about the activities of the CDH Network via The Liaison and Communications Coordinator can be reached at, while general enquiries can be emailed to


Who we are

Cambridge Digital Humanities

CDH’s work is overseen by a Steering Committee with representatives from CRASSH, CUDAR, CUP, Fitzwilliam Museum, Research Operations, UIS, UL, and three of the University’s constituent Schools: Technology; Humanities and Social Sciences; and Arts and Humanities. There are additional steering groups for the Lab and Learning divisions; an advisory group for CDH Research; and an international board of advisors.

A large team contributes to the work of Cambridge Digital Humanities. The Director has oversight of strategy and operations, working closely with the colleagues responsible for CDH’s four divisions and with the Communications and Liaison Coordinator. The CDH Lab has its own team, including the CDH Developer as well as CDH Affiliates from the University Library, University Information Services and elsewhere in the University. At present, three CDH Methods Fellows teach on the CDH Learning programme and mentor research projects. Additional Methods Fellows are to be appointed, along with Visiting Fellows and interns.

Finally, CDH benefits from the input of hundreds of colleagues in the University either through the Network or on the basis of individual contacts.

Cambridge Digital Humanities gratefully acknowledges the financial support that it has received from the Research Policy Committee, School of Arts and Humanities, Isaac Newton Trust, Researcher Development Fund and Technology Development Fund at the University of Cambridge, as well as Cambridge University Press and the Higher Education Innovation Fund. The administrative support provided by CRASSH (Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities) has also been of benefit to CDH’s work.


Cambridge Digital Humanities Prospectus 2018  
Cambridge Digital Humanities Prospectus 2018