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DHA 2012

Australasian Association for Digital Humanities conference, Canberra, (28-30 March 2012)

New Maps of the Australian Twittersphere

And the (dubious) honour of presenting the final paper in the final session at DHA 2012 falls to … me. Below is the Powerpoint, and I’ll try to add audio to this as soon as I can, too I've now finally also managed to add the audio, no thanks to a very dysfunctional Slideshare.

Theorising Mobile Digital Humanities Research

We’ve reached the last session of Digital Humanities Australasia 2012, and it’s the one I’m in as well. But we start with Mark Coté, whose interest is especially in smart phones. He begins by asking whether long-term humanists may sometimes feel as overrun by the digital humanities as inner-city dwellers may now feel by smart phone-wielding users.

Nonetheless, the digital humanities are an exciting development, and there’s now a need for some conceptual inquiries into the digital humanities. One area for this is the relationship between the human and technology, which must question the nature of the human, and its ontological status as ‘natural’. There has always been a constitutive relationship between the human and technology, Mark suggests, and this understanding runs counter to a more traditional line in western metaphysics which distinguishes craft, knowledge, and nature.

Approaches to Internet Content Preservation

The final speakers in this DHA 2012 session are Monica Omodei and Gordon Mohr. Monica, from the National Library of Australia, begins by pointing out the importance of Internet content as raw data for humanities research – and even when the live Web is the object of study, its ephemeral nature means that archives of Web content are absolutely crucial for verifiability and reproducibility.

Relevant examples of such research include social network research, lexicography, linguistics, network science, and political science, amongst many others. Common collection strategies to develop archives of online content include thematical and topical archiving, resource-specific archiving (e.g. audiovisual materials), broad surveys (e.g. domain-wide), exhaustive (closure crawls for a specific Web space), or frequency-based. Such captures will have input from domain experts, will operate iteratively, use registry data or trusted directories to determine what to capture, etc.

The Open Annotation Collaboration Model for Linked Data

The next speaker at DHA 2012 is Anna Gerber, whose interest is in open annotation for electronic editions. She defines annotations as additional information attached to a digital resource or part of the resource, which do not modify the original content of the resource itself.

Such annotations traditionally exist as footnotes, endnotes, glossary entries, or in other forms, providing descriptions, explanations, or justifications for particular textual or formatting choices (especially in critical editions); they may also be used to link in secondary material. But such annotations – especially in digital editions – can also be used for comments, questions, and replies; that is, to sustain a dialogue around the primary text.

New Models for Scholarly Publishing

We’ve entered the final afternoon of the Digital Humanities Australasia 2012 conference, and the next session I’m attending starts with Danny Kingsley, whose interest is in the changing nature of scholarly communication. Such communication generally follows a cycle from publication to reading to ideas to research to new publications, but there is no generic scholarly researcher: there is also an invisible college of people who share an interest in a topic, but may not be immediately connected to the research.

Scholarly communication ranges from ‘urban’ science models (lots of researchers, fast-moving, high volume and speed of publications, especially through conference papers) to ‘rural’ research activities (slower moving, longer timeframes, slow editing processes, and a greater focus on monographs). Journals sit somewhere in the middle, and haven’t changed all that much since the emergence of journals in the 1600s; the scholarly article remains a fairly stable unit of currency in academia, and is deeply embedded in its rewards systems.

The Digital Turn in Australian Archaeology?

The final speaker in this DHA 2012 session is Sarah Colley, who brings us back to a core definition of archaeology (as dealing with the human past, and writing history, based on archaeological evidence). There is a wide range of stakeholder groups in Australian archaeology, from government agencies through local groups to media organisations, with no requirement for formal, central accreditation.

There are a number of codes of ethics for archaeologists in Australia, through; these deal inter alia with stewardship of tangible and intangible heritage, the rights of key stakeholders and traditional owners, minimum standards for fieldwork and analysis, intellectual property, the public right to know, client confidentiality, and legal frameworks.

The Personal Brand of the Archaeological Researcher

The next speaker in this DHA 2012 session is Alice Gorman, whose focus is on the use of social media to communicate archaeological research. Archaeology remains poorly understood; popular portrayals of the discipline, from Indiana Jones to Time Team, don’t necessarily have much to do with actual practices in the field.

Alice’s interest is in space archaeology (from earth-bound technological artefacts to space junk), and in thus protecting our cultural heritage; under the moniker ‘Dr Space Junk’, she’s been sharing her work through a blog and a presence on Twitter.

Remote Sensing in Archaeological Resource Management

This is a very fast-moving DHA 2012 session – the next speaker is Adela Sobotkova, who’ll present the Bulgarian experience in archaeological remote sensing in Bulgaria. Remote sensing extracts information from photographic images captured from space; such information has been used for site mapping and for the detection of new archaeological sites.

Federated Data Tools for Archaeology

The next speaker in this session at DHA 2012 is Shawn Ross, presenting the NeCTAR federated archaeological information management systems project. This is a major, multi-partner project which aims to manage digital data from creation to archival.

The idea here is to break data out of ‘destination Website’ silos, and to develop a federated rather than centralised system; it utilises existing resources wherever possible, and encourages the use of portable, machine-readable, and reusable data.

Synthesising Historical and Archaeological Databases

After the DHA 2012 keynote, I’m in a session on archaeology, which starts with Penny Crook. She highlights the task of synthesising history and archaeology in this field, and notes the potential which digital humanities methods have in this context. More needs to be done here: especially, more connection of available datasets, and more collaboration in online environments. Penny points to two archaeological databases which she’s been involved in.


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