Sunday, 23 October 2011

e-books: all deliberate speed

I am teaching a session on e-books and reading tomorrow. I feel as though I have been talking about this for most of my professional life, but that nobody ever listens to the underlying message I try to convey. This might be because it is one that few people really want to hear: things change slowly, humans are not susceptible to Moore's law; we like books and they work very well as reading devices.

I've also been trying to dig some publications out of the back catalogue to put in UCL Discovery, our online repository. I was hoping to use them to write a blog about reading in physical and digital environments. This in itself is an interesting exercise: it proves to me how careless I have been about my publications, but is also an interesting testament to the changing nature of publishing. (Stay with me, the two themes are going to knit up in a minute)

By the time I have finished writing something I tend to feel completely sick of it; I am thus delighted to send it off to the publisher and forget it. I tried to be organised and keep copies on my own machine, but until the days of offsite backup and large external hard discs that was quite hard. You had to burn CDs (something neither I nor my PC could quite seem to manage) which could then not be overwritten, or you had to be selective about copying things from an old computer to a new one as you migrated. I admit it, gentle reader, I was a bit careless in all this; plus I had a couple of hard disks die on me at very short notice. The upshot of this was that I seem to have lost several publications that I wanted to upload.

Until quite recently this did not bother me overly. After all, publishers were there to get the stuff out, so once it was in a journal or book, why did I need a copy? Enter, stage left, the IR and open access rights for the institution to publish your work. All of a sudden I, as an author, have a responsibility to keep my ill-assorted outputs (as we call them in REF-speak). This is so that years, perhaps decades after writing them, I can send them to the IR, who will make them available to the world, who will, obligingly download them like publication was going out of fashion and cite them all over the place. That, at least, is the theory. Well, sorry people, I am a delinquent author, who has lost most of her old conference papers, quite a few book chapters and several articles. I suspect I may not be as uncommon as the IR might hope.

So what, you may wonder, remains for the delectation of the waiting world (or at least UCL Discovery)?

Warwick, C. L. H. (2004). Print Scholarship and Digital Resources. In Schreibman, S., Siemens, R., Unsworth, J. (Eds.). A Companion to Digital Humanities (pp. 366-382). Oxford: Blackwell.

Warwick, C. (2002). Electronic Publishing: what difference does it make? In Hornby, S., Clark, Z. (Eds.). Challenge and Change in the Information Society. (pp. 200-218). London: Facet Publishing.

Warwick, C. (2001). “Rumours of my Death have been greatly exaggerated”‟: Scholarly editing in a Digital Age. In Fiormonte, D., Usher, J. (Eds.). New Media and the Humanities: Research and Applications. (pp. 49-56). Oxford: HCU.

I can extract some themes from what I have found: it's a bit depressing really. What I really seem to be saying- repeatedly- is that change will happen slowly; reading is a complicated business that we understand too little about; and no, the world will not be transformed overnight just because we have a thing called a Rocket e-book. (Yes, one of them is that old- based on a paper that I gave in the mid 1990s)

I predicted in most of these chapters (now verging on digital antiquities) that less would happen, more slowly than a lot of the techno-enthusiasts and commercially hype-driven vendors were hoping for. This is based on my stubborn, if perhaps rather unexciting, insistence that people do not abandon tools and technologies that suit them well in favour of things than are unproven, unwieldy and perhaps even painful to use (reading on a screen is still not very pleasant for most people) just because some geek who is obsessed with the latest gadget tells them they ought to. You can see that this message is hardly likely to attract a lot of fans in techno-land.

It seems clear that, for some reason that I still understand only imperfectly, some people love the idea of overnight technological marvels. It's a seductive dream, but usually it takes a lot longer to happen, and we now know that far from one technology replacing another we just arrive at a more complex mixture from which people choose the tool or medium that suits them best. Artists still use paint, pastel and charcoal as well as making digital installations after all.

Mind you, for all I know I said something completely different in the chapter I seem to have lost.

Warwick, C. (2008). Premature elegies: e-books, electronic publishing and reading. In Hornby, S., Glass, B. (Eds.). Reader Development in Practice: bringing literature to readers (pp. 159-174). London: Facet.

Luckily I shall be able to check when I get to work tomorrow, because the publishers sent me a copy of the book in which it's printed. This tells us quite a lot about the way that publication technologies are colliding at the moment. My attempt to be Open Access is foiled by human carelessness and digital failure, but saved by old-fashioned print on paper publishing.

As I believe I may have said elsewhere, perhaps more than once, 'Plus ça change'.

Monday, 15 August 2011

An everyday story...

Once upon a time there was a young female academic, Dr Ann Other (we’ll call her Dr A for short). She heard that an eminent senior male academic, Professor X, at another university might be working on an area relevant to her research, so she emailed him about it. He asked her to lunch, was friendly and encouraging and suggested a new collaborative project. Being a probationer, she was pleased by this suggestion, and reported it to her HoD (also female) Professor B without delay. Professor B’s reaction was a great surprise: she insisted that this collaboration was not a good idea, and that Dr A should on no account carry on with it. Dr A was confused but did as suggested, and was rather surprised never to hear about it again from Professor X. Some years later Dr A was surprised to learn from another senior male academic that Professor X was well known as a womaniser and seducer of younger colleagues. It all made sense now; Professor B had clearly warned him off, but Dr A wished she’d been told the truth at the time.

A few years later Dr A moved universities. She was invited to a reception after a workshop here she met another eminent senior academic, in a sligtly different field. Let’s call him Professor Z. Professor Z struck up a conversation with her, but quite quickly Dr A began to feel uncomfortable. Professor Z stood far too close, smiled in a not altogether professional way, looked at bits of her she was uncomfortable about having stared at and pursued her when she tried to move away. At any minute she felt she might be grabbed, even though this was a public place. Eventually she managed to escape, but she never took Professor Z up on the idea of discussing a teaching collaboration that he’d seemed so keen on. Some years later she was surprised to learn, from another senior male academic, that Professor Z was well known as a womaniser and seducer of colleagues. She was not greatly reassured to know that apparently he was less bad now than had once been the case.

Some years have passed and now she is Professor Ann Other. She wonders what to do when she hears her female PhD student complaining of being cornered at a party by Professor Y, an eminent male academic; when a probationary lecturer talks of being patronised and put down (by Professor V- guess what?) for being pretty, when the clear implication is that she cannot also be clever; when a 30-something Senior Lecturer talks about comments being addressed to her breasts not her face (and I won’t even spell out who did this). This story doesn’t have a happy ending- sorry.

There’s a reason for the name I’ve chosen. It seems to me that the identity of this female academic is not important. The point is that her story is typical of those I hear from other women in academia. In the end Dr A got off relatively lightly, we might feel: she didn’t actually get propositioned, let alone assaulted. But she lives in the knowledge that this kind of low-level sexual menace is always lurking in the background of her job and that she can’t do anything to protext her colleagues from it.

What really concerns me is the reaction of the senior males involed in this story, who were not the offenders. If it’s well known that there are some senior people out there who are sexually predatory or who don’t respect women as colleagues, why is nothing said and nothing done by those people they might listen to- their male colleagues? There seems to be an assumption that nobody is really hurt by all this; it’s just a bit of bad behaviour and does it really matter in such eminent men? The female HoD may have warned off Professor X, but it seems he didn’t do much to change his ways. I’d like to feel that if I knew someone who was treating junior collagues in such an inappropriate fashion, I’d take her aside and tell her in no uncertain terms that this was to stop. (It sounds a bit odd put that way, doesn't it. I wonder why.) Do men do that? If they do, why doesn’t it work? Why doesn’t this behaviour stop? Could it be that such things are excused if the culprit if sufficiently distinguished and the sufferer sufficiently junior?

I wonder if we ought to be more overt about discussing this as women. We don’t complain much, unless it’s really serious, and we don’t generally talk to anyone but other women. It's almost as if we feel guilty. I’m an HoD now, so should I tell my junior colleagues to expect this kind of thing as part of academic life? Should I reassure them it’s not their fault if such things happen? Would then even tell me, fearing that nothing can be done? It makes me furious every time I hear stories like the one I hear above, but I at a loss to know what we, as senior women, can do to stop this. Perhaps the first thing is to make it public, so that other Dr A’s out there won’t feel so isolated, but it seems a pretty inadequate response.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Social media and the London riots

I've just given an email interview to a journalist from the London Bureau of Xinhua News Agency, China's state media organisation. I ended up writing quite a lot, so I thought I might blog it as well in slighly edited and extended form. I've presented it in the interview format, including the questions that were put to me.

1. How do you describe the role of social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and BlackBerry Messenger, in the recent riots in London and other English cities?

CW: I think it's quite clear that social media have been used to communicate information concerning the riots in various ways. A colleague in UCL Political Science has written a very good blog post on this, so I won't repeat what she has discussed in detail.

It seems that rioters may have used such things as Blackberry messenger and Twitter to organise and plan activity. However, it's also important to stress that Twitter had a very important role in allowing average citizens, who were not taking part in the riots, to share information. They used it to find out what was happening in different areas and to communicate the kind of good news that the mainstream media are not usually interested in. For example a picture of people making tea for policemen, using a riot shield as a tray has been widely tweeted. The tea in time of crisis theme has inspired Operation Cup of Tea a social media-based site of anti-riot testimonies, which is also using tea sales to raise money for post-riot reconstruction. The Twitter hashtag #riotcleanup was used to organise thousands of volunteers, who met to clean up the damage on the day after the riots. It is vital, therefore, that we understand that social media has had an important effect on community cohesion and communication for the great majority of people using it, and that communication about lawlessness was very much a minority activity.

2. Those social media have also played an important role in the riots in Middle East and north Africa, such as in Egypt. So do you think it is becoming a global issue and a challenge to many governments in this age?

CW: I think the the use of social media during the London is a very different issue from that in other places that you mention. These were legitimate uses of the medium to protest about the activity of repressive, non-democratic governments. It was the only way to organise peaceful protest against oppressive regimes when other more official communication channels were closed or monitored by the state. The UK government is democratically elected and not repressive. Even if some of the rioters might not agree with government policies, these are not in essence political, pro-democracy protests. There does appear to be a correlation between the worst areas of rioting and social deprivation, as this map overlay mashup produced by UCL CASA demonstrates. But the London riots are much more like those sometimes experienced in the USA, such as the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles in 1992: a way of expressing anger about the conditions in which people find themselves, and an opportunity for looters to engage in straightforward criminal activity.

3. Then how do you think the new media should be regulated? How should we balance regulation and freedom on internet?

CW: I think it is very hard to regulate new media. The internet was, after all, designed to withstand a nuclear strike, and that decentralised structure tends to resist control by nation states. Even when the internet was effectively turned off in Egypt for a few days, people were still able to tweet from their mobile phones, as research undertaken at UCL CASA has shown. Thus I think repression of social media use is entirely inappropriate.

I think that proven acts of criminality co-ordinated on the internet or social media need to be pursued and prosecuted, just as they would if committed in real life. But it can be much harder to find people on social media and thus can be harder to make the connection between an individual in real life and a social media account holder. If really determined to evade detection, people might tweet psuedonymously from PAYG mobile phones, changing SIM cards and social media accounts or handles regularly, or perhaps use Cyber cafes instead of their own computer. We need to use the same high standards of proof of such activity as we would in the real world. How can we be sure, for example, that people who communicate over Twitter are intending to commit a violent, criminal act as opposed to exercising their democratic right to a peaceful meeting or orderly form of protest? Policing therefore has to be as thorough and sensitive online as it would be off-line.

I think calls to shut down social media in times of crisis are entirely misguided. If a suggestion were made that at such times all roads and rail links were closed, rendering thousands of people homeless and stranded, I imagine that most people would think it a dreadful idea. The vast majority of law abiding citizens use Twitter for lawful purposes in such circumstances, perhaps to make sure that loved ones are safe, and find out what is happening to friends or what the situation is in the area where they live, so shutting it would pose more of an inconvenience, and indeed possible risk to the safety, of most people as a result than leaving it open. Such suggestions indicate to me that politicans need urgently to develop a much more complex understanding of the culture of social media, and its possible positive as well as negative uses.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Tea, Cake and DH research

I’ve been thinking lately about how we do research in DH as opposed to other humanities disciplines. This came about after I reacted strongly against the notion that we must only ever have PhD supervisions in offices, and be very formal about it. That made me wonder why I disagree with this so profoundly. So here are some thoughts about DH, PhD students and the centrality of tea and cake to our research.

I've always had meetings with anyone and everyone I work with or who works for me wherever seems convenient; that often means over lunch or tea and cake. I think DH people expect this because our research culture is very relaxed, informal and- because it is team based- sociable. One of my most important publications, for example, happened as a result of a conversation in a bar at DH: we wrote the grant application for INKE sitting on the deck in Ray Siemens’ back garden for five days, eating and drinking as we went along, because there was no time to stop. It didn't mean we were not doing serious scholarship, we just didn't need to be in an office, because we had a wireless connection and a laptop each. I’ve had meetings about DH in parks, cafes, restaurants, bars, and even on a Eurostar, and they often involved tea and cake, if not something stronger. I know a leading DH scholar who conducts all of his academic life in the local café, and even provides it with wireless to make his life easier. He only goes into his office to pick up his mail. Humanities scholars are probably more used to being in offices, because they need their books. Almost everything I need now for work is digital- hence the forlorn and empty appearance of my office bookshelves, which, being a booklover makes me deeply embarrassed.

I still feel, therefore, that it ought to be possible, if appropriate, to do this with PhD supervisions. I don't see why I cannot have a supervision with a student when we are at the DH conference just because my office happens to be thousands of miles away. Why should it matter as long as both supervisor and student are happy; it’s clear that this is a supervision not a general chat; and there’s nothing confidential being discussed?

I think my views about PhD students may come back to the nature of DH as team based rather than single scholar research. I'm used to working in teams in DH that contain researchers of various ages and levels of experience and seniority from Professor to PhD and sometimes even MA students. So I regard PhD students as part of our research group, albeit more junior members of it. I am used therefore to discussing research with them in group meetings on as equal a basis as I would with academic colleagues. That's why my immediate reaction to the offices-only suggestion was to say 'Well I have meetings with my colleagues in bars, cafes etc…' because I did not really see a difference. In research teams I am not in a teaching relationship with my PhD students any more than the more senior academic who was PI to my Co-I of my first big grant was teaching me. I learnt a great deal from her of course as a result, and she was mentoring me in an informal way. That really colours the way I see PhD students and postdocs- they may work for our group, but they are independent researchers with perfectly valid opinions and insights of their own and I learn as much from them (perhaps more) than they do from me. I might mentor and advise, but I am no more their teacher than the other academic was mine.

I think increasingly, however, that most traditional humanities scholars see things through the lens of teaching not research; at least this seems to be the case in our faculty. So I wonder whether they see PhD supervision as teaching, because that's what they like to do and they are not used to doing research with other people. If research is what you do alone, then if you are talking to a less experienced researcher you must feel you are teaching them I suppose.

I don't think one mind-set is right or wrong, but I do think we have to allow for variations of practice between disciplines. Thus I need to be able to carry on treating my PhDs as team members and equals, and single scholars to be more formal if they wish or we really are not preparing our students for the worlds they will work in.

It might also help explain why it is often difficult to persuade humanities scholars to think in terms of collaboration: DH PhDs and even MAs are trained for it, so it's easy when they become academics. Most humanities people, from being a PhD student, are trained to the opposite, and so it's harder. I'm not saying that either should necessarily change, but if collaboration and team working are going to be expected more of humanities researchers in future, then we need to think about how to make it seem more normal, if they don't get any help with this as PhD students. Anyone who does DH has had to change disciplines, thus mind-set, from one norm to the other, so perhaps we underestimate how hard it is for most people. It's all very well dangling money in front of humanities scholars in mid-career and saying 'You must collaborate!' and then wondering why people don't. They are happy working alone: they don't know how to work in teams and feel uncomfortable with it.

The answer to everything is, of course, in my ideal world, do more DH at every opportunity. But switching back to reality, this is a problem and I think we need to tackle it at PhD student level, although many supervisors may need to be convinced that this is a good idea. Perhaps they’d like to discuss it over tea and cake.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Making things work if you're female

I've been thinking a great deal of late about how to make my complicated life work better. I have to find a balance between doing DH (which I love) and doing a lot of what we in the UK call management (and in the US you'd call admin or service) which, oddly enough, I also rather enjoy. It makes me distinctly uncomfortable when I read tweets about all the cool things that other people in DH are doing, or worse when I read them from conferences that I should be at, that are directly related to my research; yet I know I don't have time to take part. Conversely I know that what I am doing in terms of management is necessary to make UCLDH, my department and indeed the university run- and when it goes well it's extremely satisfying.

So when I read this article about how too much service wrecks women's careers I felt a kind of horror. I am an Associate Professor (Reader in UK terms); I do a lot of service and admin; I know I'm at the point when my research is in danger of suffering. I do very much want to be a full professor, but have I blown it already? It makes me feel anxious and trapped-if only someone had told me this years ago. How naïve I was: I have always assumed that all the work I do for the university would be recognised when it comes to promotion. I do still have faith in UCL’s ethical, Benthamite way of doing things, but I'm shaken by this study’s conclusions.

Balancing different demands of research and management is a huge dilemma for anyone, and I know from having talked to senior male mentors in my university that it's been a problem for them. But they are full professors. Why should this afflict women so much more seriously? I can only feel it's because we are acculturated to being kind, helpful, communitarian, thoughtful and to say yes when asked to do things by men in positions of power. This study suggests that most men do not feel the kind of compunction that most women feel when it comes to protecting their time for research and saying no when asked to do something that uses up this time. The logic of this is that I must, forthwith, stop doing all the admin that I do, resign from committees immediately and hide myself away to produce ever greater volumes of research outputs (as we so delightfully call them here). The logic further suggests that, whether or not I immediately ditch my role as acting Head of Department, (Department Chair) I should advise all my female colleagues who are earlier in their careers to refuse to take on any significant admin roles unless and until they have such a heavyweight track record that they are a full professor; otherwise they risk career blight in comparison to male colleagues.

There are obvious problems with this-not least that I don't want to. Running UCLDH is all part of my passion for my field, and as you become a more senior researcher you have to run your own group, surely- unless of course I adopt the pure humanities mode, and simply write heaps of those single author monographs that seem so important, for reasons that continue to escape me. If I did that, I'm sure I'd die of loneliness, since discussing DH with my brilliant colleagues is part of what makes doing research so exciting. Beyond this, my role as Vice Dean Research (Associate Dean) also stems from my interest in the whole area of research, policy and development at UCL and beyond. In my own research I believe in working with users and people outside academia; thus thinking about how we can collaborate with and engage the public in what we do is all part of what I love about being VDR. Now being HoD is different: I've yet to find much to love about it. But I'm doing it because I was asked to by people I respect, who have done a great many things to help me and UCLDH in the past; and because someone has to do it. I don't want to let down people I like and respect and with whom I enjoy working in these various admin roles. I've been given so much support and encouragement that if this is payback time, so be it. Perhaps a male researcher would say no: I'd think him an ungrateful b*stard if he did, but perhaps that's just because I'm female and socialised that way.

There's another problem: some people wonder whether fewer women get promoted because the committees are made up of senior people and (you can see where this is going) such people are usually male because fewer women get promoted. It seems a reductive, circular problem. Thus if women refuse to take up management roles such as being HoD or Dean because they need to concentrate on research, the whole university management becomes overwhelmingly male; how can that be a good thing? Then again if fewer women get promoted because they do service roles instead of research, we have the same problem.

There has to be a way out of this, and in my view it's so simple it's amazing nobody has thought of it before. Why not stop being so obsessed by sheer amounts of research as the sine qua non of promotion? If we recognise that women tend to produce fewer publications because they are doing admin and committee work, when promotion cases are being assessed those doing so need to expect to see somewhat shorter lists of publications and grants from women if (and only if) these are balanced by significant lists of admin jobs well done. Or, (and this is really radical) we could accept that this might affect community-minded men too. Why is that so hard? I mean of course you should only be a full prof if you have made a very significant contribution to your field. But why do we take this 'nevermind the quality feel the width’ attitude? (I could say something about women not being quite as anxious as men about the length of things, preferring instead to value effective function, but that would be a bit obvious perhaps.) Then again when we are discussing function, what is wrong with valuing people for making an organisation work? If mid-career people refuse to do admin until we are senior profs, it's going to leave the senior profs a lot less time to do their research-given the admin load they'll have to carry.

Meanwhile, it appears that women must still do as our foremothers advised: if made an apparently attractive offer, think careful about its sincerity and whether it will lead to a definite, welcome, commitment. Remeber, you could end up over-worked, unhappy and exploited, while making it possible for men to enjoy greater success, happiness and status. For fear of breach of promise of various kinds, if in doubt women must, it appears, still say no.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Here's one I prepared earlier

Just in case you don't take part in the Day of DH (what do you mean, what Day of DH?) you might want to see what I've been blogging about there. I like the most recent entry best myself.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Shall we tell them/Who we are? *

* The title of this entry may only make sense to fans of LUFC. For this I make no apology, since I am one.

Careful readers of this blog will have detected that I don't seem to update it much. I sometimes feel guilty about this, but seldom guilty enough to upend my hideous todo list to allow me time to remedy the situation. Nevertheless I have been meaning, ever since we got the acceptance for DH2011, to put up the text of out poster about UCLDH I feel rather proud of it, because it's our first corporate publication, as it were. It also comes over a bit bloggy I think.

This is also about my antipathy to the fetish for defining DH that keeps going on and on and on at the moment. So here it is, with no apology for the tone of ridiculous pride expressed for our centre and the work of my colleages, Simon Mahony, Julianne Nyhan, Claire Ross, Melissa Terras, Ulrich Tiedau, Anne Welsh, and Tim Weyrich, who are co-authors of this.

UCLDH: Big Tent Digital Humanities in practice

There has been a great deal of concern recently about questions of how we should define Digital Humanities. John Unsworth in his plenary lecture at DHSI asked how we might define the boundaries of our discipline. UCL’s own Melissa Terras, in her widely reported plenary at DH2010, warned us that we must not only understand our discipline ourselves, but be able to communicate it succinctly to others. Others, including one of the authors of this proposal, tend to the view of ‘more hack less yack’. Yet questions remain, and the theme of DH2011 prompts us toward such considerations. As a result we present a proposal below for a poster about the establishment of the new UCL Centre for Digital Humanities, (UCLDH) one of whose founding principles is that of inclusivity, interdisciplinary and the broadest sense of definition, in which we demonstrate ways in which the big tent attitude to digital humanities is put into practice. Our tent includes not only other disciplines within academia, but also libraries, museums, archives, cultural heritage practice and commercial information providers. In the following proposal we discuss how this has come about and justify our belief in broadly defined Digital Humanities (DH).

UCLDH does not think of itself as a DH centre in the conventional form, where anyone working on DH must come and work in one central facility. Instead, it is built on a hypertextual metaphor: it is the hub of a network, bringing together work being done in different departments and research centres within UCL and beyond. This is one of the reasons for our inclusive philosophy. We do not believe it is for us to tell people whether they are doing DH, as we conceive of it. If they would like to become part of our network, then we welcome their involvement, since we believe that exciting new research can be created from synergies in such a network, and by unexpected collaborations between disciplines. To this end we run various different networking events such as Digital Excursions. These visits to different parts of UCL and other cultural heritage institutions such as the British Library allow participants to find out about research and digital facilities they might never previously have been aware of, and to meet and talk to others whom they might never have come across. Connections created by these meetings may take DH forward in ways we cannot predict, let alone define.

UCL has unique assets as a basis for Digital Humanities research in the form of Museums and Collections and Library Special Collections, and digital art work being produced at the Slade School of Art. We are also fortunate that our location in central London means that we are close to many of the world’s greatest Libraries, Museums and galleries. As a result one of the main directions in which UCLDH has sought to extend the definition of what DH might be is in working with cultural heritage and memory institutions. For example we are working with the British Museum, the Museum of London, the Victoria and Albert Museum on a project that will help us better to understand the needs and behaviours of users of digital museum objects. We have doctoral students undertaking research at various institutions, including: the British Library, to look at the use of their mass digitisation projects; The London Metropolitan Archive, where image processing will be used to try and decipher the Grand Parchment which is too damaged and deteriorated to read; The Science Museum, where the use of 3D scans of museum objects will be evaluated by the general public; and the British Museum, where work will be done on curatorial documentation of 3D scans to investigate standards and protocols for 3D capture of artefacts.

UCL has world leading research in both humanities, computer science and engineering, and we believe that as a result it is vital to engage all parts of the university’s research base equally in the DH endeavour. We aim to create new knowledge both in computer science and engineering and in the humanities, as part of the same research projects. We think of computer scientists as equal research partners in our work. Computing is not conceived of as existing to provide a service to facilitate humanities research. Thus DH research takes place in the Department of Computer Science as often as in the faculty of Arts and Humanities. One project led by one of UCLDH’s associate directors, aims to develop algorithms to reconstruct the Minoan wall paintings of ancient Thera. This will lead to advances in computational methods, but it also aims to redefine the existing conservation and assembly process, helping archaeologists to create reconstructions of the frescoes, and to study them in ways that would previously have been impossible.

We also believe in engaging with the users of digital resources, whether they are in academia, cultural heritage, or the broader interested public. This is the biggest possible tent that we might pitch for DH. We are highly engaged with social media in our own work, as evidenced by the UCLDH blog, and out Twitter presence (#UCLDH). However, beyond this, several of our research projects involve social networking or crowd sourcing, and aim to engage the public well beyond academia with their heritage. Transcribe Bentham allows users to access digital copies of Jeremy Betham’s original letters, to learn about the intricacies of transcribing primary sources, and then to contribute transcribed text back to the digital collection. The QRator project will use QR codes to allow museum visitors to contribute their interpretation of objects to digital interactive labels using a smart phone app. This means that crowd sourced understanding of museum objects can complement the once monolithic curatorial interpretation of what visitors ought to be seeing.
Stretching the tent even more widely, UCLDH has also caught the imagination of the wider DH and cultural heritage community internationally with its successful discussion group. Decoding Digital Humanities (DDH) This is an informal discussion group about DH established and organised by research students and staff from UCLDH. It meets monthly and is attended by students, researchers and cultural heritage practitioners from London and the south of England as well as those from UCL. It also has five new international chapters: two in Australia, and in the USA, Belgium and Portugal.

Our definition of the big, interdisciplinary tent also includes teaching and learning. Our new Masters will be a highly innovative interdisciplinary programme: the first in the world to have a dual designation of MA and MSc, reflecting once again our sense of the dual balance of our field. Its diverse choice of options from a wide range of disciplines responds to the complex nature of DH, including modules from engineering, computer science, geography, archaeology, anthropology, architectural studies, psychology and information studies as well as pure humanities. It also reflects the needs of the students, the skills required for a new generation of scholars as well as those wishing to pursue a career outside academia. We will also release a substantial amount of the core materials as open access digital learning objects as part of the JISC Open Educational Resources programme: further evidence of a commitment to openness and broad public engagement in teaching as well as research.

The guiding principles of our approach to DH are predicated on welcoming the sense of a field that is growing and in flux. We do not want to put up fences, and create definitions of arcane knowledge which initiates must possess to be part of our exclusive club. We wish to open wide the doors of this amazingly diverse discipline to any and all of those who would like to take part. We believe that DH should create new knowledge in both parts of the equation, of digital technologies and humanities scholarship. We believe that DH should embrace memory institutions and cultural heritage. We believe that DH should involve those who use digital resources, allowing them to contribute their ideas and content to resources, as well as being consulted about their design. But ultimately, to be true to our principles, we believe that is it not our task to define DH at UCLDH. In the spirit of social media, we propose that the definition of the field should be allowed to develop organically, taking into account the views and input of those who participate in it, within and beyond the academy. Our view of DH is crowd sourced, inclusive and ever growing: big tent Digital Humanities in practice.