Ireland and UK expand cooperation through digital humanities

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Eleven new research projects have been announced by AHRC and the Irish Research Council that will bring together world-leading expertise in digital humanities.

Innovative arts and humanities research which will utilise digital technologies to shed new light on a range of important issues.

A diverse group of projects

The projects funded as part of this announcement will combine the arts and humanities with digital technologies to address an extremely broad range of topics including:

  • tackling online hate in football
  • understanding digital feminism
  • mapping the history of typhoid in Dublin
  • tracing the evolution of ogham writing.

The projects will aim to develop new research techniques, bring innovative approaches to community engagement and enhance cultural understanding and access to heritage.

These will see researchers’ partner with a range of institutions from across the UK, such as:

  • the Football Association of Wales
  • the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland
  • the British Museum.

Building on UK-Ireland collaboration

The research grants call is part of the Fund for International Collaboration, a multi-million-pound fund supporting international collaborations which enhances the UK’s ability to build new, and strengthen existing, partnerships with global research and innovation leaders.

The call is jointly led by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the and the Irish Research Council (IRC).

It builds on:

  • the ‘UK-Ireland Collaboration in the Digital Humanities’ scoping workshop that took place in Dublin on 22 and 23 October 2019
  • the UK-Ireland Collaboration in the Digital Humanities Research Networking Call launched in 2020.

Strength of partnership

Professor Christopher Smith, AHRC Executive Chair and UK Research and Innovation International Champion, said:

I am delighted to see that the strength of AHRC’s partnership with the Irish Research Council has enabled us to co-fund such an exceptional and diverse group of projects.

Through cutting-edge approaches these projects powerfully capture the innovative potential of joining creativity in the arts and humanities with digital technologies and promise to achieve a new international benchmark in digital humanities research.

Widening networks and collaboration

Peter Brown, Director of the Irish Research Council, said:

The awards we are jointly announcing today will not only enhance the integration of humanities and technology, but they will also facilitate UK and Irish researchers to widen their professional networks through collaboration and exchange of ideas, and to cultivate long-term links between Ireland and UK-based researchers.

I am particularly pleased to see that many projects engage extensively with partners in the creative industries and cultural heritage organisations, demonstrating the huge potential for intersectoral synergies. Also, the opportunity to create inclusive solutions, ranging from an exploration of the use of emerging digital technologies to transforming understanding of online practices to the provision of world-class digital research repositories.

The engagement between disciplines, academic and non-academic organisations across Ireland and the UK adds up to an initiative which is truly rich in possibilities.

All-island system

Simon Harris TD, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, said:

I am delighted to see these awards announced today, supported by the Irish Research Council. The ongoing partnership between the IRC and AHRC will drive a step-change in the level of cooperation between these two islands in the growing field of digital humanities.

The UK-Ireland digital humanities partnership is a timely reminder of both the appetite and the potential for UK-Ireland research collaboration, both ‘east-west’ and ‘north-south’.

Maintaining and further building an international and a vibrant all-island higher education and research system is a key priority for government.

Further information

The eleven research grants are outlined below.

Tackling online hate in football (TOHIF)

Led by Dr Mark Doidge, University of Brighton and Dr Gary Sinclair, Dublin City University.

This project will explore the potential of digital technologies to transform understanding of online hate. It aims to show how online practices and experiences have the potential to shape and influence our perceptions of matters concerning:

  • racism
  • sexism
  • sectarianism.

Through analysis of online discourses, it will identify flashpoints and strategies for social media companies, policymakers and campaigners to tackle hate crime, identity politics and communication in a digital age.

Critical discourse analysis on selected instances of football-related hate speech on Twitter will be paired with descriptive, content and network analysis of eight European Football Championships between 2008 and 2022.

Interviews will be conducted with members of partner organisations committed to race equality, social justice and stamping out online hate.

Researchers will work with partners to develop educational workshops, policies and specific machine learning procedures in which to identify and combat online hate on social media. Such initiatives and academic outputs will be disseminated with the goal of benefiting a wide number of stakeholders in a sustainable way including, but not limited to:

  • social media companies
  • fans
  • football clubs and players
  • policymakers
  • anti-hate organisations and campaigns.

Project partners include:

  • Sport Against Racism Ireland
  • Kick it Out
  • Football Supporters Association
  • Football Association Wales
  • Sporting Equals.

‘Project radiocarbon’: big data, integrated cross-national heritage histories

Led by Dr Seren Griffiths, Manchester Metropolitan University and Dr Neil Carlin, University College Dublin.

This project aims to enhance the practice of archaeology and historic environment research across Britain and Ireland by providing a world-class digital research repository for radiocarbon (14C) data.

Millions of pounds and euro of extant legacy data that is currently at risk because no effective digital archives exist.

The project will provide a new approach to researching 14C results as archaeological big data. The project will provide a world-leading, unique approach to research, working in partnership with national historic environment agencies across five jurisdictions.

In doing so it will create the first international, open access, sustainable, live-update 14C research framework.

Full stack feminism in digital humanities

Led by Dr Sharon Webb, University of Sussex and Dr Jeneen Naji, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

This project aims to embed intersectional feminist methodologies in digital humanities. It will achieve this by developing an interoperable ‘Full Stack Feminist’ (FSF) methodology and toolkit. It develops this approach by focusing on three areas, referred to as stacks:

  • data and archives
  • infrastructure, tools and code
  • access, experience and integration.

The project will highlight and address specific points in project development that, often unconsciously, manifest inequalities or bias in. For example:

  • data models
  • archival descriptions
  • access rights
  • tool functionality.

It will develop an interoperable FSF methodology that software teams, programme managers, database designers, digital arts practitioners, data scientists can review and apply to their work.

This will enable digital humanities practitioners to re-evaluate the structures in which they work. Also it will create new intersectional digital humanities spaces, with the hope that practitioners will consider a feminist methodology throughout their work and the development life-cycle, not as a post-reflection.

Feminist art making histories

Led by Professor Hilary Robinson, Loughborough University and Dr Tina Kinsella, Dun Laoghaire Inst of Art Design and Tech.

This project aims to collect, curate and create an archive of oral histories and ephemera of the feminist art movement in the UK and Ireland from the 1970s onwards. It will make a tangible step-change contribution to what is currently a hidden, yet shared, diverse cultural heritage between the UK and Ireland of feminist artists’ activism.

It will place those hidden voices of the feminist art movement between the two locations of digital humanities and histories of art, to release and restore silenced, lost or occluded narratives to the cultural heritage sector.

The project outputs will include:

  • an archive of histories and ephemera collected from the interview process
  • workshops which will bring together interview participants to reflect on thematics arising from the research process
  • a website, a book proposal, and panel presentations at international conferences to disseminate new understandings of the rich heritage of feminist art practice in the UK and Ireland.

OG(H)AM: harnessing digital technologies to transform understanding of ogham writing, from the 4th century to the 21st

Led by Professor Katherine Forsyth, University of Glasgow and Professor David Stifter, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

The project aims to harness digital tools from different fields to transform scholarly and popular understanding of ogham, which is an ancient script unique to Ireland and Britain.

It will provide a potential model of collaborative ways of working to ensure the long-term sustainability, continued development, and inter-operability of diverse digital resources for multi-disciplinary humanities research.

Through collaborative working, resource-sharing and skills-exchange the project will strengthen partnerships across all six nations in the UK, Ireland and the Isle of Man, between:

  • academia
  • museums
  • libraries
  • state heritage agencies.

It will also contribute to Europe-wide collaboration in digital epigraphy and place ogham in the vanguard of global epigraphical studies. The project will digitally document all c.640 examples of ogham writing in all media, from its origin in the fourth century CE until the dawn of the modern revival c.1850.

It will document in 3D all ogham in the collections of the national museums:

  • the British Museum
  • the National Museums of Scotland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales
  • the Manx Museum.

Decoding hidden heritages in Gaelic traditional narrative with text-mining and phylogenetics

Led by Dr William Lamb, University of Edinburgh and Dr Brian Ó Raghallaigh, Dublin City University.

The project aims to fuse deep, qualitative analysis with cutting-edge computational methods to decode, interpret and curate the hidden heritages of Gaelic traditional narrative.

Using recent advances in language technology, the project will digitise, convert and make available a vast collection of folklore manuscripts in Irish and Scottish Gaelic. In turn, this new digital resource will catalyse ongoing research into Gaelic speech technology.

The project will examine international tales in Irish and Scottish Gaelic. Through an approach known as text-mining, it will use artificial intelligence to search the tales for similar topics, phrase sand other linguistic patterns.

This work will transform the understanding about Gaelic oral culture and disseminate unique archival material online to a diverse set of end-users. It will positively impact the sustainability of Gaelic-speaking communities through the creation and further stimulation of important language technologies including:

  • handwriting recognition
  • machine translation
  • automatic speech recognition.

Interactional variation online: harnessing emerging technologies in the digital humanities to analyse online discourse in different workplace contexts

Led by Dr Dawn Knight, Cardiff University and Dr Anne O’Keeffe, Mary Immaculate College.

As we move into a post-COVID context, there is a need for a better understanding of what has become, and is likely to remain, a new way of communicating in the virtual workplace. This project aims to examine virtual workplace communication so as to gain depth of insight into the potential barriers to effective communication.

It will explore not only what makes for success or failure in virtual workplace discourse, but what also allows for the identification of specific variables associated with such successes and failures.

This study will be multi-modal, focusing both on what is said and also on how it is said. For example:

  • pitch
  • intonation
  • facial expression
  • accompanying gesture or gaze.

Findings from this study serve as training materials to enhance virtual workplace communication.

This project draws on the expertise of leading researchers in the UK and Ireland to propose the next generation of analytical frameworks for analysing this new type of discourse. Also it will make these frameworks available to all arts and humanities research and end user communities. This will lead to a step change in our ability to develop equality of access in online communication.

OS200: digitally re-mapping Ireland’s ordnance survey heritage

Led by  Professor Keith Lilley, Queen’s University of Belfast and Dr Catherine Porter, University of Limerick.

This project aims to gather historic Ordnance Survey (OS) maps and texts to form a single freely-accessible online resource for the first time. Doing so will enable a team of researchers from across Ireland, north and south, to uncover otherwise hidden and forgotten aspects of the life and work of those from Britain and Ireland employed by the OS, as they mapped and recorded landscapes and localities.

2024 will be the bicentenary anniversary of Ireland becoming the first country to be mapped entirely at the large scale of six inches to one mile. Timed to coincide with the bicentenary, the project will offer an opportunity to reappraise the historic impacts of the OS’s mapping of Ireland, and their lasting legacies.

It will use 21st century technologies to analyse and visualise how the OS operated, on the ground, as surveyors encountered ‘the surveyed’.

The project is supported by:

  • the Royal Irish Academy
  • Public Record Office of Northern Ireland
  • Digital Repository of Ireland.

Typhoid, cockles, and terrorism: the turbulent history of Anglo-Irish typhoid control in revolutionary Dublin

Led by Dr Samantha Vanderslott, University of Oxford and Dr Claas Kirchhelle, University College Dublin.

The project aims to explore the intimate connection between imperial and revolutionary public health politics in 20th century Dublin.

The researchers will conduct innovative research on the (post)colonial politics of Anglo-Irish public health and typhoid control in Dublin. They will design:

  • a major blended physical and digital exhibition (hosted at Dublin City Library and Archive and the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland)
  • educational resources
  • an open access database of spatially coded historical disease, environmental, and infrastructural data.

The project will use a mix of historical and digital humanities methods to analyse and digitise historical:

  • disease data
  • medical correspondence
  • cultural ephemera
  • infrastructural records
  • meteorological data.

This is to understand why British bacteriological and sanitary interventions proved impractical in Dublin and how they were perceived by local populations.

It hopes to make significant contributions to research and engage audiences from all age groups on the importance of equitable access to effective sanitary infrastructure and vaccines.

The invisible women: developing a feminist approach to film archive metadata and cataloguing

Led by Professor Keith Mark Johnston, University of East Anglia and Dr Sarah Arnold, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

The project aims to explore how film archives can take practical action to update, enhance and improve catalogue metadata via feminist research methodologies.

The absence of a feminist-informed approach to digital curation within existing film archive metadata systems has meant that women’s creative labour is not fully acknowledged within catalogue records. This can lead to their creativity being invisible within national and regional film collections.

It will analyse the catalogues of women amateur filmmakers across two national collections:

  • the Institute of Amateur Cinematographers at the East Anglian Film Archive (EAFA)
  • the collections of the Irish Film Institute Irish Film Archive (IIFA).

This will include creating newly digitised films by these innovative women, offering fuller catalogue records, and the practical application of the research with EAFA and IIFA.

C21 editions: editing and publishing in the digital age

Led by Mr Michael Pidd, University of Sheffield and Dr James O’Sullivan, University College Cork.

This project aims to explore and make a direct contribution to the future of digital scholarly editing and digital publishing.

By engaging with experts and stakeholder groups, the project will establish the methods and principles for developing the scholarly digital editions of the future. Furthermore, it will demonstrate and support the realisation of such future editions by producing two high impact digital editions based on materials which are currently unpublished.

Both editions will be used to help develop and test the project’s proposed data standard for encoding born-digital texts and a toolkit for machine-assisted editing

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