Current Research Projects
I’m currently working on a variety of research projects – from the small scale to the large scale, from internally funded projects at Edinburgh, to various UKRI projects. I’m involved in various projects that are ongoing:
Creative Informatics is an ambitious research and development programme based in Edinburgh, which aims to bring the city’s world-class creative industries and tech sector together. We provide funding and development opportunities to creative individuals and organisations working in Edinburgh and South East Scotland that want to develop new products, businesses and experiences using data and data-driven technology. We are are a partnership across four organisations: the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier University, Codebase and Creative Edinburgh. Creative Informatics is part of the Creative Industries Clusters Programme; a UK-wide initiative designed to drive innovation, growth, and sustainability in the Creative Industries, through a first-of-its-kind research and development investment of £80 million by the UK government. Creative Informatics is one of nine Creative Industries Clusters around the UK. The Clusters Programme is managed by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the Industrial Strategy. Creative Informatics is also funded by, and part of, the Data Driven Innovation initiative of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal. We also benefit from additional further funding from the Scottish Funding Council.
‘Fixing the Future’ is a £1.25m 2 year interdisciplinary project funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The project investigates how the lack of repairability in the consumer Internet of Things (IoT) will adversely impact equity, inclusion, and sustainability in the digital economy. Using theory and methodologies from Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Design, and Law, the project aims to anticipate future impacts of a digital divide caused by redundant IoT devices, particularly for lower income households. It will envision how to build more equitable IoT devices and avoid future inequalities posed by the poor long-term cybersecurity, exploitative uses of data and lacking environmental sustainability that define the current IoT. The project draws together expertise in human computer interaction, design research, technology law, ethics, and digital humanities to investigate how to build more equitable IoT devices that enable inclusive participation in the digital economy.
TEI by Example is concerned with developing an online resource for teaching TEI (Text Encoding Initiative). Featuring freely available online tutorials walking individuals through the different stages in marking up a document in TEI, these online tutorials will provide examples for users of all levels. Examples will be provided of different document types, with varying degrees in the granularity of markup, to provide a useful teaching and reference aid for those involved in the marking up of texts.
The Transcribe Bentham initiative is a highly innovative and novel attempt to aid in the transcription of Bentham’s work. A digitisation project will provide high quality scans of the papers, whilst an online transcription tool will be developed which will allow volunteers to contribute to the transcription effort. It provides a “crowdsourcing” tool which will be used to manage contributions from the wider audience interested in Bentham’s work, including school students, and amateur historians.
Transkribus is a comprehensive platform for the digitisation, AI-powered text recognition, transcription and searching of historical documents – from any place, any time, and in any language. It is a company, infrastructure, and community which emerged from the EU funded Transcriptorium and READ consortia.
XR Network+ Virtual Production in the Digital Economy is a project funded by EPSRC. XR Network+ builds a bridge between five current Arts and Humanities Research Council Creative Industries Cluster Projects and the significant interest that has emerged in supporting R&D in XR technologies as they converge with Virtual Production (VP). This project aims to provide a ten-year research agenda founded on research collaboration, co-creation and challenge-led innovation. It is designed from the ground up to build a community of academic research and industry R&D at the convergence of ideas, technologies, and creative practice in VP to unlock the potential of content creation and consumption for the whole of the digital economy and related spill-over sectors.
Projects are not always long-lived: the nature of Digital Humanities research means that many are pilots, and short term projects can lead to useful research. Projects are also funding dependent, and can come to a natural end. And, having moved institutions in 2017, some of these projects continue, without my input. Here I list projects I have been involved in which my role is now complete.
Bluclobber AKA Enabling Complex Analysis of Large Scale Digital Collections. Lots of money has been spent digitising heritage collections. Digitised heritage collections are data. But non-computationally trained scholars don’t know what to ask of large quantities of data. Often they do not have access to high performance computing facilities. We aim to address this fundamental problem by extending research data management processes in order to enable novel research and a deeper understanding of emerging research needs.
Catalogue of Digital Editions has been gathering digital editions in an attempt to survey and identify best practice in the field of digital scholarly editing. Other cataloguing initiatives do not provide the granular analysis of features necessary to understand the rationale and methodology behind the creation of an edition. The Catalogue is useful as it provides an accessible record of standards and building tools used, and thus an insight into past, present and future projects.
CrossCult aimed to make reflective history a reality in the European cultural context by enabling the re-interpretation of European (hi)stories through cross-border interconnections among cultural digital resources, citizen viewpoints and physical venues. The project has two main goals. The first goal is to lower cultural EU barriers and create unique cross-border perspectives, by connecting existing digital historical resources and by creating new ones through the participation of the public. The second goal is to provide long-lasting experiences of social learning and entertainment that will help towards the better understanding and re-interpretation of European history.
Under the direction of the University College London (UCL), this international, multidisciplinary project assesses the feasibility of using nondestructive digital imaging technology to make texts visible in images of papyrus in mummy mask cartonnages for open research and analysis. Data will be made freely available and lessons-learned published on findings and imaging methodologies for further research.
Digital transformations mean that cultural and media organisations now find themselves in a new environment in which communities of participants interact to create, curate, organise and support cultural experiences. This research network draws together participants who believe that creative organisations need to explore the new relationships, new opportunities and new research questions created by digital transformations. The network will explore and investigate the opportunities, affordances and risks of this model through a network with world-leading partners, based around four themes: Production and creativity; Business models, rights and ownership; Design; and Learning.
The Image, Text, Interpretation: e-Science, Technology and Documents project (also known as eSAD: e-Science and Ancient Documents) aims to use computing technologies to aid experts in reading ancient documents in their complex task. The project, being undertaken at the University of Oxford with input from University College London, is funded under the AHRC-EPSRC-JISC Arts and Humanities e-Science Initiative, and will run until the end of 2011. The project’s work focusses on creating tools which can aid the reading of damaged texts like the stilus tablets from Vindolanda. Furthermore, the project explores how an Interpretation Support System (ISS) can be used in the day-to-day reading of ancient documents and keep track of how the documents are interpreted and read. A combination of image processing tools and an ontology-based support system is being developed to facilitate the work of experts in decipherment by recording and tracking their hypotheses about reading and interpretation as they develop.
The Great Parchment Book is an early 17th century survey of the County of Londonderry. It is a manuscript that has been completely inaccessible to scholars for over 200 years, since it was heavily damaged in a fire at Guildhall in 1786. It is hoped that the development of new digital methodologies will allow the opening up of the obscured text and enable the production of usable 3-D digital images and a transcription of the complete manuscript. These techniques have never been tried on manuscripts before, and so, if successful, would provide exciting possibilities for other damaged parchment manuscripts in the City of London’s collections and beyond.
In 2020, for the first time since 1947, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival as we know did not going ahead, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But there were years of previous programmes stored in the digital vaults. The Bot, an artificial neural network, went to work on these data, compiling the world’s first AI-generated event blurbs for a virtual arts festival of comedy, plays, musicals, and cabaret, and challenging humans to improvise too. ImprovBot was a small but playful project that held the temporal space of the cancelled Edinburgh Fringe, as both elegy and entertainment, working with generated AI.
The LAIRAH survey will investigate the use of online digital resources in the humanities to determine whether they are sustainable and, how, and why they are used. No systematic studies of the use of such resources has been undertaken, and LAIRAH aims to provide comprehensive, quantitative, qualitative, and robust measures for evaluation of real-time use, utilising deep log analysis techniques on automatically recorded server data. This analysis will provide the basis for follow-up qualitative work. The findings will aid the selection of projects for future funding, and provide evaluatory measures for new projects developing digital online resources for the humanities.
LinkSphere, which is a joint research project with the University of Reading, funded by the JISC Virtual Research Environment 3 programme. The project is aiming to develop a virtual research environment (VRE) which will allow cross-repository searching across various digital collections and archives including (just to name a few) the Silchester IADB, Film Collection, Film, Television and Theatre archive, the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology collections, The Museum of English Rural Life collections and the Cole Museum of Zoology collections) producing a useful user interface to various disparate digital collections.
The PanoptiCam is an online camera that streams what Jeremy Bentham sees while sitting in his cabinet at UCL. Seeing Bentham’s auto-icon can evoke a wide array of emotions from surprise and shock to mirth. PanoptiCam captures people’s reaction using a webcam mounted above the auto-icon, with the camera feed posted to our website in real time, and time lapse photography generating days in the life of Jeremy Bentham’s current, yet
The aim of the MiCLUES project is to explore the potential of smart devices to provide dynamic, rich, reconfigurable contexts and paths through the Royal College of Music’s Museum (RCM) collection. The project will take a small sample from the collection to develop proof-of concept demonstrators and evaluate these through visitor surveys.
Physical sciences, hunting for the exploration of fundamental laws of nature, have played a special role for the natural sciences in the 19th and 20th century. As a discipline they formed an interface between mathematics and other natural sciences, but also between natural sciences, engineering, applied sciences and technological development. Not only have they influenced other sciences, epistemic and social behaviour characterizing this specific scientific community has often functioned as role model for other sciences.
This AHRC funded project explored and demonstrate the possibilities of the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) to support the dissemination of born digital and digitised heritage images for research and engagement. IIIF, along with a wide range of freely available IIIF compliant software, represents a flexible, standard approach to providing reliable access to such images. However, though well described, setting up and re-using such IIIF resources can still be complex, particularly for smaller institutions or individual researchers. Also, a better understanding of how to combine IIIF resources across multiple institutions and present a National Collection, to diverse audiences, is needed. This project aims to demonstrate the opportunities and benefits that IIIF offers, to a wide audience of users and help to define more robust use cases of IIIF, for institutions, but also for individual researchers who want to re-use and exploit IIIF resources to carry out new research, create new opportunities and tell alternative stories. This work will highlight existing software and resources and identify what new tools, services or training might be required to maximise the potential of IIIF within the heritage community.
The QRator project is exploring new models for public engagement and informal learning in museums using handheld mobile devices and new interactive digital labels. QRator is creating small printed tags (QR codes) for museum objects, linked to an online database. These will allow the public to view curated information and, most notably, to send back their own interpretation and views via their own mobile phone or interactive digital label. This will enable the public to collaborate and discuss museum concepts and object interpretation with museum curators, and academic researchers.
READ (Recognition and Enrichment of Archival Documents) is an e-Infrastructure project funded by the European Commission and combines research, services and network building. It is focused on making archival material more accessible through the development of cutting-edge technologies. Research is carried out in Pattern Recognition, Document Image Analysis, Computer Vision, and Natural Language Processing. Leading research groups from these fields are taking part in the project and will set new standards in Handwritten Text Recognition, Key Word Spotting, Layout Analysis, Automatic Writer Identification and related fields. READ led directly to Transkribus.
e-Science allows large datasets to be searched and analysed quickly, efficiently, and in complex and novel ways. Little application has been made of the processing power of grid technologies to humanities data, due to lack of available datasets, and little understanding of or access to e-Science technologies. The ReACH workshop series investigated the potential application of grid computing to a large dataset of interest to historians, humanists, digital consumers, and the general public: historical census records.
How can advances in 3D imaging be best deployed in the cultural and heritage sector? In this 4 year EngD in Virtual Environments, Imaging and Visualisation, sponsored by The Science Museum in conjunction with UCL Centre for Digital Humanities and UCL’s Photogrammetry, 3D Imaging and Metrology group we investigate how models of museum spaces can be captured, reused, and their usefulness for the general public.
UCL’s Centre for Digital Humanities has received a UCL Arts and Humanities Small Research Grant to work with the Slade to undertake a pilot project with the Slade Archive – to see what is there, and how it can be exploited. We will explore ways in which this underused resource can be made more accessible through new research, online resources and publications. The project will trial various online platforms and tools to help unearth, track and bridge together the varied histories of the School, its former staff and students, and chart their impact in the art world – both nationally and internationally.
Museums’ objects have too often been seen as purely historical objects. They aren’t. Rather, they are social objects, inspiring emotional attachment, discussion, debate and action. This project is at the forefront of capturing and representing what audiences feel and say in response to our collections and subjects. Social Interpretation aims to holistically represent the discussions about, and sharing of, our objects by audiences. We aim to do this seamlessly across all of our outputs (in-gallery, on-mobile and on-line). Social Interpretation is making museums objects truly social.
Textal was a text analysis app for iPhone and iPad. It allows you to create wordclouds from your favourite text, website, tweet stream, or document. Textal then allows you to interact with the wordcloud, to drill down further and explore the statistics and the relationships between words in the text. It has been designed to be an easy introduction to text-analysis, whilst providing useful functionality missing from previous implementations of wordclouds. Textal transforms wordclouds into useful tools for analysis, research, and play.
Tens of thousands of cultural events happen across the UK every week, from theatre to comedy, and festivals to exhibitions. The data stream that is left as a record suggests an opportunity for researchers to analyse trends, understand the contribution that the UK creative industries makes to our culture and society, and plan ahead for the future. But how can researchers in the Arts and Humanities make use of large-scale data analysis, to explore this data? The Towards Large-scale Cultural Analytics in the Arts and Humanities project is an AHRC funded project which will investigate the availability of UK cultural events data. It aims to propose a design for a future national data service which will help researchers to analyse and report on the UK’s cultural and heritage industries, particularly focussing on UK events. We aim to support novel research and understanding of our world-leading creative and cultural industries, allowing a step-change in evidence that will inform policy, investment, and COVID-19 recovery.
tranScriptorium aims to develop innovative, efficient and cost-effective solutions for the indexing, search and full transcription of historical handwritten document images, using modern, holistic Handwritten Text Recognition (HTR) technology. tranScriptorium is a STREP of the Seventh Framework Programme in the ICT for Learning and Access to Cultural Resources challenge. Transcriptorium led to READ, which led to Transkribus.
The ICANN Translation and Transliteration of Contact Information Policy Development Process (PDP) Working Group (the “Working Group”) is concerned with the way that contact information data – commonly referred to as ‘Whois’ – are collected and displayed within generic top-level domains (gTLDs). According to the Charter, the Working Group “is tasked to provide the GNSO Council with a policy recommendation regarding the translation and transliteration of contact information.
The initial aim of Transnational Slade is to explore this impact of art education by examining who was at the Slade, specifically during the 1950s. This decade is important because it was a pivotal decade of change between Britain and its former colonial territories, particularly in the widening of the Commonwealth and the diminishing of the empire. It’s an era when modernism began to enter the work of artists who would play a more visible role in the Independence movements of their countries in South Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
USEUM is the first ever crowdsourced art gallery exhibiting thousands of paintings, drawings and illustrations from the 14th century until today. USEUM creates a discourse between museums, artists and art lovers, who are an essential part of USEUM. Members of the platform can rate, curate, document and even upload artworks to USEUM’s Exhibition. The goal of USEUM is to make art more accessible to Internet users, by creating an online art gallery people can turn to when looking up artists, paintings, illustrations, or other related content, instead of going on a generic search engine.
The Virtual Environments for Research in Archaeology project builds on the successful JISC VRE 1 project, Silchester ‘Town Life a research and training excavation of one part of the large Roman town at Silchester. The Silchester excavation aims to trace the site’s development from its origins before the Roman Conquest to its abandonment in the fifth century A.D. The rich and complex finds from the excavation provide the material to populate the research environment, and a working site to investigate the use of advanced Information Technology in an archaeological context.