The Hub

The Digital Humanities Research Hub promotes the Digital Humanities both through support for Humanities scholarship in the UK and beyond, and by providing networking and facilitation for the discipline of DH itself. The multi-disciplinary core team of the Hub includes academics with strong connections to subject areas including Classics, English, History and Modern Languages, as well as developers and researchers from technical backgrounds. Digital Humanities is a fundamentally interdisciplinary subject area that brings a range of computational, quantitative and other innovative and collaborative methods to the study of texts, images, histories, languages and cultures, while also being critical about methodology, disciplinarity and pedagogy. As a Hub we support and collaborate with projects and initiatives, offer training and teaching in digital methods, approaches and tools, and carry out our own interdisciplinary research and supervision. The Hub also promotes and facilitates Digital Humanities activity that occurs across the School and within Senate House Library and the SAS libraries.

The Hub arises out of a longer history of Digital Humanities research activities and initiatives at the School, and previously encompassed under the name DH@SAS. In addition to the Chair of Digital Humanities, DH@SAS brought together colleagues from across the School’s Institutes and Senate House Library, and supported the development of a number of flagship projects. The establishment of a Hub composed of a core team of researchers and technical leads/experts is intended to build on this record, while strengthening the role of Digital Humanities in the School and our ability to function as a national hub to support the wider Digital Humanities research community.

The Hub aligns with the School’s mission for research promotion and facilitation across the nation. Several of its academic staff are grounded in Humanities disciplines, and some are jointly affiliated with other SAS institutes (including Classical Studies, English, and Modern Languages) and serve to communicate and train in cutting-edge digital methods for their disciplinary constituencies, whilst also maintaining a robust research profile in the DH community. The Hub’s strategy for Digital Humanities research, promotion and facilitation also includes the hosting of visiting fellowships and innovation in postgraduate training and teaching through short courses and workshops; developing research bids; and the organisation of internationally focused events.

Key Values

The key values of the Digital Humanities Research Hub are: inclusiveness, openness, engagement with cultural heritage, and responsible computing.

1. The Hub seeks to further an inclusive understanding of Digital Humanities that is welcoming to those who are new to the field and open to the different approaches and perspectives they may bring. Central to our activities is a commitment to supporting researchers across the Humanities in developing the knowledge and skills that give them the confidence to contribute to current and future digital research initiatives. While the Hub values the contributions of distinct disciplinary inflections of Digital Humanities, we also foreground profound and critical interdisciplinarity as a constitutive element that reflects the intellectual curiosity and ambitions of the field. Equally, we strive to support and learn from digital research practices and projects that may fall under other names or disciplinary identities, particularly in different national and cultural contexts, but which share research interests and concerns with our own. We further seek to engage with wider publics beyond academia through collaborations with cultural and community partners, with the aim of ensuring our field is responsive to wider societal needs and concerns in relation to uses of and access to digital technologies and resources.

2. Openness is a core value in Digital Humanities, whose practitioners as far as possible publish in open access venues, conduct their work using open standards and open source tools, produce data in open formats, document methods and recommendations and use sustainable open repositories. While needing to be tempered by practicality, responsibility (to partners and stakeholders) and ethical concerns, the Hub strives to use and promote openness and transparency in all its forms. As such we will be developing digital and scholarly communication initiatives, particularly open access publications, alongside the team at the University of London Press.

3. The Hub’s key interests include the value of Cultural Heritage, including concern with both material and intangible heritage of the world, from archaeological finds and artefacts to valued cultural practices and traditions (including born-digital cultural heritage). Digital scholarship in Cultural Heritage needs to take account of legal, ethical and sensitive concerns with the materials being studied, reproduced and disseminated, including questions of representation in relation to research and curatorial teams, respect for cultural norms, sensitivities and taboos, and debates around restitution and repatriation of heritage objects. Just because we can (technically or legally) carry out a piece of research or publication, does not mean we can do so without recognising the responsibilities that come with it.

4. Responsible and low-impact technology is another value that the Hub is promoting, and one that aligns with green computing, minimal computing, and agile / collaborative computing. The Hub is actively developing and supporting low-impact and minimum viable product-oriented solutions for digital research. The Internet consumes a huge amount of resources, ranging from labour, electricity, and infrastructure costs. Data transfer alone requires electricity, which creates carbon emissions — and this contributes to climate change and accessibility issues in the Global South. Low Impact solutions can reduce data transfer by up to 70% in comparison to regular websites by identifying only the most necessary components for communicating research online. Minimal computing also reduces barriers to access, engagement, and critical nuance.

We are aware that we owe a debt to scholars in Digital Humanities who have written on the subject of values and ethics in DH. Some of our main influences in this area are listed in this Zotero collection

Staff Research

DHRH staff work at the forefront of text encoding projects. This includes not only digital scholarly editing but also linked open data and library resource management. Complementary to this is our focus on text analysis, as we provide training in text mining and corpus analysis as well as distant and computational reading methods. Staff and students in the Hub work on born-digital research materials, with a particular focus on web archives, and internet and social media research. This spans a range of approaches including digital discourse analysis, digital ethnography, internet histories and computational methods. We are concerned with the analysis of digital cultural heritage, which constitutes ‘those unique resources of human knowledge and expression … created digitally, or converted into digital form from existing analogue resources’ (UNESCO Charter on the Preservation of the Digital Cultural Heritage), and with exploring how it may be preserved and sustained. We have a strong focus on supporting and developing approaches and tools for multilingual digital research, with expertise in relation to both ancient and modern languages. The team has an interest in pedagogical research, with a particular focus on how digital technologies can enhance learning in the Digital Humanities at postgraduate levels and above. We also believe in providing training in fundamental digital literacy, including software and library carpentry, in addition to being engaged in fundamentals of programming (particularly in Python, R) and basic DH software––e.g., GitHub, OpenRefine, Zotero. We also engage with a School-wide interest in 3D methodologies including imaging, scanning, modelling and printing; this involves a range of hardware and software, including two 3D printers in the School, used for teaching, training and engagement with digital approaches to material culture.

We welcome colleagues and potential collaborators to get in touch to discuss any of these research areas, if you have an interest in training, advice, consultancy, collaboration or submitting joint funding applications in the future.