A blog about the Master Programme in Digital Humanities at Uppsala University

Author: Anna Gander (Page 2 of 4)

Distant Reading

Yesterday the last course of the semester started for the students of the Digital Humanities program. It is called Distant reading and is headed by researcher and librarian Karl Berglund.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay 

The core of the course is that it introduces and discusses tools and methods for what is known as distant reading; i.e., computer-supported and quantitative analyses of digital text material. This is done by contextualising the term distant reading, theorising on how quantitative and statistical methods differ from more traditional humanistic approaches.

The primary point of departure is finished software; however, some basic scripting languages will also be presented and implemented during the course in order to increase understanding of how computer-supported text processing works in practice.

During the coming months, more blogposts will be posted on this blog about the contents of this course.

Laboratory: Critical evaluation of interactive digital platforms

Two weeks ago the students had a laboratory exercise that was presented over Zoom and was part of the course Information Mediation and User Perspectives in the Digital Era. The Laboratory was headed by Ina-Maria Jansson.

Photo: Ina-Maria Jansson

The aim of this laboratory was to develop skills to describe, critically analyze and understand digital information platforms from a perspective of information science. The students chose a plattform that they then studied based on five categories of aspects:

  • Infrastructure
  • Datafication
  • Algorithms
  • Interface and user behavior

The laboratory resulted in a lab rapport and a presentation over Zoom

One group focused on the image sharing application Instagram and the other one on the music sharing application Soundcloud

Both groups for example talked about how these platforms are part of a bigger ecosystem through their connection to Facebook and other sharing platforms.

To learn about the course, you can read more about it in this post.

In-Depth: Visual Analysis: Materiality and Digital Humanities.

The spring term for the Digital Humanities students started off with a courses called Visual Analysis: Materiality and Digital Humanities and headed by art historian and media scholar Anna Orrghen. I took an opportunity to ask her a few questions about the course and her involvement in the research field of Digital Humanities.

What is your research background and how did you find Digital Humanities as an educational and research subject?

My research background is at the intersection of art history and media studies. More particularly art, science and technology in general and digital art in particular. Actually, I do not really see myself as a digital humanities scholar, but have slipped into issues that relate to digital humanities through my research on digital art, e.g. questions concerning methodology in relation to digital art. These issues have further been the starting point for the course Visual Analysis: Materiality and Digital Humanities.

How do you use digital tools or digital methods in your own research?

I do not, actually. But I am genuinely interested in the consequences the use of digital tools and methods has for art historical research. Thus, instead of using digital tools or digital methods, I am trying to understand what it means for art history as a discipline that digital tools and methods are being used.

What was for you the most successful or meaningful part of the course?

For me, the most meaningful part of the course was the combination of really practical, hands on work during the excursions and workshops, and the theoretical perspectives applied through the seminars. That became an important opportunity to delve into the differences between digitized materials and non digitized materials and how their status as digitized or non digitized impact how and what we know about our cultural heritage.

Also, I would like to add that the fact that the course is a collaboration between scholars from different academic fields and departments within Uppsala university, such as archaeology, art history and textile history was also really meaningful. And, finally, through the students I have gained a lot of knowledge about cultural heritage sites and artefacts around the world, that I would not have gained otherwise.

What would you say is the core of the course?

I think it is the same as above, i.e. not only to read about the consequences of digitization, but to really investigate it through engage in the materiality of cultural heritage.

You can read more about Anna Orrghens research in my previous post about the research done at the Department of Art history.

Information Mediation and User Perspectives in the Digital Era

Like all countries in Europe and the World, Sweden has been deeply affected by the outbreak of Covid-19. This has of course also affected higher edudation in Sweden, that has now been recommended by the Swedish government to switch over to online education tools.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

For the students at the Master program in Digital Humanities this means seminars and lectures through the Video-conference tool Zoom. So even thought the world is changing and adapting around the students, their courses keep on going. This brings us to the topic of this blog post: this week a new course starts called Information Mediation and User Perspectives in the Digital Era . The courses is headed by Phd-student Ina-Maria Jansson as some of our long-time readers might recognize as the first editor of this blog.

Image by ElasticComputeFarm from Pixabay 

The purpose of the course is to provide a better understanding of information-mediating digital platforms and infrastructure that contain material of relevance to the digital humanities. It provides a historical perspective on the central role occupied by users in modern digital environments.

The course also discusses the importance of network ecology in connection to functionality and algorithms as well as provide relevant knowledge about participatory culture and practices.

Collaboration: Department of Archaeology and Ancient history

This is a guest post by Daniel Löwenborg, researcher and senior lecturer at the Department of Archaeology and Ancient history.

Digital Archaeology

Archaeology has a long tradition of working interdisciplinary and have been using digital technology extensively, especially since GIS (geographical information systems) became more widely available in the 1990s. Since archaeological information is inherently spatial, the use of GIS has proven to be very useful and is now well integrated in the discipline and in several of the research projects running at the department of archaeology and ancient history in Uppsala. There are also a number of research infrastructure project running, with the focus on digitizing information and making it available. Examples include the project Common Ground in collaboration the Swedish institutes in Athens, Rome and Istanbul, that is digitizing material produced in excavations in the Mediterranean area. The project Urdar, in collaboration with the Swedish National Heritage Board, is making digitally born data from archaeological excavation in contract (rescue) archaeology available for research, and will also undertake digitalisation of analogue documentation. The project “Re-imag(in)ing the Scandinavian joint expedition”, is a pilot project that will do initial digitalisation of a collection of archival records from the Scandinavian Joint Expedition to Sudanese Nubia (SJE) (1961–64).  The project “Mapping Africa’s Endangered Heritage” coordinated by the University of Cambridge is an ambitious infrastructure project involving several international partners, where Uppsala will be responsible for creating a database of archaeological sites in Zimbabwe.

A common thought behind these projects, representing the subdisciplines at the department (classical archaeology, Scandinavian archaeology, Egyptology and African and comparative archaeology) is the greater benefit that will come when researchers have access to digital information, both to facilitate searches and queries, but also to enable data driven research using methods from computer science.

Another aspect of digital archaeology comes with the possibilities of visualisation and presentations using 3D technology. A long-term research project at Gamla Uppsala has produced advanced digital environments that can be used both as a mobile app, that allows visitors to Gamla Uppsala to walk around at the site and see an interpretation of what the place might have looked like in the 7th century AD. This has also been developed to a digital time machine using virtual reality, that can be experienced at the museum.

A project starting in 2020 is a combined research project in history, coordinated by Rosemarie Fiebranz, where the aim is to do a digital historical reconstructions of the village Ekeby, near Vänge outside Uppsala. This is also the case study we are using for the Digital Humanities master course module on Visual Analysis, where the students get a chance to work with 3D modelling of building from Ekeby and create animations of the historic environment in GIS. This is coordinated by Daniel Löwenborg, who also teaches the master course on “GIS for the Humanities and Social Sciences”, that is one of the optional course for the students on the Master program. That course runs in the autumn and introduces more of the potential of working with GIS for digital humanities.

Theories and Methods in Digital Humanities

Today the students start one of their most important courses in the Masterprogramme in Digital Humanities: Theories and Methods in Digital Humanitites. Course Coordinator is Olle Sköld and Nadya Charapan. Olle is also the programme coordinator for the programme as a whole. You can read more about Nadya on the blog here.

The course will have specific focus on those theories and methods of particular relevance to research in the digital humanities. Image by Thorsten Frenzel from Pixabay

After completing the course the students are expected to have achieved, to name a few examples, in-depth knowledge of scientific theories and methods of relevance with to digital humanities and gained the ability to formulate an appropriate theoretical approach to a research problem and to select a suitable method for approaching said. research problem.

The purpose of this course is to give students the tools for their thesis work. Image by Daniel Nettesheim from Pixabay 

The course examines general theories and methods of relevance to the humanities and social sciences with a specific focus on those theories and methods of particular relevance to research in the digital humanities.

The course also functions as a preparation for the forthcoming master’s thesis course, as the student will choose a subject for their thesis and begin to formulate theoretical approaches and methodological choices. This will apply to students that take the one year masterprogramme as well as the two year masterprogramme.

Collaboration: Department of Art History

the departments own sigill

The Masterprogramme of Digital Humanities is a cooperation between the department of ALM, department of Art history and the department of Archaeology and ancient history at Uppsala University.

Today we will take a closer look at the department of Art history and see what kind of research and using digital methods they partake in and that can be seen as part of the research environment for the students of the Digital Humanities programme

The department resides in house 2 at campus Engelska Parken since 2004 and at Campus Gotland in Visby since 2013.

Digital methods in research

The department has at the moment four research projects that are oriented towards digital methods or subjects that can be classified within the term digital humanities.

Eva Lindqvist Sandgren is a scholar in Art History, specialized in medieval book illuminations from France and Scandinavia

Eva Lindqvist Sandgren is senior lecturer at the department and her research project is entitled the Multisensory Vadstena Abbey in the late middle ages. The aim of the project is to produce a total-immersion virtual-reality reconstruction of the liturgy in the late 15th century Vadstena Abbey, specifically the multisensory experiences in the church.

The result will be self-directed experiences using a virtual-reality headset. The project will enable the exploration of cognitive and affective aspects of multi sensory experiences and their impact on empathy and community formation.

“From a nuns point of view”, digitaly adapted image. Foto: Eva Lindqvist Sandgren.

Anna Orrghen, besides being the course coordinator for the DH-master course Visual Analysis: Materiality and Digital Humanities, is heading two research projects that uses digital methods.

The first one is called the Art of Co-Production: Collaborations Between Artists, Scientists and Engineers, Sweden 1967-2009. The purpose of this project is to describe and analyze the creation processes that characterize the development of techno art in Sweden between 1967 to 2009. Anna Orrghen is primarily interested to map the driving forces behind and conditions for the co-operations and co-production between artists, scientists and engineers in the sphere of techno art.

The second project that Anna Orrghen is involved in is called Digital Monuments: Technology, Ephemerality and Memory in Swedish Public Art, 1994–2015. The purpose of the project is to describe and analyze digital monuments in Sweden between 1994 and 2015. By examining the contents and expressions of digital monuments, it’s socio-cultural, economical and political conditions and the role they play in society, Anna Orrghens research project aims to make visible a previously unexplored part of contemporary public art.

Associate Professor Johan Eriksson is Programme Director of the Master programme in Digital Art History His research focuses on early modern cultural transfer, history of collections, visual communication and digital art history.

The last project is head by Johan Eriksson. His project the Virtual Museum have been shortly been introduced in a previous post about a workshop he held as part of the course Visual Analysis: Materiality and Digital Humanities.

Johan Erikssons research project is entitled The Virtual Museum at the Royal Palace (link in Swedish) and is an interdisciplinary cooperation between the department of Art history and the department of Game design at Uppsala University.

The purpose of the project is to, together with the National art museum and the The Royal Collections with the Bernadotte Library, to try new methods to digitally reconstruct historical art exhibitions at the royal palace between 1794 to 1866.

Next up we will delve further into the department of Archaeology and ancient history and see what they contribute to the field of digital humanities.

Student post: Intership at Gustavianium Storage Facility

Maureen Ikhianosen Onwugbonu Masters in Digital Humanities

Internship Dates: 20th January – 24th January, 2020


Figure 2: That’s me writing the numbers from the metal tags on a new paper tag.

During the internship I was made to understand that it is necessary for museum collections to be documented. Not just documented but it should be according to professional standard which includes a full identification and description of each object, its associations, provenance, condition, treatment and present location. All information should be kept and made available giving access to museum personnel and other users.

Internship description

 I had the opportunity to work in different sections, all in connection to different boat graves. Boat graves 15 and 12 precisely. First section was working on boat rivets and documenting, the second was to digitize objects and lastly carve polystyrene.

Figure 1. Boat Grave

There were piles of metals from these boat graves called rivets. These rivets had labels on them which were written on metals as well. Metal on metal contact will cause a negative effect on the rivets which might cause the rivet to break into two or more pieces on the point of the metal tag. I learnt how to take the metal tags off the boat rivets with the use of small pliers. The labels on the metal tags were numbers that described what boat grave the rivets belonged to and its position in the boat. The numbers where then written on paper tags which I had to attach in little boxes made from cardboards, this was done after placing the boat rivets in each box. This wasn’t the last part of it. All rivets were also documented in the computer, inputting the right metadata so that accesses can be gained not only physically but also intellectually.

Figure 3: Objects metadata using FileMaker Pro

The second section was learning to digitize objects with the use of a camera and computer. The computer is usually connected to a server, where all digitized objects are saved.  Firstly, was to take a good picture of your object, then edit on the computer using photoshop. I learnt how to take a good picture, by looking into the camera lens, ensuring the object is in the little square which is the centre of focus. This can be adjusted to remove extremities. One other thing to take into consideration is to ensure there is good lighting for a good outcome. The picture is then saved into a nif file. Nif files are raw photographs that makes it is easy to work on a picture in whatever way you want instead of jpeg files which has lots of pixels but usually not the best quality  you would want . One major rule in editing is to ensure that you do not save over the original file.

Figure 4: Camera and Computer for digitizing
Figure 5: Editing the picture of a sword using photoshop.

Polystyrene is a synthetic aromatic hydrocarbon polymer made from the monomer styrene. It can last for a very long period of time and it is nonacidic. The importance of this material to objects is that it helps hold them firmly to prevent breakage and also prevents loss of any parts of the objects as most of these objects are very fragile and needs to be handled with care. So, I carved out the shape of objects into the polystyrene before placing the objects into it. Ensuring too that their number tags is attached to each item.

In conclusion, I had a wonderful and useful experience at the Gustavianum Storage facility, but I still feel I need to develop more on the digitization aspect in making use of the camera and the photoshop program. I also wish the internship period was longer to enable me perfect the skills I developed.

Figure 6: Objects in carved polystyrenes

Student post: Internship @ museum Gustavianum collections

Aikaterini Charalampopoulou                                       20-24 January 2020

In January 2020, I had the chance to do a one-week internship at the Gustavianum collections – an internship that was part of The Master’s Programme in Digital Humanities at Uppsala University. Time was short, but we were assigned to a series of different tasks so that to get the most out of our stay there. The collection we mainly worked with was the Valsgärde boats. Valsgärde is an area, around 3km north of Gamla Uppsala, along Fyrisön. The site was found in the 1920s and many archeological excavations were conducted in the decades that followed. The Valsgärde findings consist of 15 ship graves, dating from the 6th century and the Vendel Age to the 10th century and the Vikings times

Being engaged in this particular collection was of great personal importance to me. Valsgärde was the very first place in Uppsala I tried to visit, only a couple of days after my arrival in Sweden some years ago. I got to know about it in an old French tourist guide from the 1980’s — the famous Guide Bleu — and I immediately decided to visit it. I was never sure if I actually reached the correct location, until I showed my pictures to John Worley who confirmed that it had been the correct site.

John Worley is a curator for the Scandinavian Archaeological collection at Gustavianum and was responsible for our internship and the planning of our daily tasks. He is in many ways responsible for making it possible for us to delve into the collection despite the time limitations. This was accomplished by working with the Valsgärde boats in three ways: the actual objects, their documentation in the database and their photographic documentation. Those three approaches gave as a chance to work with the collection on different scales and from different perspectives, and at the same time to acquire a general knowledge about how life at the curation unit of the museum is.


Valsgärde boats were around 10m long each and the archaeological findings consists of valuable objects contained in the boats, as well as animals and human relics. As wood has mostly disintegrated, what has remained from the boats are their rivets. Each boat was put together with the help of more than a thousand iron rivets that archaeologists have documented by registering their coordinates, size and condition. Those rivets we had the opportunity to work closely with, freeing them from old metal labels that unfortunately have contributed to their erosion and providing them with new acid free slots. For the larger or more impressive findings of the Valsgärde boats we created customized cases by polyethylene foam, so that objects can be easily and safely kept and transferred.

The documentation in a FileMaker Pro database consisted of consulting simultaneously various sources: the diary (Grävdagbok) that was handwritten at the site the time of the excavation, the list of findings (fyndlista) which was a typed document mostly drawing on the diary, and various maps, both small and large scale. The aim of this task was to cross-check and supplement the available data, plus to translate it from Swedish to English so that the collection eventually reaches a wider audience beyond the language barrier.

Work at the photographic lab included taking digital pictures of items in the collection. The photographic process started with the gentle placement and support of the object, and continued with selection of the correct exposure and shutter speed in order to take photographs which need as little manipulation as possible. We also familiarized ourselves with the camera’s software and Photoshop tools in order to be able to bring forward details that are not easily visible with the naked eye. Photographs taken would then be inserted to the item’s entry in the database.  

Last but not least, I was given the chance and I was encouraged to follow my own research interests and gather material both for my upcoming master’s thesis and other assignments currently running on the Master’s program. In my experience, it is as much useful to enter the Gustavianum collections as open and receptive as possible, absorbing all the knowledge that is generously offered, as to have particular research questions in mind that can work as guide in the multiple and labyrinthine paths of the Gustavianum collections. In conclusion, my experience in the museum both satisfied my curiosity regarding the “backstage” of a museum i.e. its curation units, and it supported my confidence towards how I can participate and contribute in different curatorial tasks. It was an internship harmoniously related to the Master’s curriculum and I would surely repeat it if given the opportunity.

In-Depth: Digital Implementations in Cultural Heritage

At the beginning of the spring semester, I asked the course coordinator for Digital Implementations in Cultural Heritage, Anna Foka, a few questions about her course.

Anna Foka is project manager Digital Humanities Uppsala at Uppsala University

What is your research background and how did you find Digital Humanities as an educational and research subject?

A: I am an Associate Professor (Reader) in information technology and the humanities, with a background in classics, history and archaeology as well as heritage and media studies. I have extensive experience of teaching digital humanities courses (Umeå, Gothenburg, Linnaeus, Zadar. and even participating in pedagogical research together with colleagues from Kings College in London and Stanford) since 2011 so this was not a first time. Obviously, I find the intersection of humanities and technology fun to teach. That said, I felt that students were not introduced to many hands-on courses before mine, and it was rather challenging to get them in a lab environment for the first time, but I  *hope* it turned out well!

How do you use digital tools or digital methods in your own research?

A: In too many diverse ways! Well… GIS methods and tools but also visualization tools. But of course also digital encoding and metadata science are key in what I do in terms of research. 

I am currently leading and/or involved in the following research projects: I am the PI of Periegesis (Funded by the Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg Research Foundation 2018-21). What we do is we ascribe metadata to character strings using a platform for spatial analysis. I was a core member of the project Ancient Itineraries: The Digital Lives of Art History (Funded by the Getty Foundation 2018-9),I am currently leading and/or involved in the following research projects: I am the PI of Periegesis (Funded by the Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg Research Foundation 2018-21). What we do is for this project is to ascribe spatial and heritage information to words. The platform we work with is called recogito, and is developed by Rainer Simon, Professor of IT in the Austrian Academy of Sciences. In so doing, we feed back into the platform.  I am further a core member of the project Ancient Itineraries: The Digital Lives of Art History (Funded by the Getty Foundation 2018-9).

For this international project, we run two institutes together with the Department of Digital Humanities in Kings College London, one in London and one at the Swedish Institute in Athens, in order to create language vocabularies (gazetteers) for art history artefacts on the move. Kings College Digital Humanities lab is building this platform as we speak, together with core members and institute participants. We are reporting back to the Getty Foundation on artefact ontologies that have a meaning in the digital age, with equality and diversity in mind but also tackling the complex issue of digital surrogates or looted antiquities. More anon! I

What was for you the most successful or meaningful part of the course?

A: I think when we studied GIS and spatial analysis. The students to expand their knowledge with Daniel Löwenborg’s ´s next elective in the autumn: Introduction to GIS. I’d like to believe it was certainly fun for them to learn how to make 3D objects from pictures! I think they’ve enjoyed that! Their final presentations made me happy and overwhelmed. They were smart, professional and very much hands on! I am hoping some of them will publish versions of their excellent essays on this blog and our DH Uppsala blog

What is the central theoretical viewpoint or practical method that you want the students to take away from your course into their coming courses in the program?

A: My course was about implementing technology for history, art, heritage and the museum sector more generally. I want my students to engage hands on with technology but also think critically. Too much theory makes humanities. DH instead is about the application of methods and tools to real problem solving. I am hoping that these skills will enhance pupils employability and that they’ve learned a thing or two about how to use tech to organize, visualize and to sensory-render the past. 

To read more about the course, you can read the post about the workshop the students attended at Uppsala Museum of Evolution

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