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

Category: DH courses (Page 1 of 3)

Theories and Methods: Underrated but Important?

This week the course Theories and Methods in Digital Humanities starts for the 1-year students. This courses purpose is to prepare them for doing a 1-year thesis later this spring or a 2-year thesis on the spring term one year from now.

Theories and Methods courses is a natural part of every thesis-focused program here in Sweden. Some people like them, some people don’t, but they are always very important for the students so that they have a solid foundation of scientific methodology to work with in their final thesis.

The course coordinator i Nadzeya Charapan, that you have met earlier on this blog. After the course is done, the students are expected to have In-depth knowledge of scientific theories and methods of relevance to the humanities and social sciences in general and digital humanities in particular.

The student should also gain the ability to formulate an appropriate theoretical approach to a research problem as well express oneself within and explain the characteristics of the genre scientific writing.

In-Depth: Digital Libraries

During the autumn semester of 2020, the course Digital Libraries was given for the first time. To read more about the course, follow this link. The course addresses digital libraries from a research perspective. I was able to find a moment with Amalia Juneström, Phd student at the department and course coordinator for Digital Libraries, to talk about her thoughts her relationship with Digital Humanities and her thoughts on the coure.

Amalias Phd research project is positioned within Information Science and focuses on different aspects of how aggressive behaviour online shape the way a society communicates information.

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

My research background is in literature and library and information studies. At first digital humanities seemed a little vague. However, I soon recognized that the field has much potential for me. It’s transdisciplinary nature is inspiring and I’ve learnt a lot from being involved in the digital humanities.

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

Although digital tools are ever present in my research (especially digital search tools), I’m more interested in how other people use digital tools and methods. For example, in one study, I used interviews, a very non-digital method, to find out about how journalists work with content moderation in a digital environment.

What would you say was the most successful or meaningful part of the course for you and for your students?

My course, digital libraries, is an introduction to libraries as a research field and as a professional environment. Most of the students had no background knowledge of libraries as an academic discipline. I’d say that one of the most important aspects of the course was that it linked library and information studies to digital humanities and showed the students why and how libraries are relevant to them as digital humanists.

What do you think is the most important tool or piece of knowledge that the students learn during your course?

I hope that the students have gained the ability to critically assess issues relating to digital libraries and that they will recognize the relevance of these issues regardless of where they will find themselves in the future

Digital Libraries

The course Digital Libraries is an optional course during the first half of the autumn semester for those students within the program that are interested in the ALM -field (Archives, Libraries and Museums). The course coordinator for the course is Amalia Juneström, Phd Student at the department.

The course addresses digital libraries from a research perspective. Students will learn about and examine methods and theories for approaching issues of information access, digitization, metadata, organization, interface design, and user behavior.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The course also explores the infrastructural problems of information architecture and collection management. It considers policy issues relating to digital libraries and how policies affect the evolution of digital collections.

Overall, this course offers critical perspectives on digital libraries and addresses issues of representation of information and sustainability in a digital setting.

It’s Thesis Time!

Since a few weeks back the first generation of Digital Humanities students are nearing the end of their two-year master program by writing on their master thesis.

The Master Thesis course is devoted to the writing and presentation of a written scientific work. Within the scope of which the student shall also deepen their knowledge of how to search for and evaluate data within the field of study, as well as act as an opponent to a fellow student’s thesis.

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay 

The seminar at which the thesis are presented is open to all students enrolled in the Master’s Programme in Digital Humanities. A first draft is to be handed in 3rd of may and the finished thesis should be finished by 4th of June.

Hopefully you will be able to see some abstracts and links to the finished products at the end of the semester here on this blog. So wish them good luck on work with their projects!

New year and new opportunities

Next week a new academic year for the Masters program in Digital Humanities starts. The first year students at the program start their first course Introduction to Digital Humanities. During the course they will be welcomed by Olle Sköld, who is coordinator for the program.

The first year students will take part in education in a online environment .Image by Bonnie Taylor from Pixabay

The programs first year will initially be held in a digital environment using digital tools, as a way to adapt to the current conditions during the ongoing covid-19-pandemic. This will mean new challenges for learning for both students and teachers, as we can really try to see the potential in a Zoom-based learning environment.

During the first course the 1st year students will learn the foundation of what Digital Humanities are. The course also introduces the digital tools used in humanistic research and the historical development of digital humanities. The contemporary position and characteristics of digital humanities will be studied through significant projects, research and research praxis in the field.

To learn more about the upcoming courses on the program, you can search through the posts on this blog or be on the lookout for new posts over the coming months.

Choices, internships and information science

For the second year students, many whom have been previously introduced on this blog, their third semester offers many opportunities to customize their program after their own interest. Some students have chosen their own elective courses during the spring. With subjects ranging from machine learning to linguistics to english literature, the students have the opportunity to choose their own direction within the masters program in Digital Humanities based on the courses found at Uppsala University.

Others have take a different route and instead chosen to deepen their knowledge in Library- and Information science through courses offered at the Department of ALM. These students will next week start the course Information Management and Information Structures. The purpose of that course is to study information systems and information structures with a point of departure in various theoretical perspectives.

Students will study how knowledge-intensive organisations manage various types of analogue and digital documents and how they manage their internal and external communication. The course will be headed by guest researcher Nadzeya Charapan and researcher Lisa Börjesson.

The students will attend an internship during some point during the third semester of the program. Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

During the third semester the second year students will also do an internship at a work place of their choosing. More information about this will hopefully be published on this blog in the future, when the students are able to share their experience. The ongoing covid-19 pandemic poses new challenges for work places, but we hope our students get a satisfying internship experience under safe conditions.

Thesis time!

This is a guest blog post by programme director Olle Sköld that was written at the beginning of the summer of 2020 .

The academic year is at an end and it is time for some well-earned time off for both students and faculty at the DH master’s program at Uppsala University. The past two semesters have been packed with exciting courses, discussions, workshops, and for the majority of the class a second year of program studies awaits after the summer holidays. Some of the students however chose to go for a 60-credit master’s degree and have concluded the semester and their time at the Department of ALM by executing a series of impressive thesis projects that I would be amiss if I didn’t showcase here (with the authors’ permissions of course).

Nikolina Milioni directs attention towards a matter that is front-of-mind for libraries, archives, and scholars all around the world: handwritten text recognition (HTR). In her thesis, Nikolina evaluates and discusses the applicability and usefulness of Transkribus — a freely accessible HTR application. Nikolina describes the thesis in the following way:

Source: Transkribus.eu

Digital libraries and archives are major portals to rich sources of information. They undertake large-scale digitization to enhance their digital collections and offer users valuable text data. When it comes to handwritten documents, usually these are only provided as digitized images and not accompanied by their transcriptions. Text in non-machine-readable format restricts contemporary scholars to conduct research, especially by employing digital humanities approaches, such as distant reading and data mining. The purpose of this thesis is to evaluate Transkribus platform as a linguistic tool mainly developed for producing automatic transcriptions of handwritten documents. The results are correlated with the findings of a questionnaire distributed to libraries and archives across Europe to expand our knowledge on the policy they follow regarding manuscripts and transcription provision. A model for a specific writing style in Latin language is trained and the accuracy on various Latin handwritten pages is tested. Finally, the tool’s validation is discussed, as well as to what extent it meets the general needs of the cultural heritage institutions and of humanities scholars

Nikolina’s thesis is titled “Automatic Transcription of Historical Documents: Transkribus as a Tool for Libraries, Archives and Scholars” and a full-text copy can be downloaded from DiVA.

Ylva Arwidson sets out to shed further light on nature of communication practices and public relations the in the present-day digital arena. This done by the way of an interview-based case study of how digital coordinators enact and understand public-relations work in the Swedish cultural heritage sector. Ylva summaries her thesis in the following way:

Image by fancycrave1 from Pixabay

This research is about Swedish cultural institutions’ digital public relations work, with the purpose of investigating what the digital coordinators at the institutions consider to be essential skills in their work and how they define and implement effective and successful communication online. Communicating about culture and cultural heritage is essential and a key priority in order to ensure that the public is educated about the past as well as the present. Through analysing data from interviews conducted with professionals working within communications at Swedish cultural institutions, the study investigates what the main difficulties, similarities and dissimilarities are in digital public relations today and why.

 The results show that the professionals’ main areas of difficulty lay within conciseness and correctness, these could be attributed to lesser constraints in the digital setting, inattention, the faster pace of working online as well as a higher tolerance for errors. The interviewees showed a dependence on adding links to their digital content, expressing different opinions regarding what purpose linking serves. There is a common trend within the professionals’ work in favour of democratisation of the dynamics between the institution and the public – two-way communication through adapted and personalised dialogue (community management) and valorisation of feedback. The study provides first-hand insight into the strengths and weaknesses of digital public relations actors working within Swedish cultural institutions.

Ylva’s thesis is titled “Digital Public Relations in the Swedish Cultural Sector: A Study of Effective PR and Two-Way Communication” and a full-text copy can be downloaded from DiVA.

Nadim Herbert ventures to create new knowledge about the mechanisms underpinning the phenomenon called ‘woke-washing’ in his thesis. Woke-washing takes place when brands and corporations makes use of (socially, culturally, politically) progressive values in service of marketing or PR campaigns. The empirical basis of Nadim’s study is an analysis of Twitter data consisting of both posts and thousands of user responses. Here’s Nadim’s rendering of the thesis:

Image by Thomas Ulrich from Pixabay

This study examines two marketing campaigns on the social media platform Twitter by the brand Nike, with the campaigns involving American football player Colin Kaepernick and tennis player Serena Williams respectively. The study specifically explores how Nike utilizes socially and politically progressive values in these marketing campaigns and how users then respond to it on Twitter, with the source material consisting of four Twitter-posts, two by Nike and one each by the two athletes involved, as well as the replies by other Twitter-users to those posts. The replies to these four Twitter-posts were then sorted into reply types for each post, in other words categorized according to the sentiments and attitudes in the replies that were most prominently and frequently expressed. A grounded theory approach was used thereafter in order to apply relevant theoretical perspectives to the reply types and original posts, through which the source material was split into several analytical themes. The theoretical perspectives used in the analysis were Rosalind Gill’s postfeminist sensibility, Ron Von Burg and Paul E. Johnson’s writings on nostalgia as a critical perspective, Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe’s floating signifier concept, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva’s racial grammar theory, Susan Cahn’s writings on female athlete stereotypes, and Lauren Copeland’s writings on postmaterialism.

The analysis showed that Nike utilized socially progressive causes such as racial and gender equality in an individualistic way by conveying them through the identities of Williams and Kaepernick in their Twitter-posts. It also showed that the replies to the marketing in turn also focused on the identities of the athletes, with repliers either declaring their approval or disapproval of Nike and their marketing campaigns based on whether they were ethically and ideologically aligned with the progressive causes and values that the athletes were proxies for in their respective marketing campaigns. Ultimately, this study revealed an individualization of political expression on social media, both when a corporation like Nike uses it to improve their brand image and in how individuals engage with political and social issues.

Nadim’s thesis is titled “‘Woke-Washing’ a Brand: An Analysis of Socially Progressive Marketing by Nike on Twitter and the User Response to it” and a full-text copy can be downloaded from DiVA.

The topics explored in these theses really illustrates the breadth and relevance(s) of the DH field for both digital professionals and SSH research. Congratulations to Nikolina, Ylva, and Nadim for their excellent efforts on the DH programme! Now I’ll transition from spring semester to summer holidays happy with the knowledge that many more thought-provoking and interesting thesis projects will be carried out under the auspices of the Master’s Programme in Digital Humanities in the semesters to come.

Data curation

Today I participated in a lab in the course Distant reading over Zoom about Data Curation headed by Karl Berglund.

In the data curation lab the students will learn how to automatically manage and manipulate digital texts in different ways.

We will depart from examples of Python code in Jupyter Notebook and, among other things, use the SpaCy module to perform principal tasks in Natural Language Processing, such as tokenization, lemmatisation, and part of speech-tagging.

If you want to read more about the course Distant Reading you can read this previous blog post. If you want to learn more about Karl Berglund and Distant reading, you can read this blog post from 2019.

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.

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