Maria José Aurindo visits the Lab

In September 2018 the Sussex Humanities Lab were delighted to host an Erasmus+ Visitor. In this post Maria José Aurindo from the Library of Estoril Higher Institute for Tourism and Hotel Studies, Portugal, describes the highlights of her time with us.

Sea, beach, buildings
Brighton

In September 2018, as a member of Museu Virtual do Turismo, I spent a week at the University of Sussex, sponsored by a mobility grant from the Erasmus+ programme. Mobility is one of the core activities in international cooperation, aiming to enhance the quality of higher education, and to promote connections and collaborations across Europe. In addition, an Erasmus+ Training Mission represents a fantastic opportunity for personal and professional development.

James Baker, Senior Lecturer in Digital History and Archives, co-coordinated the visit together with Sussex Humanities Lab Programme Manager Amelia Wakeford. James welcomed me and provided me with an extremely valuable professional experience week programme. I was able to engage with so much in such a short period at the University. I really wonder what we could do in a month-long visit!

James presented several lines of research he’s currently involved with, in particular highlighting digital forensics and projects like The Programming Historian. He also introduced me to the various operating modes of the Sussex Humanities Lab, and showed me how its flexible use of space helps to meet complex scheduling needs, and to foster a truly collaborative and interdisciplinary research environment.

Sunny day, grassy hill, tree and library
University of Sussex campus

I was also fortunate to have personalized tours of both the Library and the Keep (Sussex’s special collections archive). It was great to see the differences and similarities within the archive and library equipment’s and services, and to encounter all the great work that’s being done there: from Karen Watson embracing the challenge of producing interactive digital editions of the Virginia Woolf’s papers; to Samira Teuteberg exploring the German Jewish Collections; Amy Waldron’s ambition for new library study spaces; and Adam Harwood’s digital preservation advocacy mission.

We managed to discuss matters ranging from the curatorial concerns, digitalization calibration anxieties, the need for risk management regarding author’s rights, the recreation of physicality debates, low-cost preservation strategies, to the need to raise awareness for digital preservation.

I was also introduced to the challenges to the design of the new Heritage MA seen through the eyes of Wendy Hitchmough, Senior Lecturer in Art History. Her experience allowed me to think through several new research perspectives, from which I would highlight the strong need to consider the ecology of heritage visits, in both physical and virtual tours.

Picture of someone on stage, using a PowerPoint presentation
Nye Thompson discussing the Machine Gaze selfie at Messy Edge 2018

And – to conclude the visit – what could be better than a full day spent learning from the amazing projects presented at The Messy Edge 2018? The event, supported by the Sussex Humanities Lab, and part of Brighton Digital Festival, certainly broadened my research horizons, as theorists and practitioners presented on the rich variety of topics within digital humanities. This included everything from the right to be forgotten (something made more and more difficult in the dark age of connectionism); to the right to be represented and remembered (and the need to protect community generated archives from future erasure); from the conceptual landscapes of image and sound recognition; to surveillance, big data, and algorithmic governance; and much more.

Besides the professional experience, I also had the opportunity to get to know the beautiful and cosy city of Brighton – already a long-standing icon of my tourism imagery, and now a place that I’ve finally been able to visit in person!

I can say that my stay was truly rewarding, and it will undoubtedly be repeated. I would love for this visit to be the start of further work together.

Welcome

Welcome to the sparkling new Sussex Humanities Lab blog!

What is this field, called the Digital Humanities? Broadly speaking, it’s about a dialogue – occasionally a tussle, or a two-part harmony – between all the things humanities scholars have traditionally done, and the new and emerging practices which digital technology enables. Here at the SHL, we’re organised into four strands: Digital History/Digital Archives, Digital Media/Computational Culture, Digital Technologies/Digital Performance, and Digital Lives/Digital Memories; we also collaborate extensively with the TAG (Text Analysis Group) Lab, and with the University of Sussex Library. Building innovative archival and analytic tools to reappraise literary and cultural heritage is part of what we do; so is thinking through the ethical implications of the changing nature of privacy and personal data; so is investigating fledging or fleeting everyday cultural practices of social media users. The fore-edges of medieval manuscripts are in our wheelhouse; so are the memes of 4Chan.

But even a permissive definition of the Digital Humanities risks falling short of the sheer richness and diversity of activity taking place under its rubric. The influence of the Digital Humanities spreads wide, as encounters with new cultural forms often cast fresh light on the familiar, revealing what was under our noses all along. Some scholars and artists have already started to prefer the term postdigital. Let’s not forget about that strong practice-led thread either: the Digital Humanities is not only critical and curatorial, but also creative.

Perhaps the best way to understand the Digital Humanities is to keep an eye on what Digital Humanities scholars are up to. That’s where this blog comes in. In the coming months we’ll be bringing you glimpses of dozens of exciting projects and initiatives with which the Sussex Humanities Lab is involved. We hope to make this blog a place of interest to researchers of all disciplines, and to the public at large.

For my part, I mostly work on the intersection of speculative fiction and economics. How are creators of speculative fiction imagining the impact of automation and Artificial Intelligence on society? Can speculative fiction inform the design of new institutions and policies, allowing us to meet the ecological challenges of the future? Or … maybe it can’t? Later in the year, I’ll be sharing my research more fully. But right now, I want to flag up two projects I’ve been involved with editorially, both hot off the presses. On the fiction side, there’s Strange Economics, an anthology from David Schultz, featuring original economics-themed short stories. The ebook will be free for a limited time. Then there’s Vector, the UK’s longest-running magazine of SF criticism. Vector #288, co-edited with Polina Levontin, a special issue devoted to the future of economics. The magazine only goes to members of the British Science Fiction Association, but we’ll be featuring plenty of excerpts on the Vector website over the next few months.