November 03, 2021

Communicating computation

How do we communicate our computation? We live in a world where we can use do a lot with a little code. For example, an historian may load a set of manuscripts into the computer, use OCR (Optical Character Recognition) to extract the text, and then use NLP (Natural language processing) to identify known entities or topic modelling to look for word or phrase patterns. Each step requires decisions and interpretation drawing on the researcher's expertise and findings may need to be presented within an interpretive framework.

Combining narrative and computation is not a new idea. Knuth (1984) is credited with putting forward the literate computing paradigm. The approach focuses on developing a narrative or documentation in which code is included. In this approach an historian might detail, alongside the code for loading the manuscripts, why those manuscripts were included in the analysis and reference the source. Since 1984 there have been considerable developments in notebook technology (for an accessible overview see the slides for this talk).

Digital Humanities based training and examples are very accessible. The Programming Historian has several tutorials. Of these, Introduction to Jupyter Notebooks is a great place to start. A good source for example is the GitHub code repository because it is widely used, and you can view the text, code, and output from a Jupyter notebook. Some examples include list of Jupyter notebooks within the Digital Humanities and the Women in the Workplace project (see fig. 1), and a search of Twitter for Digital Humanities Jupyter shows some of the ways Jupyter notebooks are being used.

Notebooks, often including code written in the Python programming language, offer a medium for communicating how we compute. In this post, we briefly considered why we might use a notebook, how the idea has grown and what resources are available to learn how to use notebooks. The examples above show how notebooks are used in both teaching and research to great effect.

Our team are looking into the use of notebooks within Digital Humanities. Both of our new SRSEs have used notebooks for teaching and research. We are looking forward to supporting the use of notebooks going forward.

Screenshot from Women in the Workplace repository

Fig 1. Screenshot of notebook taken from Sammantha Garcia's Women in the Workplace project showing both code and narrative cells in a Jupyter Notebook. The notebook is available at WomenInTheWorkplace/Jupyter Notebook.ipynb at main · sammanthagarcia/WomenInTheWorkplace (

October 04, 2021

Research Software Engineers in IDG

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This week two Senior Research Software Engineers (RSEs) Godwin Yeboah and James Tripp join the Information and Digital Group (IDG). This will be an unfamiliar role to many in IDG and the Faculty of Arts, so I am writing this post to share what you can expect.

The RSE movement has been 'a thing' in the UK since 2012 and a milestone reached in 2019 with the founding of the Society of RSEs. It’s formed of individuals and groups have coalesced around a variety of roles that as this mapping from a survey of 39 RSEs in March 2021, includes those who identify between software engineer and researcher whether they are embedded within research teams or central IT functions.

the RSE Landscape: A chart plotting Software Engineering to Research and Embedded to Central. It demonstrates the wide variety in the RSE community.

This community shares some key issues of recognition, career development as those who develop software upon which research relies, across the disciplines.

In a white paper written by the ‘DHTech Group’ in 2019 at the Digital Humanities global conference, those that identified as RSEs in the digital humanities summarised this for the Arts and Humanities as:

someone who understands the approaches and methods of the research domain and is able to conceptualize and implement the digital or computational part of a humanities research project

The skills and technologies these RSEs will be working with in research are varied; from investigating apps as media ecological artefacts to crowd-sourced digital editions using the Text Encoding Initiative. These will be particularly relevant for Arts and Humanities disciplines and they will contribute to the research activity of the Centre for Digital Inquiry established in 2020.

They will develop software and re-usable tools, contribute directly to research projects, constantly develop skills, promote good software engineering practice, equip and train others, and join the growing network of RSE roles across the University. These include the established Scientific Computing Research Technology Platform and Heather Turner, Statistics’ EPSRC Research Software Engineering Fellow along with other RSEs embedded in research groups.

Their placement in the information and digital group at this time of significant digital transformation for the University is of great benefit. They will increase the breadth of RSE input in the designing and evolving of IDG services, digital infrastructures and virtual research environments to support the software engineering demands of the University’s research community.

Watch this space as they get started and find out more about them.


March 18, 2020

Collaboration for research teams working remotely

With Covid-19 having an increasing impact on the way we work and conduct research, teams are increasingly looking to make greater use online platforms for meetings and events. Microsoft Teams is one online platform that is supported by the University that may meet some of these requirements.
  • Here's an example of how Teams can be used in practice by an international research team by Michael Johnson, Associate Professor at the University of Washington:

April 10, 2017

Learning the lessons of working with the British Library's Digital Content & Data for your research

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A series of presentations exploring the British Library's digital collections, how they have been used and the lessons learned by working with researchers who want to use them. This will be followed by discussions and feedback around potential ideas of working with the Library's data.

The Roadshow will showcase examples of the British Library’s digital content and data, addressing some of the challenges and issues of working with it, and how interesting and exciting projects from researchers, artists, educators and entrepreneurs have been developed via the annual British Library Labs Competition and Awards. This year we intend to focus on some of the lessons we have learned over the last four years of working with the Labs, promote our awards and get attendees thinking of what they might do with the British Library's collections. The team will also talk about future plans at the Library to support Digital Scholarship. The day will also include presentations on current research being undertaken, and digital humanities technical tools being used at the University of Warwick.

Date and Time:
Monday 8 May 2017, 12:30 - 16:00

FREE and inlcudes lunch and refreshments.

Wolfson Research Exchange, Floor 3, Library extension, Library Road, University of Warwick, CV4 7AL

Register now

December 21, 2016

Santa's DH Helpers

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Ever wished you had access to a troop of elves to help you achieve what would appear to be an impossibly large task? There are in fact a number of freely available online digital tools that academics can make use of, and it's easier than you may think to set up, as our christmas blog post this year looks to demonstrate.

Text transcription, classification and tagging are three relevant types of citizen science of use in the humanities. These can each enrich sources with structured metadata to help them be more useful in research methods of analysis over large sets of data.

Enabling members of the public and enthusiasts to get involved in a research project can also cause contributors to develop an affinity to the project and follow its progress - seeing their efforts combine with others' and being used to discover insights and often produce new representations and visualisations of the data. There are a number of existing projects in the humanities.

We've produced a demonstration project to show you just how easy it is to set-up a crowdsourcing project, anda one for you to get hands-on and play with. The work you'll be doing, is to help Santa transcribe letters he's received. These handwritten pages need transforming into transcribed text that can be used in the workshop to identify what children have requested.

Please pitch-in: Santa's DH Hepers on Zooniverse

Check out some other research projects with crowdsourcing:

Further resources:

If you would like to explore how Zooniverse could be used in your current or future project, please drop us a line.

Happy Christmas from the Digital Humanities Team!

October 06, 2016

Blog or News roll on Omeka

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Having not found anything on Omeka sites that looks like it gives us what this project wants 'out of the box', here is a recipe using available materials. We're looking for a Blog-like setup or News feed with the following features:

  • entries ordered by date on a listing page
  • pull a feed of 'teasers' through to other pages
  • enable embedding tweets

The solution looks like:

  • Created two new Item Types. One called 'News', which has just one box 'Text' in the Item Type Metadata. The other is 'Tweet' which has 'Embed Code'.
  • Create a Collection called 'News and Events' to hold all entries whether tweet or news item
  • Use shortcodes to pull a feed ordered by date [items num=5 collection=5 sort="Dublin Core,Date" order=d] which works well, but the display isn't quite there, so some manipulation is needed. A little plugin coding later and we have a new template-able shortcode [itemspartial template=teaser num=5 collection=5 sort="Dublin Core,Date" order=d]
  • To add an entry do the following:
  • Create new item
  • If you want a title, enter it in the DC Title field
  • Fill in the description if you want to customise the way the post appears in the teaser text
  • Scroll down to Date, and enter today's date
  • Add to the 'News and Events' Collection
  • Tick the 'public' button if you want to publish right away
  • Change to the Item Type tab and select 'News' or 'Tweet' from this list
  • Change to the Files tab to add a photo or other media
  • Add the content for this specific type
  • Save your entry and check it has come out right

The shortcode plugin is here:

See this implemented in the wild at

April 29, 2016

Virtual Projection Box Launched

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Screenshot from the Virtual Projection Box

This digital initiative supports the Projection Project that has recently been well covered by the BBC Radio 4's The Film Programme on Sunday 24th April 2016 (16:20-23:19) and 'The Projectionists' – Richard Nicholson’s photographs from inside the projection box.

It has been the desire of the project team from the outset that the rich oral histories that the project has collected are accessible to the public. To make the experience of accessing these clips both engaging and more contextual and educational – the idea of the ‘Virtual Projection Box’ was conceived.

Visitors to this online exhibit are presented with a number of full-screen views of these cramped spaces. Through zooming and panning the detail of the images can be explored, as well as content revealed through hotspots on items on the screen.

The Academic Technology team provided the academic team with a platform (Omeka with Neatline), some templates and an introduction session. The content and journeys of the interactive resource have been authored with these building-blocks. As the first exhibits were produced, user interaction improvements and tweaks were made to the underlying platform by the academic technologists.

Take a look around, and comment if you find the clip about falling through the roof midway through a screening.

February 11, 2016

(De)coding Texts – Using the Text Encoding Initiative as a new way to teach the reading of texts

On 3rd March 2016 Alex Peck and Dr Clare Rowan of the Department of Classics and Ancient History will be hosting a two-hour long workshop for postgraduates, academics and teaching staff of the university that will demonstrate how TEI (the Text Encoding Initiative) can be used as an engaging and stimulating method for teaching and developing text-based skills. The workshop will provide a practical demonstration of how TEI can be used within a teaching environment and will encourage participants to reflect on how such a method could be implemented within a variety of academic disciplines.

To provide a flavour of what participants can expect from the workshop and of how TEI can be used in undergraduate teaching, Alex Peck has written a brief summary of the TEI based teaching project (De)Coding Classics that was piloted in the Department of Classics and Ancient History during the 2015/16 academic year.

(De)Coding Classics was a pilot teaching project that aimed to further develop the text-based skills of critical thinking and close reading through the use of computer coding, namely TEI. The project also looked to expose undergraduates to the world of Digital Humanities and to build an awareness of how many of their online resources in the field of Classics and Ancient History are created. This project was inspired by a similar teaching scheme that was pioneered in the UK by Dr Melodee Beals (the of Sheffield Hallam University now of Loughborough University), who had used TEI in her History module as an innovative and engaging method to help her undergraduate students engage effectively in the analysis of primary textual sources.

TEI, or the TExt Encoding Initiative, is the standard recognised means by which digitally annotated versions of texts or text corpora are created. TEi is extremely versatile, providing a highly detailed appendices of 'tags' and 'elements' that can be used to highlight and annotate a vast range of textual features. Its versatility is further demonstrated by the fact that new 'tags' and 'elements' are frequently added to reflect new trends in textual analysis or to expand the range of texts that can be encoded. This versatility renders TEI an effective tool for the teaching of text-based skills.

(De)Coding Classics was implemented in the second-year core module 'The Hellenistic World'. The module cohort was divided into two groups of approximately 35 students and each group was then led through a highly-practical two-hour seminar. The seminars were hosted in R0.39 as this is currently the only computer lab on campus that has Oxygen (the easy-to-use coding software that we had elected ti use in our teaching spaces) installed on 25 computers. The students were first given a brief introduction to TEI, shown how digital editions of texts are created and look like in their coded form, and encouraged to reflect on the similarities between traditional non-digital text annotation and the practice of coding. Following this relatively short introduction, the students were given a practical step-by-step demonstration on how to encode a simple text using TEI. Once the students had been given the basic skills needed to encode texts on their own, the students were individually assigned a text that had been taken from a complex anthology (the Archive of Hor), which they then proceeded to transcribe and code as they had done during the demonstration. They were instructed to identify and thus code the names of people or deities; topographical information; and statements or facts of historical significance. Once the students had identified these key features, they were then instructed to research them and to create a glossary entry for them based on the findings of this research. In order to conduct this research, the students were encouraged to use the wide range of online resources available in the field of Classics and to record these secondary sources using the department's accepted referencing style. A system was devised in order to avoid the possibility of multiple entries on a single topic or feature. Once the students had finished their glossary entries, and were thus armed with enough information to embark on a detailed interpretation of their respective texts, they were instructed to write a brief commentary. The coded text, commentary and glossary entries were then added to a tailor-made database on the module website. This provided them with an interactive finished product of their work.

Although only being a short pilot project that was limited to a single seminar slot, (De)Coding Classics illustrated the effectiveness of a practical digital approach to the teaching of texts. This particular method resulted in a greater engagement on the aprt of the students with regard to the texts they were assigned and thus comprehension of the utility and importance of textual sources for understanding the Hellenistic World. Moreover, the session was able to improve the students' level of digital confidence and competence, a factor that will undoubtedly be increasingly important in the years ahead. There is thus great potential for the incorporation of further elements of computer coding in the teaching and development of traditional textual as well as linguistic skills, and such a practice could become an important complementary toll in linguistic and textual teaching.

December 01, 2015

We're hiring!

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We're currently looking for someone to join us in the Academic Technology team. Take a read of the description below and if you would like to work with us, please see the full Job Advert.

Academic Technologist (77009-125)

The Digital Humanities team at the University of Warwick are expanding and have a new position for a skilled and motivated programmer/developer to contribute to innovative research projects, mainly in the Arts Faculty. Working in a small team, you will contribute to varied technology enabled projects spanning the range of humanities disciplines.

You will lead the development and management of a small number of strategically important service offerings that are crucial for digital humanities work. This will be realised through the design and implementation of robust, reusable, supported and sustainable technological solutions. The utilisation of and coordination with IT Services infrastructure will be key to achieving this.

You will have experience with the full stack of web applications and, in particular, demonstrable skills in the management of production web application environments, the prudent use of open source libraries/plugins to extend functionality and ability to code with PHP, Ruby, node.js or python in appropriate design patterns. We are currently developing expertise around Omeka and Drupal, so experience with those packages is particularly welcome.

This is a challenging and exciting role in a burgeoning area on the intersection of technology and humanities research. You will work directly with academics throughout the whole project lifecycle and will very tangibly contribute to Warwick’s research excellence.

Grade 6, £28,982 – £37,768 pa, Fixed Term for 18 months.

Contact us with any questions.

More about Academic Technology at Warwick can be found on the IT Services Website:

October 28, 2015

Summer School Experience: Digital Photography as a Research Tool

Summer School Experience: Digital Photography as a Research Tool

There is considerable debate surrounding the copy versus the original as a research tool. My position, and that of the speaker on the subject at DHOxSS (Daniel Wakelin, English, Univ. Ox.), is that digital reproductions are useful, but no replacement for the real thing. One is reminded of the arguments around Kindles.

So, when you write a (good) essay or article, what you are doing is telling a story. At least, that’s what I try and do. So shouldn’t photographs be used to tell a story as well? There are now a wide variety of digital images available online of medieval and early modern documents, provided by libraries and ranging from the poorest black and white of EEBO (Early English Books Online) to the high quality images of British Library flagship items (Magna Carta etc) sporting deep zoom and dazzling HD. But these facilities organise the material by some arrangement that is logical to the digital librarian and usually a traditional page by page (nb. not opening by opening) rendering, maintaining the books as discrete objects.

Yet, by taking your own digital photographs in reading rooms you can arrange the books or even individual pages into the story you are trying to follow or trying to tell. Clearly you MUST still ensure that each image has sufficient metadata recording its location within a particular codex etc., but this does not preclude interlacing items from various codices in order to find connections or comparisons which may have been obvious to their original creators but have been obscured by the practices of later binding. It is no different to creating a playlist on your iPod as opposed to listening to the radio. Both are valuable but they are different, and serve different needs. Furthermore, taking photographs when on research trips can save valuable time and money, and facilitate sharing your photos quickly and easily with a colleague or student. There is even a Bodleian Special Collections flickr page where visitors can upload the photographs that they have taken. The library were experiencing a large quantity of their material being shared illicitly, and so took the attitude that if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

I must stress however that whilst photographs allow you to see differently, as the choice of shot directs the viewer’s gaze and as zooming can increase the visibility of features largely invisible to the naked eye, it cannot compensate for an appreciation of the text as physical object. There can be a tendency for reading rooms to become photography rooms. I was recently sat in the manuscript room of the British Library when someone came in, collected his book, and placed it on the desk beside me. Having retrieved his camera and run through the pages, he was off again without ever having sat down. I have my doubts that he read a word of the book he was given. Digital photography should be a supplement rather replacement for the experience of reading, since it would have been difficult for the researcher to tell from those pictures how the manuscript was put together or altered physically, or indeed to appreciate the original meaning of the text as encountered in the codex form. Perhaps I’m just an old stick in the mud, but I do believe in some respect for the object and its aura, particularly when such care and time was invested in them as with an illuminated manuscript. We can practice ruminatio at leisure over the photograph, but to understand the value original authors invested in the texts we are studying, we must likewise experience them as material objects.

But to return to photography at the DHOXSS, we also had talks on the more professional end of the digital spectrum. Matthew McGratton (Bod., Univ. Ox.) talked about IIIF (The International Image Interoperability Framework), which is a multi-institutional facility for interlinked image search and retrieval, and Judith Siefring (Bod., Univ. Ox.) discussed the Digital Manuscripts Toolkit supported by the Bodeian. This is an image viewer which is designed specifically with the researcher in mind, and facilitates some of the interactive arrangement and parallel viewing of documents which I have already mentioned in conjunction with one’s own digital photography projects. You can even upload your own photographs and view them side by side (with a little technical jiggery pokery) with institutionally digitised documents. Examples of projects which have made use of this facility are listed on their website.

So in conclusion:

  • Digital photography is a powerful tool, but no substitute for time in the library.
  • It ranges from that done on a phone to that using the most high tech multi-spectral imaging, and both have their merits. Your photos might be of a lower resolution, but you can use them to find a story that has been obscured by time, or to tell your own.
  • And finally, don’t devalue your images or 'Medieval Reactions' by decontextualising them. Record references accurately – if you don’t you WILL forget!

Finally I must repeat my thanks to Warwick Digital Humanities for making my time at the DHOxSS possible.

Emil Rybczak (English) Univ. Warwick.

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  • Thanks for this short blog by Dave on this entry

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