All entries for Wednesday 07 October 2015

October 07, 2015

Summer School Experience: Digital Approaches in Medieval and Renaissance Studies

Richard II of EnglandSummer School Experience: Digital Approaches in Medieval and Renaissance Studies

This is the first of a short series of posts inspired by my time at the Digital Humanities at Oxford Summer School 2015. This Summer school occurs annually in the beautiful setting of Oxford and runs a variety of different educational strands. These cater for all tastes, from those who are already technical adepts to those aimed at beginners. I, of course, attended one of the latter: Digital Approaches in Medieval and Renaissance Studies. Be warned! Choose carefully! Once you’ve committed to the Text Encoding Initiative, Digital Musicology, or as I did, digital monks, there’s no going back.

Fortunately, in my experience, there is no reason why you’d want to. Each day is organised with a series of classes or workshops around a particular theme in the strand which you are taking. Thus my days were focussed on:

  • Digital Imaging
  • Databases of early documents
  • TEI (computer code for manuscripts and early documents)
  • Oxford’s digitisation projects
  • Miscellaneous marriages between the medieval and digital.

These sessions frequently follow the problems encountered and addressed in the course of other people’s projects, which are presented as examples as to what digital tools you may wish to implement in your own research. Again, be warned! The Medieval and Renaissance classes give you far more exciting ideas and blue-sky plans for transforming your work than you learn the practicalities of how to implement. However, since these can be learned at a later date once you have identified what you want to do, this is not a bad thing.

In my following posts I shall provide a short digest of some of the lessons I learned at the DHOxSS, with examples from a variety of projects. My topics are:

  • TEI: What? How? Why?
  • Digital Humanities Databases: Help! There’s Too Much information!
  • Digital Photography as a Research Tool.

Of course the most important thing that happens at a conference or summer school is meeting so many potential colleagues; picking their brains as well as stealing their biscuits. Of all areas of research the digital humanities is one where it is more vital than ever to realise the importance of collaboration. You simply don’t have enough time (or in my case, skills) to be a master of both Richard II’s morning routine and create an app to identify which Plantagenet King enjoyed the same breakfast as you. If you are going to make a digital humanities project work it needs to be developed by a variety of people with a variety of skills – but remember: the project also has to be interesting to everybody involved. Techies aren’t there to facilitate your project; your project’s there so that techies can develop software that they find new and interesting. Well ideally both will be true.

I must thank Steve Ranford and Digital Humanities at Warwick for facilitating my attendance at this summer school. I have learned a lot, particularly how much I have to learn. Be inspired; devise a project; discuss it and panic; revise that project; try it out!

Emil Rybczak (English) Univ. Warwick.

October 2015

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  • Thanks for this short blog by Dave on this entry

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