AHRC Digital Transformations


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Presentation to AHRC Digital Transformations workshop

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AHRC Digital Transformations

  1. 1. Reflections: a Vision for the Arts and Humanities in a Context of Digital Transformation Andrew Prescott, King’s College London
  2. 2. • Initiatives for Access: pioneering British Library programme from 1993-1997 • Variety of experimental projects • High level of risk, but many of the experimental projects have turned into Electronic Beowulf Patent Office Express key services such as the online catalogue, newspaper digitisation and online patent access • PLURAL, TRANSVERSAL AND GENERATIVE • This translates to: no one single Dunhuang Project Network catalogues approach, piece of kit or infrastructure which will enable us to deliver, master or manage the digital. • The digital is shape shifting, so it adapts to our interests and preoccupations • It is (and should be) like riding a tiger.Digitisation of microfilm Turning the Pages(Burney Newspapers)
  3. 3. There is no single answerTrue digital transformations will involve:• Risky short-term experimentation and supporting sustainability• Mash-ups made in bedrooms and experiments with synchotrons• Digital art works and huge quantitative visualisations• A critical and theoretical debate and building new things• Data flows and new perspectives on materiality• Technology and people
  4. 4. In tough times, how do we deliver an innovative and exciting programme that is still focussed and coherent?
  5. 5. Digital transformations and innovation
  6. 6. Digital transformations and innovation• The Facebook problem. Are we doomed always to be low impact?• Should we let science and technology be more in the driving seat?• Or is it cultural theory and critical tools that we bring to the table? The data world is a world of text, sound, image, movement. We can imagine new shapes and connections in that world. Should we be shaping scientific agendas more?• How do we integrate the insights of process from practice-led research with speculative research elsewhere?• Does innovation lies somewhere in the triangulation between technology, artistic practice and theory? Is that a new territory?
  7. 7. An element of the vision?• Can we use our theoretical, artistic, historical, cultural and philosophical insights to develop new challenges for scientists and to create new transformations?
  8. 8. My HASTAC experience• A dreary inward-looking digital humanities world that hadn’t changed very much in seven years• Young humanities scholars who are very critically and theoretically aware but who are also enthusiastic hands on coders. Hack v yack doesn’t matter.• A lot of the digital transformation is being driven by pedagogy. Is that a missing piece of the jigsaw?• True digital transformations are driven by the people not the technology. We need to transform the people, the practice and the relationships. Human transformation, not digital transformation.
  9. 9. What was missing?• Sound? Video? Immersive technologies? Were we too textual, too data driven?• What about our links with libraries, archives, galleries, museums?• Likewise, where do publishers and broadcasters fit in?• Globalisation? Erik and the Indian call centres.• The digital economy programme?• What are the implications for research in the arts and humanities of the new alignments and commercial models currently emerging (vide Leveson Enquiry)?• How do we stop ourselves going backwards?
  10. 10. Who should we be talking to?• Are we focussing too much on a dialogue between the arts and humanities?• How should we develop our dialogues with other funding councils?• What about technology developers e.g. Google? Google UK Scholars Forum
  11. 11. Are we ready enough for the unexpected? Are we riding a tiger?• Is the future really digital? Is quantum digital? And where do other technologies (nanotechnology, biotechnology) fit in? Why do we privilege the digital in our dialogue with science and technology?• What if the lights go out? Should the arts and humanities be thinking more about Green ICT?• We assume that data is big, immaterial and capable of infinite linking? But the most important digital transformation might be a material one. What if the most profound digital transformation turned out to be Industrial Revolution 2.0?
  12. 12. Richard Misrach, Destroy this Memory (Aperture, 2010)
  13. 13. Three things• Embracing diversity and plurality: there isn’t a single answer• New dialogues with science and technology• Seeking a President Kennedy moment: materiality?