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Life Writes Its Own Stories: The value and research benefits gained from digitised newspaper


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Keynote for the From text to data – new ways of reading conference on the 7-8 February 2019 at The National Library of Sweden, Stockholm, Sweden.

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Life Writes Its Own Stories: The value and research benefits gained from digitised newspaper

  1. 1. Professor Simon Tanner King’s College London @SimonTanner #text2data Life Writes Its Own Stories: The value & research benefits gained from digitised newspaper
  2. 2. @SimonTanner  Digital Humanities @kingsdh  Value, Knowledge & memory institutions  Newspapers and value  Digitised newspapers  Examples of benefits  Challenges and next steps Presentation is here: Wie das Leben so schreibt “Life writes its own stories“ or “As life writes“ #text2data
  3. 3. @SimonTanner King’s Department of Digital Humanities @kingsdh 30+ years of activity, against a background of rapid innovation and change in Humanities Computing and Digital Humanities. ~550 students in 5 x Masters + 1 x Undergraduate degrees 30+ academic faculty plus researchers and teaching fellows Digital Humanities at King’s
  4. 4. @SimonTanner King’s Digital Labs @kingsdigitallab Established 2015 14+ staff: Directors, Project Manager, Analysts, Software Engineer, UI/UX Designers, Developers, Systems Manager, Post-doc. 100 inherited projects, 20 ongoing. ~5 million digital objects. Supported by external funding, under-written internally. Digital Humanities at Large Scale
  5. 5. @SimonTanner Many strengths coming together Highly innovative Collaborations For scholars For the people Working with Libraries Museums Archives Publishing Media Transformative
  6. 6. @SimonTanner ‘Memory institutions’ as a collective phrase for libraries, museums and archives dates back at least to 1994 with first usage attributed to Swedish information scientist Roland Hjerppe. By using the phrase ‘memory institution’ I am assuming a common aspiration across multiple sectors in preserving, organizing and making available the cultural and intellectual records of their societies. It also reflects the confluence with the growth in digital. A wider variety of organisations, such as schools, universities, media corporations, government or religious bodies could also legitimately be ascribed this title. For instance, the British Broadcasting Company; a University Press; or the Wayback Machine and the Internet Archive would fit the definition as well. Memory Institutions
  7. 7. @SimonTanner Social, economic and intrinsic values are claimed in straplines:  All the News That's Fit to Print - The New York Times  The daily diary of the American dream - The Wall Street Journal  The Sowetan, South Africa's daily newspaper with slogans such as Power your Future or Sowetan. Building the Nation Newspaper straplines claim values
  8. 8. @SimonTanner A sense of place and community are also claimed in straplines:  It’s Where You Live - The Toronto Star  As Waikato As It Gets - New Zealand’s Waikato Times  If You Don't Want It Printed, Don't Let It Happen - Aspen Daily News Newspaper straplines claim values
  9. 9. @SimonTanner Some newspapers speak to education or knowledge:  Your right to know. A new voice for a new Pakistan - Daily Times, Pakistan  There's nothing more valuable than knowledge - Cape Times  The Guardian. Think... – The Guardian British daily newspaper Newspaper straplines claim values
  10. 10. @SimonTanner Sometimes we might not like those values… (with thanks to Tim Sheratt) Newspaper straplines claim values
  11. 11. @SimonTanner Existence / Prestige Utility Inheritance / Legacy Modes of Digital Value Education Community Balanced Value Impact Model. See:
  12. 12. @SimonTanner  The Library of Congress Historic American Newspapers site: 154,205 titles with 12 million pages searchable newspaper  The British Newspaper Archive is showing >20 million pages  Trove in Australia provides access to over 20 million pages from over 1000 Australian newspapers + mass crowdsourcing  The National Library of Turkey is unique for having digitized its entire collection of 800,000 pages and 845 titles. Nineteenth-century media expert, Jim Mussell, thinks of ‘the aura of old newspapers in hard copy and what happens when this is remediated digitally… Digitization returns newspapers to us, but differently’ Mussell, J., 2013. Parsing Passing Events. A blog about the Victorians, the media and the digital humanities. Available at: [Accessed June 30, 2017]. (some) Digitised Newspapers
  13. 13. @SimonTanner Digitized collections are only a fragment of the newspapers available. The European Newspaper Survey Report states: "Only 12 (26%) of the libraries had digitized more than 10% of their collection (either in terms of titles or page numbers), and only two of those had done more than 50%.” In the British Library alone there are approximately 450 million pages of printed material with roughly 20 million pages digitized. The BL Heritage Made Digital will add a further 1.3m pages from c.180 newspaper titles by March 2020 plus open data-sets. Only scratching the surface?
  14. 14. @SimonTanner Obvious benefits of digitised newspapers to libraries are:  providing enhanced access to information,  more opportunities to ask sophisticated research questions,  long term retention of sustainable digital resources,  honouring the legacy and prestige of the library collection, and  increased engagement with the public record and memory institutions by their communities. Benefits and challenges
  15. 15. @SimonTanner Digitised newspaper are popular and impactful digitization projects:  Reaching out to refresh the audience for these materials  Delivering community and social benefits  Better informed sense of place, history and community  Used in schools and for life long learners  Of great interest to local and family historians. For academics they ‘fill a gap for content that is not found elsewhere’ (Paul Gooding) Benefits and challenges
  16. 16. Newspaper digitization has produced >22 million pages since 2010. Available online at Swedish Newspapers
  17. 17. Arcadia Foundation has awarded SEK 30 million ($3.5 million) to the National Library of Sweden to digitize Swedish historical out of copyright newspapers. The Library is making available for free online the complete collection of Swedish newspaper titles from the 17th century to 1906: -1,200 newspaper titles, and up to 3 million pages in total. Swedish Newspapers
  18. 18. @SimonTanner A sense of place & history
  19. 19. Welsh Newspapers
  20. 20. Education and special interests A huge number and range of special interest communities that are served. For instance: drama, music, poetry, sport, religion, science, engineering, food, diaspora and language perspectives Opportunities to:  solidify a sense of place and time  a personalized narrative and history  heavily used in schools  and for life long learning
  21. 21. Open API’s enable the unexpected return-migration-between-1850-and-1950/
  22. 22. What do academics want? Source: national-libraries-a-survey-by-sarah-oberbichler-stef/ NewsEye – Survey of Austrian participants in online research of digital newspapers of three national libraries.
  23. 23. 50 60 70 80 90 100 1801 1810 1820 1830 1840 1850 1860 1870 1880 1890 1900 characters words words with capital letter start significant words Poly. (characters) Poly. (words) Poly. (significant words) Poly. (words with capital letter start) BL Newspaper OCR accuracy
  24. 24. Opening Access vs Unfunded Mandates “What do scholars want?” Whether we work with digital or paper-based resources our basic needs are the same. We all want our cultural record to be comprehensive, stable, and accessible. And we all want to be able to augment that record with our own contributions.” Jerome McGann, Sustainability: the Elephant in the Room. Paper for the 2010 Conference, Digital Humanities Scholarship: The Shape of Things to Come, University of Virginia.
  25. 25. What do I (a scholar) want? Next steps  Better citation of digitized newspaper by academics  Easier to cite stable and shorter permanent URL’s needed for digitized newspapers  More variant editions available in digital format with more regional content  Better OCR accuracy to enable text data mining & search accuracy  More collections Open Access accessible  More collections accessible with Open API’s or open downloadable data-sets  More in greyscale/colour. Or colour for illustrated editions at least
  26. 26. @SimonTanner Existence / Prestige Utility Inheritance / Legacy Modes of Digital Value Education Community Balanced Value Impact Model. See:
  27. 27. Professor Simon Tanner King’s College London @SimonTanner 30% DISCOUNT: email and quote the code IMPACTDIGRES19