Professor Alan Liu, Visiting Fulbright Specialist: a 6-week festival of Digital Humanities in Aotearoa-New Zealand

The University of Canterbury Digital Humanities (UCDH) Programme is excited to announce six weeks of Digital Humanities activity, anchored by the visit of Professor Alan Liu from the University of California Santa Barbara. Professor Liu will be visiting as a Fulbright Visiting Specialist from October 19 to November 29, with the generous support of the Fulbright Scholar Program.

Professor Patricia Fumerton (UC Santa Barbara) will also stay with us as a Visiting Scholar in Residence, for the last two weeks of Alan’s visit. Patricia’s research interests centre on Early Modern culture and literature, and she will lead a trans-Tasman workshop on Early Modern digital humanities during her stay. We’re also delighted to have two Australian visitors who will be contributing to our conversations during this period: Assoc. Professor Tim Sherratt (University of Canberra, Trove), and  Professor Paul Arthur (University of Western Sydney). Dr. Sydney Shep, Reader in Book History at Wai-te-Ata Press, Victoria University of Wellington, will participate in our discussion on cyberinfrastructure on November 12th. Details of these talks are listed in the schedule below, and we’ll be posting more about our visitors soon.

Background on Alan Liu


Alan is a Professor in the English Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an affiliated faculty member of UCSB’s Media Arts & Technology graduate program. Previously, he was on the faculty of Yale University’s English Department and British Studies Program.

events-liuHe began his research in the field of British romantic literature and art. His first book, Wordsworth: The Sense of History (Stanford Univ. Press, 1989), explored the relation between the imaginative experiences of literature and history. In a series of theoretical essays in the 1990s, he explored cultural criticism, the “new historicism,” and postmodernism in contemporary literary studies. In 1994, when he started his Voice of the Shuttle web site for humanities research, he began to study information culture as a way to close the circuit between the literary or historical imagination and the technological imagination.  In 2004, he published The Laws of Cool: Knowledge Work and the Culture of Information (University of Chicago Press). He also published his Local Transcendence: Essays on Postmodern Historicism and the Database (University of Chicago Press) in 2008.

Everyone is welcome to attend our series of seminars and discussions, which will take place at the University of Canterbury, the University of Otago, and Victoria University of Wellington. Come prepared to extend both your own thinking, and ours!

See below for details of the upcoming events. Please note, time and location for some events are yet to be confirmed.

Date / Room Title Description Location
Wed. 21st October, 1-2pm

Undercroft 101

A manifesto for tactical DH research infrastructure A seminar by Assoc. Prof. Tim Sherratt, U. Canberra / Trove. University of Canterbury, Christchurch.
Wed. 28th October, 4-5.30

Undercroft 101

Key Trends in DH & their challenge to the idea of the Humanities A public lecture by Prof. Alan Liu, UC Santa Barbara. University of Canterbury, Christchurch.
Wed. 28th October, 1-3pm

Seminar Room, Ground Floor, Science Library

Digital Interventions A seminar by Assoc. Prof. Tim Sherratt, University of Canberra / Trove. University of Otago, Dunedin.
Thurs. 5th November, 3-5pm

Undercroft 101

The Future of the Humanities A workshop led by Prof. Alan Liu, UC Santa Barbara. University of Canterbury, Christchurch.
Thurs. 12th November, 1-5 pm

James Hight 210

Alan Liu, ‘Against the Cultural Singularity’, James Smithies, ‘Towards a Systems Analysis of the Humanities’, Paul Arthur ‘Smart Infrastructures for Cultural and Social Research’ followed by workshop The Frontiers of DH: Humanities Systems Infrastructure: Alan Liu, Paul Arthur, James Smithies followed by workshop discussion. University of Canterbury, Christchurch.


Fri. 13th November, 10am-12pm

Popper 413

Open meeting Follow-up from Humanities Systems Infrastructure workshop University of Canterbury, Christchurch.
Wed. 18th November

Undercroft 101

Early Modern DH: A Trans-tasman Conversation A workshop led by Prof. Patricia Fumerton, UC Santa Barbara. University of Canterbury, Christchurch.
Thurs. 26th November

Time & Place TBC

Broadside Ballads and Tactical Publics: ‘The Lady and the Blackamoor,’ 1570-1789 A public lecture by Prof. Patricia Fumerton, UC Santa Barbara. University of Otago, Dunedin.
Fri. 27th November, 2-3 pm.

Place TBC

Literature+ A conversation about Alan Liu’s Literature+ course. University of Otago, Dunedin.
Fri. 27th November, 5.15-6.15 pm.

Place TBC

What Everyone Says – 4Humanities A public lecture by Prof. Alan Liu, UC Santa Barbara. University of Otago, Dunedin.
Tues. 1st December, 1-2:30 pm

Stout Centre, Kelburn Campus

Key Trends in DH & their challenge to the idea of the Humanities A public lecture by Prof. Alan Liu, UC Santa Barbara. University of Victoria at Wellington
Tues. 1st December, 3-4:30 pm

Stout Centre, Kelburn Campus

Samuel Pepys and “Greensleeves”: A DH Perspective A public lecture by Prof. Patricia Fumerton, UC Santa Barbara. University of Victoria at Wellington


DIGI 401: Digital Methods lecture outline and open invite

UC Digital Humanities is pleased to advise that the lectures for DIGI 401: Digital Methods, 2015, will be open to all-comers. The course provides an overview of digital tools and methods applicable to all arts, humanities, and social science disciplines. We’re conscious many students, and staff, might like to attend a few lectures on specific topics of interest. Please contact James Smithies if you plan on arriving with a sizeable group.

The course is co-taught by staff based in the UC Digital Humanities Programme, UC Computer Science and Software Engineering, UC CEISMIC Digital Archive, UC Geography, and Catalyst IT.


Monday, 12.00 – 1.00 pm, A6 lecture theatre.

Tuesday 1.00pm – 2.00 pm, Karl Popper 508.

Thursday 3.00 – 4.00 pm, Rutherford 542.


James Smithies (JS). Course convener.

Tim Bell (TB).

Grant Paton-Simpson (GP).

Chris Thomson (CT).

Alison Watkins (AW).





Setup, Theory & Methodological Background

1 / 23 Feb. Introduction (JS) WordPress
Digital Humanities (JS)  
2 / 2 Mar. Digital Research Infrastructure (JS) Using the UCDH Virtual Machine
Software Development (JS)
3 / 9 Mar. Project Management (JS) Project Management
Materiality and Digital Forensics (JS)

Tools & Methods

4 / 16 Mar. Distant reading and algorithmic criticism (JS) Algorithmic Analysis
Data Visualization (JS)  
5 / 23 Mar. Topic Modelling (JS) Raspberry PI
Metadata and Linked Open Data (JS)
6 / 30 Mar. TEI I (CT) TEI
7 / 27 April ANZAC Day Omeka
Crowd-sourcing (JS)
8 / 4 May GIS I (JS) Omeka + Neatline
9 / 11 May Data Analysis I (JS) Data Management & Analysis
Data Analysis II (GP)
10 / 18 May Python (TB) Python (CT)
Python (TB)
11 / 25 May Python (TB) Python (CT)
Python (TB)
12 / 1 June Queen’s Birthday Python (CT)
Conclusion (JS)

UCDH Hacking the Humanities Series: GIS

Thursday 22nd and 29th May, KG06, 2-3 pm

Alison Watkins, 'The spatial turn in research: An introduction to GIS in the Humanities'


Our culture and memory are consistently and thoroughly interwoven with the concepts of space and place, ensuring that spatial information and questions are important to researchers from many disciplines. Digital humanists have been developing tools to help researchers for some time now. They’re capable of adding considerable value to both teaching and research: maps allow us to view research data in different ways, prompting us towards new research questions and engaging students with new types of learning. Tools like Neatline and Hypercities, and ground-breaking projects like Mapping the Republic of Letters, Digital Augustan Rome, and Locating London’s Past point the way to new ways of conceptualising humanities work.

GIS is a tool which offers the ability to visualise, measure, analyse and share spatial information. Understanding it is essential to anyone interested in applying spatial techniques in their research. The purpose of these two lectures is to give a very brief introduction to GIS as a foundation for further study.

Part 1, Thursday 22nd May: Why GIS? focusses on introducing GIS, what it is, how it works and some of its capabilities.


Further Reading

Part 2, Thursday 29th May: Geographic Data looks at possible sources and types of data and some of the traps for the unwary.


Further Reading

A Conversation with Professor Harold Short, April 8th 2014

The UC Digital Humanities Programme is pleased to announce ‘A Conversation with Professor Harold Short’, Professor of Digital Humanities at King’s College London and the University of Western Sydney. This is an excellent opportunity for anyone interested in the Digital Humanities to discuss the present and future of this exciting field with one of the most experienced and respected practitioners in the world. All welcome.

When: April 8th, 2014, 3.30 – 4.30 pm.

Where: University of Canterbury, History Building, room 508.

Harold Short is Professor of Humanities Computing at King’s College London, and a Visiting Professor at the University of Western Sydney in the newly established Digital Humanities Research Group, which is based in the School of Humanities and Communication Arts. At King’s, Professor Short founded and directed the Centre for Computing in the Humanities, now the Department of Digital Humanities, of which he was the Head until his retirement in 2010.

He is a former Chair of both the European Association for Digital Humanities (formerly the Association for Literary and Linguistic Computing), and the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organisations in which he has a continuing role in supporting the development of digital humanities associations world-wide. He is a general editor of the Ashgate series <Digital Research in the Arts and Humanities>.

During his time at King’s he was involved in the development of three MA programmes in the Digital Humanities: Digital Humanities, Digital Culture and Society and Digital Asset Management. He worked with Willard McCarty and other colleagues in developing the world’s first PhD programme in Digital Humanities, launched in 2005.

At King’s he also played a major role in a number of large-scale inter-disciplinary research projects, and his continuing research focus is on the collaborative space at the discipline boundaries. He is also keenly interested in the institutional structures to support such collaborations, and in the development of a truly global community of digital humanities scholars and activities.

Visiting Fellow, Dr. Eric Meyer, Oxford Internet Institute

The UC Digital Humanities Programme and School of Humanities and Creative Arts is pleased to welcome Dr. Eric Meyer, from the Oxford Internet Institute. Eric is staying with us as a Canterbury / Erskine Fellow. See below for his open lectures.

Dr Meyer is a Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford. His research in the field of social informatics focuses on the changing nature of knowledge creation across the sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities as technology is embedded in everyday practices. His research has included both qualitative and quantitative work with marine biologists, genetics researchers, physicists, digital humanities scholars, social scientists using big data, theatre artists, librarians, and organizations involved in computational approaches to research.

His work has been published in a variety of journals, books, and conference proceedings, most of which are available on his website ( He is also a frequent speaker at conferences around the world, including keynote addresses in Florence, Aberdeen, Prague, The Hague, Leeds, and elsewhere, and has given invited lectures at universities including Harvard, Cambridge, King’s, Edinburgh, Chalmers, Borås, Dalhousie, Rensselaer, Sheffield, Bath, Southampton, Canterbury New Zealand, and others.

Dr Meyer’s research has received funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the European Commission, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Jisc, Nesta, RIN, and others. Dr Meyer earned his PhD in information science, specializing in social informatics, at Indiana University, where his award-winning dissertation examined how marine biologists who rely on photographic evidence to identify individual marine mammals have seen significant changes in their everyday work practices as they switched from film photography to digital photography.


21 March, 12.00 – 1.00 pm, Psych-Soc 252: ‘Big Data and Democracy’

The big data rush is on, in academia, in business, and in government. In recent years, news articles, trade magazines, workshops, conferences, and talks about big data have accelerated into a constant barrage. However, it is important to look beyond the early hype around the promises and perils of big data to start to ask more probing questions about how big data enables new approaches to knowledge creation and discovery, what new methodological challenges arise, and what are the limits beyond which big data can become too comprehensive? Using data from an ongoing project funded by the Sloan Foundation that has interviewed over 125 big data specialists, Meyer will discuss what big data means for policy experts, industry, academia, and the public, and highlights the opportunities and risks of big data in research and in society.

26 March, 2.00 – 3.00 pm, Psych-Soc 151, Knowledge Machines: Digital Transformations of the Sciences and Humanities

Based on a forthcoming book (The MIT Press) of the same name, this talk looks at changes in the way research is done when computational approaches are applied to research. There is a fundamental change taking place in the world of research: digital tools and data shared via electronic networks are having far-reaching effects. From ‘big science’ physics experiments like the Large Hadron Collider, which is using distributed, high-performance computing to analyze massive amounts of data, to humanities scholars who digitize large volumes of text to uncover changing patterns of language use, networked digital research is having profound effects on the practices of researchers. From the Grid, to the Cloud, to Big Data, research practices are ever more tightly coupled to computing. These changes can be understood on a number of levels, including organizational changes, changes in knowledge production, and in the communication of research. And although these changes take place in different ways in different disciplines, my colleagues and I argue that, like ripples in a pond, the changes add up to a broader transformation of the landscape of research.

1 April, 10.00 – 11.00 am, KE07, Computer Programming for the Arts Graduate: To what extent is being able to code part of literacy in a digital world?

Language literacy has always been seen as a relevant tool for a variety of disciplines, but literacy in computer languages has only relatively recently been viewed as an essential skill outside of computer science. With the continuing growth in demand for digital humanities specialists, data scientists, and people skilled in digital social research, arts graduates who can learn both the specialist languages of disciplines as well as the languages and potential of computation will set themselves up to fill the increasingly important role as ‘bridgers’ in academia and in business. This talk will include examples from post-graduate student work in particular to demonstrate how coding skills can be applied to interesting questions across a variety of fields.

4 April, 12.00 – 1.00 pm, Central Library 210, Web archives: The future of researching the Internet’s past

Web archives have been collected by organizations such as the Internet Archive since the mid-1990s, but only recently have there been advances in how to actually make use of them for research. In this talk, I will focus on the born digital public content held in web archives, and the challenge of using these data for research purposes.  My research group has written several reports and papers in recent years on research engagement (or lack thereof) with web archives, and has highlighted the fact that one of the biggest disconnects at the moment is that while archives of the web are being increasingly preserved, the tools and methods for doing research from these archives is less well-developed than doing research on the live web.  I will argue that the range of partners who should be involved in preserving web archives needs to extend far beyond the preservation community – into the community of researchers (such as sociologists, political scientists, communications scholars, and information scientists) who are the natural researchers of such materials, but also into the newly developing areas of ‘big data’ where efforts to mine the streams of data being generated on the web are being seen to hold massive value both for understanding society but also for generating economic benefit. This talk also highlights some recent advances, and presents new data demonstrating how web archives can be mined for meaningful data.

Blog-based assessment protocol

The following assessment protocol was produced by Dr. Chris Jones, with input from Dr. Lyndon Fraser.


The University of Canterbury offers an internship programme (ARTS395) for upper-level undergraduate students. The internship is intended to enable students to gain experience in a ‘real world’ working environment, with the intention of improving their overall employability. Each internship consists of three parts: experience in the working environment (150 hours; 20% of course; assessed by a site supervisor); a common core academic module (40% of course; assessed by the internship director); an individually-tailored academic module (40% of course; assessed by an academic supervisor).

Blog-based assessment offers students the opportunity to present research findings connected with their ‘real world’ work experience via a digital platform. The exercise is designed to enhance employability by acclimatising students to working in the digital environment. At the same time, it seeks to hone their presentation skills and ensure that they understand the importance of producing work that meets professional standards both within the tertiary environment and the workplace.

The blog-based assessment outlined below was originally conceived as part of a tailored academic module designed in connection with an internship in which students undertook their ‘real world’ experience working in the Rare Books Collection of the University of Canterbury Library. The site supervisor was the Special Collections Librarian; the academic supervisor was a member of the History Department with a research specialism in Rare Books and an interest in the development of digital projects.

Formal Course Requirement:

Establish and maintain a blog that highlights and discusses the relevance of Canterbury specific material for the history of Early Modern Europe (minimum of 15 entries; approximately 1 entry per 10 hours of the project) [50% of academic assessment]


Each entry in this blog is intended to provide the student with an opportunity to reflect on a particular academic aspect of their internship. Entries may focus upon student research into individual items in the UC collection or groups of items. They may also include considered reflections on broader topics. Part of the student’s task is to determine which topics will be included in the blog. Their aim should be to create a well-balanced, well-structured series of entries. By the end of the project the student should have produced a blog that clearly documents their project, and that will serve as a useful starting point for professional researchers and members of the broader public who may wish to engage with the particular aspect of the UC collection explored in the internship.

Entries are of no particular set length but should be appropriate to a web-based blog format. Illustrations are encouraged where relevant but any illustrations added to the blog should respect copyright, be of a professional standard and be labelled appropriately.

The blog is intended to be a mix of expressive writing and transactional writing. It provides students with an opportunity to present their research findings but also to reflect on their internship.

Most of the writing exercises we assign to students in tertiary institutions are transactional in nature. Transactional writing aims to persuade, inform or argue a particular viewpoint in the familiar form of essays, tutorial papers, examination scripts and so on. It is an effective method for teaching students to think critically, comprehend course materials and apply theories or concepts to a range of social phenomena. Other types of writing have quite different functions.

Student blogs will also involve an element of expressive writing. Expressive writing is personal, reflective and less formal in tone and mood. It aims to build confidence in the writing process through an exploration of values, thoughts and experiences. And, it is designed to help students become better readers and writers, while extending their appreciation of historical research.

Students writing a blog should employ a professional writing style, that is a style that reflects the mix of expressive and transactional writing involved. A ‘professional writing style’ is less formal than that used in an essay or exam paper; at the same time it is more formal than a personal journal, Facebook page, etc. Part of the student’s task is to find the right balance of ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ in their writing. Students should aim to present their thoughts using clear and correct sentence structure, good grammar and correct spelling.

General references to primary and secondary literature employed in research should be provided where appropriate but blog entries do not require footnotes or the equivalent. The policy regarding plagiarism is the same as it is for all university level exercises: students must not reproduce either the exact words or ideas/concepts of others without due acknowledgment.

Preliminary Exercises:

Before beginning work on the blog project students are required to complete three preliminary exercises in order to encourage good practices:

Criteria for Assessment:

Explanation of Grading:

A-/A/A+ Grades: Students in this grade range will have:

B-/B/B+ Grades: Students achieve (1) through (3) completely and demonstrate a good understanding of issues raised in the course, but lack originality or creativity.

C-/C/C+ Grades: Students achieve (1) through (3) adequately and demonstrate competence, but blog entries contain some errors. The blog may be lacking in critical reflection.

D Grade: Students fails to achieve some aspects of (1) to (4) adequately and the blog contains a number of serious errors.

E Grade: Students fails to complete the task to a satisfactory standard.

Procedural Safeguards:

Many blogs are hosted via independent sites over which the University of Canterbury does not exercise any control. As such, and in order to minimise any unforeseen issues that might arise, the following procedure is implemented where blogs are hosted through a non-UC platform:

In all cases: