Alasdair J G Gray

Connecting the dots in the World's data

SICSA Digital Humanities Event

On 24 August I attended the SICSA Digital Humanities event hosted at Strathclyde University. The event was organised by Martin Halvey and Frank Hopfgartner. The event brought together cultural heritage practitioners, and researchers from the humanities and computer science.

The day started off with a keynote from Lorna Hughes, Professor of Digital Humanities at the University of Glasgow. She highlighted that there is not a single definition for digital humanities (weblink presents a random definition from a set collected at another event). However, at the core, digital humanities consists of:

  • Digital content
  • Digital methods
  • Tools

The purpose of digitial humanities is to enable better and/or faster outputs as well as conceptualising new research questions.

Lorna showcased several projects that she has been involved with highlighting the issues that were faced before identifying a set of lessons learned and challenges going forward (see her blog and slideshare). She highlighted that only about 10% of content has been transformed into a digital form, and of that only 3% is openly available. Additionally, some artefacts have been digitised in multiple ways at different time points, and the differences in these digital forms tells a story about the object.

Lorna highlighted the following challenges:

  • Enabling better understanding of digital content
  • Developing underlying digital infrastructure
  • Supporting the use of open content
  • Enabling the community
  • Working with born-digital content.

The second part of the day saw us brainstorming ideas in groups. Two potential apps were outlined to support the public get more out of the cultural heritage environment around us.

An interesting panel discussion was had, focused around what you would do with a mythical £350m. It also involved locking up 3D scanners, at least until appropriate methodology and metadata was made available.

The day finished off with an interesting keynote from Daniela Petrelli, Sheffield Hallam University. This was an interesting talk focussing on the outputs of the EU meSch project. A holistic design approach on the visitor experience was proposed that encompassed interaction design, product design, and content design. See the below embedded video for an idea.


There are lots of opportunities for collaboration between digital humanities and computing. From my perspective, there are lots of interesting challenges around capturing data metadata, linking between datasets, and capturing provenance of workflows.

Throughout the day, various participants were tweeting with the #dhfest hashtag.

    About Me


    I'm an Associate Professor in Computer Science at Heriot-Watt University. My research focuses on linking datasets. Read more