Digital Day of Ideas 2019

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Business School, The University of Edinburgh

29 Buccleuch Place



United Kingdom

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The Digital Day of Ideas is an annual showcase and networking event for digital scholarship across the University, featuring workshops, seminars and invited speakers from the wider Digital Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences community.

To register to attend this year's Digital Day of Ideas:

The day will include keynote lectures from:

Professor Ethan Watrall (Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology; Associate Director of MATRIX: The Center for Digital Humanities & Social Sciences, Michigan State University)

Professor Lesley McAra (Director of the Edinburgh Futures Institute, University of Edinburgh)

Dr Tamson Pietsch (Senior Lecturer in Social and Political Sciences; Director of the Australian Centre for Public History, University of Technology Sydney).

After lunch, delegates will have the opportunity to attend parallel workshops; topics will include LiDAR technology, Text analysis with R, and Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI).

** Please note that attendees will be invited to register for an afternoon workshop once registered for the main event - please see Additional Information in your confirmation email **

A series of lightning talks will run concurrently with the workshops. A poster session will take place during the evening reception.

Interested in giving a lightning talk or presenting a poster? Click here to find out more.


9.00 Registration and coffee

9.30 Welcome & Introduction

Melissa Terras, Professor of Digital Cultural Heritage, University of Edinburgh

9.45 Public or Perish”: Charting a Path for the Future of Digital Heritage

Ethan Watrall

The domain of heritage has undeniably entered an age in which “the digital” impacts all aspects of scholarship and practice. Curation, preservation, documentation, research, teaching, management, public outreach and engagement - all are inextricably intertwined with digital methods and computational approaches. But where does heritage go from here? What does the future of digitally inflected work within the domain look like?

Drawing upon a diverse range of examples from institutions, scholars, practitioners, and projects, this talk argues that the path forward for scholarship and practice in digital heritage is first and foremost publicly engaged. It is a future in which the practice of digital heritage is fundamentally collaborative and community driven, and the outcomes are open and discoverable, useful and usable.

10.45 Coffee break

11.00 Can data driven innovation change the world? A meditation on the purpose and values of the 21st Century University

Lesley McAra

The fast-moving developments in data, digital and artificial intelligence have been described by some, as marking a fourth industrial revolution, by others, as a ‘second renaissance’, transforming the modalities through which we encounter and understand social phenomena, with profound implications for the ways in which knowledge is produced, purveyed and consumed. Some commentators lay emphasis on the far-reaching social, economic and cultural benefits that these developments might procure, still others highlight their dystopic possibilities: structurally redundant populations, mass control and surveillance, unregulated tech conglomerates.

Using the Edinburgh Futures Institute as a case study, Lesley will offer some critical reflections on the role of the 21st Century University in navigating this complex terrain and the challenges and opportunities it poses for our scholarly community.

12.00 Lunch

13.00 Workshops & Lightning Talks

Workshop topics:

  • Digital Humanities and Remote-Sensing; Introduction to LiDAR
  • Working in 3D with the uCreate Studio
  • Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI): Introduction and hands-on
  • Cleaning Your Data with OpenRefine
  • Basic Text Analysis using R
  • Can you just Digitise? Digitising the Collections

Attendees will be invited to register for a workshop once registered to attend the main event.

15:00 Coffee Break

15:30 Why podcasting matters to historians: History Lab - Australia’s first investigative history podcast

Tamson Pietsch

As Impact and Engagement is becoming crucial to the funding, ranking and regulating of research, Humanities researchers are scrambling for ways to connect with audiences beyond the academy. At the same audio is becoming increasingly central to the way people access information culture: podcasting is replacing linear radio broadcasting and Google has announced that by 2020 it wants 50% of searches to be voice enabled.

The History Lab podcast exists in this gap. Launched in May 2018 as a national engagement platform for the Humanities in Australia it has attracted a large listenership, with the first five episodes receiving nearly 50K downloads. The show has shot up the Australian podcast charts and been listed in Apple podcasts “New and Noteworthy” section.

History Lab is an innovative collaboration between the Australian Centre for Public History at UTS, community radio producers and collaborating researchers. It produces immersive episodes that bring to life the process of knowledge discovery. As such it goes far beyond the model of disseminating research findings, to instead incorporate the process of knowing itself, foregrounding how questions are asked and how are investigations pursued. In doing so History Lab opens up the process of knowledge making itself to wide public audiences.

16.45 Reception & Poster Session

18.00 Close


Professor Ethan Watrall

An anthropological archaeologist who has worked in North America and North Africa, Ethan Watrall is Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology and Associate Director of MATRIX: The Center for Digital Humanities & Social Sciences at Michigan State University. Ethan also serves as Adjunct Curator of Archaeology at the Michigan State University Museum. In addition, Ethan is Director of the Cultural Heritage Informatics Initiative and the Digital Heritage Fieldschool in the Department of Anthropology at Michigan State University.

Currently, Ethan is Co-PI of Enslaved: People of the Historic Slave Trade, an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation funded project whose goal is to build a linked open data platform for study of the transatlantic slave trade. Ethan’s primary scholarly interests lie in how digital methods and computational approaches can be leveraged to preserve and provide access to archaeological and heritage materials, collections, knowledge, and data in order to facilitate research, advance knowledge, fuel interpretation, and democratize our collective understanding and appreciation of the past.

Professor Lesley McAra

Lesley McAra is Director of the Edinburgh Futures Institute. She is a former Dean of the School of Law, the first woman to be appointed to that post. She is currently a member of the Centre for Law and Society and the Global Justice Academy and an Associate Director of the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research

Lesley’s research interests lie in the general areas of the sociology of punishment and the sociology of law and deviance. In her recent research, The Old Town Story-telling Project, Lesley has been pioneering methods of co-production and exploring the role of the performance arts in promoting community safety and well-being.

Lesley is Editor-in-Chief (with Ursula Kilkelly) of Youth Justice and is Co-editor (with Alison Liebling and Shadd Maruna) of the Oxford Handbook of Criminology.

Dr Tamson Pietsch

Tamson Pietsch is Director of the Australian Centre for Public History at UTS and host of the History Lab podcast. Her research focuses on the history and politics of knowledge and she writes regularly on universities and higher education, past and present.

Tamson is the author of Empire of Scholars: Universities, Networks and the British Academic World, 1850-1939. She is currently leading a project on the history of expertise in Australia and writing a book about the world-wide interwar voyage of the Floating University.

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Business School, The University of Edinburgh

29 Buccleuch Place



United Kingdom

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