Thursday 18 February 2010

We're Hiring! x2!

The Bentham Transcription Initiative - a UCL based ambitious and ground-breaking project which will increase access to and encourage user participation with the papers of the philosopher and reformer Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832) - is now hiring for two postdoc research associates. Both posts are available immediately and funded for one year in the first instance.

Research Associate: The post holder will co-ordinate the various aspects of the project. They will write up the documentation for the amateur transcribers, run the publicity campaign which will recruit them, act as moderator of the submitted transcripts, and help to draft the qualitative user study and the final report.

Research Associate (IT): The post holder will be working with another Research Associate and the web developer to create an attractive and intuitive interface. They will take responsibility for the mark-up of the existing transcripts from MS Word into TEI compliant XML, link the digital images to the existing database catalogue and the transcription tool, and help draft user documentation and a qualitative user study. Although a post-doc is preferred, applicants with relevant experience but no PhD will be considered if they can demonstrate they have the desired skill set. Please contact us if you are unsure whether to apply, or whether your experience matches our requirements.

Closing date for both applications is 8th March 2010. Please get in touch ( if you have any queries, or want further information.

Book in memoriam to Ross Scaife

Over the past six months or so, I've been merrily creating camera ready copy in my downtime for a print volume of the the DHQ issue I edited alongside Greg Crane (Tufts/Perseus): Changing the Center of Gravity: Transforming Classical Studies Through Cyberinfrastructure.

Just to let you know, its now in press. And the joy of camera ready copy (after the pain of pasting lovely, well formed, XML into nasty, petulant, MicroSoft Word templates) is that the turnaround should be pretty quick. Heck, its already up on the Gorgias Press website... expect a "real" book in the next four weeks or so!

Monday 8 February 2010

Announcing the Bentham Papers Transcription Initiative

Jeremy Bentham's body, preserved at UCL

Jeremy Bentham's body, preserved and on display at UCL.

We at UCL are all terribly proud of Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832)- whose body, or "Auto-icon" is on display in the South Cloisters. It is widely told that he was the founder of UCL - which isnt true, although he did influence those who did found our University. I dont think I'll ever get bored in saying "Good morning!" to him every day as I walk past. You'll be pleased to know his case gets locked up tight every evening to allow him some rest.

He was a prolific writer, scholar, jurist, philosopher, and social scientist. A.J.P. Taylor described him as `the most formidable reasoner who ever applied his gifts to the practical questions of administration and politics’. Since the 1950s, The Bentham Project has been working towards the production of a new scholarly edition of his works and correspondence, although they've only dented the surface of the 60,000 pages of writing he produced which remain in UCL's special collections.

The Bentham Project did receive some AHRC money a few years ago to start digitising the material, although it was time for a rethink. Enter the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s highly competitive Digital Equipment and Database Enhancement for Impact (DEDEFI) scheme.

I've been asked to join the project in an advisory role. It became clear to me very quickly that in a one year project there was never going to be enough time for two (maximum, under the funding) research assistants to digitise and transcribe tens of thousands of pages of manuscript material. So what, I thought, if we change the focus of the transcription initiative?

The Guardian Newspaper had run a very successful investigation into the UK MP's expense scandal in 2009, using an online crowdsourcing application to let their readership help sort though the 450,000 documents that needed closer study. Would it be possible, I thought, to develop a similar tool for cultural heritage documents? Can we persuade the wider historical community to contribute to the transcription effort?

I am pleased to say that UCL Laws, in conjunction with UCL Centre for Digital Humanities, UCL Department of Information Studies, and UCL Library Services, can announce the launch of the Bentham Papers Transcription Initiative, which has secured £260,000 funding from the AHRC DEDEFI scheme.

The Bentham Papers Transcription Initiative is a highly innovative and novel attempt to aid in the transcription of Bentham’s work. A digitisation project will provide high quality scans of the papers, whilst an online transcription tool will be developed which will allow volunteers to contribute to the transcription effort: providing a “crowdsourcing” tool which will be used to manage contributions from the wider audience interested in Bentham’s work, including school students, and amateur historians. It will be the job of the research assistants to manage interaction with the wider historical community, and monitor the quality of the transcriptions which are added to the database.

The use of such a tool for the transcription of cultural and heritage material is novel (although do shout if you know anyone else planning something similar), and UCL’s CIBER group will monitor the use of the online tool, providing an in-depth study of how such a crowdsourcing application was used during the year- long project.

Work on the project begins on March 1st 2010, and the project shall be shortly hiring for two research assistants. The online tool will be launched mid-summer 2010, when you can contribute to transcribing the works of Jeremy Bentham yourself!

Did I mention I was super excited about this? Grin.

Friday 5 February 2010

Digital Classicist Call for Seminar Papers

The Digital Classicist will once more be running a series of seminars at the Institute of Classical Studies, University of London, with support from the British Library, in Summer 2010 on the subject of research into the ancient world that has an innovative digital component. We are especially interested in work that demonstrates interdisciplinarity or work on the intersections between Ancient History, Classics or Archaeology and a digital, technical or practice-based discipline.

The Digital Classicist seminars run on Friday afternoons from June to August in Senate House, London. In previous years collected papers from the DC WiP seminars have been published* in a special issue of an online journal (2006), edited as a printed volume (2007), and released as audio podcasts (2008-9); we anticipate similar publication opportunities for future series. A small budget is available to help with travel costs.

Please send a 300-500 word abstract to by
March 31st 2010. We shall announce the full programme in April.


The organizers
Gabriel Bodard, King's College London
Stuart Dunn, King's College London
Juan Garcés, Greek Manuscripts Department, British Library
Simon Mahony, University College London
Melissa Terras, University College London

* See (2006), (2007), (2008-9).

Thursday 4 February 2010


I'm part of the JISC funded project LinkSphere at Reading University. They are building an online social media tool to do cross institutional repository searching, and facility research relationships. While the guys there are getting up to speed on programming the first demos, we set our research assistant, Claire Ross, a task: why not write up a paper on how people use social media. And why not do one on twitter. And why not study how Digital Humanities folks use it, within conference settings (thereby giving a nice corpus on which to base the study).

The results are here. A nice full, paper which has been submitted to a journal for consideration. Let us know if you have any comments!

Wednesday 3 February 2010

Design Iterations

You may have noticed our very nice logo for the new UCL Centre for Digital Humanities. Our designer (one of my PhD students, Rudolf Ammann) has just posted an overview of the process of designing a logo for a DH Centre - which makes for interesting reading.

Monday 1 February 2010

Where's the Party?

Today is the official, internal launch of the new UCL Centre for Digital Humanities. There will be a small internal launch party - if you are around and at UCL, then more details are here - but a bigger external launch in May (email me if you want to go on the guestlist. There will be much wine and song for all in the DH world then).

We've got a really interesting blog, which may be worth subscribing to - lots of things in the pipeline...

Wish us luck. Posters are printed. Invites are out. Sticky-backed plastic is ordered to hang forementioned posters. And I have my party shoes on, rather than converse trainers, so it must be a special day...