Connecting Digital Humanities Learners and Researchers

The DHDL funding by the University of Southampton Student Centredness Fund has already paid for the redesign of two labs. In the final stage of the project we have begun to look at ways to connect students and staff from multiple disciplines and at different campuses. This is structured around three areas of research:

  • hardware to support collaboration
  • software to support collaboration and awareness
  • face to face community building

In terms of hardware we have four screens in the new labs at Avenue Campus, three of which have kinects providing sophisticated methods for video conferencing. The imacs in Digital Humanities Lab 1 all have integrated web-cams. In Digital Humanities Lab 2 content from apple mobile devices can be shared to the screens via apple TV and from Windows and Apple tablets and computers via VNC. Together the screens and cameras enable users of the spaces to communicate with each other and to reconfigure the spaces for presentation, solitary work or group discussion. Whilst the hardware is in place a core ongoing research aspect is focused on how users choose to share via these tools. We propose to establish channels allowing people not in the labs to tune in to activity, with content sharing determined by the user rather than the viewer. We are also examining the possibilities of always on screens and other less intrusive ambient displays connecting separated sotonDH students and researchers. In this work we are benefiting from collaborations with HCI researchers in the University.

Software in the updated labs has been tailored to time based media, and spatial and graphical technologies. In terms of collaboration we are exploring how social media tools and methods for sharing files can help raise awareness of the digital humanities activities taking part all over the University. Rather than building a new infrastructure we are going to knit together a range of commercial and in-house tools, so as to match existing behaviour as much as possible. The main development work here is in comparing the functionality of different social media tools, in making the labs ‘smarter’ by making it easy to share information (e.g. sending white board captures from the eBeam into a shared repository) , and in producing ambient displays that summarise recent and current activity.

The final element to the DHDL is to bring people together physically in the new spaces. We are therefore hosting sotonDH workshops and seminars in the labs, using them for CIP module teaching on digital literacy, social media, web mapping and digital humanities, modules on archaeological computing, and more to come. There are comfortable places to sit and periodically there will be cake :-)

The student design team behind all the above is continuing to develop the spaces, both physical and virtual, so we will provide an update before Christmas.