Report on the Digital Humanities at Oxford Summer School 2013

The Digital Humanities at Oxford Summer School (DHOxSS) is one of the premier international training events in digital humanities. DHOxSS 2013 took place on 8 – 12 July 2013 at Wolfson College. As overall director of the DHOxSS it seemed a good idea to write a blog post reviewing the summer school, its content, statistics, feedback, and plans for 2014.

The DHOxSS 2013 had a programme of five parallel workshops running all week. The daily schedule usually had introductory parallel plenary lectures by invited scholars on topics relating to digital humanities in the early morning, followed by introductory lectures as part of the workshops, and then lunch (included in the registration cost), then most students moved to IT Services where they received more lectures with practical exercises done on desktop computers there. Two excepti

Students at Work

ons to this were the XSLT workshop (whose students used borrowed laptops and remained in Wolfson all day) and the Cultural Connections workshop whose students did desk-based (rather than computer-based) practical work.

Content

Morning Lectures:

The morning lectures that were available at DHOxSS 2013 included:

Workshops

After their morning lectures students attended the five-day workshop that they had
booked on. DHOxSS discourages switching between workshops because they are intended to build up over the week and students suddenly appearing in other workshops can be disruptive to the group work already organised. In the morning, since the students were at Wolfson College and not sat in front of computers, they received introductory lectures on the workshop topic.

At DHOxSS 2013 we had 5 parallel workshop which were:

  1. Cultural Connections: exchanging knowledge and widening participation in the Humanities
  2. How to do Digital Humanities: Discovery, Analysis and Collaboration
  3. A Humanities Web of Data: publishing, linking and querying on the semantic web
  4. An Introduction to XML and the Text Encoding Initiative
  5. An Introduction to XSLT for Digital Humanists

After the lunch at Wolfson College, students continued in their workshops (either in IT Services, Radcliffe Humanities, or Wolfson College).

Evening Events

DHOxSS attempts to provide students a good social environment in which to network and enjoy a variety of evening events. While these events are optional, we feel they are part of the content of DHOxSS and thus included an event of some sort each evening:

  • Monday Evening Welcome Drinks Reception: this welcome reception gave the students a chance to mingle at Wolfson College.
  • Tuesday Evening Poster Reception: this reception featured digital humanitiesPoster Reception posters submitted by delegates in response to an open call. It was sponsored by the Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities and took place in St Luke’s Chapel on the Radcliffe Humanities site. Unfortunately, maximum occupancy levels meant that not all of the DHOxSS could attend and this will be changed for DHOxSS 2014 when looking for a reception site.
  • Wednesday Evening Public Lecture: “Scholarly Social Machines” by Professor Dave De Roure, sponsored by the Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities. This lecture was followed by a smaller drinks reception and took place at the Wolfson College Lecture Theatre.
  • Thursday Evening Banquet: This banquet took place at the historic Queen’s College, and was not included in the registration charge. Feedback indicates that the quality of food received was not in-line with the price and so DHOxSS will be looking for a different venue in the future.
    Sebastian Punting
  • Friday Informal Pub Trip: On the Friday evening, as many students departed, some of those who were left went to the Victoria Arms pub for a relaxing evening. Some students even got a chance to punt!

DHOxSS 2013 Statistics

As you might expect we can produce a variety of statistics relating to the DHOxSS 2013. The total number of students booked on the summer school was 88. Of these, 26 registered as students, 50 registered as academics, and 2 registered as corporate. A ‘student’ in this case is anyone studying in higher education, whereas ‘academic’ was anyone working for an academic or non-profit institution. In addition the OUP John Fell Fund provided 10 Oxford DPhil or Oxford Early-Career Bursaries.

Workshops

The workshops had the following initial registrations on them:

  • Workshop 1: Cultural Connections: 13
  • Workshop 2: How to do DH: 22
  • Workshop 3: A Humanities Web of Data: 14
  • Workshop 4: XML and TEI: 32
  • Workshop 5: XSLT: 7

Plenary Lectures

The statistics on who attended which parallel morning plenary are of course hard to track as students were free to swap between them. However, at time of registration the expressed interest was:
Parallel Lecture at Wolfson College

  • Monday: Opening Keynote: 88
  • Tuesday: Parallel Session 1a (Varieties of Openness): 47
  • Tuesday: Parallel Session 1b (Studying People Who Can Talk Back): 35
  • Wednesday: Parallel Session 2a (Re-imagining the First World War): 35
  • Wednesday: Parallel Session 2b (CodeSharing): 48
  • Thursday: Parallel Session 3a (Agent-Based Computer Modelling): 21
  • Thursday: Parallel Session 3b (Digital Libraries): 60
  • Friday: Closing Keynote: 88

Accommodation

In total 249 nights of accommodation were booked via DHOxSS at Wolfson College. (Some DHOxSS students chose to stay elsewhere.)

Gender

Gender was not an aspect that DHOxSS gathered in the registration process, but having met the students and returning to their registration records later if basic binary gender categories were to be supplied the statistics would be that out of the 88 students there were 59 female students (67.04%), 29 male students (32.95%). If one includes everyone, both students and tutors (some appearing in workshops for only 10 minutes), then there were a massive 149 people of which 82 were female (55.03%) and 67 male (44.96%). Although these are a very rough measure (and ignore any form of self-identification) I believe it is generally important to track these. These numbers are good, but evince more male tutors than female – in many cases this is because DHOxSS is reliant on the good will of those who happen to be undertaken digital humanities research in Oxford which is out of our control.

Nationalities

Nationality is, of course, also a difficult category to assess. In this case what has been used is the address given by the student registering – which may be highly inaccurate given the peripatetic lifestyle of early-career researchers! Of the 87 students that I was able to retrieve this data the countries were as follow:

  • 36 from the United Kingdom, of which 17 were from Oxford
  • 16 from the USA
  • 5 from Italy
  • 4 from Ireland
  • 3 from Poland; 3 from the Netherlands; 3 from Denmark
  • 2 from Sweden; 2 from France; 2 from Belgium;
  • 1 each from Austria , Canada, Germany, Greece, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, and Switzerland

Finances and Registration Costs

The DHOxSS as an event attempts to break even in its costs. It does not pay tutors for teaching, though does cover costs such as travel and accommodation, and does not cost any of the staff time involved in its organisation. (To do so would make it prohibitively expensive!) All income is spent on room rental, materials provided, evening events, etc. It is underwritten by the IT Services at University of Oxford as an outreach event and staff from around the University (and outside) donate their time. The registration costs for the DHOxSS 2012 and DHOxSS 2013 have been kept static and it is our intention to keep them the same for DHOxSS 2014. We make an initial budget based on how many students we think will register and if more students register we increase things such as the extras provided in the DHOxSS bag, or the quality of food and drink at the receptions.

The registration costs for DHOxSS 2013 (and 2012-2014) were:

  • Student: £475;
  • Academic: £575;
  • Commercial: £675

Feedback

The DHOxSS collects feedback on a wide variety of feedback on all aspects of the summer school. In general most aspects were rated as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ which is pleasing, however we do take note of the feedback and look at the comments provided in detail. I’ll summarise some of the general aspects here. Aside from a known problem with the first day or so of one workshop (which we have put processes in place to avoid in the future), most of the workshops received glowing reviews rating the speed, level, range of topics, and quality of talks, exercises and handouts to be excellent. The majority of respondents rated all of the morning plenaries either good or excellent. In looking at the DHOxSS as a whole an overwhelming majority felt that the overall academic content was good or excellent and the same for the balance of workshops vs lectures and academic vs social content. Some feedback indicates that having multiple venues was not as positive, but we are limited by the necessity of some workshops in using desktop computers. In general the individual teaching venues were rated good or excellent, though there were complaints of one venue in particular being too hot which will be investigated more thoroughly in selecting venues for next year. The lunches (included in the cost of registration) and refreshment breaks generally received good or excellent ratings, though with some comments noting individual problems that have been fed back to those providing these refreshments. The quality of the evening events received glowing good and excellent ratings except for the Banquet where feedback indicates the location was good but the service and food was not as good as expected. We will take that into consideration when looking for a venue for DHOxSS 2014. The organisational and administrative aspects overall received good and excellent ratings.

All feedback was distributed to the DHOxSS Organisational Committee and will be used to improve DHOxSS in the following years.

Plans for 2014

DHOxSS 2014 is scheduled for 14 – 18 July 2014 at Wolfson College and IT Services. More news in time will be available from http://digital.humanities.ox.ac.uk/dhoxss/2014/. Workshop proposal forms have been circulated inside Oxford and will be reviewed by the DHOxSS organisational committee in early November. By the end of November we hope to be able to announce basic details of the DHOxSS 2014 workshops and other deadlines. We intend to repeat the peer-reviewed poster reception which allowed students to display their work. We intend for the registration costs which include lunches, but not accommodation, to be the same as the previous couple years (Student: £475; Academic: £575; Commercial: £675 ).

Dr James Cummings

Director of DHOxSS
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