Digital Humanities

Digital Humanities and Digital Scholarship represent a rapidly growing focus of research and public engagement within IASH. Digital scholarship is not a new thing within the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, but its development is being hastened by continuing developments in processing power, software and the ubiquity of computers. The digital humanities can be thought of as being made up of two types of activity, even if these are not fully distinct in practice.

There is firstly a growing interest in the use of digital methods to carry out and extend customary forms of humanities research. This might include the use of sophisticated digital tools for searching corpora, new ways of assembling and comparing different versions of ancient texts, and inventive ways for displaying critical editions.

Second, there are endeavours which are more or less unthinkable without digital connectivity and forms of digital analysis. For example, extremely high-resolution images of art works allow comparisons to be made across collections which have never been housed together and permit observations and statistical analyses to be performed which the human eye and brain could never achieve.

IASH played a part in promoting early work in these areas within the College. In the early 2010s, for example, we hosted two fellows who exemplify these opportunities:

Dr Gregory Scott (Columbia University, 2013-14) - The Digital Bibliography of Modern East Asian Buddhism

Dr Louise Settle (University of Edinburgh, 2013-14) - Digitally Mapping Crime: The Geography of Female Street Offences in Edinburgh, 1900-1939

From the start of the academic year 2018-19, IASH has established funding for Fellows specifically in this area, in partnership with the College’s Digital Scholarship Initiative. We welcomed the first of these new fellows in 2018:

Dr Nicole Rigillo (Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore) - OpenSource Governance: Mobile Apps and Sustainability Citizenship in Bangalore, India

Dr Owen Parry (Goldsmiths College, University of London) – Luv 2 H8 U, a practice-led research project exploring hate as an aesthetic practice

The College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences has its own Digital Scholarship Initiative aimed at promoting a diverse body of research in the digital arts, humanities and social sciences through support for workshops and seminars and other research needs. For those involved in this initiative, digital scholarship embraces computational methods for research data analysis and representation. It also includes critical appraisal of the ways technology is shaping and mediating our interactions with each other and with our research topics and materials. The Centre for Data, Culture and Society supports data-led research across the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, helping our community stay at the forefront of developments in data-driven research, and highlight the vital contributions Edinburgh's researchers have to offer to contemporary cultural debates and social issues.

A number of Schools with the College have their own specialised groups. For example, HCA (the School of History, Classics and Archaeology) has its own Digital Humanities Research Group. This group has several research-council funded projects using digital methods for mapping the past and developing novel geographically linked image collections. At least two of these projects also promote public engagement by facilitating additions to the database and use of the information over the Internet by members of the public.

The Moray House School of Education hosts the Centre for Research in Digital Education. This centre conducts research and knowledge exchange in areas such as children and technology, digital education pedagogy and policy, and museum learning. Relatedly, within the School of Social and Political Science, the Sociology subject areas has a research theme on Digital Sociology.

The College also hosts the Digital Cultural Heritage Research Network (or DCHRN) . The DCHRN links academics from across the University and the cultural heritage sector in a professional network for people investigating digital cultural heritage issues.

This digital scholarship is being conducted at the same time as an outstandingly large investment is being made in data science through the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal – often referred to as the City Deal, signed in 2017. This programme is based on the idea that the digital economy will grow significantly faster than other sectors for the foreseeable future and that the city region and the university can both benefit from partnering in these activities. Innovative developments are anticipated in information and communications technologies, computing, and data science (the ability to derive new knowledge from analysing data sets in ways that only machines are able).

Particularly in the social sciences, design, education and in the Business School, the College also promotes critical reflection on the role of the digital, for example with studies of the Internet of Things, the spread of online ranking activities across the service economy and the cultural sector, and studies of the “like Economy”.


Edinburgh Futures Institute

Centre for Research in Digital Education

Digital Cultural Heritage Research Network

Digital Humanities Research Group (School of History, Classics and Archaeology)

Centre for Data, Culture and Society

Bayes Centre, the University of Edinburgh's Innovation Hub for AI and Data Science