Collective Intelligence

This post was originally composed February 23, 2015, in the wake of the event ‘Digital Humanities Collective Intelligence: a workshop to foster international cooperation’ held in the Anatomy Theatre and Museum at King’s College London on the 21st and 22nd February 2011. It was posted on, a site which disappeared, then posted on the IT Services blog at the University of Oxford, where it was deleted sometime around 2019. It is the blog post that will not die.

A two-day workshop at King’s College, London in February explored the idea of ‘Collective Intelligence’ in relation to DARIAH and the Digital Humanities. Two dozen participants, representing numerous countries, organisations, domains and backgrounds were in attendance, including DARIAH partners from London, Oxford and Dublin. The workshop kicked off with the presentation of position papers from Jan-Cristophe Meister (participating remotely), Andrew Prescott and Susan Schreibman.

Jan-Cristophe Meister (Hamburg University) outlined the plans of the Association for Literary and Linguistic Computing (ALLC) to relaunch its website with three major functions, namely provide a moderated Digital Humanities information platform for the association’s members and affiliates, that will offer a “one-stop” overview on current DH activities, funding opportunities and services, with links to more detailed external repositories.

As a precondition to the wider sharing of such data, Meister emphasised the need “to define a data curation protocol stipulating standards for the moderation and validation of DH information by information gatherers
and providers”, warning that without such a protocol there would be too much variation in the shared information, making it obsolete and “creating ‘white noise’ that will frustrate information seekers.”

Meister therefore proposed “the definition of a DH atlas or a DH taxonomy enabling us to systematize DH information”.

Andrew Prescott (University of Glasgow) proposed that we need a new generation of tools that will work with publishers and other content providers, and enable new perspectives on data and humanities research questions.

Susan Schreibman (Digital Humanities Observatory, Ireland) outlined the detailed and extensive work done in the DRAPIer: Digital Research And Projects in Ireland to scope and describe digital humanities work and act as a collaboration space to share expertise. Susan proposed greater use of Web 2.0 technologies in future initiatives in this area.

There was also a presentation of the portal, and a discussion of the lessons to be learned from its six years of existence. The possibility of preferring to follow a design path more oriented towards ‘apps’, ‘gadgets’ or ‘toolkits’ was considered.

Group discussions considered how to move forward to create more interoperable metadata. Do we already have adequate standards and procedures for sharing information? Do we need the carrot or the stick to encourage data creators to follow them? Do we need to link communities and expect the metadata to follow, or vice versa? Some concrete suggestions emerged for potential ways forward to capture, disseminate and use the potential knowledge that is embedded in our currrent and past activities. An aggregation of information about events was strongly promoted, and the idea of a service for mining the collected knowledge of past discussions on relevant email lists and forums was mooted. There are plenty of organisations and initiatives producing useful information, that there is a general willingness to share, but due to various factors there is a certain inertia tending to block efforts to do so. Measures to overcome this inertia and to make it easier to exploit our collective intelligence should be a key guiding priniciple of our next steps.

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