What do the Digital Humanities look like at uOttawa?

The Faculty of Arts is recognized for its role in the development of digital humanities in Canada. Dr. Chad Gaffield of the Department of History was at the fore of early digital humanities work in Canada, developing computer-based applications for scholarship in the humanities which he expanded upon through his SSHRC-funded Century Canada Research Infrastructure project (one of the largest projects ever funded for historical research in Canada). His pioneering work created a foundation for digital humanities research in the Faculty of Arts and in his role as Research Chair in Digital Scholarship he continues to contribute to initiatives on campus and across the country.

There are today a number of faculty members in Arts who doing innovative digitally research and resource development. This section describes the innovative work conducted at the University of Ottawa in two broad areas (1) the Curation, analysis and visualisation of large cultural datasets and software and platform development and (2) Critical reflection on the impact of technologies. While this list is by no means exhaustive, it demonstrates the breadth of scholarship that digital engagement offers. The researchers identified here have been successful in attracting $13.4 million in individual and collaborative funding.

Curation, analysis and visualization of large cultural data sets and software and platform development

The human sciences have everything to gain by appropriating research methods of the digital age to take advantage of the availability of masses of data and powerful computer tools such as automatic harvesting, text mining, database design, machine learning, linked data, natural language processing, and dynamic data visualization.  By making computer tools available to the humanities, it is possible to increase the capacity to analyze texts and images thanks to the computing power of data analysis programs. The study of arts and culture is being transformed by digital technology; computation abilities have been utilized to develop new forms of scholarship, often centering on questions that so far have existed outside the scope of academic work. Several disciplinary fields, including History, Music, Modern Languages, Communication,  are now using computer tools in the analysis of large corpora: for example, big data methods allow the study of large sets of literary texts or the analysis of large quantities of newspapers; text mining methods make it possible to analyze thousands of historical documents. The contribution of technology in the processing of data, textual, visual, sonic and multimedia corpora, in addition to the exploitation of archives makes it possible to find new forms of connections. It is thus possible to utilize digital technology to discover and explore corpora in new ways, even unthinkable before. The different axes maintain complementary coexistence relationships which have the function of revitalizing the humanities through experiential and creative work to help us understand the challenges of digitization.

There are multitudes of ongoing research projects ranging from the development of virtual museums through digitizing primary source materials to the use of public data in the creation of interactive maps. Researchers at the University of Ottawa are developing innovative ways of engaging with and visualising various forms of data, from (1) displaying audio/visual materials, to (2) curating digital cultural archives and converting data, to (3) exploring text and language interaction, and to (4) developing unique digital, 3D and physical visualisation strategies.

Critical reflection on the impact of digital technologies

Digital humanities offer humanities-centred approaches to multimedia, infrastructure, and code studies, making it possible to understand the broader function and the effect of digital tools and culture. At the heart of this critical research is the drive to understand how digitization alters, repackages, threatens or promotes study of processes, policy and subjectivity in order to better understand both the advantages and disadvantages (potential and dangers) of this digitization in the service of ensuring informed action by individuals, government, and enterprises.

Researchers at the University of Ottawa are at the fore of public and scholarly discussions on the impact of digital technologies on social, cultural and political spheres, as well as in the health sector. They are also mobilizing their skills to engage in public discourse and develop sophisticated applications to aid professionals in the field.

Discover the research labs in the Faculty of Arts.