Financial agreement number: 26030-CP-3-98-1-NO-ETN

2.2 Description of activities

Aims and objectives

The network is aimed at the promotion of effective coordinated mechanisms in the future of European undergraduate and graduate curricula in the humanities by integrating advanced computing. This is placed in a context of reflection on humanities in the digital age, by means of a thorough analysis of the use of new technologies in humanities scholarship in Europe, identifying opportunities, problems, and good practice with respect to the integration of advanced computing. More specific objectives are the following: The first year has been an initialization effort concentrating on organizing the network and awareness raising among our partners as well as within a larger circle of institutions with common interests.

The second year has been a consolidation phase, aiming at broadening the base of active participation and placing the aims in a European context. These objectives were achieved by organizing a large international conference.

The third year has been an extension phase, aiming at an extended investigation regarding the situation of computing in the humanities.

Organizational approach and structure

The organization of the network project has remained constant since the second project year. A structure with vertical and horizontal working groups had been adopted. The vertical working groups are strongly linked to one or more traditional humanities disciplines and consist of the following: The horizontal working groups take broader, humanities-wide perspectives and consist of the following: This structure suggests the need for interaction between the working groups, which in turn requires more flexible group meetings, aided by communication technology tools (Internet and video meetings). The interplay can be graphically depicted in the following diagram:

working groups

The structure into working groups was used to divide responsibilities with respect to the key publication which was the outcome of the third project year.

Pedagogical and didactic approaches

The starting point for our pedagogical and didactic approach is that the humanities need an approach to new technologies which is critically different from that in other areas of study. This fits in a wider perspective based on the recognition that new technologies are having a different impact on different scientific disciplines. The resulting desirability of diversification by discipline-specific methodology implies, in the case of the humanities, that the standard commercial tools for word processing and image handling are totally insufficient for learning and teaching at university level. In dealing with language and culture, humanities scholars need refined computing tools which are able to handle sound and meaning, words and images, logic and art. Moreover, humanities are no longer affecting society through books only.

The project's pedagogical and dicactic aims have been approached by means of the following points of attention:

In order to study these points and reach a large audience, the following concrete actions were undertaken:
  • a publication was written which addressed all the above points of attention (a draft, later published at
  • a survey was undertaken, using a web-based questionnaire, and the results were published on the web (
  • Priorities of the SOCRATES action addressed

    In the publication, the project addressed the following objectives of the SOCRATES action:

    Open and distance learning

    The conference included sessions on open and distance learning (e.g. sessions on Course development on the Internet; Scenario's for the digital classroom). All working groups identified distance learning modules as an important instrument for joint course and programme development crossing national boundaries. Web-based course delivery is rapidly becoming a feasible and practical alternative to other ODL media. It was also established that the various humanities disciplines require specialized multimedia presentation modules for the rendition of language structures, special graphics, sound manipulation, and other multimedia. In addition, more intelligent tools, specialized towards use in humanities disciplines, are necessary in the future. The working group on Computational linguistics and language engineering has engaged in a cooperation with ELSNET for the development of test modules for the web-based teaching of computational linguistics. ELSNET sponsors this effort with 3000 ECU. The working group on History and historical informatics engages in similar testing of web-based teaching.


    Although the project opted for physical meetings for its Policy Symposium and Conference, information and communication systems were used extensively to prepare these meetings and perform other information dissemination. The TNP web site was and still is the primary source of information on the project and contains a record of meetings, reports, papers and surveys. In addition, a special website. was created for the conference. This website contains all information pertaining to the conference: aim, topics, program, venue information and registration. Even all abstracts of the papers presented are available via this website. Participants were contacted primarily through e-mail.


    An external evaluation was scheduled but was deemed to be premature until the conference was held. Since the conference was postponed from its original date in the spring of 1998 to September 1998, the external evaluation was postponed accordingly. It has not been completed at the time of writing this report.

    With respect to the Policy Symposium, the Steering Committee gave a satisfactory evaluation of the event, especially in relation to its modest duration. It was a good idea to bring the working groups together and is a beginning of a true cooperation and cross-fertilization across the working groups. The event might have benefited from even more sessions in which the groups were mixed in different ways. It is seen as important to maintain the value of the project as a whole, to prevent the dominance of a single working group, to keep sight of the whole scope of the humanities field, and to look to future extensions, while recognizing the need of the individual working groups to pursue their own agendas and have their own outside links.

    The conference was evaluated by an e-mail survey after the event. All participants were asked to signal strong and weak points of the event. This resulted in the following response.

    First, overall comments were all positive, as witnessed by the following general expressions of appreciation:

    Second, some specific strong points of conference goals, themes and papers were given: Third, there were several points of appreciation of the organization and setting: Fourth, specific weak points of coverage and some papers were signaled: Fifth, there were points of criticism related to planning and technical support: Sixth and finally, some interesting subjective findings were given: We conclude that the conference was successful and has met the expectations and needs of participants.


    The conference performed a major dissemination function. The event was announced to about 1500 potentially interested people including educators; university and faculty staff working with academic development; national and international planners working with university reform; project leaders, academic staff involved in curriculum innovation and ODL projects; organizations with strong humanities content (libraries, museums, archives); electronic media publishers and educational software developers. There were 187 pre-registrations and additional on-site registrations. The pre-registered participants came from 23 countries:
    82 Norway
    15 United Kingdom
    14 Denmark
    11 Sweden
    8 Finland
    8 Belgium
    7 Holland
    7 Germany
    6 Spain
    5 U.S.A.
    5 Italy
    3 Ireland
    2 Russia
    2 Israel
    2 Ghana
    2 Cyprus
    2 Austria
    1 Sudan
    1 Portugal
    1 New Zealand
    1 Greece
    1 France
    1 Colombia

    The conference was well covered in the national press and media. Press announcements were sent out to the national press. There were articles in local newspapers (Bergens Tidende, Bergensavisen, På Høyden) and radio (NRK). The event was not covered outside of Norway.

    Additional dissemination was achieved through the presentation of the network at the following externally organized events (for dates, see part 2.1). Participation was in the form of oral presentations, panel discussions, poster presentations, and distribution of information material.

    A qualitative description of the outcomes of the project

    Judging by the positive evaluation of the conference (see above), the project has demonstrated that it has succeeded in creating a brand new and urgently needed forum for discussing the future of the humanities. In doing so, the project has demonstrated the wide European base which is interested in this discussion. At the same time, the novelty of the theme and the formidable size of the challenges indicates that a conversion of the current project into a long-term networking effort will be needed.