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.
Humanities education: needs for change
to analyze the extent to which humanities scholars need advanced computing
methods for working with language, literature, history, logic, art, music,
to research how humanities students can better be prepared for the professional
world where our languages and cultures will increasingly be manipulated
by information technology;
to research how institutions are addressing the teaching of new skills
in advanced computing in their traditional humanities disciplines;
Humanities education: innovation in curricula
to facilitate the strengthening of advanced computing content in Humanities
programmes through European collaboration;
to identify learning modules for cross-disciplinary humanities programmes
with a broad agreement on advanced computing content, means of delivery
and learning, and potential uses;
to identify learning modules strengthening specialized computing in individual
Humanities education: new processes for learning
to facilitate student mobility and the availability of teaching competence
in advanced computing;
to increase the accessibility of computational resources for humanities
scholarship (e.g. language data, text repositories, historical databases,
digitized art collections);
to collaborate with ODL projects in order to promote the integration of
accessible humanities resources in distance learning modules.
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:
The structure into working groups was used to divide responsibilities
with respect to the key publication which was the outcome of the third
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
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:
Investigating to what extent future humanities curricula need to offer
hybrid skills to students, either by integrating advanced computing courses
in established study programmes or by creating interdisciplinary programmes.
Promoting joint development of curricula innovation which include advanced
computing approaches and exploring the creation of international degrees
in new interdisciplinary fields.
Investigating to what extent humanities, as providers of language, literature
and culture content for the new digital media, are playing an increasingly
important role in today's and tomorrow's digital culture.
Stimulating the cooperation between providers of humanities computing resources
(e.g. text and art collections), educators and researchers in text and
picture encoding, in a context of European cooperation.
Disseminate best practice in the use of computing in teaching methods in
a publication was written which addressed all the above points of attention
(a draft, later published at http://gandalf.aksis.uib.no/AcoHum/book/.
a survey was undertaken, using a web-based questionnaire, and the results
were published on the web (http://gandalf.aksis.uib.no/AcoHum/cl/cl-questresult.html).
Priorities of the SOCRATES action addressed
In the publication, the project addressed the following objectives of the
The quality of cooperation in several EC cooperation programmes has been
Ongoing activities and plans in curriculum innovation have been discussed.
The application of best practice in new teaching methods has been discussed
The way was paved for joint course and programme development.
The dialogue between academic and socio-economic partners was improved.
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 http://www.uib.no/acohum
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
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
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
Congratulations on having so successfully put together a very interesting
You have done a great job! I for one experienced visions and revisions,
and I admire your dedication and competence!
Congratulations on a very enjoyable and successful conference.
I'd like to tell you that I have had a great impression of the conference.
I'm very happy to be in contact with you and, if it's possible, to continue
in belonging to the group.
Third, there were several points of appreciation of the organization and
I found the range of topics very stimulating and the presentations extremely
More philosophical approaches to understanding the digital age.
The effort to see the "greater picture" was most stimulating and motivating.
Many excellent talks on the art of edutainment.
Enough high quality presentations, which were very informative and sometimes
even very inspiring.
It was the breadth and the variety of the topics that was most rewarding.
I found the keynote speaches and some of the discussions most interesting.
The big advantage was the many interesting papers. Many new topics were
presented and you got became informed of the development within other areas
than your own.
Broad scope - various interesting angles presented - showing the richness
of the theme.
To hear about developments and actions in the 'other' disciplines.
The very good basis that has been created for further cooperation between
speech and NLP (informal contacts during the conference and at the Monday
Some very good lectures.
Fourth, specific weak points of coverage and some papers were signaled:
The enthusiasm from the people responsible. Open minds!
Organization was OK as well (And the reception was great!)
Strong points were social events, help given when needed, session chairing,
and Koenraad, Daniel, Bente were very helpful.
Good organisation, very pleasant atmosphere.
Good atmosphere at (organised) social programme in a very nice place.
Good web pages, and good support before the conference.
Good financial conditions for participants.
Very good organization and OK time schedule.
Nice and original art, decoration and evening events.
Fifth, there were points of criticism related to planning and technical
The dichothomy between technology and humanities was patent in many communications
as some speakers presented teaching methods using the computer without
any indication as to what had changed in the didactic approach with the
inclusion of computer support. This, I suppose, because the didactics people
had not learnt enough about the workings of the computer. i.e. I recognized
my own case (but worse) in many of the participants.
Some keynote speakers on general philosophy of computing in the humanities
were very general and some even a little obsolete, for a generally well
Computer assisted translation practice is a topic that could be promoted
in another edition of the conference.
Perhaps, in my condition of observator of a quite modern university, I
was hoping to be more surprised about the vanguards in humanities and digital
Too diverse. Too many areas of work, too specific technical applications,
too much different culture, maybe. (But that's humanities, isn't it?)
Some weak presentations, with few experiences that were interesting outside
the presented network itself.
Scope of the programme too broad (many colleagues told in advance not to
go because of lack of focus in the programme, they had no idea what to
expect or found little of their personal interest).
No common statement on 'the future' (maybe in book, if that is to come).
Audience (and contributions) heavily geared towards Norway and Scandinavia
(which may be unavoidable, and in several cases was turned out well with
high quality contributions - but not always).
Too few practical examples, too academic.
Sixth and finally, some interesting subjective findings were given:
Parallel sessions need accurate timing and functioning technology.
On the other hand the many papers and the short interval for presentation
also became the weakest point in the conference. There wasn't enough time
for discussions after the papers (just asking af few questions forclarification)
and the discussion tine inthe end of each session didn't function, because
many presenters had left for other interesting papers presented in the
other audtorium. Only the panel sessesions offered a real opportunity for
Little use of ICT in presentations!
The location and difficult accessibility for the exhibits (no separate
No full proceedings.
Workshop planning (2 hours is too short).
One minor practical point is the need to rehearse the distance transmission
of lectures very carefully so that sound level and lighting are right.
Technical services seemed at a loss sometimes, e.g. for my presentation
the lads didn't know where the video player was which surprised me; there
seemed to be difficulties with how to work the lights; for my exhibition
the technical guy left the video player+monitor and said "I haven't tested
it I hope it works" and it didn't (would not accept the tape), exhibition
was not advertised on the noticeboard upstairs, on first day lady said
"we don't have tacks" (for my poster) but another said "we do have tacks
upstairs" - in general support didn't seem to be organised.
better coordination between sessions desired.
the auditorium setting and full programme in a lecture-style conference
did not promote interaction enough.
We conclude that the conference was successful and has met the expectations
and needs of participants.
I got the impression that the humanities has moved as much towards the
sciences as mathematics philosophy has moved towards humanities at least
in the pedagogical and philosophical basis for mediating knowledge where
we seem to have a common ground.
I expect that the one question I was left with after the conference has
been well delt with in other connections or even at the conference without
me detecting it. If humanities are something different from science research-wise
and teaching-wise, can the humanities keep this uniqueness in the face
of the formatting power of mathematics through infomation technology?
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:
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.