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 an the identification of 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 and updated investigation on the situation of computing in the humanities, and the formulation of final recommendations. These aims were addressed by means of a survey, a major publication and additional dissemination actions.

Organizational approach and structure

The organization of the network project has remained constant since the second project year. A modular 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: The modular organization in working groups was instrumental in dividing up responsibilities with respect to the activities of the third project year. At the same time, there were also fruitful interactions between the working groups.

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 process sound and meaning, words and images, logic and art.

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 approach was followed by a coordinated effort of all working groups:
  • A major publication in book form was written which takes into account all the above points of attention. This publication is addressed at a wide audience consisting of:
  • university staff working with academic development
  • teaching staff developing and updating courses
  • 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
  • The book has the following title and chapters:

    Computing in Humanities Education: A European perspective

    1. Introduction
    2. European studies in formal methods in the humanities
    3. European studies in textual scholarship and humanities computing
    4. European studies in computational linguistics
    5. European studies in computing for non-European languages
    6. European studies in computers and history of art, architecture and design
    7. Conclusion
    Each chapter presents the following with respect to its area:
    In addition to work on the book, and partly with a view to supplying material for the book, the working group on computational linguistics has also taken the following approaches:
  • A survey was undertaken which addressed some of the above points with respect to CL education. The survey was carried out using a web-based questionnaire, and the results were published on the web (
  • An evaluation was undertaken of three projects under the ELSNET LE Training Showcase, aimed at testing new technologies in CL education. The evaluation report was published on the web .
  • Priorities of the SOCRATES action addressed

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

    Open and distance learning

    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 linguistic structures, special graphics, sound manipulation, and other multimedia. More intelligent tools, specialized towards use in humanities disciplines, are necessary in the future.

    The publication includes sections on open and distance learning in nearly all chapters.

    The working group on Computational linguistics and language engineering has engaged in a cooperation with ELSNET for the evaluation of test modules for the web-based teaching of computational linguistics. An evaluation report was published on the web.

    The working group on Computational linguistics and language engineering has included questions on ODL in its survey on CL education.


    Internet technology has been used in all actions of the project. Although the project opted for face-to-face meetings of its Steering Committee and working groups, a considerable amount of information was exchanged by means of Internet technology. The project web site was and still is the primary source of information on the project and contains an extensive record of meetings, reports, papers, surveys, conferences and publications.

    In the cooperation for writing chapter drafts, the exchange of HTML documents via the Internet has been indispensable.

    The working group on Computational linguistics and language engineering used web-based questionnaires in its survey on CL education. and used the web to publish the results.


    An external evaluation was prepared in the second year and completed in the third year.  It was carried out by European Economic Development Consultants Ltd (EEDS). The evaluation was carried out by questionnaire among the partners and a meeting with representatives of the Steering Committee and the working groups.

    The evaluation report was made available on the web ( The results were quite positive and did not have implications for important readjustments in the current projects, although they provide suggestions for the organization of follow-up projects.


    The results of third year are being published in the form of a book. One thousand copies will be distributed to partner institutions and other organizations including international networks and educational institutions reached through EAIE.

    Additional dissemination was achieved through the presentation of the network at the following externally organized events (for dates, see part 2.1):

    A qualitative description of the outcomes of the project

    Judging from the evaluation report by EEDS, the project has demonstrated that it has succeeded in establishing a much needed forum for discussing the future of the humanities. The project has already had an impact on the field after the first two years of the project. 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.


    1. Computing in Humanities Education: A European perspective
      (volume in print, to be sent later; the final draft can be seen at
    2. Survey on CL education: Results
    3. ELSNET LE Training Showcase, NLP projects: Evaluation Report
    4. An evaluation of the Advanced Computing in the Humanities project


    Minutes of meetings and short reports on minor events are available from the project website.