ACO*HUM Advanced Computing in the Humanities

Minutes of the first meeting of the ACO*HUM Steering Commitee.

London, December 19, 1996.

Present at the meeting: Daniel Apollon, Ove Botnevik (secretary), Dino Buzzetti, Harold Short (host), Koenraad de Smedt (chairman), William Vaughan.

Welcome and presentation

We are grateful to Harold Short for hosting the meeting and to all participants for devoting their time and expertise to the project.

Status of the network project.

The ACO*HUM started as a SOCRATES TNP (Thematic Network Project) on September 1, 1996, and is expected to be active for three years.

The theme of ACO*HUM is the changing content and process of scholarship in the humanities, especially the role which advanced computing is playing in this change. The large basis of participating institutions and associations who supported the application testifies to the fact that the theme of ACO*HUM is an important one.

The main task of ACO*HUM in the first year is to set up a management structure, and open up communication channels for the exchange of problems to be addressed, ideas and experiences. Before April 1, 1997, ACO*HUM will report and apply for renewal of the funding.

Cooperation with associations

The involvement of one or more formal organizations is deemed important in order to secure continuation of the network, also after the funding period is over. It is agreed that ACO*HUM will not create a new association, since there is already sufficient coverage of the areas by the following existing associations:

  • ALLC: Computational linguistics and Textual scholarship areas
  • EACL: Textual scholarship
  • CHART: History of Art
  • AHC: History
  • It is agreed that ACO*HUM will try to obtain the formal support of these associations. We will also suggest that these associations form a consortium which would obtain institutional commitments. The associations should make efforts toward student participation. The formal support from the associations needs to be obtained before applying for renewal of funding.

    In addition, ACO*HUM will try to secure the formal participation of relevant national and local organizations in the network. Examples in the UK include the CTI (Computers in Teaching Initiative) centres in Oxford, Hull, Lancaster and Glasgow, and the AHDS (Arts & Humanities Data Service) at King's College London.

    Communications and reporting

    The associations will also be invited to devote columns in their newsletters to the theme of ACO*HUM.

    A Web site has been established. The initial top-down communication will soon be supplemented by possibilities for feedback from the partners.

    In addition to putting information on the Web, ACO*HUM will also send out regular printed newsletters.

    In the first year, ACO*HUM will work on an agenda comprising an inventory of aims, problems and resources. Feedback from all partners as well as the work by the area committees will form the basis for the reporting. In addition, national organizations are expected to contributed to a country profiles report documenting the diversity on a European scale.

    Plans for a conference and policy symposium

    In the second year of activities, ACO*HUM will become more open to direct involvement from all its participants. A conference will be planned for the spring of 1998, probably in Norway. Representatives from DG XXII and from other networks will be invited. The conference will discuss the theme of the network project and will present a showcase of best practice.

    Through the involvements of the associations, ACO*HUM will try to organize special sessions on the theme in major conferences. A conference on "Digital resources in the humanities" is planned by the Office for Humanities Communication and the British Library.

    In the fall, ACO*HUM will organize a special forum for the network concerned with policy. This symposium will group the meetings of the Steering Commitee and the area committees into one event.

    Extension of the network

    Maddalena Toscano from the University of Naples has sent us a proposal for extension of the network on behalf of a group called CAMEEL, currently an ERASMUS ICP. The group has a strong thematic focus on the use of advanced computing in teaching non-European languages (especially Arabic and African languages). It is agreed that the group can submit a proposal for a fifth pilot area in the renewal proposal, if the financial contribution by the EU permits such an extension.

    Other new areas to be considered in later stages include philosophy (esp. computational logic, strongly present e.g. at King's College), and archaeology. Such areas should be mentioned to the European Commission in the renewal proposal.

    It is also agreed that ACO*HUM should, from next year, devote more explicit attention to formal and computational aspects of methodology in broad areas of the humanities. Such common methodology could include e.g. formal datastructures in text repositories & history; digitized images in text repositories & history of art. Such attention could be materialized by adding a methodological track (with a committee) which complements the work of the pilot areas. The methodological track should define and investigate general computionational methods useful in a broad area of humanities scholarship, identify building blocks for learning these methods, and work out guidelines for institutions which intend to develop this area. (cf. the first aim in B2 in the project description). (Reference to "Humanities with applied computing" BA minor programme).

    Similarly, a special track could investigate the use of ODL in all the humanities.

    Joint call for proposals

    The Educational Multimedia Task Force of the EU officially launched a Joint Call for proposals on Dec. 17, 1996. This call is open to several programmes, including SOCRATES. This call is regarded as interesting for the network. Project ideas relevant to ACO*HUM include: how to work on course content and ownership; access to existing resources; producing CD-roms and other deliverables, together with publishers and broadcasters. It is agreed, however, that ACO*HUM does not have the budget resources to coordinate a consortium and write an application. The network could, however, participate in activities led by others.

    Closing remarks

    The reports and renewal application to the Commission will be sent to the Steering Commitee before April 1.

    The next meeting of the Steering Commitee will be in May 1997, probably in week 19.

    Koenraad de Smedt