Financial agreement number: D26030-CP-1-99-1-NO-ETN

2.2 Description of activities

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Aims and objectives

The SOCRATES/ERASMUS thematic network project on Advanced Computing in the Humanities (ACO*HUM) has been 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.

The major aim of the dissemination phase has been to exploit content from the existing outcomes from the first three years of the project for further dissemination.  The main outcomes were:

  1. Website:, started September 1996, updated continuously over the project period.
  2. Conference: The Future of the Humanities, held in Bergen on September 25-28, 1998.
  3. Book of abstracts from the conference, published on paper and on the project website, 1998.
  4. Survey of Computational Linguistics Education in Europe, published on the project website, 1999.
  5. Handbook: Computing in Humanities Education, published on paper and on the project website, 1999.
These outcomes had been targeted mainly at project-internal audiences.  The dissemination and exploitation phase has been aimed at putting the previous outcomes together in different forms in order to reach wider audiences, and to exploit previous outcomes as a basis for new materials and cooperations aimed at continuity.  To achieve these goals, the following goals were formulated in the proposal:
  1. Knowledge base. The paper publications, together with other information collected in the life of the project, will be merged and transformed into a knowledge base, which will function as a permanent source of reference, accessible via an Internet resource using tools on the web. It will contain links to analyses, proposals and recommendations, computational resources, examples of on-line teaching and learning materials, and a database of organizations, institutions and course curricula. It is hoped that the result will become an established and recognized repository of information on the use of IT in humanities courses. Target troups will be teaching staff and educational planners.
  2. Merging TNP results. The working group on Computational Linguistics and Language Engineering and the working group on Computing for non-European languages will merge their results with those of the TNP on Speech Communication Sciences (SCS), to produce a common set of analyses, proposals and recommendations, especially with respect to curriculum innovation and ODL methods and covering also speech and multilinguality. Target groups will be institutions offering a wide range of natural language and speech related curricula, including multilinguality. With respect to the latter issue, a broadening of focus on the study of European and non-European languages will be undertaken, in cooperation with the TNP on Languages and in cooperation with the CAMEEL project.
  3. Guidelines on best practice. The working group on Textual Scholarship and Humanities Computing will, in cooperation with the ALLC and on the basis of existing results, compile a set of guidelines, based on best practice, targeted at teaching staff. The guidelines will be directed at (a) planning and developing courses that exploit computing, (b) using digital resources as a key teaching resource, and (c) methods for teaching and assessing such courses.
  4. Plan for training and retraining programme. The working group on Textual Scholarship and Humanities Computing will, in cooperation with the ALLC and on the basis of existing results, produce a plan for a training and retraining programme, also aimed at teaching staff, especially staff not yet integrating computing techniques in their teaching activities. New EU member states and Eastern European Countries joining SOCRATES are particular targets.
  5. Student awareness. All working groups will make a plan for an information spreading and awareness raising program, targeted at students and prospective students.  The objective is better information about the possibilities for studying humanities computing to young people considering either studies in humanities or in computing. This is an exploitation action based on selected results.
  6. Continuity. The maintenance of parts of the website will be secured in cooperation with the Association for Literary and Linguistic Computing and Oxford University. The outcome of this exploitation action will be a policy document for permanent integration of education-related activities into the activities of the Association.

Organizational approach and structure

The following working groups, which were established earlier during the project, participated in the dissemination phase.
  1. Computational linguistics and language engineering
  2. Computing for non-European languages
  3. Textual scholarship and humanities computing
The latter working group cooperated closely with the ALLC.  The first two working groups cooperated closely with each other and with the following external partners: Together with these partners, the following new, horizontal (interdisciplinary and multi-project) working groups were formed during the dissemination action: This modular organization in working groups, cutting across the various participating projects, was instrumental in establishing the necessary cooperation during this project year and achieving the right balance of competences.

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.  At the same time, many issues related to dissemination and its organization cut across the disciplines.  Therefore a multi-faceted interdisciplinary approach was adopted for this dissemination phase.  The richness of these various perspectives was demonstrated most clearly in the joint recommendations (see below).

Use of information and communication technologies

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.

All outcomes of the dissemination phase are available on-line at the project website.  Care is taken to assure that no proprietary software is needed to access the results.

Impact and added value of the dissemination and exploitation of results

In order to have an impact on a a wide audience, the following approach was adopted:
  1. Knowledge base.  Because the production of a comprehensive interactive knowledge base was beyond the possibilities of a single TNP with limited time and means, a strategic cooperation was set up with ALLC and ELSNET.  This resulted in the use of established websites that have a wide audience among academics in relevant fields.  The knowledge base for computational linguistics is being uploaded to the ELSNET-sponsored JEWELS website which is expected to have a very large impact.  For textual scholarship, the knowledge base is being made available on the HUMBUL website.  In this way, it is hoped that the result will become an established and recognized repository of information on the use of IT in speech and language courses.
  2. Merging TNP results. The working group on Computational Linguistics and Language Engineering and the working group on Computing for non-European languages have merged their results with those of SCS.  The resulting common set of analyses, proposals and recommendations, especially with respect to curriculum innovation and ODL methods and covering also speech and multilinguality, are deemed to have an added value over the previously separate results.
  3. Guidelines on best practice. The guidelines developed by the working group on Textual Scholarship and Humanities Computing are more concrete and practical than the previous outcomes they are based on.  By that virtue, they are expecting to have a wider and more concrete usability for purposes of (a) planning and developing courses that exploit computing, (b) using digital resources as a key teaching resource, and (c) methods for teaching and assessing such courses.
  4. Plan for training and retraining programme.  This action is a concrete exploitation of previous results that is expected to have significant impact on new groups among teaching staff.  Before the dissemination phase, teaching staff in need of training had not been addressed as explicitly as teaching staff already involved in humanities computing.  Now, by means of the training plan by the working group on Textual Scholarship and Humanities Computing, this new target group is reached.  The approach was tested at workshops at Thessaloniki.  This test and the experience derived from it provides added value to the action.
  5. Student awareness. Thus far, students had not been explicitly been addressed as an audience.  The plan for information spreading and awareness raising attempts to reach a very wide audience of students and prospective students.
  6. Continuity.  The involvement of other actors in the maintenance and further dissemination of results, as well as follow-up by means of new projects, will extend the reach of the current project over time.  Through cooperation agreements, ELSNET and ALLC have taken up this task and are putting it into practice.
In terms of widening impact, it must also be mentioned that the dissemination phase extended some of the work with particular reference to some Central and Eastern European countries that are new to the SOCRATES programme.

Report on working group and committee activities

Language and Speech Alliance (working group on Computational Linguistics & Language Engineering; working group on Computing for Non-European Languages; and external partners)

A preparatory meeting was held in Bergen, Norway, on December 11-12, 1999.  At this meeting, three persons representing the synergetic alliance between ACO*HUM, SCS and ELSNET prepared actions for the dissemination phase.  A second, broader planning meeting with 12 participants was held at Utrecht, The Netherlands, on January 21-22, 2000.  At this meeting, representatives from ISCA and EACL lend their support to the alliance.  It was agreed that ELSNET would lend support for the construction of a major website, named JEWELS (Joint European Website for Education in Language and Speech), through a contract with VDIVDE-IT, a company in Berlin.  The TNPs ACO*HUM and SCS would channel their dissemination outcomes for presentation on the JEWELS site.  The alliance was led by the TNP coordinators Garrit Bloothooft (SCS) and Koenraad de Smedt (ACO*HUM).

A first joint working meeting of the Language and Speech Alliance was held in Prague, Czech Republic, on March 17-19, 2000.  The 55 participants at this meeting took concrete steps toward the development of content for the dissemination outcomes related to language and speech.  Five 'horizontal', multidisciplinary working groups were created, with participants from both TNPs and wide coverage of European countries, including the new Central and Eastern European countries, thus assuring input from various educational, social and cultural settings and thereby strengthening the European dimension.  The working groups were to deal with (1) INTERNAL STRUCTURE AND NAVIGATION, (2) KNOWLEDGE BASE OF INSTITUTIONS AND COURSES, (3) KNOWLEDGE BASE OF EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS AND TOOLS, (4) RECOMMENDATIONS & POLICY DOCUMENTS, (5) PROMOTION AND FACILITIES.

In the period after the Prague meeting, the structure and content of the materials was worked out in further detail.  At the same time, contacts were established with VDIVDE-IT who was in charge of implementing the JEWELS website.  After initial technical difficulties, a small meeting with 5 participants, including representatives from VDIVDE-IT, was held in Berlin on September 1, 2000, in order to clarify remaining details of the implementation.  A large review meeting with 31 participants from the language and speech alliance was held at Northern College in Barnsley (UK) on September 29 - October 1, 2000 to finalize requirements for the dissemination outcomes.  At the end of the TNP project period  for the dissemination phase, the JEWELS website was not yet fully operational, but all outcomes to be published on it were delivered.

ELSNET decided to continue their involvement in the project and to support an extra followup meeting in the spring of 2001 (with 20 k Euro).

Working group on Textual Scholarship and Humanities Computing (with external partners)

During the first months of the project period, initial plans were made by e-mail among the members of the working group.  A first meeting was held in London on April 29-30, 2000.  During this meeting, plans were made more concrete and responsibilities assigned, so that the development of knowledge base could be started, as well as the drafting of guidelines on best practice and a student awareness plan.  This was followed up by workshops at Thessaloniki on May 23-26, 2000, to test the approach.  This event had several sponsors and was attended by in total 50 persons.

At the ALLC Conference in Glasgow on July 21-15, 2000, crucial commitment was obtained from the ALLC to further support the objectives of the project as a long-term commitment.  The ALLC is willing to have a formal role in future projects, if may be agreed by the European Commission.  The ALLC web site will be used for publishing and maintaining the project's outcomes and additional information relevant to courses, teachers and learners.  There will also be support the HUMBUL site maintained at Oxford. Furthermore, there will be continuing ALLC involvement in policy formulation and presentation, a workshop programme to target teaching as well as research, and support for further information gathering in relation to courses.

Finally, a review meeting was held in Sheffield on September 13-14, 2000 and results were finalized.


General dissemination actions included invited participation at a humanities computing seminar in Dublin (Ireland) on March 10-11, 2000 and at a major IT conference at San Juan (Puerto Rico) on August 8-10, 2000.

A Steering Committee meeting to review the outcomes of the project was held in Brugge (Belgium) on October 13, 2000.

A qualitative description of the outcomes of the project

The dissemination outcomes consisted mainly of the conversion of earlier achieved theoretical results into practical ones, targeted at new audiences.  The set of analyses and proposals developed in earlier phases of the project has now been converted into concrete guidelines for best practice and a knowledge base for on-line reference.  Earlier recommendations have been reformulated in a multidimensional way, in terms of subject area, class, and target; some particular recommendations have been cast into a proposal on student awareness and information on training and retraining.  Finally, the continuity of this dissemination and of the project as a whole has been assured.

We now describe in more detail the following concrete components which are outcomes of the dissemination phase.  All these components are available on the Web.  Please click on relevant items below (in the hypertext version of this page) to access the various components of the products directly.

Knowledge base

In order to provide more structured information on studies and IT-tools, a knowledge base was constructed, containing joint materials collected by ACO*HUM and SCS.  The knowledge base contains the following components:


For this part of the knowledge base, a specification has been made and initial database items have been collected.  The initial database is in the process of being transferred from the ACO*HUM site to the JEWELS site where it will be extended and maintained over a longer period of time under the responsibility of ELSNET.  The ACO*HUM and SCS outcomes related to this database are the following:


For this part of the knowledge base, a specification has been made and initial database items have been collected.  The initial database is transferred to the JEWELS site, where it is already operational.  The ACO*HUM and SCS outcomes related to this database are the following:


This part of the knowledge base consists of a directory of institutions and courses in textual scholarship and humanities computing, which has been compiled by the Working group on Textual Scholarship and Humanities Computing and is being transfered to the HUMBUL Humanities Hub, where it will be further implemented in terms of search and browse possibilities and will be maintained over time.

Joint recommendations

Recommendations on Language and Speech were compiled by ACO*HUM and SCS from earlier project outcomes.  These recommendations, aimed at enhancing education in Language & Speech in Europe in the future, were significantly enhanced by regrouping and reformulating them in new ways, according to subject, class and target group.  They can be accessed under the following specific headings.

Guidelines on best practice

In the field of Textual Scholarship and Humanities Computing, concrete guidelines on best practice have been compiled, based on results from previous years.  This outcomes gives confidence to departments and institutions that are interested in implementing humanities courses with computing components, but that are not certain how best to proceed. The added value here is in the conversion of a theoretical publication into a practical guide.  This outcome has been made available on the web.  The following items are provided:

Training and retraining

Information is given on training and retraining opportunities in the field of textual scholarship and humanities computing.  The following information pages have been made:

Student awareness

The project has in earlier stages not been targeted directly at students.  Nevertheless, elements of good practice aimed at the increased involvement of the student population had been identified.  Students are urgently in need of information about ways to integrate computing in their humanities studies.  The following is a plan for raising student awareness in the fields of language and speech.


Continuity of the present project results in the short and medium term has been secured through cooperation with external partners.  The project has received commitments toward maintenance of the dissemination results as well as follow-up with respect to the general goals and objectives of the project. Furthermore, continuity within the SOCRATES/ERASMUS TNP action has been sought through stimulating the submission of proposals for new TNPs.  Two pre-proposals have been submitted by November 1, 2000, one by an ACO*HUM partner in the field of Humanities computing and one by a SCS partner in the field of Language and speech.


ACO*HUM reports, meeting notes and other materials are available from the ACO*HUM website.

We cannot guarantee the continued availability of materials referred to in external websites.

ALLC (Association for Linguistic and Literary Computing):
EACL (European Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics):
ELSNET (European network of excellence in language and speech):
HUMBUL Humanities Hub:
ISCA (International Speech Communication Association):
JEWELS (Joint European Website on Education in Language and Speech):
SCS (Speech Communication Sciences TNP):