Joint IRC-AHRC conference in Belfast reflects on growth of strong UK-Ireland collaboration in digital humanities

Posted: 11 March, 2024

Delegates at the Belfast conference

Conference delegates pictured at the Gasworks Hotel, Belfast.

Building on the relationships already fostered through collective collaboration and complementary strengths in the Digital Humanities between centres of excellence in the UK and Ireland, the Irish Research Council (IRC) in collaboration with funding partners the Arts and Humanities Research Council of the UK (AHRC) organised a one-day conference in Belfast on 27 February for all research project partners.

Since 2020, the Arts and Humanities Research Council of the UK (AHRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and the Irish Research Council (IRC) have been collaborating on a joint funding programme that aims to deliver a transformational impact on Digital Humanities research in the UK and Ireland. North-South and East-West collaboration is central to the programme, with the programme fostering new partnerships between UK and Irish academics with each other, with the creative industries sector and the cultural heritage sector.De

The main aim of the conference was to highlight the excellent research conducted over the lifetime of the programme and to provide the delegates with the opportunity to share their research experiences and knowledge among the Digital Humanities community.

Tackling online hate in football, understanding digital feminism, and mapping the history of typhoid in Dublin are just some of the research projects that were funded by the IRC and the AHRC, as part of the partnership.

The conference brought together key stakeholders in Digital Humanities such as the Digital Repository of Ireland (DRI), the UK-EI Digital Humanities Association and the British Council.

Professor Christopher Smith, the Executive Chair of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and Peter Brown, IRC Director, opened the conference with a welcome note to all delegates. The three sessions were based on thematic discussion points and each session was chaired by Dr Melissa Lennartz-Walker (AHRC) and Dr Lisa Griffith (DRI) ‘Digital Humanities, Emerging Technologies and Research Practices’, Professor Christopher Smith (AHRC) and Dr Gráinne Walshe (IRC) ‘Digital Humanities, Cultural Heritage and Creative Industries’ and Professor Jane Winters (University of London) and Professor Jennifer Edmond (TCD) ‘Digital Humanities and Engagement with Societies’.

IRC Director Peter Brown pictured opening the Belfast conference

Peter Brown, IRC Director, making some opening remarks alongside Professor Christopher Smith, Executive Chair of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Professor Jane Winters and Professor Jennifer Edmond also presented on the UK-Ireland Digital Humanities Association, which was formed as a result of funding through the Networking stage of this programme. This is a very important outcome of the AHRC-IRC collaboration and will help to ensure that the Digital Humanities community that has built up over the 4 years of the partnership will grow and thrive.


Presenters at the Belfast conference

Dr Melissa Lennartz-Walker (AHRC) and Dr Lisa Griffith (Digital Repository of Ireland) pictured chairing session one ‘Digital Humanities, Emerging Technologies and Research Practices’.

The conference concluded with closing remarks from Professor Christopher Smith (AHRC) and Peter Brown (IRC). They applauded the fantastic work of the researchers funded under the programme, and highlighted the importance of this bilateral funding programme to build lasting durable research partnerships both North-South and East-West across Ireland and the UK. The two agencies look forward to engaging on ways in which the vibrant UK-Ireland collaborative eco-system for research, across many fields, can be further developed and fostered.


Christopher Smith (AHRC) wrapping up the Belfast conference

Professor Christopher Smith, the Executive Chair of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) pictured making some closing remarks, alongside Peter Brown, IRC Director.

In addition to hosting the Digital Humanities conference, staff from the IRC and AHRC paid a visit to Ulster University’s virtual production facilities and the construction site for Studio Ulster, a large-scale virtual production campus at Belfast Harbour Studios. The site tour was given by Ulster University’s Professor Declan Keeney, co-founder of the Ulster Screen Academy, who were key in developing the funding bid for the AHRC-funded CoSTAR programme. The CoSTAR programme provides researchers, companies and institutions across the UK with the infrastructure they need to conduct world-class research and development in screen and performance technology

Staff from the AHRC and the IRC pictured visiting the construction site for Studio Ulster, a large-scale virtual production campus at Belfast Harbour Studios. Researchers from the University of Ulster were key in developing the funding bid for the AHRC-funded CoSTAR programme

IRC and AHRC staff pictured visiting the construction site for Studio Ulster, a large-scale virtual production campus at Belfast Harbour Studios, led by Ulster University’s Professor Declan Keeney.

Some of the outputs from the projects funded under the AHRC-IRC research grants include:

  • The ‘Ogham in 3D’ website, which captured around 25% of surviving ogham through photographs, 3D models and supporting information. The 3D documentation of c.640 examples of epigraphic ogham, held by the National Museums of Scotland, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Wales, the British Museum and the Manx Museum (Isle of Man), has radically expanded the possibilities for multidisciplinary analyses of these texts.
  • An open-source toolkit, provided by the Full Stack Feminism in Digital Humanities (FSFDH) project, enabling Digital Humanities Communities to follow a structured method to guard against and avoid the automated bias in algorithms and gendered/binary information systems.
  • Open access resources, such as hate dictionaries and machine learning methodologies, to analyse an enormous digital dataset of tweets from the 2022 World Cup, 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, 2021 Copa America, and all European Championships since 2008. Thus, the Tackling Online hate in Football (TOHIF) project contributes towards evidence base for scholarship into online hate in sport whilst mapping out avenues of cultural change.
  • A book which will be published in the Routledge Corpus Linguistics Guides series focusing on better understanding of virtual discourses in workplace settings. The Interactional variation online project drew on people’s experience of online communication through the peak of the pandemic, and on how remote working has altered workplace interaction to ensure that this significant step-change in the history of communications can be recorded in its full dimensionality.
  • The Digital Edgeworth Network which enhanced digital access to the archive of Maria Edgeworth and the Edgeworth family, alongside scholarly analysis of the archive listings and contributions to the tourism and heritage sector. As a result of the project some 4000 pages from the Edgeworth archive at the Bodleian Libraries are now searchable.
  • Digital documentation and visualisation of five discrete archaeological landscapes, dating from the Bronze Age through to the medieval, that give the opportunity to public audiences to transcend both geographical and knowledge-based barriers and discover hidden buildings and monuments which have otherwise very limited access routes. The Communicating Hidden Archaeological Monuments and Heritage Landscapes to Different Audiences through Advanced Digital Technologies network developed an integrating methodology drawing on digital technology, citizen science and artistic mediation to develop and deepen virtual public engagement with hidden heritage.

AHRC IRC Digital Humanities programme summary

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