Shaping the future
With modern technology, everybody can share a personal story.
Digital humanities are where tech meets people. As a digital sociologist, you could look at how people interact while out playing Pokémon Go. A digital philosopher might explore the ethics of trolling on Twitter while a digital historian could explore which people we think are important enough for a Wikipedia page.
One pathway into a digital humanities career is through a Bachelor of Arts degree with a Digital Humanities minor at the University of Canterbury (UC) in Christchurch, where digital tools are used to collect and understand our stories, so we can preserve, adapt and protect cultures and lives – even in times of disaster.
Under Professor Paul Millar, the UC team is collecting and studying personal accounts of the devastating 2010 and 2011 earthquakes in Christchurch, to better understand how we deal with natural disasters.
CEISMIC is an online library containing more than 300,000 digital media items produced in response to the earthquakes. “Out of an appalling disaster, we’ve created a digital cultural heritage archive that collects images, stories and media about the earthquakes for the purposes of teaching, research and commemoration,” Paul says. Some of these stories have been collected using a shipping container fitted out as a recording studio. Called QuakeBox, the studio is used to record high-definition video from people in the most damaged parts of the city.
“The 750 stories collected so far have been used by the New Zealand Institute of Language, Brain and Behaviour to analyse voice and gesture as people talk about disasters and trauma,” Paul says.
“I’m pretty lucky,” says Rosalee Jenkin, a UC graduate and digital content analyst with CEISMIC.
“I get to immerse myself in all the interesting research and projects that have come out of post-earthquake Christchurch as we collect and archive them.”
Another project – the Kōmako database edited by Dr Bridget Underhill – focuses on digitising a bibliography of writing by Māori.
“Open access is a key principle of the project,” says Dr Chris Thomson, a Digital Humanities researcher at UC.
He says Kōmako records Māori literature in English from the mid-19th century to today, and lets researchers measure and analyse various features, add notes, and create easy ways to search through the library. The project is supported by the contemporary Māori writers’ group Te Hā.
– Mike McRae