Helsinki Digital Humanities Hackathon #DHH18 brought together students and researchers of humanities, social sciences and computer science. Digital humanities, as understood here, is about applying modern data processing to solve research questions in the humanities and social sciences. At its best, such close collaboration offers unique benefits for both fields: scholars in the humanities are able to tackle questions too labour-intensive for manual study, while computer scientists encounter new and challenging use cases for the tools and algorithms they develop.
The participants of #DHH18 worked in small groups for one week, formulating research questions with respect to particular data sets, applying and developing methods and tools, and giving public presentations in the end. A number of themes were suggested by the organisers as a starting point:
- People in the News. The National Library of Finland’s Newspaper corpus contains nearly all newspapers and periodicals published in Finland from 1771 to 1919. Computational tools are applicable to interesting questions regarding the people who appeared in the news and the way they were presented.
- Russia <=> Finland. Large fulltext corpora of contemporary media can be used for analysing how Russia is and has been portrayed in Finnish newspapers and Finland in Russian ones.
- Early Modern Publishing. The proposed objective was to analyse computationally changes in publication practices, genres, and roles of publishers, using large databases of English literature in the early modern period.
- The Death Psalm of Bishop Henry. Computational tools can be used for addressing some of the methodological challenges involved in studying orally transmitted literature. The Death Psalm of Bishop Henry is the oldest and most prominent Finnish example of a story that written down only centuries after the incident.
- Helsinki in Geotagged Social Media. Social media data can provide valuable clues about cities and what their inhabitants do, where, when and why. Large volumes of geotagged Twitter, Instagram and Flickr posts from Helsinki are available, and working with such data entails many interesting challenges.
#DHH18 was the fourth hackathon in the series, following #DHH15, #DHH16 and #DHH17. Digital humanities is an inherently multidisciplinary field, and the participants gain valuable experience of working in multidisciplinary research projects. The hackathons also broaden the participants’ understanding of digital humanities, and what is possible to achieve with such collaboration.
For participant reflections on #DHH18, see for example David Rosson’s and Markku Roinila’s blogs.