Performers from the play Miasma

Insight Excellence: Data meets art in Insight’s Cultural Analytics programme

Submitted on Monday, 15/05/2023

Cultural Analytics is a cross-centre research initiative that brings together data analytics and machine learning experts with researchers drawn from across the humanities and social sciences. The goal is to mobilise a national interdisciplinary network of researchers that can address important cultural analytics research questions in a way that would be impossible otherwise. The central pillar of this is Prof. Gerardine Meaney’s VICTEUR European Research Council (ERC) project. The Curatr tool, a technology platform for analyzing historical library content, is now being used by the archivists of the British Library Digital Collection, providing new access to manual corrections and annotations (52,695 books), data with direct links to Ark book viewer (64,831 books), metadata for a selection of British Library 19th century monographs (1,752,078 books). Building around VICTEUR, we have initiated a portfolio of projects that show the benefits of bringing state of the art machine learning and AI to both historical and contemporary cultural archives. Computer vision-based handwriting analysis is being applied to make the Rosamond Jacob diaries digital collection more accessible to scholars and the public alike. Novel audio-based machine learning techniques are being developed to improve the accessibility and quality of experience for audio archives – for example the NASA Apollo mission archives (Ragano et al, 2022). Natural Language Processing research focused on development of chatbots for the domain of 18th and 19th century industrial heritage (Arcan et al, 2022), and also the detection of offensive content in contemporary social media (Suryawanshi et al, 2023).

Cultural analytics work has led to a methodologically innovative collaborative project with Medical Humanities on alcohol and culture (funded by the Wellcome Trust) and a new industry project with Xperi Corp. The programme has resulted in a proposal for a new MSCA Doctoral Network and Insight’s coordination of a RIA proposal to HORIZON-CL2-2023-HERITAGE.

This initiative was the basis for one of Insight’s Flagship EPE initiatives in 2022 – “Miasma”, (pictured above) an interdisciplinary project that used drama and debate to provide a historical and contemporary perspective on the scientific conflict surrounding cholera in the 1850s, and how this is related to the Covid-19 pandemic and the scientific discovery method in general.

Investigators: Gerardine Meany (UCD), Derek Greene (UCD), Andrew Hines (UCD), Alan Smeaton (DCU), Paul Buitelaar (UG), Suzanne Little (DCU)