Text by Linda Brandt
The international summer university for digital humanities, which has already been running for 9 years, was held at the University of Leipzig from 17.07.-27.07.2018. It was organised by a team lead by Elisabeth Burr, Professor for French, francophone and Italian linguistics. Every year students, postdocs, PhD students and professors meet there for 11 days to attend DH-related seminars, lectures and excursions, as well as to gain an insight into the history of the city of Leipzig. This year the event was attended by more than 100 participants from over 30 countries, who were able to learn and gain experience together in the framework of the ESU.
This was the second time that I participated in the event, so it was also a nice reunion with many familiar faces. Many of the other guests had already been in Leipzig multiple times, which in itself speaks for the Summer School and its organisers. The academic program was designed with great variety. There were presentations from participants about their own projects, for example from Simon Gabay from the University of Neuchâtel about “A catalogue of 17th century French autograph manuscripts” and from Giovanni Pietro Vitali from the Université de Poitiers in France about “Rethinking Rome as an Anthology: The Poeti der Trullo's Street Poetry”. On top of this there were many lectures from different professors on offer, such as Gimena del Rio Riande from the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina, who spoke about “Digital Humanities and Humanidades Digitales” in South America. Another professor was Ray Siemens, Professor for “Humanities Computing” at the Victoria University in Canada, who lectured about “Open Social Scholarship, in Real Terms”. As such there were many international and renowned academics present, who were able to present us with diverse insights into their digital humanities research.
Coding with Python
This year I attended the workshop “Word Vectors and Corpus Text Mining with Python”, which was taught by the PhD candidate Eun Soe Jo (https://history.stanford.edu/people/eun-seo-jo) from the Department of History from the University of Standford in the USA. Eun Soe was always a helpful and refreshing instructor, who not only was able to teach a lot about Python, Text Mining, Word Vectors and Machine Learning, but at the same time also related much about her work and life in the USA. Like in most of the courses at the Summer University, practical work was at the forefront, so that in a very “hands-on” way we were always able to test out and program a lot ourselves. Furthermore, the course not only gave us a detailed and practical overview of computer-aided text mining, but additionally enabled us, with the basics of natural speech processing and word vectorisation, to obtain the latest trends at the point where computational linguistics and humanities applications meet. In addition, we always critically analysed and evaluated the results in groups and we were able to work on our own corpora. As the name of the course suggests, above all learning and understanding word vectors and other neural networks was at the forefront. Moreover Eun Soe Jo was able to give us diverse insights into the latest trends of digital humanities research, and we discussed the effects of these on the study of traditional humanities.
Although the seminars and lectures were at the forefront of the Summer School, it was also the many coffee-breaks, canteen meals and excursions that were done together, which all made the time in Leipzig so special and vibrant. Rarely do students such as myself have the opportunity to meet so many people from different countries and universities, and to learn more about their life and their research in these places. The Summer University not only gave us the opportunity to broaden our academical horizons and learn more about digital humanities, but also to explore the city itself. As such we visited, for instance, the Leipzig Spinning Mill, the Art Power Plant, the Mining and Technology Park and the Museum of the Printing Arts, to name just a few of the highlights. I recommend the Summer School not only for beginners in the area of digital humanities, but also for advanced learners and for interested people who are ready to embrace these newer methods. The summer university and its program offer the perfect frame to discover the city Leipzig, and to speak with many people from different cultures.
(Since 2018 Master student of “Sprache and Kommunikation” at the University of Basel, Switzerland)