Map data and developing a critical gaze
I was pleased to talk with Prof Leif Isaksen, Professor in Digital Humanities at the University of Exeter, about computational approaches to research and some of the potential impacts of AI on Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (HASS). The research talk podcast forms part of a miniseries called Is AI for Me?
Our conversation ranged widely covering historical map research, the emergence of new tools for large multidimensional map datasets and the development of map research at scale. Leif spoke about the importance of bringing a critical gaze in order to look at maps in new ways to identify their potential biases. We went on to consider AI technologies, such as neural networks. Finally, we touched on interdisciplinary working and the impact of AI on learning, teaching and research.
The importance of developing critical data skills
One thing I did pick up on at the end of the discussion was the notion that Jisc could do some things in the UK to help increase familiarity with computational methods for research. The thing that stood out to me was the idea of creating a baseline curriculum for the digitally curious (those who want to know about these technologies but may not yet know). Critical skills seem absolutely vital to be able to make informed choices about the tools we use, now that we have become more aware of AI and as these technologies become embedded in day to day working.
The idea would not be for Jisc to create a curriculum but to support those who want to create one and documenting it. So, I ask the readers, what might that look like?
During the conversation, Leif touched on a current project at the University of Exeter to support digital skills for HASS. Activities are taking place as part of the AHRC funded Idah programme. The idea is to boost skills for arts and humanities practitioners. This vital work forms one strand of the wider AHRC programme to improve infrastructure for arts and humanities research.
During the course of my own research, I have found that digital skills is one of the key concerns when it comes to librarians and archivists making their collections available as data. They are also vital to librarians engaging with Digital Humanities, with faculty and libraries being prepared to engage with the issues presented by AI.
The intersection of Research Software Engineering and libraries and archives
Just before the summer holidays I attended the launch event for the UK & Ireland Digital Humanities Association (29-30 June). Digital skills formed a strong underlying theme throughout the informative two-day event. I joined an open meeting of the association’s community interest group (CIC) for research software engineers. RSEs are pivotal to the development of skills. Beyond their core work in undertaking software projects, they can share their deep knowledge of the technologies with librarians, archivists and the digitally curious. As Research Technology Professionals, they could perhaps become embedded in libraries and archives to form bridges between faculty and collections. They could also help with skills development within the library or archive. In this way libraries and archives could develop more services to support the digitally curious, researchers and the wider faculty.
You can listen to lots of podcasts about technologies and education on Jisc’s podcast page. Our Center for AI in Tertiary Education has also recently released a useful report on Student perceptions of generative AI.
This post forms part of a series on Artificial Intelligence (link to all AI posts) and the things we can do to be more aware of its underlying technologies.