Digital humanities research

At The University of Manchester digital humanities research is conducted across the five Schools of the Faculty of Humanities.

Digital technologies are central to all stages of the researcher lifecycle, and thus we have a strategic focus on supporting primary research using computational methods and tools, digital outputs, and digital dissemination.

We have an extensive community of people researching in and teaching digital humanities methodologies and approaches from every faculty in the university.

key research clusters

Spatial Humanities

The spatial humanities put place and space at the heart of humanities research. In the spatial humanities, geography is not only a background circumstance: it is central to our understanding of the human record past and present. By translating historic text and data into geographical visualisations, and aligning these with cartographic expertise, the spatial humanities transform how we read and respond to the real and imagined geographies. Combining an unparalleled ability to digitally create, explore, and compare geospatial data with the critical, experimental, and design-oriented ethos of the digital humanities, the spatial humanities allow us to work with data and evidence “that we cannot narrate without losing our audience” (Richard White).This cross-disciplinary research cluster at Manchester is innovating with ways of interrogating data to address topics including ecological catastrophe, human mobility, and climate change.

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Digital text analysis and Distant Reading

Digital technologies have transformed the ways that we use and interpret language, both in writing and speaking. They also have revolutionised how texts are edited, for instance: no longer limited by the edges of a page, today’s textual scholars can create rich and multifaceted documents that both open the text up for new readers, and that guide us towards hitherto concealed modes of interpretation. Digital humanities methodologies that combine human with computational linguistic interpretation have revolutionised the ways in which we approach language - written and verbal - and researchers at Manchester have played a central role in these developments. This includes, for example, the study of literature, history, or how languages change over time using computational methods that allow the scholar to do a distant reading of texts, thus using the computer to extract information from thousands of texts.  

The University of Manchester’s extensive Special Collections is at the heart of this cluster, as researchers collaborate on new ways of bringing these previously overlooked documents to life for new audiences.

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Digital Materiality

How can we meaningfully translate material objects into digital artefacts? What new modes of investigation does this kind of translation enable? To what extent can a digital image act in place of a real thing? And how can we (re)interpret the ways these artefacts are used and understood by readers, museum visitors, and cultural institutions? These questions are at the heart of digital humanities approaches to special collections, heritage and museum studies, with implications for how human records are preserved across our disciplines. Researchers at Manchester have pioneered the use of new technologies to safeguard and interrogate material objects with both local and international significance.

Manchester researchers are working with the collections in many different ways, using our new Manchester Digital Collections platform to curate and edit new digitized editions of historic books and manuscripts, undertaking microscopic and biomedical analyses of heritage objects, using multispectral imaging to reconstruct documents and reveal long-hidden features, and using computer vision tools to explore the evolving page design of early printed books.   

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Digital Media and Data Ethics

Digital media are ubiquitous to modern life, and understanding how they operate, how individuals support them - and how they collect, use, and monetise their data -  is one of the key challenges of our time. What, for instance, are the implications of our collective habits of listening to music online? How are social media affecting political discourse and the spread of false information, and what can we do to redress the issue? What are the risks of companies knowing more about consumers than the consumers themselves? Should governments have access to that data? Individuals in this research cluster are united by interests in discovering how the study of digital media and data ethics can help us tackle some of the largest challenges of our time.

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