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The Machine Reading the Archive programme offers support for new and existing digital archives projects through a series of mentoring sessions which we hope will enable researchers to explore new methods and access expert advice on digital project design.

Short descriptions of selected projects in our 2018/19 cohort are below.

Charlotte Barranu

My doctoral work revises the current understanding of medieval multilingualism in England through an analysis of manuscript books produced between the thirteenth and early fifteenth centuries. Across the late middle ages, the world became an increasingly connected place, with people and ideas travelling ever-further distances. It was books that were central to the development and greater distribution of knowledge that characterised this period. As they were written in many different languages in England, I study how different multilingual environments contributed to the networks of knowledge represented in these sources. The project is based on the use of a quantitative methodology, which involves the examination of many individual volumes to identify patterns in certain 'variables', such as date, provenance, language, and content. To date, my collected sample includes 380 manuscripts held at Cambridge University Library, but I continue to expand this corpus systematically. Given both the size of this dataset and its potential utility for other researchers, I am considering how it can be presented formally online, so that other scholars might also benefit from it in the future.

Charlie Barranu is a PhD candidate at the Faculty of English, University of Cambridge. Her work to date has mainly been concerned with the history of the book, and in particular with the influence of books on individual readers and society at large in medieval Europe. Before her doctoral studies, she acquired experience in manuscript librarianship while working at the Parker Library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge and the special collections library of Christ Church, Oxford

Sami Everett

"'Zouj': dynamic Maghribi Muslim-Jewish interaction in the performing arts: 1920s–2020s"

Zouj is a collaborative research project that explores Muslim-Jewish interaction through performance art across North Africa and in Diaspora, from 1920 to 2020, covering music, theatre, film, street art, and stand-up comedy. Our first conference, held at CRASSH in December 2018, brought together a network of scholars and artists working on this theme, who submitted cultural artefacts (ranging from theatre reviews to music clippings) to form an online archive, supplemented by short video clips of the conference participants. Building on this online archive and in conjunction with the Cambridge Digital Library, our second conference in September 2019 is intended to consolidate a fully funded integrated digital-research project. The purpose of this project is to curate an alternative chronology of artistic production that is not tied to a narrative of perpetual conflict. Our main outputs will be an online exhibition-display that can be used in university and museum spaces, alongside a pedagogical toolkit package for schools across the UK, France, and North Africa. We will use a mixture of animated film and digital cartography, containing identifiers of key figures, places and dates, alongside transcription and translation, so as to enable users to navigate the digitised archival material in an engaging and accessible way.

Samuel Sami Everett (who goes by Sami) is a Post-doctoral Research Associate at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH). He holds a PhD in Politics from SOAS, University of London and a BA in North African Language and Culture from INALCO, Paris. His research focuses on the historical-colonial and spatial-political dimensions of interreligious identification to North Africa. Of particular interest to him are the similarities and differences in migratory and post-migratory experience between Jewish and Muslim descendants of North Africa and their present-day sites of encounter. His research practice involves multi-lingual ethnography in complex urban settings (Algiers, Casablanca, Jerusalem, Paris), and tracking how interreligious encounter is mediated through cultural institutions such as museums.

Morten Hansen

University rankings have become ubiquitous in higher education and are a key technology to stratify universities in the knowledge economy. A ranking, however, is not an unquestionable truthteller. It is a human construct that only works in context: it must be explained, framed, and legitimized. This project looks at the articles published in the Times Higher Education magazine by the former Editor of the Times Higher World University Rankings (2008–2018). It allowed me to explore how the ‘ranker’ writes about his ‘ranking.’ The research provides an empirical basis for extending and nuancing contemporary debates on market making and the institutionalisation of new modes of stratification.

Morten is a PhD student at the Faculty of Education where he studies the novel ways in which public and private organisations are changing how and why they deliver services. Morten's research is informed by prior working experience in the US, Germany, Denmark, and Belgium, most recently as a Research Associate at the Saïd Business School in Oxford.

Sarah Rafferty

As part of my wider PhD project, I am drawing upon a recently digitised archival source: the Medical Officer of Health Reports (London’s Pulse Project, Wellcome Trust). These reports not only provide the key demographic data which is central to my research on historical infant mortality decline, but also a vast amount of qualitative data. Medical Officers of Health recorded in detail the diversity of their communities, local public health interventions and their links to national-scale policies, as well as comments on their own personal interests in the field of public health. By analysing this digital source – through the search tool and basic text-mining techniques – a rich contextual setting for London’s infant mortality decline will be created. What were the socio-economic, political and environmental reasons for the decline and its variations? And, overall, are the demographic statistics being supported by the Medical Officers of Health’s narratives?

Sarah Rafferty is a PhD candidate at the Department of Geography and a member of the Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure. Her research is in the field of Historical Demography, focusing on the decline of infant mortality in London, 1870–1929.

Sharon Walker

Through working with Cambridge Digital Humanities, I have been introduced to the Concept Lab tools which study the architectures of conceptual forms. This is of great interest given my research focus on widening participation policy and race inequity in UK higher education. The tools provide the opportunity to mine a corpus of textual data (e.g. policy statements or newspaper articles) to understand how key concepts are circulated by the policy and their relation to other concepts. I am yet to make use of the tools but now feel able to take forward this element of my research.

Sharon Walker is a PhD student at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, under the supervision of Dr. Arathi Sriprakash, and member of Wolfson College. Her doctoral research focuses on issues of race inequality in UK higher education policy. This reflects a broader research interest centred on the analysis of racial phenomena, including the publication of a recent co-authored paper addressing issues of race and racism in international development.

Joe Watson

Existing research has demonstrated that educational media can have a positive impact on learning amongst children in sub-Saharan Africa when this media is delivered in controlled settings. However, the effect of day-to-day viewing in this context is yet to be considered. This is a striking omission, given that examining television viewing in monitored settings provides limited information on the effects of TV as it is commonly consumed. My PhD study therefore examines the effect of normal educational television viewing, focusing on a popular Tanzanian show that delivers mathematics content. The CDH mentorship programme helped me to conduct a structured literature review, which supports this investigation. The use of digital techniques within this review led to the production of graphics showing: keyword trends over time; and, the countries featuring in educational television research (identified by text mining abstracts, titles and keywords).

Joe Watson is a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Education, who examines educational television. Prior to starting his PhD, Joe spent two years working and volunteering for educational technology organisations in Zambia.



Future sessions

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Past sessions

Title Start Date location
Digital research project design for beginners Tuesday, 17 October, 2017 - 14:00 S2, Alison Richard Building
Curating your own digital archive Thursday, 16 November, 2017 - 11:00 S3, Alison Richard Building
Webscraping for beginners Tuesday, 21 November, 2017 - 14:00 B4, Criminology
How to get bulk data from websites Tuesday, 16 January, 2018 - 11:00 S3, Alison Richard Building
Turn your PDFs into searchable text Tuesday, 23 January, 2018 - 14:00
Beyond words (2): challenges in reading historical document collections at scale Tuesday, 6 February, 2018 - 11:30 Raleigh Seminar Room, Maxwell Centre, Cavendish Laboratory
Automatic Text Recognition: an introduction to Transkribus Monday, 26 March, 2018 - 14:00 S2, Alison Richard Building
Automatic Text Recognition: Diving into the background Tuesday, 27 March, 2018 - 11:00 S1, Alison Richard Building
Text-mining the archive 1 Tuesday, 24 April, 2018 - 11:00 S2, Alison Richard Building
Text-mining the archive 2 Tuesday, 1 May, 2018 - 11:00 S2, Alison Richard Building

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