Data in arts, performances and digital humanities – conference roundup

The season of data conferences started and I had the privilege to attend and participate in a workshop at the 21st International Conference on Digital Research in the Humanities and Arts (DRHA), which was hosted by the Arts Institute at the University of Plymouth between 10 and 13 September.

Data in arts and dance performance

The agenda was packed with a variety of sessions – from keynote speakers, to performances and panel discussions. Eirini Nedelkopoulou from York St John University talked about one of the most serious subjects in our current economy – our attention span and how technology is decreasing it. She demonstrated how artists can enable stretching the attention of the audience via device-enabled performances. Hetty Blades talked about sharing dance data, and how the communities of contemporary dancers are quite relaxed about copying movements, as long as these are attributed and entire sequences are not plagiarised. Karen Wood and her team at Coventry University in partnership with other institutions around Europe developed a set of tools that record, search, annotate, visualise, and blend dance movements. The most interesting point they made in relation to the tools they developed, is that the artists start thinking about how they can use these tools to impact their output, rather than just record and preserve.

Keynotes on public data infrastructures and web archiving

I attended two keynotes – Tim Davies on participatory infrastructure, and Jane Winters on negotiating the archives of the UK web space. And I took away three lessons: 1) good public data infrastructure can be centralised, but would have the ability to be responsive around the edges 2) public participation is not about providing your geolocation data, for example; public participation should happen at use, design and creation 3) it is technically difficult to search through web archives, and trust the results you get (because of the gaps in saving copies: you may be presented with a collage of web page parts that may not have existed).

Research data shared service in music and creative arts

Together with Carlos Silva from UCA, Emma Hewett and Terry Clark (research data champion) from RCM, we ran a workshop on managing the research data behind creative masterpieces. Carlos brought with him a few curious objects to prompt the attendees to think about their use and management/preservation needs. He then talked about their experience at UCA with setting up preservation and data management services. Emma summarised their experience as a research data shared service pilot, showing a few videos from the 1980s that her team found under the theatre. These short clips had been digitised from defunct formats such as U-Matic  and LoBand. Terry outlined how data from the RCM’s Performance Simulator, Asimut room booking system and Canvas student portal had the potential to be used for both research and pedagogy.