The Nordic Digital Humanities Laboratory

Nordic Digital Humanities Laboratory (NDHL) is an pan-Nordic infrastructure and research collaboration between research groups, data and infrastructure providers that work to advance the use of data-intensive methods and interactive High Performance Computing in Humanities and Arts. As a pre-study under NeIC’s funding program, NDHL is developing and testing multiple solutions for shared access to interactive computing resources and cultural heritage data that are otherwise siloed behind restrictive (often national) terms-of-use. What may seem surprising, is that bulk access to legacy and social media data is often more complicated than access to patient journals. This may seem particularly counter-intuitive because media data are readily available through most web-browsers and public libraries.

Infrastructure Design, Resource Sharing and Community Building

Over the last decade, the applications of data-intensive methods and machine learning to cultural heritage data have skyrocketed in the Nordics. Researchers in humanities and social sciences apply data analytics and deep learning to newspapers, social media content and museum collections. In terms of access to data and infrastructure, these research areas leave some to be desired. Across the Nordics, several national initiatives to solve this challenge are ongoing, but Nordic coordination and collaboration are limited to communication at conferences and bi-lateral agreements between research groups. NDHL will improve this, by creating an collegial and inclusive environment for joined infrastructure design (analysis of requirements, development of technical specifications and design), sharing of compute and data resources (collaboration agreements, work and operation documentation for data and joined software stack), and building a pan-Nordic community between researchers and infrastructure and data providers.

Collaborative Workshops and Hackathons

NDHL uses collaborative workshops (i.e., workshops defined by a shared goal) and hackathons (i.e., short events in which partners collaborate on software projects) to reach its goals. The first workshop (W1) Planning a shared stack and data repository took place at Humanisten, Gothenburg University SE. Core partners and stakeholders from Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden met in order to identify and describe national solutions and challenges, and outline a software and application layer for modeling and analysis of cultural heritage data across the Nordics. As an outcome of W1, a couple of the partners ran a data sprint during that NeIC’s All-Hands Meeting 2020 to kick-start development of tools for automatic metadata generation and change detection in national library collections. NDHL’s second workshop was supposed to be co-located with Digital Humanities in the Nordic Countries 2020, which unfortunately coincided with major COVID-19 lockdowns in the Nordics.

Pandemic Response

During the pandemic, we have been coping with project delays and university lock-downs by turning our normal mode of operation (i.e., in person workshops and hack days) into a collaborative use-case that explores modes of sharing access to proprietary news data across the Nordics. The use-case specifically targets national collections of legacy media (i.e. print and electronic news) in order to track differential media responses to the pandemic. Parts of this use-case have already been used in the Danish HOPE project, which monitors socio-cultural behavior during COVID-19 and advises Danish health authorities and decision makers during COVID-19 crisis.

For more information, please contact pre-study leader Kristoffer Nielbo or join NDHL at neic.slack.com.