RGCL Anniversary Highlights, Day 16

Published on Aug, 29 2022 by RGCL.

The Responsible Digital Humanities Lab

Digital Humanities is on the rise. It’s a rapidly-growing interdisciplinary field that is revolutionising research methods in the Humanities, offering new opportunities for multidisciplinary collaboration, internationally excellent research, and pedagogical practice. Several major universities across the UK have already created Digital Humanities (DH) centres, but these typically lack the Natural Language Processing (NLP) and other specialist expertise of RGCL. Given the rapid expansion of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology and, with it, a range of potential ethical considerations, we saw an urgent need to responsibly bring the Humanities into AI, rather than simply bringing digital technology to the Humanities.

In 2021, RGCL, in collaboration with the Statistical Cybermetrics and Research Evaluation Group (SCRG) and the Centre for Sikh and Panjabi Studies, submitted a proposal for a new Digital Humanities lab at the University of Wolverhampton, positioned to be a regional, national, and international leader in the strategic topic of DH. As a result, the University awarded more than £1m of RIF4 funding to RIILP to establish the Responsible Digital Humanities Lab (RIGHT).

RIGHT Lab website

In the short time that RIGHT has been established, it already has several multidisciplinary collaborations and project proposals either completed, ongoing or in preparation:

  • We have been working with Dr Spencer Jones from History to develop datasets that will help train machine learning models to extract biographical information. Our initial results are already published in SIGIR (CORE A* in information extraction).
  • We have been working with Prof Laura Ugolini from History to build a list of novelists from 19th century to be used for authorship attribution.  
  • We have been also working with Dr Lézelle Jacobs from the Law School on insolvency legislation. Dr Jacobs already provided the sources, for example court cases on insolvency legislation, and these court cases will be used to develop a dataset and machine learning model to automatically detect any ethical misconduct of insolvency practitioners.   
  • We continue to work with Prof Dieter Steinert to establish how NLP techniques can be used to help historians to uncover more insights from Holocaust survivors’ testimonies has produced several outcomes: meetings and discussions with the Shoah Foundation at the University of South California, Los Angeles and the Wiener library in London to gain access to their data, and to establish further collaborations have been conducted; and available data and historiographical research questions are being analysed and discussed. 
  • We have begun a collaboration with Dr Opinderjit Takhar of the Centre for Sikh and Panjabi Studies and Dr Kathryn Spicksley of the Institute for Community Research and Development on an innovative Digital Humanities project that would seek to engage the local Panjabi community around issues of medical practitioner communication in Wolverhampton GP surgeries. 
  • We have been in discussion with the CEO of the Light House Media Centre in Wolverhampton to discuss three separate project proposals that could bring lifeline funding to both Light House and the RIGHT Lab: (i) a Digital Literacy project around accessibility and digital training for specific community groups in Wolverhampton; (ii) a Digital Humanities project that would utilize the facilities and audiences at LHMC to monitor viewer responses to films using wearable technology; (iii) the creation of a digital archive for historical LHMC events with the use of AI and image/text retrieval.  
  • Together with Dr Fran Pheasant-Kelly in Film Studies, we submitted a Digital Humanities project proposal which sought to apply NLP and Digital Humanities tools to an innovative archiving task for rare physical data on the life of writer Andrea Newman. We also, separately, continue to collaborate with Dr Pheasant-Kelly on a corpus linguistic analysis of HIV and AIDS discourses in the British press. 
  • We are collaborating with Dr Wajdi Zaghouani in College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Hamad Bin Khalifa University, Qatar on building a question and answering system on Qur’an. The paper published on the initial results won the best paper award in the 5th Workshop on open-Source Arabic corpora and processing tools (OSACT). We are in discussion to expand this research to other low-resource settings which would benefit many domains. 

As well as multiple ongoing and proposed fruitful collaborations, RIGHT members have also been working steadily on developing a business case for a new and much-needed Master’s programme in Computational and Digital Humanities.

The RIGHT lab is perfectly placed to deliver impactful, multidisciplinary and societally relevant initiatives that not only generate long-term funding but also enhance the reputation and standing of the University. RGCL and RIILP are proud to help make this happen!


University of Wolverhampton
Wulfruna Street
Wolverhampton, WV1 1LY
United Kingdom