The Arts and Humanities in a Digital Age: Disruptions and Continuities

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  • The Arts and Humanities in a Digital Age: Disruptions and


    Andrew Prescott, University of Glasgow Transforming Digital Methods, University of Exeter

    Winter School, 11 and 12 December 2014

  • The Gutenberg Bible led to religious reformation while the Web appears to be leading towards

    social and economic reformation. But the Digital Industrial revolution, because of the issues and

    phenomena surrounding the Web and its interactions with society, is occurring at lightning

    speed with profound impacts on society, the economy, politics, and more.

    Michael Brodie, Verizon

  • Sidney Pollard on the Industrial Revolution in Sheffield and Birmingham

    a visitor to the metalworking areas of Birmingham or Sheffield in the mid nineteenth-century would have found little to distinguish them superficially from the same industries a hundred years earlier. The men worked as independent sub-contractors in their own or rented workshops using their own or hired equipment These industries .. were still waiting for their Industrial Revolution

  • William Holt Yates Titcomb, The Wealth of England, the Bessemer Process of Making Steel (1895)

    Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust

  • Model of Newcomen Steam Engine at the

    University of Glasgow repaired by James Watt

    in 1765

  • I believe that the most useful and novel inventions and improvements of the present day are mere progressive steps in a highly wrought and highly advanced system, suggested by, and dependent on, other previous steps, their whole value and the means of their application probably dependent on the success of some or many other inventions, some old, some new In most cases they result from a demand which circumstances happen to create. Most good things are being thought of by many persons at the same time.

    Isambard Kingdom Brunel

  • Steve Jobs as the heir of James Watt: New Yorker, November 14, 2011

  • Digital transformations refers to (and misinterprets) the disruptive models of Christensen

    The process of innovation is frequently a continuum of incremental development (Steve Jobs as tinkerer): particularly true in arts and humanities

    Is there a continuity with the industrial age? Did anything special happen in the 1990s or is it

    simply a further expression of a process reaching back to the beginnings of industrialisation?

    What does this tell us about further lines of development?

    Questioning rhetorics of transformation and innovation

  • Wordsworth, The Ruined Cottage, 1798 - Rural poverty and hunger - Effect of French Wars - Leading characters in poem engage in repetitive, alienated and meaningless tasks in an almost machine-like fashion - The poem is haunted by almost spectral figures elegy for a lost countryside

  • The Old Cumberland Beggar But deem not this Man useless.--Statesmen! ye Who are so restless in your wisdom, ye Who have a broom still ready in your hands To rid the world of nuisances; ye proud, Heart-swoln, while in your pride ye contemplate Your talents, power, or wisdom, deem him not A burthen of the earth! 'Tis Nature's law That none, the meanest of created things, Or forms created the most vile and brute, The dullest or most noxious, should exist Divorced from good

  • The Excursion, 1814

    Meanwhile, at social Industry's commandHow quick, how vast an increase. From the germOf some poor hamlet, rapidly producedHere a huge town, continuous and compactHiding the face of earth for leagues - and there,Where not a habitation stood before, Abodes of men irregularly massedLike trees in forests, - spread through spacious tracts.O'er which the smoke of unremitting firesHangs permanent, and plentiful as wreathsOf vapour glittering in the morning sun.

  • Coleridge: We are daily advancing to the state in which there are

    but two classes of men, masters and abject dependents. Calls for a general revolution in the modes of developing

    and disciplining the human mind by the substitution of life and intelligence for the philosophy of mechanism which, in everything that is most worth of the human intellect, strikes Death.

    Seeks studies promoting the harmonious development of those qualities and faculties which characterise our humanity

  • Matthew Arnold, Literature and Science, 1882

    The great majority of mankind... would do well, I cannot but think, to choose to be educated in humane letters rather than in the natural sciences. Letters will call out their being at more points, will make them live more.

  • Proceedings of the Old Bailey:

  • A Thousand Words: Advanced Visualisations for the Humanities

  • There is no single answerTrue digital transformations will involve: Risky short-term experimentation and supporting sustainability Mash-ups made in bedrooms and experiments with synchotrons Digital art works and huge quantitative visualisations A critical and theoretical debate and building new things Data flows and new perspectives on materiality Technology and people

  • Imaging of the Beowulf manuscript using fibre optic backlighting to reveal letters and words concealed by nineteenth-century conservation work

  • Virtual Pauls Cross Project: digital re-creation of John Donnes Gunpowder Day Sermon, 1622:



  • The political and literary papers of Gladstone preserved in the British Library comprise 762 volumes containing approx. 160,000 documents.

  • George W. Bush Presidential Library: 200 million e-mails

    4 million photographs

  • Michael Takeo Magruder, insurance.aes256

  • Fabio Lattanzi Antinori The Obelisk, 2012


  • Paper keyboard, printed using conductive ink



  • Slide from Nicole Coleman and Erica Savig, Common Design Strategies for Exploring Intellectual Geographies in History and Cell

    Motility in Biology

    Component and Behavior for Protein 1

    Component and Behavior for Protein 2

    Component and Behavior for Protein 3

    Parametric Modeling Quantitatively Maps Single Cell Protein Levels to Individual Qualitative Components


    Nottingham Tape Club