The 11th European Summer University in Digital Humanities “Culture & Technology” (ESU), organised by the University of Leipzig, was held online on August 3rd – August 13th. After a year of absence due to the pandemic, the organisers were hoping to welcome everyone in person for the 2021 event. However, due to the persistence of the covid restrictions, the ESU 2021 was moved fully online for the first time.
As Elisabeth Burr, convenor of the European Summer University and Professor at the University of Leipzig, and Carol Chiodo, Workshop leader from Harvard University, noted in the welcome page of the event “one of the defining characteristics of the ESU had always been its openness and its support for participants from all over the world. This characteristic needed to prevail especially in a time when COVID-19 exposes the global inequities that colleagues currently face.”
The Summer University followed a similar structure to previous events: 11 intensive days of workshops, lectures and poster sessions, but also community building activities and virtual tours to the Bibliotheca Albertina, to the German National Library, to the Museum of Musical Instruments and to the city of Leipzig, through multiple online platforms. The event was framed by two keynote lectures: the first one, entitled “Reordering Priorities in the Poscovid Age: Human-Centered Technologies and Digital Humanities”, by Nuria Rodríguez reflecting on realistic pathways for re-humanising technology, while the last one, a collective talk by Ray Siemens, Randa El Khatib, Luis Meneses, Graham Jensen and Caroline Winter on “Open, Social Scholarship as a Foundation for Digital Humanities”, stressed how technologies help to make knowledge accessible to a wider audience.
Fellowships awarded to 28 early career researchers
As in previous years, DARIAH-EU was one of the sponsors of the European Summer University in Digital Humanities granting 28 tuition fellowships to doctoral students and early career researchers from 15 countries across Europe and beyond to cover their participation fees. Overall, DARIAH-EU funded 20 female and 8 male early career researchers from Belgium, Cameroon, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.
The funded participants reported back highlighting their experiences from participating in the Summer University, the knowledge they acquired from following the lectures and workshops but also how the team building and networking aspect worked in a remote-digital environment.
“The organizers of the first online ESU had a lot of thinking in finding new ways and tools for community and network building. Among other things, they offered a #dhwellness channel on Slack and a dancing party on Topia. By putting a lot of effort on these apparently secondary aspects, they considered how important social interactions during a summer school may be for those scholars and students who work in isolation within non-DH departments. In conclusion, one of the most interesting results of the Summer University was that, already at the end of the first week, participants had started to overcome the de-humanising dimension of their learning environment. In this respect, the presentations of the workshops results showed clearly that, despite having to work from home with their own – more or less appropriate – tools, the group members spontaneously started to create not only professional, but also human connections, and to feel part of a community.”
Barbara Distefano, Germany
“Despite not being in Leipzig, the ESU 2021 experience was remarkably fulfilling. In addition to the morning workshop sessions we attended lectures, project presentations and panel discussions that kept us engaged and busy from morning until the late evening every day, maximising our two weeks’ worth of DH immersion…I want to thank DARIAH-EU, Elisabeth and the ESU team, and the workshop leaders for once again living up to expectations and providing us with another eye-opening and brain-wracking two weeks full of DH and so many other things to take back home with.”
David Amelang, Spain
“I participated in many digital workshops and conferences in 2021. Among those, it was ESU2021 which showed me that one can deeply learn, apply the learned content and enjoy the social atmosphere of networking. As a humanist who very recently got to learn about the world of Digital Humanities, this summer school provided a wonderful opportunity to get informed on recent developments in the field both from the perspective of the senior and junior researchers.
I always have found it a pity not to have an exchange and reflection sessions as a part of summer schools/workshops/conferences. I was impressed to see this aspect very well integrated into ESU, through the results presentation sessions of the workshops. For me it was not only a great opportunity to connect to my class members via teamwork (which was indeed a lot of fun) but also a chance to recap and reflect on the topics we learned during the course of two intensive weeks of training. As a take away, I can happily say that I graduated from the summer school not only with the digital tools and data management strategies I was very much expecting to learn, but in addition with a long list of new resources to read, explore and to apply.”
Derya Nuhbalaoglu, Germany
“What struck me the most was the expertise, clarity and kindness of both instructors, who accompanied a group of students who, despite their different cultural and scientific background, managed to profit from this school. I believe that each one of us, in fact, learned what is out there for us, as aspiring Digital Humanists: what tools and resources there are, what we have to learn to exploit them, what we can already do with some of them, how we can advance our field thanks to these technologies and independently.”
Elena Mattei, Italy
You can browse through the enthusiastic reports of the 28 funded participants here.
Read more about past ESUDH events here.