This and THATCamp Sussex Humanities Lab 2017

The second annual This and THATCamp Sussex Humanities Lab takes place on 4-5 July 2017 at the University of Sussex. It brings together humanists, technologists, educators, and learners to share, build, and make together around the theme of “Rules, Regulations, Resistance”.

Whether building websites, mining data, assembling information, or sharing creative outputs humanists will often encounter laws and regulations. These encounters raise questions the answers to which are not always straightforward, can change over time and between places, and create conflict. These include:

  • What are my rights as a researcher, educator, or practitioner?
  • Is what I am doing legal?
  • Can I share what I find?
  • Who is constraining me? And why?
  • How do I effect change?

The event will focus on hands-on sessions that explore the humanities, technology, rules, regulations, and resistance. Any proposal on this theme is welcome, including those on the study of rules, regulations, and resistance (contemporary or historical) using information technology. We are particularly interested in proposals:

  • For one-day or two-day projects that aim to produce things (performances, documents, objects, code, training materials)
  • From individuals with a project idea looking for a team to work with them on it
  • That come from existing teams looking for a venue to undertake their project
  • That provide opportunities for remote participation
  • That seek to test the UK Text and Data Mining Exception
  • Of a shorter nature: discussion points and provocations, project updates, demonstrations.

As participants, you will pick on the first day when, where, and whether the sessions proposed take place.

The event is free to attend. If you are interested in joining us or proposing a session, please register at Please note that spaces are limited so registration is vital. If you need help getting to us or if your project has hardware requirements, let us know and we’ll see what we can do to support you.

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EU Law, Technological Protection Measures, and Mining Material that is Under Copyright

The current situation around DRM and UK copyright legislation makes it difficult for researchers to obtain legal copies of texts and other in-copyright material for research purposes.

While UK law is supposed to provide protections to allow researchers to take advantage of exceptions for research, it remains a criminal offence to strip the DRM off e-texts, for instance. Section S296ZE of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act states that a complaint to the Secretary of State is the correct way to appeal this if the rightsholders refuse to provide a copy that is suitable for digital research purposes.

In this session, we would like to gather like-minded people together to discuss what could be done and which targets might prove best for such an appeal.

Categories: Copyright, Data Mining, Research Methods, Text Mining, Visualizations | Leave a comment

MAKE: Capturing Data Locked Away In History Books

Lots of history books contain structured data: tables, graphs, appendices. In most cases these data derive from databases created, compiled, and/or arranged by the author. In few cases are these databases made easily available for reuse by readers. Rather, in most cases the data is hard to reuse because a) it is available only in print and b) it is published under copyright.

data-table_-_exampleThe UK Text and Data Copyright Exception (hereafter ‘the TDM Exception’) states that:

The new copyright exception allows researchers to make copies of any copyright material for the purpose of computational analysis if they already have the right to read the work […] This exception only permits the making of copies for the purpose of text and data mining for non-commercial research


I infer from this four things:

  1. ‘any copyright material’ includes books published in print form.
  2. ‘the right to read’ includes books held in a library to which I subscribe.
  3. ‘make copies’ includes both digitisation and transcription.
  4. ‘researchers’ includes teams who intend to ‘make copies’ for future – as yet specified – ‘non-commercial research’.

This proposed session will:

  • Estimate our collective ‘right to read’ and capture this as a document that offers non-legal advice to other UK-based historians about what they can and can’t do with printed material under the TDM Exception.
  • ‘make copies’ of structured data found in a small selection of history books (topic to be determined). This will be achieved both by hand-transcription and by Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software (for example Tesseract or ContentMine software).
  • Test the capabilities of OCR software for capturing data tables and publish a our findings as a short guidance document.
  • Combine that data and determine where the data can be stored for subsequent reuse by ‘the researchers’ who made copies.
  • Use that combined data for preliminary historical research that demonstrates the value of the TDM Exception.

I am looking for people to work on this with me. No technical aptitude is either required or preferred, though the project will work better with a balanced team. I anticipate that some preparatory work will be needed in advance of the workshop (for example, to install OCR software and check usability/suitability)

Please post thoughts, suggestions, and/or your willingness to get involved below!

Categories: Session: Make | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment