CFP: Hidden Histories of Things: Genealogies of the Non-Human

Commodity Histories project logo

Call for Papers: Hidden histories of things: genealogies of the non-human

Venue: Institute of Making, University College London

Date: 26 January 2015

UCL’s Institute of Making is a creative space for those interested in materials and the made world, providing a location for investigation, research and play with an enormous variety of materials.  The Open University’s Commodity Histories project  focuses on the histories of a wide range of commodities that have become an indispensable aspect of people’s daily lives throughout the world, providing a forum for new research in the field.

They have come together to propose an interdisciplinary workshop on the hidden histories of the non-human, understood in its widest sense to include materials, objects, animals, plants and natural phenomena.

Overwhelmingly, research on the non-human, whether stressing collaborative relationships between things and humans or conversely the intractability and resistance of certain properties of the non-human to human will and control, tends to focus on the contemporary world. This one-day workshop takes a step back and aims to explore how the histories of materials and non-human phenomena might inform our understanding of their present workings and future potentialities. It views history as a creative process, capable of suggesting new possibilities by revealing hidden stories and episodes from the past. We invite papers that range across the entire spectrum of the non-human and that problematise the present by asking new questions of the connected past. Papers may, for instance, explore:

  • biographies of materials, plants, or commodities, outlining their various connectivities and agencies
  • the complex journeys of particular artefacts from past to present
  • how natural phenomena such as weather and climate have been understood in different  historical periods
  • animal-human relationships in historical context
  • the environmental and cultural consequences of the production of particular materials or minerals over time

Papers that deal with materials and natural phenomena in ‘unfamiliar’ spatial settings, e.g. locations in Africa, Asia, Oceania, the Caribbean, and Latin America, are particularly welcome as are abstracts from early career researchers and PhD students.

Papers will be circulated in advance of the workshop. Registration requests and abstracts of 300 words should be sent to by Monday 6th October 2014.

Conference organisers: Sandip Hazareesingh (OU), Sarah Wilkes (UCL), Mat Paskins (OU).

via Hidden Histories of Things: Genealogies of the Non-Human | commoditieshistories.

Being digital from OU Library named site of the month on PRIMO

Being Digital banner image Open University Library Services

Being digital, The Open University Library Services’ collection of bite-size interactive online skills materials, was featured as site of the month for June 2104 on the Peer Reviewed Instructional Materials Online PRIMO website.

PRIMO, part of the American Association of College and Research Libraries, showcases high-quality teaching resources on finding and evaluating information in networked environments. Being digital was accepted into the Peer Reviewed Instructional Materials Online PRIMO database in 2013. The recognition by PRIMO comes hot on the heels of the Credo Award for Information Literacy 2013.

Being digital is a collection of 40 freely available, bite-size interactive activities on finding, using and creating information online. The aim is to help students become confident and critical users of digital tools and resources for study, work and everyday life. Activities cover topics such as digital identity, communicating and networking, trust online, evaluating and using online tools, searching effectively and referencing your sources. All activities take 10 minutes or less to complete, and can be done on a mobile device or desktop PC.

Being digital was originally devised for undergraduate students at The Open University, but is freely available to all interested users. Do you or your students need to refresh your digital skills?

Digital Humanities seminar, 17 June: Text Mining for Historical and Literary Research

Information and cursor logo, by Heather Scott

Image by Heather Scott. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

The Digital Humanities at The Open University network is pleased to present the next event in the Digital Humanities in Practice series:

Text mining for historical and literary research: the Trading Consequences and Palimpsest projects

Date: 17 June 2014

Time: 2.30pm-4.30pm (note later start time)

Venue: Arts Music Studio, The Open University Walton Hall, Milton Keynes (directions)

Speaker: Dr Beatrice Alex (Informatics, University of Edinburgh)

By collaborating together, computer scientists, historians and literary scholars are developing text mining and visualisation techniques to interrogate, explore and understand digitised historical and literary texts on an entirely new scale.

In this seminar, Dr Beatrice Alex will discuss the challenges she has encountered while building a text mining tool adapted for two interdisciplinary projects in the Humanities: Trading Consequences (, which focuses on commodity trading in the nineteenth century, and Palimpsest (, which is studying fictional and remembered space in literary Edinburgh.

Tea and coffee will be served. Please register for the event by emailing Heather Scott ( by 13 June.

Register now for CHASE Going Digital 2014

Logo for CHASE: Consortium for the Humanities and the Arts South-East England

Are you a doctoral student at one of the seven CHASE universities? Would you like to learn more about digital research?

After the success of the Going Digital programme in 2013, CHASE is running a series of five events at the University of Essex as part of Going Digital 2014. Download the Going Digital 2014 programme to find out more.

There will be SIX places available for non-Essex CHASE students on each workshop and for each of those students there will be a £50 travel bursary – this £50 bursary is only available this year for non-Essex students.

Non-Essex students who wish to attend one of the events should email Carol Jaens at

Digital Humanities Seminar, 3 April: BL Labs and Listening Experience Database

Information and cursor logo, by Heather Scott

Image by Heather Scott. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

The Digital Humanities Thematic Research Network is pleased to present an update to the next event in the Digital Humanities in Practice series.

The British Library Labs

Presenters: Mahendra Mahey (BL Labs Project Manager) and Ben O’Steen (Technical Lead, BL Labs)

Date: 3 April 2014

Time: 11.00am-12.00pm

Location: Arts Music Studio, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes (directions)

Hundreds of thousands of digital items and objects are being created and collected by the British Library for researchers to use: digitised manuscripts, sheet music, newspapers, maps, archived websites, radio, performances, TV news broadcasts, and artworks, as well as the more expected items like scanned versions of books.

This wonderful cacophony of content is having a significant effect on how the British Library supports the research needs of its users. Will people discover new information when they are no longer restricted to viewing a single page from a single book at a time? How can the Library build systems that provide a coherent route across its content, regardless to whether it is a televised news report or a unique signatures drawn in the margins of a map? How can we use crowd-sourced information, computer vision and machine-learning techniques to provide people with better tools to better judge and interpret the context of illustration or work? How can we exploit animations and interactive infographics to better convey the information bound in our holdings? This is the research space that British Library Labs explores. The seminar will also present the current BL Labs competition, which closes on the 22 April 2014.

The Listening Experience Database

Presenters: Professor David Rowland and Dr Helen Barlow (The Open University) and Simon Brown (The Royal College of Music)

Date: 3 April 2014

Time: 12.30-2.00pm

Location: Arts Music Studio, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes (directions)

The Listening Experience Database (LED) project is an AHRC-funded collaboration between the Open University and the Royal College of Music, the main purpose of which is to design and develop a database which will bring together a mass of data about people’s experiences of listening to music of all kinds, in any historical period and any culture. The database is freely searchable by the general public and uses crowdsourcing as one of the ways in which data is collected. This session will give an overview of the project, focusing in particular on the architecture and development of the database, and some of the challenges of developing an effective crowdsourcing strategy.

This part of the event will be recorded and made available on OU Podcasts.

A sandwich lunch will be provided. To book a place, please email Heather Scott ( by 31 March 2014.

For more information on Digital Humanities at The Open University, please go to the Digital Humanities website