Apps and the Humanities
Apps are becoming an increasingly important part of everyday life. Research is underway at the Institute of Archaeology and across UCL to determine how humanities researchers can contribute to this new digital medium.
UCL offers opportunities for staff and students to create apps through collaborations with students from UCL Computer Science.
A workshop on Apps and the Humanities was held at the Institute of Archaeology on 4 June 2014.
by Amara Thornton
The workshop aimed to bring together current projects within UCL to explore the use of apps and app development for public engagement and research in the humanities. It provided a platform to feature on-going and recently completed app projects undertaken by UCL staff and students.
The objective behind organising Apps and the Humanities was to raise awareness of A&H-SHS/technology collaborations currently in progress at UCL. Apps are the cutting edge of access and interactivity – at its heart, the workshop promoted increased collaboration between the A&H-SHS Faculties and UCL Computer Science students as a test bed for ideas and app design concepts targeted specifically to enhance and promote humanities research and engagement.
In working within such collaborations, humanities researchers will gain more insight into the capabilities and potentials of app development while UCL Computer Science students will gain valuable experience working on a broad range of apps to meet a broad range of humanities content and requirements. These test bed projects then could feed into constructive and innovative collaborations with external/commercial developers, or new entrepreneurship possibilities – both of which could enable humanities research to contribute to economic growth, employability and wealth creation.
by Gai Jorayev
The event organised on the 4th June 2014 was very useful in many respects. These are the times when one hears about new apps and their benefits constantly, and many seem to have ideas to turn into an ‘app’. However, the issues associated with developing apps, making them useful and usable, and marketing them often seem to go unnoticed. This event was a very good overview of both the issues related to the app development and several successful examples that are very relevant to the humanities.
For the participants who work at UCL, it was very beneficial to hear about UCL app policies and how the issues associated with intellectual property rights are handled. Information about the App Projects of UCL Computer Sciences and potential for using the knowledge of computer sciences students to turn useful ideas into real apps was especially helpful. Coupled with the support from UCL Advances, the Computer Sciences App Projects could potentially help many of our colleagues in creating apps that are oriented to both gathering and distributing information in an effective and engaging way.
Discussions of policies and opportunities were complimented by examples of apps that have already been developed by the UCL community of researchers. Although all of the apps were associated with the humanities, their scope and the ways of interaction was very diverse. This part of the event brought up discussions related to the practical challenges of these types of endeavour as well. Overall, the event answered many relevant questions in this area and was very timely for the colleagues interested in this area.
- Vintage Abydos App: Amara Thornton, Paolo Del Vesco (UCL Institute of Archaeology); Manoj Vaseekharan, Marcin Cuber (UCL Computer Science)Developed for Android devices through the UCL Computer Sciences First Year projects scheme. Users access content about the history of archaeology through a digitised 1902 photograph of archaeologist Flinders Petrie and others on site. The app is completed but has not yet been launched. It is expected to be free to download.
- Breaking Ground App: Melissa Collins, Chen Liu, Ian Carroll (UCL Institute of Archaeology); Wael H. Al Saeed, Dinmukhamed Balzhanov, Momshad Dinuri Alvee (UCL Computer Science)Developed for Android devices through the UCL Computer Sciences First Year Projects Scheme. Users will be able access information about the history of the Institute of Archaeology from the 2012 Breaking Ground exhibition. The app is currently completed.
- The Jewish East End and Beyond App: Michael Berkowitz (UCL Hebrew and Jewish Studies); Yining Shen, Xianjun Xiang, Linda Wang (UCL Computer Science)Developed for Android and iOS devices through the UCL Computer Sciences First Year Projects Scheme. Users will be able to take a virtual tour through sites in the East End connected to Jewish history, culture, religion, politics and food. The app is completed, and will be launched soon. It will be free.
- UCL Minds App: Idea London; Michael Stewart (UCL Anthropology); Lizzie Crouch and Annie Mackinder (BBC Science) Available for iPad and iPhone, this app will launch in Autumn 2014 and is currently planned to be free for download.
- Tour of the Nile App: Giancarlo Amati, Margaret Serpico (Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, UCL)Developed for iOS devices, this app features 3D-images of objects in the Petrie Museum collection that can be viewed and virtually manipulated through markers and the device camera. Launched in 2013, the app is available for free on iTunes.
- Dutch Walks in London App: Ulrich Tiedau (UCL Dutch)Developed for Android (in the first instance), this app raises awareness of the connections and exchanges between London and the Low Countries. The walks and cycle tours featured are developed in close dialogue with the target audience, the broader historically interested public. It is anticipated that they will contribute user-generated content which will unearth even more of the hidden Dutch and Flemish histories of London.
- UCL Institute of Archaeology