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Trinity Long Room Hub hosts second DARIAH Innovation Forum

December 6, 2022 - The second DARIAH Innovation Forum was held at the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts & Humanities Research Institute, Trinity College Dublin, on 3 November 2022. This key event brought together researchers and industry partners from across their 20 European member countries and beyond to discuss how DARIAH, the European Digital Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities, can play a greater role in facilitating the arts and humanities to have groundbreaking impact on technological development. It was held in partnership with the Science Foundation Ireland funded Adapt Centre for Digital Content Innovation and the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 cofunded Human+ fellowship programme, led by Adapt and the Trinity Long Room Hub.  

In her closing address, DARIAH’s director Dr Jennifer Edmond, also Associate Professor of Digital Humanities at Trinity, focused on some of the key themes explored throughout the forum. Identifying the importance of the “culture-centered growth of life-centered innovation” that permeated the talks, she observed:

If we can change some of these paradigms to broaden them then there will be that opportunity for recognition, that we can build this kind of world better if we include different kinds of perspectives
Dr Jennifer Edmond, DARIAH Director

This broadening of perspectives, with an expanded focus on culture and life, was evident in the dialogues that ran throughout the forum’s busy day, which explored the possibilities of creating truly human-centred innovation and policy, and an ethical and engaging marketplace for culture. 

Indeed, if one element pulled the forum together it would be the importance of culture as a driving force in industry and technology. Eliot Salandy Brown (ReD Associates) and Domhnaill Hernon (Ernst and Young), explored the recent shift in how arts and technology interact with customers and artists, which has led to marketing becoming more tactile, emotional, social and cultural. Meanwhile, the importance in understanding local culture in regional tech approaches to heritage and tourism was highlighted by Dr Karolina Badzmierowska (SME Noho), Dr Mads Haahr, (Haunted Planet), and Sergi Fernandez, (i2CAT).

This prevailing theme of culture was also directly commented on throughout the day. Prof. Vincent Wade (Director of Adapt and Co-Coordinator of the Human+ programme) referred to the dialogue on “strategy versus culture” that he had noticed running between the day’s talks, while Dr Edmond highlighted what she termed the “cultural embeddedness” seen in tech companies working closely with local and regional groups. Similarly, Simon Delaere (IMEC-SMIT) discussed the aspiration to make technology “society proof”. Rather than working in isolation, it is important to empower and work with people through technology.

It was hugely satisfying to see these interconnected dialogues and debates come together in the Innovation Forum’s keynote speech, given by Michela Magas, innovation advisor to the European Commission and the G7 leaders, among many other achievements and titles. Talks from Jess Majekodunmi (Accenture), highlighting the value of diversity as a driver of innovation, Dr Martin Clancy (IEEE Global), focusing on the emerging challenges of tracking music IP, and Prof. Juergen Wertheimer (Cassandra Project), employing literary texts as prognosis instruments, were ideal precursors to Magas’ topic “Feeding Policy Directly From Grassroots Creative Innovation”.

Magas’ talk demonstrated the importance of radical inclusion from the bottom up, feeding European policy directly from collaborative environments on the ground. She foregrounded her collaborative work across sectors such as music and communicative technology at Slush, the leading start-up event in Helsinki; the MTF Labs Aviero which explore the interaction between human and animal populations in Portugal at one of the most biodiverse wetlands in Europe; and the creation of Industry Commons to establish a technology transfer toolkit in order to track IP in a more equitable and transparent manner. Tying together so many disparate yet interconnected elements, Magas’ talk perfectly illustrated one of the major arguments she herself made: the importance of moving beyond a human-centric system to address the current and future technological and environmental challenges we face worldwide:

Industry went for from 4.0 to 5.0 human-centric and we should go 6.0 ecosystemic if we really want to tackle sustainability.
Michela Magas, innovation advisor to the European Commission and the G7 leaders

While mostly celebratory – as was the majority of the forum – Magas prefaced her talk with a cautionary word on how the digital humanities “as a sector, in our culture and creativity in particular, can be used as a Trojan horse.” The successes being observed throughout the day were met with an astute awareness that those expanding on the paradigms of life and culture need to ensure their own inclusion in industry. Continuing on, she noted, “Being put on a pedestal or placed at the centre of decision making can actually come with risks and we need to safeguard our sector against the risks that we are now facing being in the limelight.” This sentiment was echoed by Alain Heureux (Virtuology Academy) who commented on artists and academics being properly valued for their consultancy work. “I say to the European commission and elsewhere, ‘you should pay 5000 Euro for that, what they will bring us is what will solve the problems of our world’”, Heureux said.

These themes continued into the Arts and Humanities Innovation Challenge, introduced for the first time this year. This open competition invited researchers in the arts and humanities to submit their solutions to a ‘wicked’ problem. Between panels the three finalist groups all coming from Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design – Ofir Bouba and Gil Sharabi, Tamar Berger, and Uri Yahalom and Mai Caspi – delivered proposals on repurposing the services and spaces of a regional airport as hubs for cultural exchange. After considerable and difficult deliberation by the DARIAH committee, who expressed admiration for all three case studies, Yahalom and Caspi were awarded first prize of €1000 for their NFT community at the closing ceremony.

Congratulating the three groups on their initiative, Dr Edmond reminded senior delegates of their role in supporting the younger generation of researchers. It is up to them to “pave the road and help them to apply their skills in these interdisciplinary contexts.” Dovetailing with these concerns, the final panel of the day addressed the need to create enabling structures for humanities and arts innovation by giving already established examples, with talks from Dr Edmond herself alongside Prof. Vincent Wade (Human+) and Imelda Lambkin (Enterprise Ireland).

When welcoming everyone at the beginning of the proceedings, Trinity Long Room Hub director Dr Eve Patten noted that DARIAH’s Innovation Forum was “right at the heart of the work that we're trying to do in the Hub,” congratulating Dr Edmond on both her term at DARIAH and for converting individuals like Dr Patten herself from “unbelievers” to being “fully committed and on board” with the aims and aspirations of the digital humanities.

All photos courtesy Vicky Garnett 2022 CC-BY 4.0

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