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Visiting Fellow, Dr. Eric Meyer, Oxford Internet Institute

The UC Digital Humanities Programme and School of Humanities and Creative Arts is pleased to welcome Dr. Eric Meyer, from the Oxford Internet Institute. Eric is staying with us as a Canterbury / Erskine Fellow. See below for his open lectures.

Dr Meyer is a Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford. His research in the field of social informatics focuses on the changing nature of knowledge creation across the sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities as technology is embedded in everyday practices. His research has included both qualitative and quantitative work with marine biologists, genetics researchers, physicists, digital humanities scholars, social scientists using big data, theatre artists, librarians, and organizations involved in computational approaches to research.

His work has been published in a variety of journals, books, and conference proceedings, most of which are available on his website ( He is also a frequent speaker at conferences around the world, including keynote addresses in Florence, Aberdeen, Prague, The Hague, Leeds, and elsewhere, and has given invited lectures at universities including Harvard, Cambridge, King’s, Edinburgh, Chalmers, Borås, Dalhousie, Rensselaer, Sheffield, Bath, Southampton, Canterbury New Zealand, and others.

Dr Meyer’s research has received funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the European Commission, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Jisc, Nesta, RIN, and others. Dr Meyer earned his PhD in information science, specializing in social informatics, at Indiana University, where his award-winning dissertation examined how marine biologists who rely on photographic evidence to identify individual marine mammals have seen significant changes in their everyday work practices as they switched from film photography to digital photography.


21 March, 12.00 – 1.00 pm, Psych-Soc 252: ‘Big Data and Democracy’

The big data rush is on, in academia, in business, and in government. In recent years, news articles, trade magazines, workshops, conferences, and talks about big data have accelerated into a constant barrage. However, it is important to look beyond the early hype around the promises and perils of big data to start to ask more probing questions about how big data enables new approaches to knowledge creation and discovery, what new methodological challenges arise, and what are the limits beyond which big data can become too comprehensive? Using data from an ongoing project funded by the Sloan Foundation that has interviewed over 125 big data specialists, Meyer will discuss what big data means for policy experts, industry, academia, and the public, and highlights the opportunities and risks of big data in research and in society.

26 March, 2.00 – 3.00 pm, Psych-Soc 151, Knowledge Machines: Digital Transformations of the Sciences and Humanities

Based on a forthcoming book (The MIT Press) of the same name, this talk looks at changes in the way research is done when computational approaches are applied to research. There is a fundamental change taking place in the world of research: digital tools and data shared via electronic networks are having far-reaching effects. From ‘big science’ physics experiments like the Large Hadron Collider, which is using distributed, high-performance computing to analyze massive amounts of data, to humanities scholars who digitize large volumes of text to uncover changing patterns of language use, networked digital research is having profound effects on the practices of researchers. From the Grid, to the Cloud, to Big Data, research practices are ever more tightly coupled to computing. These changes can be understood on a number of levels, including organizational changes, changes in knowledge production, and in the communication of research. And although these changes take place in different ways in different disciplines, my colleagues and I argue that, like ripples in a pond, the changes add up to a broader transformation of the landscape of research.

1 April, 10.00 – 11.00 am, KE07, Computer Programming for the Arts Graduate: To what extent is being able to code part of literacy in a digital world?

Language literacy has always been seen as a relevant tool for a variety of disciplines, but literacy in computer languages has only relatively recently been viewed as an essential skill outside of computer science. With the continuing growth in demand for digital humanities specialists, data scientists, and people skilled in digital social research, arts graduates who can learn both the specialist languages of disciplines as well as the languages and potential of computation will set themselves up to fill the increasingly important role as ‘bridgers’ in academia and in business. This talk will include examples from post-graduate student work in particular to demonstrate how coding skills can be applied to interesting questions across a variety of fields.

4 April, 12.00 – 1.00 pm, Central Library 210, Web archives: The future of researching the Internet’s past

Web archives have been collected by organizations such as the Internet Archive since the mid-1990s, but only recently have there been advances in how to actually make use of them for research. In this talk, I will focus on the born digital public content held in web archives, and the challenge of using these data for research purposes.  My research group has written several reports and papers in recent years on research engagement (or lack thereof) with web archives, and has highlighted the fact that one of the biggest disconnects at the moment is that while archives of the web are being increasingly preserved, the tools and methods for doing research from these archives is less well-developed than doing research on the live web.  I will argue that the range of partners who should be involved in preserving web archives needs to extend far beyond the preservation community – into the community of researchers (such as sociologists, political scientists, communications scholars, and information scientists) who are the natural researchers of such materials, but also into the newly developing areas of ‘big data’ where efforts to mine the streams of data being generated on the web are being seen to hold massive value both for understanding society but also for generating economic benefit. This talk also highlights some recent advances, and presents new data demonstrating how web archives can be mined for meaningful data.