Andrea was awarded a bursary to attend the From Text to Tech strand of the Digital Humanities Oxford Summer School, and wrote up the blog post below about her experience attending.
To find out more about this year's bursaries see here. To join the mailing list and learn about the next summer school sign up here.
In the wake of my departure from the enchanting Keble College at the University of Oxford, I type these lines with a sense of inspiration and wonderment. This splendid setting served as one of the locations for the Digital Humanities at Oxford Summer School (DHOxSS) held from 3rd to 7th July 2023.
Let me introduce myself. I'm Andrea Rebecca Marrocchi Savoi, a PhD candidate in Philology and History of the Ancient World at La Sapienza University of Rome, and I am simply bursting to impart the essence of this truly enriching experience. My research focus is predominantly on the socio-economic dynamics of the ancient Near East in the third millennium BCE through the study of ancient cuneiform texts written in now-extinct languages such as Sumerian.
Needless to say, the introduction of modern technologies can usher in fresh research perspectives across numerous fields, and Assyriology, my field of research, is no exception. Herein, I will share my experiences attending the "From Text to Tech" workshop at DHOxSS.
Embarking on this week-long intellectual journey, I found myself wrapped in the mesmerising world of natural language processing (NLP) in Python. The unique blend of practical hands-on sessions and intensive theory had an enlightening effect, revealing the immense potential of NLP in deciphering complex linguistic patterns prevalent in my field. Diving deeper into the art of handling different forms of data, whether raw, semi-structured, or tabular, felt like learning a new language in itself.
The challenge of parsing ancient texts in Assyriology seemed less daunting and more like an enticing puzzle to be solved through these newfound skills. A highlight of the summer school was the in-depth exploration of automated semantic analysis using machine learning. The versatility of this technique, its ability to track semantic changes and detect biases within a corpus, was like unearthing a treasure trove of tools for humanities research.
Looking at my field of Assyriology through the lens of this workshop was akin to discovering a new world. The use of NLP and semantic analysis tools could revolutionize our understanding of ancient languages and texts, offering tantalising new avenues for research, the possibilities seem boundless and thrilling. Beyond the intriguing technical aspects, the summer school was a fertile ground for intellectual networking. Engaging with a diverse group of participants from varied humanities disciplines led to enriching discussions that further widened the horizon of my learning. As I leave the charming premises of Oxford, I carry with me not only a wealth of new skills and knowledge but also a revitalised passion for my field.
The Digital Humanities Summer School was an electrifying confluence of the traditional and the contemporary - a beacon guiding the future of humanities research. For anyone curious about the intersection of computer science and humanities, the Digital Humanities at Oxford Summer School is an unmissable experience. It's a journey that will intrigue the mind, stimulate the intellect, and broaden your research horizons. Embracing the future, I am eager to employ these innovative tools and techniques to my Assyriology research.