Digital scholarship blog

Enabling innovative research with British Library digital collections

20 June 2016

Digital Humanities in the Chinese Context: Project Kick Off

Annabella Massey is a first-year DPhil student in Oriental Studies at the University of Oxford, where she researches representations of the city in contemporary Chinese literary and visual culture. Over the next six months, she will be working with both the Digital Research Team and Asian & African Collections at the British Library on a research project titled Profiling the Digital Humanities Landscape in China’. This project aims to map and investigate the Digital Humanities in the Chinese context. She Tweets @annabellamassey, and she can also be contacted by email at [email protected].

We kicked off the first week of my PhD Placement at the British Library with inductions and introductions, a tour of the St. Pancras site, a quick peek around the wonderful Shakespeare in Ten Acts exhibition – and the Digital Humanities for Asian and African Texts workshop at SOAS, where (among many exciting ideas and projects) we learned about, an online education platform for the Manchu script; Zoroastrian ritual texts and the Multimedia Yasna Project (MUYA); and the Bridge to China Mandarin learning wiki. This was a fantastic introduction to what should be a very fruitful research stint, and hopefully my investigation into the Chinese realm of the Digital Humanities will help the British Library in terms of their future digital plans for the Chinese collection here! This first blog post is a brief self-introduction and outline of my placement project, ‘Profiling the Digital Humanities Landscape in China’.

My undergraduate degree was in English Literature and Creative Writing, taken at the University of Warwick. Following my BA, I then spent two years working in Yamanashi prefecture, Japan, on the JET Programme, and afterwards, I came to Oxford to study for an MPhil in Modern Chinese Studies. My thesis was an analysis of the blood-selling motif in Chinese literature from 1931 – 2006. I enjoyed my MPhil so much that I subsequently stayed on at Oxford for a PhD. My doctoral research now explores new artistic representations of the contemporary city across a variety of creative media from the Greater China region, including literature, film, visual art, and photography.

The aim over the course of my six months here at the British Library is to understand the extent to which Digital Humanities activities in the context of China are being undertaken, and to ultimately present these findings in a research report. The Digital Humanities are known as shuzi renwen (数字人文) in mainland China, and shuwei renwen (數位人文) in Taiwan. As Dr. Lik Hang Tsui outlines in a recent piece, the Digital Humanities have received a huge amount of attention in China-based academic circles over the past decade, from Wechat groups which focus on the Digital Humanities and the sharing of electronic resources, to Peking University’s first Digital Humanities forum that launched in May this year.

I’ll be writing up my Digital-Humanities-and-China-related findings here in a series of regular blog posts, so watch this space! I will be in on-site Mondays and Tuesdays each week, and supervised by Digital Curator Nora McGregor. Please feel very free to get in touch if you have any questions, useful leads, or even just general thoughts – this promises to be a really fascinating six months.


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