The Faculty of Arts at HKU hosts “New Horizons in Digital Humanities & Cultural Data Science: A Professional Development Workshop”

25 June 2023 (Sunday)

The Faculty of Arts at HKU hosts 
“New Horizons in Digital Humanities & Cultural Data Science:
A Professional Development Workshop” 

The Faculty of Arts at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) hosted “New Horizons in Digital Humanities & Cultural Data Science: A Professional Development Workshop” from 29 May to 2 June 2023

The Faculty of Arts at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) was pleased to host “New Horizons in Digital Humanities & Cultural Data Science: A Professional Development Workshop”.  This interactive international event, held from 29 May to 2 June 2023, brought leading scholars and teaching experts from around the world to HKU.

“Uniting humanities with digital technologies is crucial for innovating in our increasingly digitised world,” says Professor Derek Collins, Dean of the Faculty of Arts.  “As the leading Arts & Humanities Faculty in Asia, it is imperative that we drive our disciplines forward in new and exciting directions through digital technology.  The digitised world holds countless opportunities to expand how we think, what we value, and how we align the outcomes of digital technologies with what we care about.  This is a non-trivial problem and it cannot be solved without significant engagement by our core Humanities disciplines.”

The week-long event featured nine experts in digital humanities and cultural data science hailing from a diverse range of universities and research institutions in the United States, Germany, and Argentina.  Designed for both students and university teaching staff, the workshops attracted a remarkable turnout of 217 registered participants.  In addition to 125 participants from Hong Kong and 60 from mainland China and Macau, attendees joined from Japan, South Korea, Europe, and the United States.  Around half of participants participated remotely.

“The enormous interest in our initiative has been both humbling and inspiring, which prompts me to reflect upon the pivotal role HKU can and should play in digital humanities in our region and globally,” says workshop organiser Dr. Javier Cha.  “Our objective has been to establish the University of Hong Kong as a leading hub for research and teaching in digital humanities and its wide range of adjacent and sister disciplines,” Dr. Cha says.  “Our speakers integrate aspects of the humanities, digital technologies, computational methods, and cultural data science into their work in various capacities.”

The workshop offered a rare opportunity for teachers and students in Hong Kong and across the region to develop new knowledge and skills at the intersection of humanities and advanced digital technologies.  A focus was research and teaching practices that bring vital digital skills to new generations of humanities students, and over the course of a busy week of learning and discussion, speakers took participants through an exciting array of workshops.

“The workshop has been fantastic,” reports a participant who travelled to HKU from Qingyuan. “It has given the worth of a whole year of work.  I learned many details and tools about digital humanities.”

Historical research was at the fore for presenter Jing Hu (Berlin State Library), as well as for Mark Byington (Cambridge Institute for the Study of Korea), who demonstrated how to repurpose surveillance imagery for historical and archaeological research.  Applications of AI and large language models were demonstrated by Wayne De Fremery’s (Dominican University of California) workshop on the potential of ‘DIY’ AI in optical character recognition, and by David Mimno’s (Cornell University) session on how to build research systems using a large language model.

Participants whose research focuses on text or cultural analysis also discovered many new skills across the week. Quinn Dombrowski (Stanford University) and Melanie Walsh (University of Washington) took participants through multilingual cultural analytics. Gimena del Rio (CONICET & Universidad del Salvador) demonstrated methods of semantic annotation, while Timothy Tangherlini (UC Berkeley) introduced tools for computational narrative analysis, and Jeffrey Tharsen (University of Chicago) showed the power of new methods for visualising the connections between different texts.

Distinguished participants praised the workshop.  “I have been incredibly impressed with the diversity and rigour of this week-long workshop,” says speaker Professor Timothy Tangherlini.  “It has brought students from a diversity of backgrounds, and all different levels, as well as colleagues to see the affordances that we can derive from applying these computational methods… We are learning that we can apply methods that are fundamentally computational to unlock some of the interesting – and quite frankly fundamental – problems in the study of what it means to be human.”

Two of the speakers, Quinn Dombrowski and Gimena del Rio, are presidents of constituent organisations within the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organisations (ADHO).  “We are especially pleased to strengthen Hong Kong’s connections with these groups, because we plan to launch the Hong Kong Association for Digital Humanities in the near future,” says Dr. Cha. 

The training event was partially supported by UGC funding via a Special Grant for the Faculty of Arts project ‘Integrating Digital Technology and Virtual Pedagogy in the Humanities.’  It was hosted by HKU’s Bachelor of Arts in Humanities and Digital Technologies (BA(HDT)) programme. “The BA(HDT) at HKU is committed to integrating cutting-edge digital approaches into humanities education,” says Programme Director Dr. Anya Adair.  “This workshop is a manifestation of our commitment to promoting innovation in humanities scholarship and teaching.”

The BA(HDT) programme’s connection to the event does not end with hosting.  Dr. Adair sees this workshop as a unique learning opportunity for BA(HDT) students and teachers, and a significant stepping stone for the programme’s evolution.  “As a literature scholar and medievalist, I’m always looking for new ways to bring the past to life for my students. And as programme director of the BA(HDT), I want our undergraduate students to graduate with the skills that they need in their own careers,” she says.  “Workshops like this are a vital way to make sure that our training is at the forefront of digital work in the humanities.”

The BA in Humanities and Digital Technologies at HKU accepted its first cohort in 2022.  This selective world-first programme marries the analytical, creative, and communication strengths of the humanities with training in digital technologies and programming skills.  Through real-world scenarios and project-based learning, students gain the expertise to address complex global issues in new, technology-driven ways.  This unique blend of the arts and digital skills allows students to apply humanities-inspired critical and creative thinking to the world of technology, and reciprocally, to use innovative technological approaches in their humanities disciplines.

The programme will welcome its second cohort this September. For more information about the BA(HDT) programme, visit

For media enquiries, please contact Ms Natalie Yip, Executive Officer, Development and Communications team, Faculty of Arts, Tel: (852) 3917 4984 / email:

For the online press release and photo, please visit: