News Details
23 February 2011

Dissemination Conference

The dissemination conference for the Aberdeen 1641 project entitled, Collaborative Research on the 1641 Depositions - Process and Impact' was held on 18th and 19th February at the University of Aberdeen

Collaborative Research on the 1641 Depositions - Process and Impact' was an interdisciplinary conference which aimed to explore the digital humanities', socio-linguistic, socio-historical, political, religious, and legal aspects of the Aberdeen 1641 project. It brought together a distinguished international group of researchers from a broad variety of disciplines.

Dr Barbara Fennell (Principal Investigator for the Aberdeen 1641 project) talked about the projects findings and the upcoming conference with BBC Radio Ulster on the 18th February. The listen please follow this link: www.bbc.co.uk/i/xxmy5

For reaction to the conference from the media please see our updated press book.

The Aberdeen 1641 project team would like to thanks everyone who attended and contributed to our conference.

Responses have been received from attendees of our conference, please see below for their comments:

Bob Tait

I am a retired educationalist who continues to study the peculiar ways in which ideas connect and disseminate over time: thus my interest in this project. The connection and dissemination of ideas often proceeds in crab-like ways, in unpredictable directions, from small or obscure beginnings, and by connections and means that unexpectedly catch on: by way of fits and starts, with many setbacks along the way. Given that is so, your project seems to me to have worked remarkably well already in bridging and extending understandings across multiple disciplines. It has done so, moreover, on a highly sensitive topic. Indeed, partly because this was such a well-chosen sensitive topic, it has become part of an important process of opening up understandings both in Ireland and in Britain. In this respect the significance of this particular project has already been widely recognised. Not only has this project already produced rich results for linguists, historians and computer scientists; it has also provided and will go on providing much food for thought across wider populations, not all of them academic.

Concerns have been expressed here about a grim, beleaguered future for the Humanities under constrained economic conditions, struggling to be heard and struggling for funding. Yet it remains very clear what the main job of the Humanities is and why they matter. The Humanities may make only a small – yet far from insignificant – contribution to GDP. But their main job has to do with what GDP is for, what is done with it and the impact of all of that on human beings. The Humanities, allied with the social sciences, indispensably tell the stories of how GDP and its distribution affect human lives, relationships, feelings, fears and aspirations. That has always been their main role and it is now more important than ever. In the 21st century, in a world that is global in its perceptions of what is going on, albeit not in understandings, the need and demands for work in the Humanities are sure to get greater, not less; and this will be so despite the fact that much work in the Humanities is inherently subversive and thus uncomfortable for political leaders – and funders. In spite of their discomfiting and sometimes confrontational characteristics, the Humanities have survived millennia with many odd twists and turns and terrible setbacks along the way.

To give a frightening for-instance: we Westerners should certainly remember that many of the ideas fundamental to the Humanities, ideas we cherish and tend to take for granted, were submerged for the better part of a millennium – and in some cases longer. Our notions of democracy, once snuffed out by Sparta and other powers, only came properly to life again in the late eighteenth century. Yet many bright ideas, however long submerged, tend to burst back into life again in new ways, and all the stronger when they do. All this we have seen in just the past three centuries. Now, we most certainly needn't suppose that we are about to enter another protracted Dark Age; but the immediate future does look foggy and gloomy enough. In these circumstances we can and should take heart from the knowledge that ideas and understandings have ways of catching on and spreading unexpectedly, especially now: when ideas and information can be processed and disseminated much more widely and rapidly than ever before in history. As Westerners, it is for us to hold on to that confidence – while being Chinese enough to take a very long view of how things may play out. Those of you who have worked on this particular project can and should take heart from the speed with which you have overcome its many challenges and from the prospects of further connections and developments it offers; and you should congratulate yourselves.


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