DHSI-East Workshop at StFX tackles timely topic of artificial intelligence

DHSI East 2024
Workshop instructor Dr. Aaron Tucker of the University of Toronto is pictured at DHSI-East

As generative artificial intelligence (AI) becomes ever more pervasive, both at universities and in everyday life, a recent four-day workshop at StFX focused on this timely and important topic.

The Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI) East brought together 20 participants from around the Atlantic region and the U.S. for a four-day workshop from April 29 to May 2 that outlined the basics of contemporary machine learning to illustrate how generative AI, such as the text-based ChatGPT and the image-based DALL-E, operate.

The event was hosted by StFX's Digital Humanities Centre. This year’s workshop was led by Dr. Aaron Tucker of the University of Toronto, with Adnane ait Nasser and Meghan Landry, both of ACENET. 

StFX English professor and Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Digital Humanities, Dr. Laura Estill, organized the event with Margaret Vail (StFX Library), Megan Landry (ACENET), and Dr. Richard Cunningham (Acadia University).

Dr. Estill says workshops like DHSI-East are significant for scholars. 

“The vast majority of digital humanities training has long occurred outside traditional curricula as complementary initiatives. This is oftentimes a function of the variety of digital humanities training an individual might need and the relative paucity of local training opportunities due to limitations in faculty, staff, and institutional resources,” she wrote with Jennifer Guiliano in the introduction to their book collection, Digital Humanities Workshops (2023). “But it is also a result of the interdisciplinary nature of the field where contributions to training might be made by technologists, librarians, cultural heritage professionals, and others beyond faculty or digital humanities staff.”

The workshop wasn’t necessarily intended to make participants experts on the topics, but rather have scholars reflect on how such technologies can add further depth to their own research and provide them vocabulary and expertise to be able to collaborate with scholars who specialize in the technical elements of AI. 

DHSI-East participants plan to use the knowledge gained in the classroom to produce future research papers and/or research creation projects involving machine learning and/or generative AI.

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Workshop participants Dr. Trey Proctor and Dr. Francisco Lopez-Martin, both of Denison University, Ohio, speak with Dr. Teresa Heffernan, Saint Mary’s University. Dr. Heffernan delivered a keynote address at the event.

Highlights from the event included Dr. Teresa Heffernan from Saint Mary’s University delivering a public keynote address, entitled “Mecha is not Orga: The Fiction of AI and the AI Industry.” The talk delved into how AI is funded by tech billionaires and how AI is represented in films such as Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and Spielberg’s A.I.  This talk will be posted on StFX’s YouTube channel.

Dr. Estill says organizers are already planning next year’s workshop, with Ms. Landry tentatively slated to teach “Digital Archives and Preservation.”

DHSI-East is part of the Canadian Certificate for Digital Humanities and part of the DH Training Network. 

It began at StFX as an offshoot of the original DHSI at the University of Victoria, where Dr. Estill was an Associate Director at Large. She led the group that started DHSI-East at StFX.