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ESU: A ten-year success story


Blogpost written by Charlotte Hartunge (team member of ESU)


What started as a five days conference with four workshops in 2009, celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. We are talking about the European Summer University in Digital Humanities “Culture and Technology” (ESU) at the University of Leipzig.

You can summarize the ESU with some numbers and data. During the eleven days the ESU took place (23 July to 2 August 2019), 92 students, young scholars, researchers, members of different Universities and others interested in the large field of the Digital Humanities came to Leipzig to join one of the eleven workshops offered this year. Of the eleven workshops, four where supported by Clarin Eric and offered by experts from the CLARIN-D environment.
Namely, Andreas Witt who offers the workshop ‘Compilation, Annotation and Analysis of Written Text Corpora. Introduction to Methods and Tools’, Bernhard Fisseni who offers the workshop ‘Searching Linguistic Patterns in Text Corpora for Digital Humanities Research’, Christoph Draxler who offers the workshop ‘All About Data – Exploratory Data Modelling and Practical Database Access’, and Janos Borst who offers the workshop ‘An Introduction to Neural Networks for Natural Language Processing - Applications and Implementation’. 

The participants from over 30 countries who could apply for six different scholarships had to choose one or two workshops consisting of a total of 18 sessions or 36 teaching hours. In addition to workshops, 14 posters presentations and 12 project presentations were offered by the participants themselves. This is an opportunity for students and young scholars to present their research in a scientific setting and to get feedback and tips through the presence of experts.

The ESU is also always a meeting place for professors and experts who give a lecture on a specific topic. This year, the overarching topic of the six lectures was the situation of Digital Humanities in different countries worldwide.

But the European Summer University is always more than numbers. This year’s ESU offered a few possibilities to celebrate. As mentioned above the 2019 ESU was the tenth edition of an event that became more and more important over the years. It can be mentioned in the same breath as the Digital Humanities Summer Institute in Victoria Canada (DHSI) and the Digital Humanities at Oxford Summer School (dhoxss).

What makes the Leipzig Summer University so special is the community. Some of the participants have been coming for several years and even a few teachers have been offering their workshops since the beginning of the ESU. But also, all newcomers are always warmly welcomed into the community and most of them are already looking forward to coming back next year at the end of the two weeks.

In addition to coffee breaks and lunches, the Summer University offers communal dinners and museum visits as well as city tours to the participants. This year the Egyptian Museum of the University of Leipzig was won over for a guided tour. The Zeitgeschichtliche Forum (Forum of Contemporary History) with its newly designed permanent exhibition on the subject of the GDR was also reinstated in the programme.

Of course, an appropriate celebration for the 10th anniversary of the Summer University could not be missing. Several friends, companions of the European Summer University in DH Leipzig and some special guests such as Ray and Lynne Siemens or Øyvind Eide attended the reception in the more than 100-year-old Villa Tillmanns, the home of the Research Academy of the University of Leipzig.

The ESU would not be what it is without the good team around Professor Elisabeth Burr. Also in this year everything was done again, so that the participants did not lack anything. The team members were always open for the questions and wishes of the participants, no matter if it was about technical questions or change requests concerning the food or the workshops.

In conclusion, it can be said that the European Summer University in Digital Humanities "Culture and Technology" in Leipzig has become what it is today due to many factors. It is only possible through a variety of funding schemes, including Clarin-D. But not only the generous financial support, also the team and the participants, as well as the community, which is constantly evolving, make the eleven days a yearly obligatory event in the big landscape of DH activities.