Malta hosts Digital Research in Humanities and Arts Conference

Susan Broadhurst, Anastasios Maragiannis and Toni Sant tell us about some of the most urgent issues facing the digital humanities today

Next September, Malta will be hosting the 22nd edition of the Digital Research in the Humanities & Arts (DRHA) Conference at Spajzu Kreattiv, St James Cavalier, Valletta. Teodor Reljic sat down with three of its speakers – Susan Broadhurst (School of Arts, Brunel University, London), Anastasios Maragiannis (Department of Creative Professions and Digital Arts, University of Greenwich, London) and Toni Sant (University of Salford, current Artistic Director at Spazju Kreattiv) – about some of the most urgent issues facing the digital humanities today

What would you say are some of the most urgent issues that impact the digital humanities right now, and how do you seek to address them and confront them through your own work and research?

Toni Sant: The most urgent issue from where I stand is one of Digital Curation. This is not just a matter of digital humanities but also digital arts, and digital media more broadly. Memory is the keyword binding together digital preservation, digital archiving, digital forensics, and digital heritage. 

That is why we made sure to have these at the heart of the 2018 DRHA conference.

Another significant issue is open access. This is one for which we’re grateful for the input of Wikimedia Community Malta, who are the foremost proponents of open access and open data in this country. 

The danger is that we’re facing loss of collective memory from digital documents and digital artefacts that are not built for long-term access, either through lack of engagement with digital curation or open access formats and methods.

Anastasios Maragiannis: To answer this question, I will borrow from the Manifesto of Lluís Ortega, from ‘The Authorship in Architecture in the Post Digital Age (2017)’: “We are currently material organisers... We share our work and digital experiences through public exhibitions…” We are practising digital humanities through an amalgamation of techniques through a discipline that consists of “skilfully manipulation of historical materials” that “tend towards multiplicity and a “sense of non-finalisation”. 

Throughout my personal work and research engagement within the digital humanities, I have cultivated open-discussion groups, for people interested in creative digital practices and theories of cross-disciplinarity, interactive design, new media technologies, visual communication and philosophies of the state-of-the current and future digital humanities.

Susan Broadhurst: There needs to be a greater appreciation of the sheer pleasures resulting from Digital Technology rather than a concentration on its use merely for archiving and utilitarian communication purposes.

This year’s edition of the conference is taking place in Malta. One of the truisms of the digital humanities is perhaps its ability to transcend geographical barriers. So why is it important to locate these discussions in places like Malta, and what do you think is gained from this localisation?

Broadhurst: Malta is on the edge of Europe, and for me represents a liminal space (following Victor Turner) that is “betwixt and between” with a potential for experimentation and the creation of new forms as is the very integral use of digital technologies in relation to creativity and innovation.

Maragiannis: The DRHA is the heart of internationalising and is bringing together a number of international academics, artists and researchers. Malta’s unique geographical location, the rich historical anthropology and historical human movement in combination with the European capital of culture 2018, will offer to DRHA delegates a unique experience. 

Sant: The ability to do two things are what makes a conference like DRHA really necessary in a place like Malta. The first is to bring a significant number of specialised knowledge workers to a particular location to enable others based in that place to interact with them in a concentrated manner. This is why, for example, we’re planning to involve as many students of digital arts and humanities in the DRHA conference taking place in Malta. 

The other benefit is that the attention of the same group of people can be turned to their areas of research interest in terms of a particular location. That’s why we’ve teamed up with Heritage Malta, who recently launched a major Google Cardboard project involving the digitisation of a large number of museums and other heritage sites across the Maltese islands. Some of the DRHA participants visiting Malta may be experiencing this technology for the first time while others who have broad experience of such technologies will bring their professional perspective to it, enhancing its understanding and further use in Malta.

The DRHA Conference – 2018 will be taking place from 9 to 12 September next year. Closing date for submission of papers to the conference is January 31, 2018. For more information, log on to