The Swiss Digital Humanities Exchange was on fire #DHX2019

This programme was a first exchange organised by dhelta (the EPFL students and researchers association of Digital Humanities) and the Basel DHLab and Musicological Seminar with the purpose of matching students and researchers working in the Digital Humanities in Switzerland. Stirring up this growing community outlines new opportunities for collaborative work and knowledge construction.

Digital Humanities students and researchers from the EPFL and Universities of Lausanne, Basel and Neuchatel gathered for an exchange event this past 22nd and 23rd of February. The two-day event was kindly hosted at the University of Basel.

Meeting new faces, labs and projects:

It all started with a tour of the DHLab Basel ( which is located in the Bernoullianum, a building that used to house the former Basel Observatory. Insights were given about on-going projects such as Bernoulli-Euler Online (presented by Tobias Schweizer) and Knora/Salsah (presented by Flavie Laurens & André Kilchenmann), as well as new ones coming in the future.

Beyond archiving, the humanities projects conceived at the DHLab contribute to a promising infrastructure offering the digitalization and combination of text, images, video and other formats, including mathematical languages. Moreover, modular APIs are being developed for cross-platform communication and collaboration and for data storage and sharing in academia.

In a next visit, the NIE-INE project (, represented by Dominique Steinbach, Roberta Padlena and Sascha Kaufmann, outlined their work in developing a national infrastructure for digital editions. This infrastructure comprises e.g. software environments and collaboratively created Semantic Web ontologies to share knowledge models between researchers in the humanities and technical experts.

Firing talks: diversity as a common ground

After these earlier visits, the Friday afternoon was organized in three sessions of “firing talks” with intermediate breaks. Nineteen participants presented their research (including ongoing or finished master projects, internship projects, or PhD projects) and discussed one-to-one with participants afterwards. Musicology, sociology, history, literature, mathematics and philology were among the disciplines reached by the students and researchers, showing that the preoccupations of digital humanities are broad and rich.

A very warm welcome from the organization team (Jessica Pidoux, Stefan Münnich, Fabian Moss, Andrew Wilson) kicked this session off. Vlad Atanasiu & Isabelle Marthot-Santaniello (Basel) presented “d-scribes: the Digital Palaeography of Greek and Coptic Papyri”. Stefanie Heeg (Basel) introduced the SNF-project “WordWeb/IDEM, Intertextuality in Early Modern period Drama”. Simon Gabay (UniNe) conceptualized shifts from “From Digital Philology to Traditional Philology”. Raphaël Barman (EPFL) demonstrated his work for an auction catalogues data extraction (1939–1945). Maral Mohsenin (UNIL) reported on film archiving in the digital era.

In the second session Andreas Aeschlimann (Basel) talked about the Gabor transform and vision. Then it got very musical, Fabian Moss (EPFL) spoke about analyzing tonality with note distributions. Daniel Harasim (EPFL) described his project about grammar induction of Jazz harmony. Stefan Münnich (Basel) introduced his research at the Anton Webern Gesamtausgabe about musical edition as graph. Then, Rémi Petitpierre & Axel Matthey (EPFL-UNIL) helped us to jump on the train of simulating German coal supply in the XIXth century. Back in the streets, Albane Descombes (EPFL) illustrated her work on addresses, maps, and neighborhoods.

Finally, Cristina Pileggi (Basel) took us back to hip hop music by presenting her PhD-Project “Analyzing Mashups with trAVis”. Elke Schlote (Basel) introduced a web-application for digitalization from school to university called TRAVIS GO. Jessica Pidoux (EPFL) led to the topic of love and algorithms by talking about how choices are made by algorithms and users seeking dates on dating platforms. Bertil Wicht (UNIL) spoke about “How could technology improve the data collection in retrospective survey?” Cédric Viaccoz (EPFL) asked in his presentation “Is the Internet Becoming More Polarised?”

Phew, the participants were on fire after these presentations of exciting and challenging projects and activities. It was a very wide range of scientific disciplines and project forms with interesting parallels to discover. Most diverse projects can have common problems and questions that arose during this exchange.

Besides research: cultural and social exchange:

The second day was dedicated to cultural and social activities and exchange. During a digital city tour a hidden side of Basel, full of surprises, was discovered. The event concluded with a visit of the HeK museum ( The artistic projects that were shown in the exhibition (Pax Award winners of 2018) explored the social and technical issues of the digital era through different senses.

All participants agreed that this exchange must be continued at all costs. Hopefully you will soon hear about this group again which should already face planning a #DHX2020!

A BIG THANKS to all the participants for taking the time and the energy to cheer up this event, and of course an extra thanks to the EPFL Digital Humanities Institute, the UNIL–EPFL Center in Digital Humanities, and the University of Basel’s DHLab, Musicological Seminar and Office of Career Advancement, who all generously supported this event.

Many thanks to everyone and up to #DHX2020!