Seminar: A digital journeying around • 12 September 2023

Event organised by the Computational Humanities research group

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12 September 2023 – 3pm BST

King’s College London, Bush House (SE) 1.03, (in person) and MSTeams (remote)

Elton Barker (The Open University, United Kingdom), A digital journeying around


Writing in the second century CE, Pausanias provides a deep dive into the cultural centres of the ancient Greek mainland. Describing the built environment through which he moves — from buildings to statues, even rocks on the ground — Pausanias supplements his account with stories about the places and objects he encounters. The challenge when following in his footsteps is to negotiate this ‘thick’ description, where every step of the way can be viewed through multiple temporal frames.  

In this talk I suggest that digital technology affords ways of not only identifying the granularity of the places Pausanias describes but also of getting a better sense of their place in the narrative, where places are related to each other and readers are challenged by the constant and insistent temporal shifts to place themselves in Greece’s storied landscape. Primarily, I want to show how Pausanias is “good to think with” when modelling digitally informed approaches to Humanities research. In particular, I will discuss the use of maps as tools for research (rather than as illustrations); the importance of collaboration and public scholarship; and the transformative potential of the technology of Linked Open Data, for helping us understand the ancient world as every bit relational, intersectional, and excitingly dynamic as ours.


Elton Barker is Professor of Greek Literature and Culture at the Open University. He has also lectured at the universities of Bristol, Nottingham, Reading, and Oxford. His research interests mostly focus on Homeric studies and historical geography. Since 2008, Elton has been leading and co-running many collaborative projects that use digital resources to rethink the spatial understanding of the ancient world. Such projects are Hestia, investigating the cultural geography of the ancient world starting from Herodotus’s HistoriesGoogle Ancient Places, identifying places across corpora of digital texts, and Pelagios, aimed at linking different online materials, among which many historical gazetteers such as Pleiades and the World Historical Gazetteer.

The video of this seminar is available here:

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