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RLUK’s Digital Shift Forum

Geographical origins of delegates registered for the first DSF seminar in October.

Watch RLUK Digital Shift Forum events on demand

The RLUK Digital Shift Forum attracts speakers and participants from around the world. One of its key aims is to bring colleagues together from across the library, information, cultural, and research communities to discuss the future of the digital shift and identify ways that we might work across sectors, professional boundaries, and national borders. You can catch up with our previous events below.

MAY 2021

Libraries, Readers, and Digital Distraction – Tyler Shores, ThinkLab Manager, University of Cambridge

This talk explores some of the ways in which digital engagement is more important than ever before for libraries. User attention and distraction are not so either/or as they might at first seem – and Tyler explores issues about reading and online habits and behaviours in ways that might challenge some common assumptions. In addition, the seminar provides the opportunity to discuss what works in a constantly evolving online and social media environment, based on research and best practices.

APRIL 2021

Better Sharing – Catherine Stihler, CEO, Creative Commons

Twenty years ago, Creative Commons (CC) started with a simple, radical idea: to save the Internet from “failed sharing.” At that time, copyright law made it difficult for anyone who wanted to share their work across the Internet under generous terms to do so. Today we have created a powerful tool that provides the infrastructure for legal, voluntary sharing that creates a global world of shared and reusable creative resources backed by a global network and community with a pure motive: aiding creators to grant free access to science, culture and knowledge all in the service of the common good.

If 2020 has taught us anything, there are still too many barriers to openness and that there is an urgent need to create equity in access to knowledge across the Internet so that we can share and work together to face the challenges of today and tomorrow. At CC they want to explore what better open sharing looks like in 2021 and beyond. How do we best serve the public interest when challenges around equity, climate and AI loom large? In this talk Catherine explores their current thinking on better sharing at the heart of our new strategy and what this means for us as both professionals and human beings.

APRIL 2021

Digital shifts and sustainability – Federica Lucivero, Senior Researcher in Data and Ethics, Ethox Centre and the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities

The shift to digital services is often presented as a sustainable option that increases access while reducing carbon footprint. However, there is widespread evidence that digital infrastructures have considerable environmental impacts. Taking the start from an overview of available evidence of the environmental impacts of digital infrastructures, this seminar will explore emerging social and ethical challenges in the run towards sustainable digital technologies.  In describing current distribution of responsibilities, gaps in the system and stakeholders’ view on the matter, the seminar will critically discuss the intertwining of individual, institutional and corporate responsibility and the different values at stake.

MARCH 2021

Kua mua, ka muri: Using our digital experiences to look back and move forward at the Alexander Turnbull Library, New Zealand – Jessica Moran, Associate Chief Librarian, Alexander Turnbull Library, and Mark Crookston, Programme Director, National Library of New Zealand 

Ka mua, ka muri is a Māori whakatouki (proverb) meaning ‘walking backward into the future’. In 2020 the Alexander Turnbull Library (the research library within the National Library of New Zealand) celebrated its centenary. 100 years of building, protecting and providing research services to national collections covering a comprehensive range of publications, artistic expression, and archival documentation – analogue, digitised and (increasingly) born digital. This presentation outlines how we used the centenary to reflect on our experiences with digital shifts thus far and look forward to what we aspire to be as a research library. It will focus on the key challenges and opportunities provided by digital – building representative research collections, addressing challenges of sustainability, and the scale and ephemeral nature of born digital. Our efforts to meet researcher expectations, our work to build research communities, and the development of the staff skills and culture to meet the present and future digital shifts and requirements of being a digital research library will also be discussed.

MARCH 2021

“This building is never complete” – a tale of space, users and technologies – Hiral Patel, Lecturer and Architect, Cardiff University

Library buildings are always in a state of flux. They have been continuously adapted in response to emerging technologies, pedagogical innovations or creation of new library services.  This talk will discuss the evolution of a library building over the last 50 years in response to changing user needs and digital technologies, taking the example of the University of Reading’s library. The talk will conclude with provocations for the future role of library spaces, particularly in the context of rapid digital transitions instigated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The proliferation of technologies in our daily lives will have a profound impact on ways of learning and the use of libraries. Rethinking library buildings as interactions between users, technologies and physical spaces will become even more pertinent.


Digital creativity and the future of storytelling – Damian Murphy, Professor in Sound and Music Computing at AudioLab, University of York

** At 06:00 Damian is referring to colleagues from the Department of Psychology and not Archaeology as stated.

The increasingly ubiquitous nature of digital technology and data in our society has delivered a transformation in both our understanding and our practice of creativity – and the role that this digital technology holds – in its everyday realisation. We are moving to a point where digital technology integrates with and underpins many aspects of our lives and is no longer a novelty in and of itself. Digital Creativity therefore becomes something that provides a foundation to both support and enhance many forms of research and practice, as well as existing as an area of research in its own right, with no perceived barrier between the two.

This talk considers digital creativity in the context of future storytelling and cases studies that have emerged from the work of the XR Stories creative clusters R&D partnership project. From this we will consider what changes in our research culture might be demanded to ensure the wider benefit from the opportunities that digital creativity brings. How might we build a wider audience of digitally creative natives who are better able to embrace such opportunities? The impact across many aspects of our society, including the creative and cultural sectors, industry and community, has the potential to be significant.

Access the slides to this talk


Data and information for sustainable living and the future – Gobinda Chowdhury, Professor of Information Science, University of Strathclyde

Research shows that creation, management and sharing of relevant data and information form the foundation of success in achieving sustainable development in every field. However, Information Poverty remains a critical issue for societies today. Information poverty can be caused by a number of factors ranging from lack of access to ICTs to lack of basic digital skills, and poor information and data literacy. Over 10% of the UK population don’t have access to internet or ICT; 28% of people aged 65 are offline; 4.3 million people in UK do not have any basic digital skills, and 11.3 million people have very few basic digital skills. Recent reports on data misuse, misinformation and infodemics present clear evidences of potential risks and damages to individuals and society.

This talk touches upon some of these key points highlighting the challenges posed by data and information poverty in everyday life and society. While pointing towards some potential solutions for improving data and information access and use, the speaker will argue that such solutions can only be achieved through concerted efforts of multiple stakeholders, researchers and professionals in different domains.

Access the slides from this talk 


Managing digital in a time of accelerating change – John Stack, Digital Director, Science Museum Group

Museums, galleries, libraries and archives operate at their touch points with their audiences. Historically, the museum experience has begun and ended with the entry and exit of a physical visit. In the digital age, digital channels are a component of all visits, and increasingly visits are digital-only experiences.

Digital provides galleries, libraries, archives and museums, new ways to fulfil their missions through increased reach, enhanced experiences and deeper engagement. However, the digital landscape and audience behaviour continues to evolve rapidly presenting the challenge of how to keep up with ever-changing digital technologies and audience expectations. This talk will explore the ways in which digital might be deployed to achieve the right mix of sustainable long-term solutions, and experiments and exploration of emerging technologies.


Building digital skills and appetite for now and the future – Tiina Hill, Senior Manager, and James Akers, Tech Champion for Data Analytics and Insight, Digital Culture Network, Arts Council England

The pandemic as a catalyst for change or a temporary digital fix? Tiina and James offer an overview of emerging trends before and after lockdown in how the arts cultural sector is shifting to working more digitally and challenges around digital integration and transformation. They provide an outline of the Digital Culture Network, where it started from, and the work of its team of 9 specialist “on the ground” Tech Champions in building digital skills and capacity across the sector. They reflect on the demand for its support offer, provide insights and examples from working with people across the sector, and outline of Arts Council England’s 10 Year Strategy in supporting sector survival and resilience.


Managing the digital dystopia – Claire Warwick, Professor of Digital Humanities, Durham University

Digital is in danger of acquiring a bad rep. Over the last few months unprecedented numbers of people have become accustomed to living and working online, and not all of them enjoy it. They have found during the pandemic, the experience of interaction online, whether with other people, or with information is very different from what we do in person. And this experience is seldom compared favourably to physical, ‘real’ interaction. Thanks to the A level algorithm, all algorithms have come to be regarded with massive scepticism, to the extent that some local authorities have abandoned their use in welfare management. Social media is increasingly associated with deadly misinformation and hate speech, leading to boycotts by users, advertisers and even celebrities, bloggers and YouTubers. Yet, as librarians and information professionals know very well, digital delivery is ideal for certain types of information, such as journal articles or digital images of rare manuscripts. Digital allows us to interact with such materials in new and exciting ways. But how should we proceed, in an environment where our users may increasingly regard digital interaction and computational techniques with scepticism or even hostility? Claire explores some of these questions, based on the research she has done on the way that we interact with digital and physical information environments, especially in terms of emotion and affect.


Pandemic effects and collection directions – Lorcan Dempsey, Vice President and Chief Strategist, OCLC

Beyond the scramble of the current situation, universities will be looking at long term pandemic effects. This clearly has implications for libraries, as they cleave more closely to university strategies. This presentation  looks at some pandemic effects, and considers how it will likely accelerate some collection directions already evident. It also emphasised two important collection imperatives – for optimisation and for pluralisation. In this talk Lorcan explores how different national systemic characteristics play into developments, sketching differences between UKI and the US.