Introducing… Yann Ryan

Written by Yann RyanMay 24, 2019Comments: 0

What’s your name?

Yann Ryan

What’s your background?

I completed a B.A. and M.A. in History at the University of Limerick, in Ireland, followed by a long and enjoyable time away from the academic world, working in a variety of fields from retail to hospitality to tutoring. Along the way I competed in a national barista competition (to little critical acclaim), recorded an EP (to even less), before coming to Queen Mary, University of London to study for a PhD in the department of English, looking at early modern international news networks and teaching lots of seminars on Renaissance literature. Since last October I’ve been employed at The British Library as the curator of newspaper data – a role that’s led to me working alongside the Living with Machines team.

In one sentence, what is your role on the project?

As the curator of newspaper for the Library, I aim to broaden the use of newspaper data to a wider audience, increase access to and promote the use of the Library’s newspaper datasets, and ultimately make recommendations as to how the Library can best encourage and support projects like Living with Machines.

What excites you about the project?

Many things, but I’m particularly excited by the approach the project is taking towards understanding systemic bias in large-scale historical sources. By tackling the question head-on, I think the project has an opportunity to significantly improve our understanding of the impact of bias on data-driven research. If the project leads to some fundamental principles which help researchers work with rather than ignore bias in data, it would be a gigantic leap forward for digital scholarship.

What challenges do you see ahead?

Mobilising the incredible talent, expertise and enthusiasm attached to the project to engage with the academic community as well as a broader audience – answering the why as well as the how.

What’s the last (non work) book you read, exhibition or performance you saw?

In the last few weeks I’ve been to a couple of music performances which coincidentally used data in their composition: David Rosenboom at Café Oto, who improvised over ‘neurofeedback’ (data from brainwaves), and Actress x Stockhausen Sin (x) II: an opera which used data collected from speeches made in the House of Lords. To me, the fact that so many artists are engaging with data and working to understand its implications is proof that Living with Machines can and will have broad meaningful impacts.

Finally, where can people find out more about you and your work?

You can follow my intermittent tweets here: also look out for an exhibition on news infographics at the Library next February!

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