Dr Jason Ensor works at the forefront of digital humanities and eResearch. With nearly two decades in humanities and technology arenas, he has built a reputation for developing, supporting and fostering the innovative use of technology within higher education research as both a method of inquiry and a means of dissemination. An accomplished professional and academic, he has spent the past two and a half years developing the digital humanities program at Western Sydney University, which has helped position the Digital Humanities Research Group at the forefront of the research field in the Asia-Pacific region.
In his current research and technical development role, Jason provides vital academic, management and technology expertise as well as enabling, developing and coordinating digital humanities projects. Embracing core values that mix integrity with innovation, he has primary responsibility for designing and maintaining project infrastructure, as well as providing direct scholarly and methodological consultation for individual projects through their full life-cycle in parallel with wider linked initiatives within Western Sydney University. Jason holds four degrees in related humanities fields and is an experienced business professional in software development and publishing. He is a valued speaker on research problems and digital solutions, presenting regularly in national and international forums.
Jason has held positions at The University of Queensland (Brisbane), Curtin University of Technology (Perth), Murdoch University (Perth), The University of Western Australia (Perth), The Australian National University (Canberra) and Western Sydney University (Sydney). He is currently a Visiting Fellow of Huygens ING (Den Haag, 2015-2016). Most recently, he was Data Analyst in Research & Development at Murdoch University and Technical Officer for the Australian Centre for Indigenous History at The Australian National University. In Perth Jason administered Murdoch University’s ERA (Excellence in Research Australia) complete ERA2 data submission. In Canberra he led the technical design and development of one of the largest digital history and knowledge management projects in the field of Australian Indigenous History. A regular speaker in Australia, internationally Jason has presented research in Whistler (Canada), Rotterdam and Den Haag (The Netherlands), Montreal (Canada), Nancy (France), Wellington (New Zealand) and Antwerp (Belgium). In 2016 he will give talks in Paris (France), Den Haag (The Netherlands), Oxford (United Kingdom) and Stanford (United States), and in August will chair a distinguished international NIAS-Lorentz workshop on mutual cultural heritage in Leiden (The Netherlands).
Jason is Director of Electronic Resources for the international Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP, re-elected 2015) and a Founding Editorial Board member for The Anthem Studies in Book History, Publishing and Print Culture (United Kingdom) and DHCommons (United States). He is a Chief Investigator (CI-3) with Professor Simon Burrows (CI-1) on the ‘Mapping Print, Charting Enlightenment’ Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Project (AUD $460K, 2016-2017) and Project Lead (PI-1) with Professor Simon Burrows (PI-2) on the ‘Angus & Robertson Collection for Humanities and Education Research (Archiver)’ Australian National Data Service (ANDS) High-Value Collection Project (AUD $160K, 2016-2017). Jason regularly contributes to The Conversation on matters related to research impact and digital scholarship. He was Conference Director for Global Digital Humanities 2015 and is Co-Convenor of SHARP’s planned 2018 conference in Sydney.
Jason has a PhD in Communication and Cultural Studies (“Places of Publication and the Australian Book Trade: A Study of Angus & Robertson’s London Office, 1938-1970”) from Murdoch University (Humanities Research Institute, 2011). His PhD was completed as part of an ARC Discovery Project that merged a technologically innovative analysis of publishing data with an interpretative history of over 18,000 archival documents. Jason has a Master of Arts by research in Australian Studies (“Towards Critical Cultural Foresight: Australian Futures Studies”) from The University of Queensland (School of English, Media Studies and Art History), a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in Communication and Cultural Studies (The University of Queensland, Department of English), a Postgraduate Diploma in Australian Studies by dissertation (The University of Queensland, Australian Studies Centre) and a Certificate in Engaging Learners in Online Discussion (Open Universities Australia).
In his research Jason is particularly interested in systems and strategies for measuring and benchmarking research impact across disciplines; the evaluation gap between ‘born digital’ scholarship and traditional research outputs; digital cultural mapping, geo-temporal analysis and data-use in humanities scholarship; the interaction between consumerism, technology and cultural transformation; the future of books projected from an historical perspective and from current product developments; the predictive role of creative work in book formats; and open business models in academic publishing.
Jason’s latest book, Angus & Robertson and the British Trade in Australian Books, 1930–1970: The Getting of Bookselling Wisdom (2012), examines the literary, economic and cultural interdependence between Australian and British publishers during the twentieth century. Other more recent publications include: ‘Strategic Publishing Using Journal Finder’ (2016), a library sciences approach to organising existing information relating to journals and impact in ways that are relevant to the Australian situation; ‘Doctoral Supervision in Virtual Spaces’ (2016), a synthesis of research on combining digital technology with pedagogy in order to innovate doctoral supervision; ‘Is a Picture Worth 10,175 Australian Novels?’ (2010), a cultural studies analysis of technology use in humanities research; ‘Still Waters Run Deep: Empirical Methods and the Migration Patterns of Regional Publishers’ Authors and Titles within Australian Literature’ (2009), a study of 100 years of publishing in Australia; and ‘The Novel, the Implicated Reader and Australian Literary Cultures, 1950–2008‘ (2009), a study of Australian fiction by examining the way it has been moulded by the publishing industry, including pulp publishing, and the changing tastes of readers (cited in Australia.Gov.Au). All of Jason’s papers and chapters are available to read online for free under the ‘Research’ tab above. For external reviews of his research, please visit the ‘Commendations‘ page.
Working as a publisher for select projects, Jason has hands-on skills in and knowledge of all aspects of print and digital publishing from manuscript procurement and editing, to design to typesetting. He was previously production editor at The University of Queensland where from 1996 to 2001 he managed over 400 authors across several academic series including The Journal of Australian Studies, Australian Cultural History, University of Queensland Press Symposia and University of Queensland Press Australian Studies. Jason has contributed to the development of two monographs with a Western Australian history focus (A History of Dentistry in Western Australia and Odysseus and the Golden West, both by Dr John Yiannakis in 2009), and designed and typeset Never Stand Still: Stories of Life, Land and Politics in the Kimberley (2012) by John Darraga Watson and Dr Malcolm Allbrook (a book described by Penguin Australia and Fremantle Press as a “beautifully presented written and visual memoir of life on the land in the Kimberley”). In 2011 Jason founded the highly successful monographic book series Writing Life Australia (now in its fifth volume). Previous titles include Black Night, White Day: Green-Born Women in Australia (2015) by Emeritus Professor Reginald Appleyard and Teaching at Home, Teaching Abroad: A New Theory for Languages Education (2015) by Dr Angela Evangelinou-Yiannakis.
Jason has been engaged in research & development projects in the arts, humanities and social services sector for nearly two decades. He is proficient in the key technologies and approaches commonly used in digital humanities and digital history projects – such as creating, modelling and manipulating structured data; prototyping new tools to search, query, retrieve and display records using relational database and standards-compliant web-delivery services; location-aware applications; XML and related technologies; and designing and writing programs and interfaces which facilitate content creation and digital publication. Jason is fluent in HTML5, JQuery, PHP and MySQL and comfortable configuring and managing W/L/MAMP servers.
Over the past sixteen years Jason has developed online software for a number of Australian cultural organisations including Craft Queensland, the Queensland Community Arts Network, PlayLab, QMusic, the Queensland Folk Federation, Opera North, Youth Voice, the Association of Independent Records, Artworkers Alliance, Art of Giving (Queensland State Government), the Medieval Fayre, MMMedia, the Arts Queensland Information Technology Partnership Project, the Arc Biennial, the Australian Network of Art and Health, the Dreaming Festival, LoveWise and Flipside Circus) and in the tertiary sector (including the former Australian Studies Centre [UQ], the former Australia Research Institute [Curtin University], the International Auto/Biography Association, Visible Evidence, the International Australian Studies Association, the Australian Common Reader project, the Association for the Study of Australian Literature, and the Australian Public Intellectual Network).
As a sole trader during 2000-2006, Jason operated a small business developing digitally enabled initiatives to support online enterprises for a diverse range of peak body organisations in the social services sector before returning to higher degree research in 2006. For this work, he was accredited on the Government Information and Communications Technology (GICT) Register and in 2003 won the Executive Director’s Prize for Outstanding Achievement and Contribution to the Woodford Folk Festival. A personal highlight was the development of ‘print at home’ ticketing (with backend bank reconciliation) for mobile barcode scanning at the Woodford Folk Festival (2004-2005) before such things were common. In 2011 Jason was shortlisted for the Western Australian Geek-in-Residence fellowship award by the Australian Council for the Arts.
Jason has project management experience deploying Information Technology tools and services in large-scale collaborative and interdisciplinary research. All the consultant contracts he has held in the public sector and the positions he has held at Australian National University, Curtin University, Murdoch University, The University of Queensland and The University of Western Australia have included project management responsibilities. Throughout his professional life, Jason has worked directly with authors (aged 18 to 79), researchers, managers and not-for-profit leaders to facilitate project definition, analysis and training, covering aspects such as project requirements, specifications and design with regards to Information Technology and digital and print publishing requirements.
Often Jason has been engaged to evaluate existing tools and technologies, and investigate emerging trends to identify potential uses in humanities research or cultural knowledge contexts. When no appropriate digital tool has existed to support a specific need of a project or where proprietary solutions are too prohibitive in cost, he has created and modelled new tools, combining linear and prototyping-in-stages methodologies to reduce project risk, and has implemented this software for use by others. This has involved collaborating with colleagues in the Arts and Humanities alongside Information Technology services to bring together various technology infrastructures, policies and researcher needs and to ensure that research activity and project outcomes align and interrelate with wider partner, school, government and university priorities, digital strategies and infrastructure. For the latter, Jason employed where appropriate university systems and other approaches as needed. This has also included providing remote and onsite technical support and coordinating the deployment of web services to help researchers achieve their goals in digital humanities research both on campus and in the field. Having been engaged in academic, professional and not-for-profit settings for nearly twenty years, Jason considers his ability to translate between IT and Arts / Humanities vocabularies and concepts a major strength in facilitating and participating in these kinds of successful collaborations. If you would like to review some of Jason’s work, please visit the ‘Design & Development’ page of this site.
From 2011 to 2013, Jason was responsible for administering the Excellence in Research Australia (ERA) submission at Murdoch University, Perth. The ERA initiative by the Australia Research Council (ARC) aims to identify and promote excellence across the full spectrum of research activity in Australia’s higher education institutions. The indicators used in ERA include a range of metrics such as citation profiles, which are common to disciplines in the natural sciences, and peer review of a sample of research outputs, which is more broadly common in the humanities and social sciences. The data submitted by universities covers all eligible researchers and their research outputs.
Jason’s role at Murdoch University was to develop original online tools and services which linked major citation and peer review research assets, visualised research trends, calculated relative citation impact, and analysed the performance and coverage of scholarly outcomes with regards to national and international benchmarks for individual fields of research (FoRs). The tools he created allowed effective consultation between the parties involved in the submission, the discovery of new assessable FoRs, and enabled effective error checking. These tools integrated staff data from Murdoch University’s internal HR system, publication and grant data from Murdoch University’s IRMA suite (the Integrated Research Management Application), Discipline Matrix data and ERA rules from the ARC, up-to-date citation data from SciVerse Scopus (a bibliographic database containing abstracts and citations for academic journal articles) including ten years of ranking data for 22,000 journals, library holding data from WorldCat (a union catalogue that itemises the collections of 72,000 libraries in 170 countries and territories), and supplementary data from Google Scholar (a web search engine that indexes the full text of scholarly literature across an array of publishing formats and disciplines).
Applied across all of Murdoch University’s research activities, these tools were used by research leaders, deans and the executive to more effectively evaluate and assign patents, grants, publications, explanatory statements and non-traditional research outputs within the context of ERA2 reporting requirements. As a result of this work Murdoch University had only a tiny number of submission errors and was one of the first institutions to complete its submission process. Overall, Murdoch University’s assessed (4 digit) units of evaluation rated ‘at world standard’ or above rose from 65% in 2010 to 85% in 2012. The online suite is now known as ‘Research Q.E.D.’ (‘Quite Easily Done’). More details of this work can be viewed on the ‘Design & Development‘ page.
Jason’s role in the Australian National University’s ARC Linkage project Deepening Histories of Place: Exploring Indigenous Landscapes of National and International Significance is a distinctive and recent example of harnessing research activity through digital technology. As Technical Officer, he played a pivotal developer and advisory role for research partners in designing and implementing the project’s digital history delivery strategies. Jason was directly responsible for developing and reporting on this work to the project’s stakeholders at Management Group meetings. Backed by a consortium of Industry partners, this Linkage project rendered some of the deeper layers of Australia’s history more accessible to the public. Stakeholders included the National Film and Sound Archive, the Northern Territory Government, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, National Parks, the Office of Environment and Heritage, and the University of Sydney. The project’s pilot studies were in the Sydney-Blue Mountains, Central Australia and the Top End of the Northern Territory. As a member of this unique interdisciplinary and industry team, Jason was working with leading historians in Australian Indigenous History and major collections institutions in order to produce richer interpretations of internationally significant Australian landscapes and to develop innovative models for multi-vocal Indigenous and landscape-focused histories.
Deepening Histories of Place was the largest digital cultural project for Aboriginal knowledge management attempted in Australia that deals with the most complex and ethically sensitive issues facing digital humanities around access control and cultural heritage. This project has especially broken new ground in the legal area of Indigenous Cultural Intellectual Property (ICIP) rights management through the use of digital methods. The Attorney-General of Australia launched five outcomes resulting from this work in April 2013: a project home website which hosts a set of Ethical Protocols and five clearance forms developed by Terri Janke and Company for fostering and maintaining ethical research relationships with Indigenous people and communities; a digital history research environment for cultural knowledge management, which consists of administrative tasks and decisions surrounding the ingestion, annotation, cataloguing, storage, retrieval and distribution of digital photographs, audio and video (which are in turn processed within the context of Dublin Core metadata for resource descriptions and an Ethical Protocols controlled vocabulary for managing ICIP status and access); and three scholarly research publications in digital form. These three digital research outputs are: ‘A Feeling For Place: Reflections on Arnhem Land History with Emeritus Professor John Mulvaney‘, which combines over 800 photographs taken since the late 1960s with recorded commentaries; ‘The Dreaming History from the Pelican‘, which tells us about the creation of stone knives and their movement along the ancient Aboriginal trade routes that cross Australia’s Top End; and ‘Our Music, Performing Place, Listening to Sydney‘, which collects together performances from a day-long event held at Sydney’s iconic Conservatorium of Music, providing an opportunity for both established and emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander musicians who call Sydney home, to come together to perform and discuss their personal, family and community history, their connection to place, and their musical practice. Education Services Australia (ESA), the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), and the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) have subsequently added the four public websites as educational resources. Further information about these outcomes can be viewed in this site’s ‘Design & Development‘ section.