Creating a community around digital through the Birmingham Digital Exchange – Professor Jean-Baptiste Cazier

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Birmingham Digital Exchange (BDx) is an ongoing conversation about digital technologies in our work, our disciplines and our learning and teaching, across the University of Birmingham. It is the product of a successful Educational Enhancement Fund bid, the brainchild of Professor Jean-Baptiste Cazier (Director of the Centre for Computational Biology) and Professor David Parker (Professor of Digital Philology in the Department of Theology), in partnership with the College of Arts and Law’s Digital Education Team.

Over three weeks in March and April 2019, a series of blended webinars (using Canvas conferencing) featuring expert panellists from across the University, explored topics with an audience of academic and professional services staff. Recordings of the webinars are available on the BDx Canvas module (which remains open for self-enrolment for UoB staff and students) This module also features a series of videos starring colleagues from across the university, reflecting on how digital is changing their practice as researchers, educators and members of the University community.

As the first stage of BDx activities drew to a close, I caught up with Jean-Baptiste , to capture his reflections on the BDx project so far. I asked him what inspired him to create the Exchange.

“The whole idea of Birmingham Digital Exchange (BDx) came out of a discussion and meeting with David Parker. David was very interested to talk to me from his perspective, which is very different for humanities, and we figured out that we had a lot of concerns and ideas in common. From there on we decided that there should be a broader conversation about digital, crossing the border between humanities and the sciences.”


Birmingham Digital Exchange isn’t Jean-Baptiste and David’s first collaborative project. Together, they created the Special Interest Group for Academic Programming, a cross-disciplinary university forum for discussion on a broad range of areas linked to digital and programming. The discussions that this group generated helped to bring BDx into being.

Jean-Baptiste’s vision for BDx was to create an open conversation about digital across the university, to include all staff. He is keen that the project includes a diverse range of perspectives from across the University.

“[It’s] most important to keep the idea of communication across fields, across groups of people or groups of professions… It’s very important for us to show that the digital revolution affects not only research but also teaching as well as everyday life.”

Throughout the webinars, Jean-Baptiste observed the benefits of this inclusive approach:

“Discussion [led] by the humanities resonated with the sciences but [offered] a different perspective. [It] vindicated our view that we should discuss more between fields.”

He hopes that as discussion from BDx continues it will become “one of the many catalysts to do the transformational [work of] the digital revolution on campus.”

If you want to join the conversation, you are invited to enrol on the Canvas BDx module, where you can view the videos and webinar recordings from BDx Series 1, and you’ll receive announcements about new videos and upcoming webinars. We hope that you will join us as we continue this exploration of digital across, and beyond, our campus. For colleagues outside of the University of Birmingham, we will soon be announcing a public channel where you can follow BDx.

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