VALA Events 2019: An Open Book: Big Data, Literature and Ethics

VALA invites you to our June Special event and VALA AGM. Join us at the William Angliss Conference Centre in Melbourne on Wednesday 26 June from 5:30pm.

The AGM will be followed by a presentation by Dr Tyne Daile Sumner from the University of Melbourne. By using Literary Studies to ‘open the book’ on the complex relationship between librarianship, data, and ethics, this talk will explore the important role libraries have to play in negotiating the complex ethical debates at the centre of big data.

Topic: An Open Book: Big Data, Literature and Ethics

Jorge Luis Borges famously wrote: “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” Indeed, throughout history, libraries have been synonymous with exploration, imagination, freedom, education and, most importantly, peace. Libraries are a place to contemplate and create, to put directives aside and embrace discursive thinking. Yet libraries also exemplify order and categorisation; they apply standards for descriptive cataloguing to name and classify the world in particular ways. What happens, then, when libraries meet big data? Defined as ‘the massive volume of both structured and unstructured data that’s so large it is difficult to process using traditional techniques,’ big data has come to dominate contemporary discussion at the nexus of technology, data, and ethics. Moreover, the advent of big data has transformed not only the ways in which data is collected and stored but also how it is used: endeavours that are also central to the social and political role of libraries. By using Literature as a case study, this talk will examine the ways in which 21st century digital scholarship is reshaping not only the Humanities but also traditional librarianship as we know it. In so doing, it will explore the important role libraries have to play in negotiating the complex ethical debates at the centre of big data.

The Future:

The advent of big data has brought about significant challenges to access, ethics and accessibility when it comes to data collection and uses. Libraries the world over have always been united in their goal of providing equal and free access to knowledge, resources, and information. In the coming years, libraries have a crucial role to play in counteracting the trend towards ‘datafication’, a development that has been described as the ‘quantification of social interactions and their transformation into digital data’ (Richterich, 2018). Always able to reinvent themselves to keep pace with a rapidly evolving digital landscape, there is no question that libraries will be ready for the next revolution, the question is simply, in what form?

Who should attend:

Anyone with a keen interest in the nexus of Humanities, data and technology: Librarians, students, researchers, GLAM professionals, digital and data aficionados, teachers.


Dr Tyne Daile Sumner

Tyne Sumner is a Research Fellow, consultant, and Digital Humanities engagement specialist at the University of Melbourne. Her primary research focuses on the connections between Literature, surveillance and big data; in particular, the ways in which large-scale surveillance practices alter subjectivities and collective discourse. Currently she trains researchers in data-driven tools and methods at the University of Melbourne, is deputy project manager of the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences Data Enhanced Virtual Laboratory (HASS DeVL), and is working on a project that investigates the role of digital disruption on concepts of place in Universities.


Please join the VALA Committee, members and guests for this special VALA Event, at 5.30pm, Wednesday 26 June 2019.

This talk will follow the business of the Annual General Meeting. VALA members will be advised separately regarding the AGM.


RSVP: limited numbers, so please register only if you will attend. No “no shows” please! (We know who you are….)

Visitors are welcome at VALA meetings – but registration is essential!



William Angliss Conference Centre
Building A, Level 5,
555 LaTrobe Street,


Wednesday 26 June 2019, 5:30 for 6:00 – 8:00pm
Complimentary refreshments served on arrival. Drinks and finger food from 7.30-8.00pm.

For any enquiries contact VALA Secretariat via or (03) 9844 2933