Tallinn University (TLU) has elected Professor Maximilian Schich as the designated ERA Chair for Cultural Data Analytics. He moved to Tallinn University from the University of Texas at Dallas in early Summer 2020. More info see

TLU has won a grant for this position from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 ERA Chair programme. The programme supports universities in their efforts to build on their growing reputation as leaders in research and innovation. The programme awards top researchers and their teams EUR 2.5 million over five years to establish ambitious research programmes. Estonian Research Council is expected to top it up with additional 200 000 euros from its Mobilitas scheme. After the initial funding ERA Chair funding period the position will be tenured and TLU will support it by its own means.

ERA Chair holder is responsible for creating and managing a new research group in cultural data analytics that will interconnect three TLU Schools – Baltic Film, Media and Arts School (BFM), School of Humanities (SH) and School of Digital Technologies (DTI). The ERA Chair holder is a professor of cultural data analytics at BFM.

Why a Chair on cultural data analytics in Estonia? #

Estonia serves as an excellent location for establishing the ERA Chair on cultural data analytics. First, Estonia is a small and compact country where research projects could easily cover the whole population of cultural enterprises, producers and users as well as the corpora of cultural data. The Estonian Parliament has committed to digitise and make accessible most of its cultural heritage in analogue formats – this would enable to analyse content corpora representing the whole of a specific national culture, providing a unique research opportunity. Tallinn University experts have a long history participating in designing many of these databases, repositories and services – our project has very good access to all of these as well as their designers and related policy makers.

Estonia has also an excellent starting position for next generation cultural data management research due to its digital infrastructure, advanced e-governance systems and services. This means that all public and private cultural institutions are digitally well equipped and literate. Several cultural information databases are centrally developed, utilising the government-enabled interoperable digital services and information systems – all public services and registries are interconnected via a unique backbone X-road. A well-established X-road infrastructure allows seamless interoperability of all national data registries and online information systems. All citizens have their digital ID-cards for secure authorisation and authentication, digital signatures etc., library cards, Single Sign-On keys etc. This digital infrastructure (along with skills and habits to use it) provides a unique context for research on big data on cultural practices. The Estonian government has recently also started to actively develop its open/linked data policy and interoperability of all related information systems and databases.

Tallinn University has evolving ability analysing and developing open cultural data repositories. TLU was one of the initiators, for instance, of the Estonian Film Database and was an initiative partner in establishing the Estonian E-Repository. The repository is an integrated e-environment created for digitised resources of the Estonian memory institutions: libraries, archives and museums. The e-repository enables to link national heritage collections with Europeana. Furthermore, TLU has a well-established capacity to study and develop Estonian creative and cultural industries – TU is a leading institution in this area in Estonia, much of this research has been applied; TLU experts are consulting industry institutions. Many of TLU faculty members are actively consulting government and EU bodies on media and cultural policies.

Estonia with its digital infrastructure and usage cultures and TLU with its long-term expertise and involvement in cultural research and policy consulting offers a uniquely fruitful soil for the ERA Chair project. The ERA Chair will link existing capabilities of studying creative industries, open cultural data, cultural dynamics and policy making thus creating synergies across multiple areas. The ERA Chair will make use of such favourable settings in order to connect and combine various data sources to cultural practices of both consumption and production. Furthermore, through the CUDAN project, we expect to foster the existing forms of cooperation at Tallinn University and contribute in developing new interdisciplinary research projects in digital culture and education studies.

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