Aggregating Resources and Building Digital Humanities Networks

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The ever-growing interest in digital resources for humanities research and teaching has coincided with an increased desire for central sites that enable scholars to learn about appropriate digital tools, applications, and software. Bamboo DiRT (Digital Research Tools), inspired by Lisa Spiro’s DiRT wiki and part of Project Bamboo, is one site that fulfills this desire. Among the strengths of this directory of digital tools is the multiple ways to find resources. Clicking on the “View all” link, for instance, will take users to the site’s complete, annotated list of tools, from Adobe-based resources to Zotpress. The categories and tags page, accessible by clicking “Browse,” enables users to click on terms such as “data analysis” or “bibliographic management” and be taken to a descriptive list of relevant resources. On the I-want-to-do-X page, users can search for tools that will allow them to tackle particular tasks. These tasks range from analyzing data, to making screencasts or maps and transcribing handwritten or spoken texts. And users can also perform standard or advanced searches via keywords or phrases. More than just a directory, Bamboo DiRT allows registered users to comment on resources as well as share and recommend their own.

Perhaps because Bamboo DiRT is relatively new (publically debuting in 2012), comments and tips from users of various tools have, thus far, been sparse. Such contributions would complement the very brief yet still quite serviceable descriptions. Offering another variation of a digital clearinghouse, Josh Honn, a Digital Scholarship Library Fellow at Northwestern University’s Center for Scholarly Communication & Digital Curation and admiring user of Bamboo DiRT, has built his own resource hub, a Delicious “stack”. Currently consisting of 131 links to digital research software, applications, and tools, Honn’s Digital Scholarly Research Tools offers more commentary on various resources than Bamboo DiRT presently does, and it also often provides videos on specific tools. Although the stack benefits from its dynamic format, it lacks Bamboo DiRT’s multiple paths for finding tools.

Another development is the networked site. One such network is the UK’s Connected Histories. A collaborative project undertaken by the University of Hertfordshire, the Institute of Historical Research, University of London, and the University of Sheffield, this site currently contains fifteen separate resources including London Lives and John Strype’s Survey of London Online. A recipient of JISC funding, Connected Historiesenables cross-searching across the various databases. Some of its resources (for example, the 17th and 18th Century Burney collection), however, require subscriptions, so although US and other non-UK users can access much of Connected Histories, searching some databases are limited to subscription holders. This video offers an introduction to this network.

A similar development is the extended network that takes NINES, the nineteenth-century resource hub, as its inspiration. 18thConnect, discussed most recently in the previous post, was the first period resource to expand NINES coverage beyond the nineteenth century. Now, inspired by NINES and often funded by Mellon, other digital resource hubs devoted to particular historical periods are being created: Medieval Electronic Scholarly Alliance (MESA), REKn (Renaissance English Knowledgebase) and ModNets (Modernists). These sites are still in the planning and development stages, so there does not seem to be that much information available at the moment. Yet, one can read about REKn in this piece “Prototyping the Renaissance English Knowledgebase (REKn) and Professional Reading Environment (PReE), Past, Present, and Future Concerns: A Digital Humanities Project Narrative” and in this University of Victoria blog announcement REKn Joins World-leading NINES Initiative, ARC. Similarly, information about MESA, directed by directed by Dot Porter from Indiana University and Timothy Stinson at North Carolina State University, is available in a North Carolina State University’s blog announcement,“Modernizing the Medieval”, and in this announcement of a MESA – ARC (Advanced Research Consortium) meeting this past fall.

What do EMOB readers think about these developments? Would readers like interoperability among the various segments of the extended NINES network similar to that found in Connected Histories? Should professional scholarly organizations do more to publicize these clearinghouses for new resources, tools, and software and to promote these networked sites of databases and archives? Especially given the increasing eye towards transatlantic studies and more comparative global approaches, should our national professional societies do more for the scholars it represents by playing a leading role in encouraging the networking of international projects and resources?

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6 Responses to “Aggregating Resources and Building Digital Humanities Networks”

  1. Anna Battigelli Says:

    This is a helpful overview–thanks, Eleanor! The list of tools on Bamboo DiRT is great, though it would be even better with slightly more evaluative annotations. Perhaps the “I use this” feature will eventually help produce a crowd-sourcing evaluation of individual tools. I noticed that iAnnotate is not listed under the annotation tools. iAnnotate has made some part of my research paperless in a way I never thought possible. Once an annotation tool like iAnnotate is connected to a reference management system like Zotero, scholars will have a useful and powerful tool. One can make notes within entries of individual items in Zotero, which is a good start.

    The video you post from Connected Histories is useful. I’m still experimenting with searches there. One potential problem is access to the digital resources searched through CH.

    I’m going to have to spend a bit more time reading through these tools. Again, thanks!

  2. Eleanor Shevlin Says:

    Thanks, Anna. Prof. Hacker has issued two posts on iAnnotate, the latest one this past November. Perhaps iAnnotate is not included because one must pay–albeit it a small sum–for the app. That said, one can submit resources by clicking on the resource button and entering the information. While I also wished for more commentary (and also thought that having more users willing to comment and exchange idea would help expand the descriptions), the more skeletal approach for initial listings no doubt makes the site easier to manage and moderate and also helps alert users to tools that they can, in turn, find out more about. The desire for more information, though, is why I included information on Honn’s stack.

  3. Quinn Dombrowski (@quinnanya) Says:

    Thanks for this blog post about Bamboo DiRT! Over the summer, we started a steering/curatoral group, which includes Josh Honn, who had been actively adding tools to DiRT, too. If you have ideas for how we can encourage site users to indicate which tools they use, or add more evaluative comments (both of which we agree would be great), we’re definitely open to suggestions. Drop us a note at bamboo.dirt@gmail.com.

  4. Eleanor Shevlin Says:

    Quinn,

    Thanks for the feedback. And we’ll pass ideas on to Bamboo DiRT as the come to us about ways to encourage more commentary. One idea is perhaps to ask users when they sign up to list tools they currently are using. I would also work on writing a news piece for the organs of major professional societies such as MLA, AHA, ASECS, and the like because it may help to inform those users who are just beginning to become interested in DH issues but do not know where to begin to look for tools.

  5. Anna Battigelli Says:

    I like Eleanor’s suggestions.

    You can also write a post about these questions for this blog, so that we can discuss Bamboo DiRT in greater detail here. Readers are interested in learning more–and even in learning about the questions you have.

  6. SHARP 2013 Digital Projects and Tools Showcase | Early Modern Online Bibliography Says:

    […] of the projects have made previous appearances in EMOB posts. A post last June mentioned ARC (Advanced Research Consortium), and it is very good to see the progress […]

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