Digital Scholarship is an area of growth in here in the Libraries. We’ve been flirting with the topic for a while now, and are finally getting around to launching our support infrastructure campus-wide. One decision we made early on was that we needed some hands-on training in a variety of areas. Our gracious dean, Julia Zimmerman, sent five of us to HILT (Humanities Intensive Learning and Teaching), a week-long training institute with several different tracks to choose from. Below are brief report backs from each of the team members. Although most of the coursework we undertook focused on humanities-based content, the skills and aptitudes we developed will be applicable to many different types of projects.
The Humanities Programming course focused on the use of the extremely flexible Ruby programming language to make digital humanities (DH) project sites using the Rails framework. Taught by Wayne Graham of University of Virginia’s Scholar’s Lab, the primarily technical lessons were peppered with hard-earned wisdom from an experienced programmer who has been a part of many DH projects. One of the most important take-aways that I got from the course was the importance of communication to a successful DH project; researchers and developers have their own specialized vocabularies for discussing the same concepts, and a single misinterpretation can kill a project. When working on a DH project, a developer must understand the tiny details of an idea in order to implement them properly, so a DH project absolutely requires a strong intellectual partnership between the researcher and the developer if it is to be successful.
R is a powerful tool that has the ability to analyze data in a variety of formats and disciplines. The course I enrolled in focused on literary text analysis using R. Data as text is an emerging trend in the digital scholarship world and it was fascinating to get a first-hand look at how one tool could provide so much value to one particular field. These new techniques and tools allow for literary scholars to explore new questions that would otherwise be impossible to undertake. I have experimented with R for social science data analysis and now I’ll be able to show our literary scholars at FSU the power and utility of this open-source tool that has aided so many other disciplines in the analysis and visualization of research data.
Crowdsourcing is something I’ve always found fascinating, both as a user and as an archivist. As a user, give me more “productive procrastination” always! If I can avoid doing something by contributing text of a menu or pointing out the fins of a humpback whale for science, sign me up! As an archivist, I was more practical. How do we use all that data? How do we check it for accuracy? Will it hurt the institution’s credibility if the crowd is mistaken and we miss it? I went into the Crowdsourcing Cultural Heritage class at HILT with those questions and no specific project in mind. My teachers Mia Ridge and Ben Brumfield brought a lot of experience to the table and my classmates all had different challenges ahead of them in creating and maintaining a crowdsourced project. For me, I learned that, per usual, planning a project is half the battle won; make sure you have very clear goals for your project and also, make sure they aren’t so complex no one in the crowd will try it. Have a plan for all that data you’ll collect and don’t be afraid to trust the crowd to check itself. They are smarter than us skeptical archivists think! Overall, I feel like I have a good understanding of how to plan and where to start when building a crowdsourced project as well as a network from my class to fall back on with questions if and when we tackle a crowdsourced project here at FSU.
My original plan was to take a course on “Project Development,” as that most closely aligns with my role at FSU Library. Unfortunately, that track was cancelled, so I opted in to Digital Pedagogy and am very glad I did. Typically, I don’t have the opportunity very often to think about what happens in the classroom. Most of my work is focused on research production and dissemination, and the teaching and learning that is so valuable to higher ed happens just below my radar. At HILT, I had the pleasure of being in a classroom for an entire week with mostly faculty members (and one other librarian) and hearing their concerns, ideas, challenges, etc. It was enlightening and encouraging to remember for as much emphasis as administrators make on research and funding, there are still many brilliant researchers that care deeply about not just what they teach, but how. Most of the material we covered in the course were tools and methods I was familiar with, so I took the opportunity to begin developing a research project I’ve had in the back of my mind; I plan to conduct a critical analysis of how digital humanities is taught in library and information schools. Additionally, and perhaps the most important take-away from my time at HILT, I’m developing a plan for how to integrate support for teaching and learning into the Office of Digital Research and Scholarship (DRS) here at University Libraries.
I got so much out of the Getting Started with Data, Tools, and Platforms course. Somehow in the space of four days the instructors, Brandon Locke, Thomas Padilla and Dean Rehberger, all of Michigan State U., managed to provide a meaningful overview of the key tools and topics in digital humanities. Starting with the basics of using the command line we progressed through tools for gathering data (import.io, WGet, DownThemAll), generating new data (Tesseract-OCR, Stanford Names Entity Recognizer, FFMPEG), text analysis (Voyant), cleaning data (OpenRefine), topic modeling (Topic Modeling Tool), and network analysis (Gephi). One of the many great things about this class is that all the tools we worked with are open source or have a free basic package so they are freely available for anyone to try. Want to get started on your own? Check out the Zotero tools library and readings library put together by the instructors. Have questions? I’m happy to help you get started.