I guess I am going to take this question a little different than others posted. I am going to answer it in two ways: how do I evaluate and how should we evaluate. I worked through this assignment much like I would work through a paper or a skeleton review. Professor Schocket has discussed this approach a couple of times – even in the prompt. So – here were my steps.
First, I looked at the title and “cover”, or home page, much like I would when evaluating a book. Does the title or cover mean anything? Can anything be taken from it? Or, in this instance, was there much work put into it? Charles Darwin Library is pretty straight forward. I knew it was going to be knowledge based – academic in a way.
Second, I looked at formatting. In a paper, I would generally look at citation style, spacing, organization, and other like traits. For this assignment, it was no different. I took note, probably more subconsciously, of the font style, spacing, and the organization. This all falls into the evaluation of the aesthetics. Was it confusing? Was it clean? Was it easy? This all plays into ease of use of the project. Organization, much like in a paper, is very important in a digital humanities project. In a paper, citations and a bibliography as well as organization of content make the paper easy to navigate. I know if a paper is written in Chicago Style, I will be able to look to the footnotes for a quick citation. If a paper is written in MLA, I will have to flip back to the bibliography. This sort of organization is also needed in a project such as the Charles Darwin Library. I think what I used most to evaluate the tools was ease of use and accessibility. Also, the more the support a tool has the better off it is.
Third, I looked for a thesis or purpose. What or why need to be answered. If there isn’t a reason for the project or tool, or for a paper or book, then what purpose does it even serve? A thesis or purpose is a very important part of a paper or book as it is a very important part of a digital humanities project. And, much like a paper, a purpose for a digital humanities project can become something difficult to come up with. (As some of us, including myself, are finding with our semester long projects.)
The big question is should we use these steps to evaluate digital humanities projects and tools. I say yes! If we can use these steps to evaluate projects and tools, we can come close to finding worthwhile resources in digital humanities. We can even use these steps to evaluate and improve on our own digital humanities work. Using these steps to evaluate our own work can make our projects more dynamic as well as academic – which Shane argues very much for, and I totally agree.