Reply To: Project Evaluations

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Matt Younglove

In evaluating a Digital Humanities tool, I found it first useful to create a carefully clear line between a Digital Humanities tool and a Digital Humanities project. Often a DH project comes in the form of an advanced tool to aid researchers. As Alex mentioned, we are using DH tools the moment we open our web browser. Google Chrome is as much a tool as the interface Google Scholar is when opened within Google Chrome. This can create some confusion. Rather than give the perfect definition of DH tool, I figured I’d compare and discuss three different strata of DH tools.

The free-market has provided the DH scholar with a number of tools that can be used for DH scholarship. The first and most important is a search engine (Personally, I think a web browser is too broad of a program to call ad DH tool, as it essentially does nothing on its own). Google’s algorithms can be used to compile and scrape data for usage. Additionally, Google has already cleared through the brush for many researchers with it’s Google Books project and its Google Scholar search engine. Although discussing a search engine seems rather obvious, it can’t be understated that a good DH researcher be well-versed in how a search engine operates to optimally utilize this tool for research.

A more specific tool would be WordPress, which we are very familiar with in this class. It is an open source site designing program and blogging tool. It is an all encompassing CMS and runs its own hosting services. As a DH scholar, the need to utilize the web for your projects requires a platform, and the all-encompassing nature of WordPress makes it ideal for embedding and installing various patches and programs.

An even more specific tool would be Omeka – which can be downloaded to various CMS for inclusion on a website. It has a number of add-ons that can be used depending upon the needs of your specific project. The primary strength of Omeka is in building online collections for projects. It is a way to organize and store massive amounts of data while simultaneously tagging your data based on project-specific parameters. For projects like mine involving tracing the lineage of the saxophone repertoire via the presentation of new works at the World Saxophone Congresses, this tool is very useful.

Going one level deeper, within Omeka are a variety of plug-ins. One that is particularly interesting and useful for me is the BeamMeUp to SoundCloud plug-in. It allows sound files to be posted to SoundCloud as they are saved. This could enrich any music-based project, allowing for the connected of audio files of the performances of pieces that are being databased. This is very useful, but it’s downside is that SoundCloud then has control over your data, which creates potential copyright issues.

My tool evaluation method has been level-based, inspired by the biological analogy that Alex provided in his post above. A Kingdom-Phylum-Class-Order-Family-Genus-Species based approached of classification.