Project Evaluations

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    Andy Schocket

    Here’s the place to tell us about a couple of projects that you’ve found compelling, and why.

    Daniel Fawcett

    For the purposes of evaluating a project, I chose the Mapping the Republic of Letters project out of Stanford University. I found this particular project most interesting because it examines a question that I have been wrestling with, too: what is the difference in social and information networks between pre-computing culture and modern, computational culture?
    The project is so slick, well-designed, and visually appealing that it is easy to get distracted from the main problem: it’s actually not a digital humanities project at all! It claims to be one, and it certainly is pretty. It’s fancy, with all kinds of great links and nice looking design. But there’s a serious flaw with good design: it can mask systemic problems.In this case, the flaw is not in the project (which is actually very interesting), but in calling it a DH project.

    I’m actually being overly harsh here. It IS a DH project, but more in the sense that it is using digital technology to solve a straight-forward humanities inquiry. The “digital” part of this project is in the ease of gathering the data and in the publishing format for it. (But, more on that in the other forum.)

    Fundamentally, the Mapping the Republic of Letters project seeks to gather data on the letter-writing networks of great thinkers, such as Voltaire, Locke, and Galileo. The project gives information on the number of letters written by these thinkers, to whom they were written, when they were written, etc. The project then seeks to find nodal points, connections, and patterns in the letter-writing networks.

    As I indicated previously, it looks spectacular. It’s a nice project to look at, and it’s fun to play around with the site. But, in the end, it is a project that is simply a “bunch of stuff”… maps, graphs, and charts. It’s not really terribly interactive. For example, it is not possible to click on a particular place on the map and see a list of all the respondents, but also the networks in which the respondents were enmeshed. Instead, the map is just a map. Static.

    However, this project is absolutely visionary alongside the Terralingua site. In fairness, Terralingua doesn’t claim to be a digital humanities project. Instead, it is a project that is screaming out for DHres like us to re-imagine it.

    In short, the Terralingua project looks at the problems of diminishing biodiversity and diminishing linguistic diversity, and suggests that they are symptoms of the same problems. This idea is fascinating, and could lend itslef to many DH applications: GIS displays that explore the world’s linguistic “hotspots” and “danger zones,” sound files that welcome people to each page and/or give some insight to the languages in question, or even active pages that track an estimate of language loss per day.

    Alex Koch

    Reviewing Digital Humanities projects without having a specific project in mind, was a bit of a crapshoot. As a result, my review focuses on couple of sites I spent the most time examining from a few days of reviewing a number of projects. A quick Google search pulled a number of “projects to watch” from a wide variety of blogs, some of which were dedicated to the DH discourse – while others’ examinations started and finished with “check out this cool graph!” While some universities’ DH websites featured their ongoing work, others linked to DH projects that weren’t affiliated with the university in the slightest – highlighting the inclusive nature further showcasing the inclusive Big Tent nature of the discipline. While attempting to draw up my own evaluation definitions, I found myself struggling – not because of the sites’ differences in techniques or presentation, but due to the wealth and depth of the information presented (while setup exceptionally well, the volume of entries is staggering at Founders Online, a project from the National Archives)… this was the case even after the data was placed into infographics and/or visualizations (one of the more forgiving examples I found on Illustrations for Six Degrees of Alexander).

    Some sites seemed focused on an academic audience, others aimed to for a wider viewing public. More often than not these sites featured tools we’re already utilizing on our own pages (Omeka and/or WordPress powered sites abound) or other freely accessible tools thanks to Google – though some more effectively than others. Two sites which heavily relied on Google Maps data, that I spent some time with were Cleveland Historical and Radio Aporee. While very different projects, the strengths of Cleveland Historical’s page, are due to the general organization and layout of the website overall. Granted, the Radio Aporee site appears to be the result of an unofficial group of hobbyists so a lack of funding is to be expected (especially compared to CH), but entering from the “Maps” page (which is how I was directed from UNC’s DH page) it took me awhile to determine what exactly I was sifting through, what the goal was, and who was doing it. Their accompanying apps feature similar organization discrepancies…though CH’s layout was clunkier than I expected (especially considering the app developer had created similar apps for 18 other regions), with the integration of the map lost after selecting an entry. This was also the case with Aporee’s was possibly even more unclear than the website. Here I was ready to participate in their project and upload my own geo-tagged recording on the fly, but was hung up due to tracking issues! That said, Aporee’s database of sounds was impressive, albeit difficult to navigate at times, but with the support of Internet Archive will likely continue to grow.

    Based on Aporee’s organizational issues, I wondered if having an easier point of entry for users to contribute content to these databases correlated to the organization and display of their projects overall. Our Marathon – a digital archive focusing on the Boston Marathon bombing – allows users to submit their own content on the front page of the site. The submission page looks similar to Omeka’s backend “Add an Item” feature, and likely only relies on a plugin since the site is powered by Omeka. Although the theme has been modified, I did notice several layout issues, some of which we discussed last class appear to be inherent in some of Omeka’s free layouts – if a user clicks on the main flash slideshow it takes you to an item page and you’re unable to examine much else… but if you use the “explore” tab in the upper navigation you’re brought to a “Browse by Topic” page, which to those of us who have explored our own Omeka pages will recognize as a listing of Exhibits. Although the items feature geographic information there’s no way to examine multiple items on a map at once – which would have been interesting to see how close in proximity these items were.
    So based on a limited examination, one which I’ll explore further in the evaluation post, it does not appear that a community-fed project is doomed to organizational chaos, rather the project website’s limitations is likely due to where the site is hosted and how it’s powered.

    Shane Snyder

    Like Dan, I browsed theMapping the Republic of Letters project, which gathers together correspondence that predates familiar communications technologies. The site notes on its home page that:

    Before email, faculty meetings, international colloquia, and professional associations, the world of scholarship relied on its own networks: networks of correspondence that stretched across countries and continents; the social networks created by scientific academies; and the physical networks brought about by travel.

    For the most part, the project accomplishes this task and the results are stylish, sophisticated, and easy to navigate, but the method is basic. Its mission statement is to uncover what these networks of correspondence looked like at a time when media traveled at the speed of a horse.

    The problem, as I see it (and maybe this is not really a problem at all), is that this raises more questions. Why is it important to visualize this correspondence? Maybe I can be forgiven for needing relevant perspective, but the project eschews all contemporary connections. Using GIS (among other things), the site runners visualize the rich networks between prominent intellectuals, and these networks appear to mirror contemporary, less geographically sequestered internet correspondence.

    Even if that connection seems unimportant, consider the methodology: this project is predicated on the idea that the so-called “intellectual elites” of the time were the primary determinants of cultural production. This reeks of canonization, a concept that in the modern university is anathema to me, especially where public discourse is so ubiquitous and rich and interesting.

    On a more ambivalent note, the site’s style sheet is a simple but beautiful red banner, a plain “M” printed in a candle wax logo, with an all-grey background. The projects themselves have formatting issues. A wealth of beautiful visualizations pepper each correspondent’s page. Some of these visualizations are actually slideshows. The browser cannot pause these slideshows of differently-sized photographs that take up different surface areas, so the images will shift involuntarily from one to the next, pulling the page along with it.

    The less aesthetically concerned (and maybe more practical) London Lives, a project that digitizes criminal reports from 1690 to 1800, does not bring a research question to the table. The Republic of Letters, by compare, is more interested in granting perspective to a process underlying past correspondence, but this one does not make connections, so much as it is a simple, navigable, user-friendly research tool for the digital humanist.

    The line delineating a tool and a digital project thus blurs and complicates a field that already raises its fair share of questions. The lonely, bored, chronically overworked spectator at home in her swivel chair can curiously browse one or the other of these sites, find the requisite resources that enable the production of other projects like them, and put them out there for public consumption. The answer to the question of what qualifies something as a tool versus a digital humanities project seems more and more distant by the minute.

    Daniel Fawcett

    The second project at which I looked was The First World War Poetry Digital Archive, hosted by The University of Oxford. This project is far more what I would call a “traditional” DH project, if such a thing actually exists. Maybe it doesn’t… I’m still trying to determine that. But this project allows people to explore the UK in WWI through the lens of poetry and poetic experience.

    One strength of this project is that it puts everything in an easy-to-access, intuitive framework. For example, if one were interested in the poetry of Robert Graves, all one would have to do is click on his well-marked picture on the project homepage. Following that link, one is led to a page with a biographical sketch, examples of Graves’ handwriting, etc.

    Far more impressive is the robust search capabilities. You can search the archives by poem titles, first lines, etc. and also search for images only, text only, or both. This allows for scanned newspaper and magazine stories, hand-written manuscripts, etc. to all show up in the search.

    Finally, the site also includes the full WWI context; there are archives of period music, film, photographs, and “war publications.” Understanding the work of the British poets of this period requires an understanding of their geopolitical context, more so than, say, the Romantic or Victorian poets.

    One of the reasons that this project is particularly suited to a DH mode of preservation is that the WWI British poets have been, by and large, lost to us. The Victorians are well-known, and post-war American poetry is still fashionable. But WWI British poetry is a bit difficult to tackle. It is often stilted and self-consciously archaic, full of outdated praise for the project of Empire and bravado, despite its war-weariness. WWI poetry has simply lost favor. As a result, publishing a traditional anthology would be fiscal disaster, and academically risky. But by archiving and curating the works of this important period in British poetic history, the project allows the period poetry of some extraordinary voices to be preserved despite the fickle winds of academic literary fashion. It also enables students of this poetry to understand just how important the context is to the work; it is possible to, for example, read a poem about Galipoli and then search the archives for news stories about the battle.

    Shane Snyder

    The following reflects the incredible migraine I have somehow managed to give myself while sifting through all of the digital humanities tools on offer. In my quest to find the perfect tool to discuss, I realized that I was using a digital humanities tool to find a digital humanities tool. Analogies to introductory biology come to mind: Domain, Kingdom, Order, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species. The digital humanist can find a tool like the Department of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) that she found on a digital humanities tool browser like Bamboo Dirt that she Googled with her internet browser. Eventually there will come a species of tool that the digital humanist can use to produce countless other tools like it.

    So I will begin with the tool Bamboo Dirt, a site that collects together smaller tools for the budding digital humanist. Some of these tools are open-access databases like DOAJ. Others link back to larger-scale (and familiar) browsers like Google Scholar and Firefox. In any case, the site breaks down each tool by category. Some categories include “blog,” “collect data,” “visualize data,” and “stay current with research.” Click on one of the categories and a list appears in the next window that includes links that fall under that umbrella.

    This raises a couple of pertinent questions that get at the heart of the digital humanities debate: What is a digital humanities tool? What criteria qualifies something as a digital humanities tool? If Google Books, Google Scholar, and even something as broad and wide-ranging and disorganized as a browser like Firefox classifies as a tool, then DH is in need of a sort of long-overdue tool taxonomy (something like binomial nomenclature, to bring the biology analogy full circle), a collection of the digitized databases, a tool for tools that browse for other tools. The universe of tools expands and becomes other universes. Maybe a more harrowing, still relevant question is this: is there a point to organizing the information at all?

    There is. It seems to me that part of the job of the digital humanist is to sift through sites like Bamboo Dirt and to critique it for its lax classification system, its lazy criteria. For if Google and Firefox are themselves tools for the user wanting in their way to produce a digital project (tool) that, by all rights, will get submerged under the countless other projects like it, then maybe everything digital is a tool.

    Having said that, Bamboo Dirt has an intuitive, easily searchable database of other tools. On each tool page, a detailed description of the tool sits atop the link to the tool’s page. The DOAJ, a website that collects (as its name suggests) open access journals from all over the web, attests to the importance of a search engine like Bamboo Dirt. Websites like DOAJ require this type of exposure. It creates an argument that humanists (and even scientists) have long neglected–open-access is the future, particularly in a culture so intimate with information that to disconnect from it would yield profoundly painful withdrawals. With digital work becoming so salient in academic discourse, it behooves us all to determine what makes something a digital humanities tool.

    Katlin Humrickhouse

    Charles Darwin Library

    While watching this week’s episode of Cosmos, I stumbled upon the Charles Darwin Library. I thought it only fitting as this week Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson discussed natural selection and evolution. The library, which I would refer to as more of a collection, has some great source material on Darwin. Their purpose is laid out simply on the home page:

    Charles Darwin’s Library is a digital edition and virtual reconstruction of the surviving books owned by Charles Darwin. This BHL special collection draws on original copies and surrogates from other libraries. It also provides full transcriptions of his annotations and marks…what our digital reconstruction of the Darwin Library delivers is the ability to retrace and reduplicate Darwin’s reading of a wealth of materials.

    In many of the history classes I have taken as well as all of the papers I have written, I have learned that annotations are generally the most important part of a primary source document. It is easy to notice some good and bad things of this project right away. However, some other issues arise once you’ve really dived into the library. First, I will discuss what they did right.

    The first thing to notice is the layout of the home page. It’s not necessarily attractive, but not overly busy. It is OK. The books are laid out from A-Z, and you are able to search or sort by author, year, and title. Once you find a book, it becomes interactive. You are able to go to pages where Darwin’s annotations are found or look at the entire book. In addition, you are able to download and print. The page is pretty accessible and easy to navigate. However, it definitely has it flaws.

    Firstly, it is kind of confusing. The Charles Darwin Library is within the Biodiversity Heritage Library, and the page is inset into the BHL’s page. Therefore, you may be clicking link and doing searches on the entire BHL collection if not careful. In addition to confusion, there is a “Help Support Us” type button almost always present.

    A good comparative project for the Charles Darwin Library is the Newton Project. This provides good comparison because the Newton Project offers Isaac Newton’s drafts, notes, and correspondence much like the annotations provided by the Charles Darwin Library. The Newton Project does a much better job than the Darwin Library in the sense of aesthetics. The page is pretty attractive and easy to navigate. In fact, I have nothing bad to say about the Newton Project. Interestingly enough, as a side note, both of these projects share a sponsor: JISC.

    Katlin Humrickhouse

    Screencasting is becoming a pretty big thing. Think about it – how many tutorials or walkthroughs can you find on YouTube right now? The answer is nearly and infinite amount. This had become so popular that even new gaming systems have a sort of screencast program built in to live stream or record and share gameplay. Screencasting can be used for a number of things in the digital humanities. You could use it to show your work and gain support. In fact, there is even a page on dedicated to screencasting. As I explained in class, someone doing a history of gaming (or programming or social networks) could use screencasting to show gameplay (or a walkthrough of a program or site). There are a number of screencasting tools out there.

    The one I mentioned in class was called CaptureFox. This tool is a free plug in for Firefox. It is easy to use and, if you do get lost, you can find support and help quite easily in the format of FAQ. However, it is only compatible with FireFox and Windows. In fact, it is only compatible with older versions of FireFox. So – if you are like me and update regularly – you may find it difficult to get CaptureFox working. It seems to have lost grounding and has been left at an old version since 2011. Fortunately, there are many other screencasting tools out there.

    ScreenFlow is a Mac-only screencasting program. ScreenFlow allows much more editing than CaptureFox. It is easy and, like CaptureFox, you can get support. However, you can get support that is up to date! ScreenFlow is a paid service – $99. It could be worth it if you screencast regularly, but for a one time use, it probably isn’t worth it.

    If you’re not into installing and paying for something to screencast, there is a web-based, free screencasting tool known as ScreenToaster. It is easy to use, FREE, and quick. It also supports picture in picture screencasts – so you can use your webcam and record yourself talking about the main screen! However, there aren’t any advanced editing settings and your browser has to support Java. ScreenToaster is definitely the most exciting tool that I’ve come across. This sounds great, right? Too good to be true? Well, it is. Because since 2012, ScreenToaster has been down.

    Becky Jenkins

    The project I am evaluating is the Salem Witch Trial Documentary Archive and Transcription Project(SW). For comparison, I am also evaluating the Charles Darwin Library Project (CD) and the London Lives (LL) project.

    Background information:

    SW: A University of Virginia affiliated project, the material “consists of an electronic collection of primary source materials relating to the Salem witch trials of 1692 and a new transcription of the court records.” (Project Introduction)

    CD: This project is one part of the larger Biodiversity Heritage Library collection. From their “about” page, “The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) is a consortium of natural history and botanical libraries that cooperate to digitize and make accessible the legacy literature of biodiversity held in their collections and to make that literature available for open access and responsible use as a part of a global “biodiversity commons.”

    LL: Full name of the project: London Lives 1690 to 1800 ~ Crime, Poverty and Social Policy in the Metropolis. Produced by affiliation of two UK universities (U of Sheffield and U of Hertfordshire), and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.


    Navigation / Search:

    SW: The layout of the project is very simple, but it is lacking any comprehensive search tools. It is also lacking a site map feature. The landing page reads more like a table of contents than a dynamic information site; the information is divided into logical categories of records, maps, archival collections, and contemporary books. Each section is then subdivided into more specific research paths. Within each section, there is limited search capability, but only within the same section’s materials.

    CD: This site offers several navigation options, including a comprehensive search tool, an advanced search tool, and a graphic link guiding users to browse the site and materials by title, author, date, or by collection. Using the site is fairly intuitive to use and easier to navigate overall than the SW project site.

    LL: The site is dated April, 2012, and is the best design of the three projects. There is a comprehensive search tool, and various browsing options. The navigation is intuitive and the site is easy to move around, making random exploration possible.

    SW: This project site is dated 2002, and it shows. Exploring the site, it is clear that there are a lot of information and media materials available to review. My complaint, though, is that the design is completely static, and feels boring to the user. Because the site has such an old feel, the information feels dated (no pun intended).

    CD: This project site is dated April, 2011. Compared to the SW project, the site has a better first impression / initial appeal, but it also has a streamlined, simplified look that feels unfinished and underdesigned.

    LL: The site looks fresh, but feels a bit cluttered. The design is easy to navigate, though, and the information in the site is easily accessible for random browsing. It is easy to make discoveries in the information stacks without knowing exactly what you are looking for – a bonus over the other project sites.


    SW: I am not impressed with the organization of the site. Again, a comprehensive search function is sorely needed to improve usability of this site. The user, to gain any useful information, has to know exactly what he or she is looking for to track down the information. Useful information could be easily missed or overlooked.

    CD: The landing page offers general information on using the site, including screenshots to help guide the user to the specific parts of the site he or she will find particularly useful.

    LL: Overall, this project has the best usability factor. The landing page gives you an instant feel for the type of information that is available to the user, and clear navigational tools give the user instant access to the archives. The word cloud feature in the search results leads the user in new and unexpected directions for research.



    SW: The project introduction page offers a genealogy of the project. It offers names of leading project researchers and affiliated libraries and historical organizations that contributed to the research. It received a 2.61 (out of 10) web reach score through google analytics, a number that is generated based on view count, unique visitor count and unique content data.

    CD: This project received a 2.86 (out of 10) web reach score through google analytics, placing it slightly above the SW project in visibility and reach.

    LL: This project received a 1.95 (out of 10) web reach score through google analytics, placing it below both the SW and the CD projects.


    SW: The landing page of the project lists partnerships with the scholars’ Lab of the University of Virginia Library and the Institute for Advanced Technologies in the Humanities. On the project support page, the project lists the NEH, the IATH, and the ECAI as financial supporters of the project.

    CD: On the landing page, the project clearly lists its sponsors and affiliation list, including the NEH, the JISC, and the London Natural History Museum. A fully foot-noted and cited article explains the evolution of the project and the goals and methodology.

    LL: Produced by affiliation of two UK universities (U of Sheffield and U of Hertfordshire), and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.


    Rigorous in Scholarship?

    SW: The project’s credentials are prestigious, and the project has been awarded multiple national grants and fellowships, proving the materials have been peer reviewed. The site was created under the guidance of several Ph.D. level experts, and has rigorous documentation for all of the materials it provides.

    CD: The credits for the project include references to the American Museum of Natural History, Cambridge University, the London Library of the Natural History Museum, and the original, handwritten documents of Charles Darwin. That’s pretty authoritative.

    LL: The project was produced by the creators of the Old Bailey project, a prestigious DH work. The London Lives project also resulted in several awards, including the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Prize for Digital Resources, and co-directors Tim Hitchcock and Robert Shoemaker were awarded the Longman-History Today Trustees Award for their “major contribution to history over the past year or years” with the Old Bailey and London Lives projects.

    Of all three sites, the London Lives project had the best design, the best search and discover features, and regrettably, the worst rated impact overall. All three projects were authoritative and had clear genealogy and documentation for all of their sources and materials. Overall, though, each of the sites could use work to make them more accessible, more useable and contribute more effectively in the advancement of DH knowledge.

    Becky Jenkins

    The DH tool I am evaluating is Scalar, a content management system. For comparison, I am also evaluating two other content management systems, Mukurtu and WordPress.

    Background information:

    Scalar: A project of the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture (ANVC), Scalar is a free, open source authoring and publishing platform that is used to create dynamic media projects borne from multiple sources and media types.

    Mukurtu: This is a stand-alone CMS that can be mounted to a site via cPanel. You can also purchase hosted solutions for a fee. Born out of specific archival needs of the Warumungu Aboriginal community in Tennant Creek, Australia.

    WordPress: WordPress is a free and open source blogging tool and a content management system (CMS) based on PHP and MySQL, which runs on a web hosting service. Features include a plug-in architecture and a template system. WordPress is used by more than 18.9% of the top 10 million websites as of August 2013

    Ease of Use:
    Scalar: Scalar touts itself as easy to use and as requiring little technical knowledge. Despite this, I found the interface to be difficult to use, and overly laborious to complete simple page creation. The help pages are well designed, but I still seemed to have problems getting pages and features to work.

    Mukurtu: Mukurtu is not easy to use. The interface seems reasonable, but using the content management features is difficult. The design is sort of “clunky,” and the features are not intuitive to use.

    WordPress: WordPress is the easiest to use of all three systems. Most cPanels have a one-click install for WordPress or come pre-loaded with it. It’s easy to use, and is the template for most online publishing.

    Scalar: The publishing aesthetic options are limited but customizable. It’s clean looking and seems to be fairly clear in navigation, when the options work properly.

    Mukurtu: The layout is clean looking and well organized, but navigation of the features can be tricky. I lost my place several times and had to start input over for media items. The aesthetic options are more limited than the Scalar options, making customization an issue.

    WordPress: WordPress is extremely customizable. Because of the enormous audience for the tool, customization options are almost endless. There are pre-built themes, tons of plug-ins and you can tweak your site in thousands of ways until you’ve reached something you feel is right.

    Scalar: The major drawback to Scalar is the inability to import the tool to your own web space. Your work remains on their servers, and you have to re-import all the materials you want to use. It forces you to start from scratch in creating a site, but if you’re starting fresh, that’s not such a down point. Not being able to use it in your own domain, though, might be a deal breaker. There’s also a news item on the page apologizing for a server breakdown and instructions for re-uploading lost media. For intricate, time-sensitive or low budget projects, this could be devastating.

    Mukurtu: This CMS offers a variety of options for publishing, including a mobile publishing app for smart phones. The general layout of Mukurtu is easy to understand and navigate, but the “Roundtrip” feature is extremely confusing. It’s supposed to simplify the process of a sharing unique item data across platforms, but the interface needs simplification for novice users.

    WordPress: WordPress is THE content management system for most blogging type web publishing. The tools are intuitive, the navigation is clear – WordPress set the standard for content management system publishing. It’s by far the easiest of these three projects to use and manage.

    Scalar: Scalar is a fairly new tool, and is still gaining ground, but has active partnerships with such research institutions as the Critical Commons, the Getty Library and the Internet Archive.

    Mukurtu: Last updated in spring, 2013, “Mukurtu is a grassroots project aiming to empower communities to manage, share and exchange their digital heritage in culturally relevant and ethically-minded ways. Mukurtu CMS is meant to be ‘a safe keeping place’ for cultural knowledge and a catalyst for ongoing dialogue about sharing, making and reproducing cultural materials and knowledge.”

    WordPress: WordPress is the most widely used content management system in the world. It’s been downloaded more than 20 million times and is used to run more than 60 million web pages.

    Scalar: Created as an affiliation to the University of Southern California and the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture.

    Mukurtu: Development funds and grants provided by Washing State University, the NEH, the World Intellectual Property Organization and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

    WordPress: WordPress is closely associated with Automattic, the company founded by Matt Mullenweg. On September 9, 2010, Automattic handed the WordPress trademark to the newly created WordPress Foundation, which is an umbrella organization supporting (including the software and archives for plugins and themes), bbPress and BuddyPress.

    Rooted in Scholarship?
    Scalar: Funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the NEH, both prestigious peer-reviewed credentials.

    Mukurtu: The site lists advisers, research partners and the project team on the site, and includes support from dozens of university affiliated individuals and institutions all over the world.

    WordPress: Though free, WordPress is not affiliated with any educational or scholarly institutions.

    I think Scalar is a great idea, but needs to be expanded to make the tool independent. If I could install the tool on my own cPanel and publish from within my own framework, the options offered by Scalar would be great. The major downside is having to publish within the domain. Mukurtu is a niche CMS, and I didn’t have a lot of luck in using it. Designed with cultural knowledge preservation in mind, the site is data heavy, which surprises me, considering the site description’s dedication to artifacts. WordPress is the most popular and most versatile of all the options presented, but the publishing style is fairly limited to blog-type publishing. It would be useful to expand it to offer more media-centered projects.


    Matt Younglove

    Evaluating a DH Project

    Project for Evaluation:
    Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music (DIAMM)

    Projects used for comparison:
    Vincent van Gogh – The Letters

    The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World (ORBIS)

    One of my primary reasons for taking this class is that frequently the arts are on the cutting edge of rethinking the usage of technology, yet the scholarship pertaining to the arts is often sadly behind the times. I’m curious to find ways to use modern technology to aid artistic scholarship. For this reason I’m evaluating the Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music (DIAMM) in comparison to one arts based projects and one non-arts based project (listed above)
    The DIAMM project’s primary function in creation was preservation of centuries old documents – specifically music from the Medieval time period. Images are taken at 144 megapixels (high resolution is necessary for digital restoration). The DIAMM was conceived as a DH project, but it inherently answers no questions. It serves as a hybrid DH project-tool. As a database, it enables easier access to the metadata of thousands of musical scores for scholarship. The search feature for this database allows scholars to search for musical works based on their languages, number of voices, clef, composer, text-source, musical function, and a number of other parameters, which makes comparing a large body of work that is disseminated across numerous libraries much easier.
    But similar to what Daniel observed about the DH project he evaluated, this project is more of a tool than a project. Albeit conceived as a project as the creation of this tool, the end result is a tool. This leads me to speculate that DH projects often end with the creation of tools rather than the conclusion of answers. This may contrast what we have discussed in class, and makes the means of evaluation even more difficult in this field.
    This project is similar to another DH project in the arts – the Vincent van Gogh – The Letters project. This project, operated by the Van Gogh Museum, assembled and scanned all of the known and existing letters that Van Gogh wrote as correspondences. It gives art scholars a context with which his art was created, an autobiography of sorts. Many of the letters contain sketches, which have artistic value and merit in and of themselves. It allows people to sort them by period, correspondent, place, and those with sketches. Again, it is another art-based DH project that is more of a tool than a project, but a very specific tool. This very similar to the idea I have for my project relating to the World Saxophone Congress programs.
    To contrast, I decided to look at a DH project not associated with the arts. I looked at the Orbis project, a pseudonym for The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World, which is basically Google Maps for the Ancient Roman Empire. It traces routes from this time and calculates both their time and cost depending on method of travel and season. It allows for fact checking and dot connecting from various stories and testaments from that time. It’s a frame through which we can better understand Ancient Roman travel and it can aid in the expeditious answering of questions where travel was a factor.
    Upon evaluating these three tools, it seems like most of these projects evolved out of numerous questions seeking a tool to aid/assist in the time consumption aspect of the research. Compared to the text analysis of British Novels project we evaluated earlier in the semester, it doesn’t seem that most of these projects are about answering specific questions. They seem to be about using the tools of DH to develop even more specific tools that facilitate faster research when one approaches these projects with specific questions.

    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.

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