The Web and Building

On Building

As many of the students in Humanities 340 have come to understand, one of the key issues in DH revolves around a continuing effort to define what the digital humanities is or are. One aspect of this almost perpetual debate that seems to crop up consistently is the issue of building. Some students have wrestled with this issue of building: do I have to know how to build to do DH? do I have to build to be a DH’er?. I would argue that you do not need to know how to build to do DH as the class has practiced DH—Information Trapping—over the last six weeks. Defining “building” is not an easy task, but one I think it is worth considering for a moment, read or re-read Ramsey’s post and pay particular attention to the comments to get a deeper sense of what building is or is not. Just to weight in on the debate, “building” is the act of making, whether you use methods and OTS tools—search methods + Zotero + visualizing tool—to do some humanistic project; whether you build a tool, or create a plugin, or an archive, or even a website to serve some humanistic project or goal.

Nevertheless, regardless of how one defines “building,” I believe that “building” is a fundamental component to doing DH. As such, over spring break and continuing for several weeks upon our return from spring break, we are going to “build” a personal identity website using web best practices. The rationale behind this building exercise is based in the challenge Dr. Tom Scheinfeldt issues in “New Wine in Old Skins: Why the CV needs hacking,” and as Adam Crymble does with “My CV.” We will do our best to meet this challenge given the timeframe and the level of technical expertise we gain during our building section.

I do not expect you will be coders/programmers at the end of this section. That is not our goal. The class goal is to familiarize you with the process of building in general by having you build a website, though I hope that some in the class will find coding and programming as rewarding as I and others have found it. Regardless of whether or not you come to find programming rewarding, I know that you will come away with 1) a greater appreciation for DH and the possiblities it offers for doing humanistic research and 2)enough of an understanding of programming to collaborate with those who are programmers.


There are many different aspects of building a website and we will cover what I consider the most important aspects: from project management to content strategy and information architecture from coding and programming to testing.

Over the course of spring break, I would like the class to tackle what I often consider the hardest aspect: what to build, what content should be included, and how can or should the end-user interact with information. To help guide you through this aspect, I offer the following steps.

  1. Read: Dr. Scheinfeldt’s post “New Wine in Old Skins: Why the CV needs hacking“;
  2. Read: Adam Crymble’s post “My CV is Better Than Yours“;
  3. View: Adam’s CV;
Think: about Scheinfeldt’s challenge. Did Adam meet that goal? How did he meet it? Is there anything he did not include that he might have that would have gone even further in hacking the cv?
  1. View: Dr. Char Miller’s CV;
  2. View: Dr. Janet F. Brodie’s CV;
  3. View: Dr. Tom Scheinfeldt’s CV;
  4. View: Jeremy Bogg’s CV.
These are more traditional CV formats (though I would suggest digging around Jeremy’s and Dr. Scheinfeldt’s websites). Your CV or resume is probably somewhat similiar.
  1. View: Jeremy Keith’s Website;
  2. View: Dan Cederholm’s Website;
  3. View: Douglas Bowman’s Website.
How do these sites compate to the traditional CVs listed above? Think about the similarities and differences? Could you translate your traditional CV into something similiar to the web portfolio’s? Again, do they include a semi non-traditional format (think: blog)?
  1. Read: Bogg’s post “Digital Humanities Design and Development Process“;
  2. Read: Croxall’s post “12 Basic Principles of Project Management“;
  3. Read: Bogg’s post “Part One: Figure Out What You Are Building“;
  4. Read: Lovinger’s post “Content Strategy: The Philosophy of Data“;
  5. Read: Halvorson’s Post “The Discipline of Content Strategy“;
  6. Read: Kahn’s post “Strategic Content Management“—paying particular attention to links he includes;
Reflect on what you learned from these posts, compare that to the traditional CV examples and the designer portfolios.
  1. Think: What is your project? What is the rationale behind it?;
  2. Map: Your project out, briefly, on a piece of paper or using a digital tool if time permits;
  3. Think: What content do you have? What content do you want? What content do you need?
  4. Generate: That content digitally—e.g., write out some “About” text, write up your “Projects” or “Research” text, etc..
As you are thinking, mapping, and generating your project and content, remember:
  • You are hacking your CV;
  • You are adding that material to a blog, with posts that can and should be considered a part of your New Skin CV, incorporate that blog aspect into your thinking, mapping, and generating regarding the content you have, want, and need;
  • You are building this site, you make the decisions on what you have, want, and need, and how much you want to include; the length, the amount, of material you use and include is up to you;
  • Think not about “who you are,” but about “what you do” as you go through this project management and content strategy process.
  1. Read: Rohde’s post “Sketching: the Visual Thinking Power Tool“;
  2. Read: Bogg’s post “Part Two: Information Architecture and Organization“;
  3. Sketch: out on paper first, before you employ a digital tool, your personal identity site, incorporating both the blog and the CV content you developed into that sketch.
Final Note:
  1. Do not: spend more than a few hours—though you can spend as much time as you would like—reading, reflecting, and generating your content;
  2. Enjoy: spring break, take a break from the digital, do some research, do some writing;
  3. In short: Relax.

Cross-posted on Humanities 340: The Muses and the Web.