Digital Tools and Methods: Ideas and Links

Intro­duc­tion

Any medium pow­er­ful enough to extend man’s reach is pow­er­ful enough to top­ple his world. To get the medium’s magic to work for one’s aims rather than against them is to attain literacy.

Dig­i­tal Human­i­ties is a col­lab­o­ra­tive approach to schol­ar­ship that com­bines tra­di­tional forms of human­is­tic study with infor­ma­tional tech­nolo­gies. The emer­gence and adop­tion of infor­ma­tional tech­nolo­gies into the human­i­ties is more than a means to an end; infor­ma­tional tech­nolo­gies have had and will have a sig­nif­i­cant and vital role in shap­ing schol­ar­ship within the human­i­ties. In this demon­stra­tion talk, we will explore some of the dig­i­tal tools and meth­ods that can help us increase our abil­ity to find, man­age, com­mu­ni­cate, col­lab­o­rate, and pub­lish our research.

Find­ing & Collecting

in our wired world, it’s essen­tial that we all gain some con­trol over the tech­nol­ogy that increas­ingly per­vades our lives. … Being able to fix your car when it breaks down is a tremen­dous skill to have. Being able to bend com­put­ers to your will is even more so, since here we’re deal­ing with infor­ma­tion technology—a medium of thought and com­mu­ni­ca­tion as vital to the trans­mis­sion of ideas as the abil­ity to use a pen.

Steven Ram­sey

Basics

These are the basic tools that I use to do research.

  • The first tool a good dig­i­tal researcher needs is a good browser. Fire­fox is my browser of choice.
  • Speed Up Your Search­ing in Fire­fox;
  • Search­ing Blais? Do your searches from your browser: LibX;
  • Make Clut­tered Web­pages Unclut­tered: Read­abil­ity is avail­able for most major browsers—Readability 2.0 is not free, but does offer more options than the free ver­sion. The free ver­sion is avail­able as an exten­sion for:
    • Fire­fox exten­sion;
    • Chrome;
    • Read­abil­ity can also be installed in any major browser—Firefox, Opera, Chrome, Safari—as a Book­marklet;
    • Note: Read­ablity comes as a core com­po­nent in Safari called Reader—the Reader but­ton appears at the right end of the Safari address field. How­ever, Reader for Safari is avail­able only for Mac OS X v10.5 Leop­ard or later, and only appears when a web­page con­tains text-based arti­cles. Based on my tests of Safari and Reader, Safari is fairly stingy about when it decides there is enough text to war­rant turn­ing on Reader. I rec­om­mend installing the Book­marklet so you can turn Read­abil­ity on when you want to use Read­abil­ity, not when Safari decides you should.
  • How To Use IFTTT (And Why You Might Want To)

Search

Search­ing is a fun­da­men­tal tool in any DH’ers war chest, and as with any tool or method it only becomes use­ful when you use it, con­sis­tently. I highly rec­om­mend the fol­low­ing arti­cles and books on search­ing to help you do more in less time.

Basic Search Resources

Other Search Related Links

Books on Searching

Alerts & Feeds

Google Alerts

Using Feeds aka RSS

Hack­ing with RSS

Man­ag­ing

the ques­tions raised by dig­i­tal [human­i­ties] are some of the most impor­tant that we face. The explo­sion of printed mate­r­ial after the fif­teenth cen­tury fun­da­men­tally changed schol­ar­ship … [w]e are cur­rently in the midst of another such trans­for­ma­tion, one that will give us nearly instan­ta­neous access to the con­tents of the world’s great libraries and archives, will rad­i­cally democ­ra­tize knowl­edge pro­duc­tion, and will force us to think of machines as part of our audi­ence.

William J. Turkel

Zotero

Next to search­ing and using RSS, the most valu­able tool in your war chest as a researcher is a cita­tion man­ager. Zotero is, in my hum­ble opin­ion, the best cita­tion man­ager avail­able. You are, of course, wel­come to test out any of the avail­able cita­tion man­agers; how­ever, if you have not used a cita­tion man­ager pre­vi­ously, I would work with Zotero for a while before try­ing out another.

You are wel­come and encour­aged to check out the other screen­casts that are avail­able, but the three listed above should suf­fice for a basic intro­duc­tion to using Zotero. Also, the Clare­mont Col­leges library (Love Your Library) offers a num­ber of work­shops on using Zotero that I highly rec­om­mend if you find your­self strug­gling to use Zotero.

Book­mark­ing: Is it valuable?

Eas­i­est way to archive the infor­ma­tion you are pulling in is through a book­mark. Every browser comes with built in book­mark­ing, but you can also use an online book­mark­ing ser­vice, e.g. …

  • Deli­cious: Orig­i­nal book­mark­ing service.
  • Google Book­marks. Book­marks stored via your google account.
  • Diigo: Free/Premium book­mark­ing site. Does have ads depend­ing on plan.
  • Zootool: Empha­sis on visual-oriented and social bookmarking.
  • Pin­Board: the Intro­verts Book­mark­ing Service.

I use Pin­Board to col­lect mainly tech­ni­cal arti­cles related to doing dig­i­tal work as well as mis­cel­la­neous arti­cles and posts that I do not want to clut­ter up my Zotero library. If, how­ever, you want to per­ma­nently save a web­page, then Zotero is your best manager.

Col­lab­o­rat­ing, Com­mu­ni­cat­ing, & Publishing

The Web is not just some friv­o­lous vehi­cle for enter­tain­ment and vir­tual com­mu­nity. Going for­ward, it’s going to be a vital aspect of human endeavor and an impor­tant lynch­pin in affect­ing the human condition.

Andy Rut­ledge

Social Media

Social media (e.g., Twit­ter) is or was the dar­ling of Web 2.0, which stressed con­nect­ing peo­ple rather than sim­ply dis­play­ing infor­ma­tion, and while most peo­ple, espe­cially aca­d­e­mics I would sug­gest, con­tinue to see social media as mainly a per­sonal online space; I would like to sug­gest that we, as researchers, see social media as another tool in our war chest to help us do research by con­nect­ing us to peo­ple with sim­i­lar interests.

Online Iden­ti­ties

Hav­ing an online iden­tity is, I would sug­gest, an impor­tant com­po­nent of “doing” research because it may help you con­nect to oth­ers with sim­i­lar inter­ests in addi­tion to giv­ing you a space with which to pro­mote your­self in an increas­ingly com­pet­i­tive job mar­ket, and most impor­tantly a space in which to share your work to obtain feed­back from a greater num­ber of peo­ple than just your fel­low grad stu­dents and advisors.

Con­clu­sion

What does it mean to study “lit­er­a­ture” or “his­tory” when print is no longer the nor­ma­tive medium in which lit­er­ary or his­tor­i­cal arti­facts are pro­duced, let alone ana­lyzed? What does it mean, more gen­er­ally, for human­is­tic knowledge?

Dig­i­tal His­tory Manifesto

This is by no means a com­pre­hen­sive list­ing of resources related to doing dig­i­tal research. It is intended only as an intro­duc­tion to the DH as well as a way for me to begin solid­i­fy­ing my own think­ing about doing dig­i­tal research as I gear up for my dissertation.

  • ProfHacker: Offers a vari­ety of arti­cles cen­tered on liv­ing the life of an aca­d­e­mic from teach­ing and research to using dig­i­tal tools.
  • Grad­Hacker : Mod­elled after ProfHacker, Grad­Hacker is geared toward pro­vid­ing grad­u­ate stu­dents at all stages and dis­ci­plines with infor­ma­tion on man­ag­ing a grad­u­ate stu­dent life from tech­nol­ogy to deal­ing with stress.
  • His­tory News Net­work : Offers arti­cles and news related to all things historical.
  • His­tory News Net­work Blogs: Pro­vides a list of his­tory and related blogs across the his­tor­i­cal spectrum.
  • Dig­i­tal Human­i­ties Now : Aggre­gates a vari­ety of sources within and related to the “dig­i­tal” aca­d­e­mic com­mu­nity from blogs to twit­ter as well as “an exper­i­ment in how we eval­u­ate new scholarship.”
  • Tool­ing Up: Pro­vides access to a series of essays on key top­ics in doing dig­i­tal research. Tool­ing up is “intended to pro­vide a gate­way for schol­ars with min­i­mal expo­sure to dig­i­tal method­ol­ogy but who are inter­ested in explor­ing the vast poten­tial of the field of dig­i­tal humanities.”

You can find me in the dig­i­tal mul­ti­verse: Twit­ter, Flickr, and Pin­board.