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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.