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THE DIGITAL LIBERAL ARTS: PROBLEMS AND POSSIBILITIES IN THE DIGITAL HUMANITIES. Michael Roy, Middlebury College Research Computing. Digital Humanities. Curricular Computing. # ecar14 - PowerPoint PPT Presentation




Research ComputingDigital HumanitiesCurricular ComputingMy goal for today is to have a conversation about the intersection of three domains

research computing

digital humanities

curricular technology

Where are the points of intersection? How do these differ from one another? What are the possibilities for collaboration? Where do they compete for scarce resources? What are models for funding and support that work across these domains?

#ecar14 A little about Middlebury College.

Founded in 1800Middlebury Vermont300 or so faculty900 or so staff

2600 undergraduates

Summer ProgramsLanguage SchoolsBread Loaf School of English30+ Schools Abroad

Monterey Institute of International Studies

One of the questions that A little about my organization

merged library and IT organization85 staffannual budget of roughly $15 million dollarsmore or less monopolistic IT and library provider for campus

No charge backsVery little IT in schools and departmentsNimble

Looking at the list of attendees, one of the questions I would ask us to consider during this session is: how do these questions of how these areas might overlap vary depending on the scale and focus of the institution? To play on the talk from last night, one of the questions I have is do a completely different set of laws apply to tiny schools such as mine? Venus and Mars?!?Research ComputingDigital HumanitiesTo return to the plan for our time together, I want to spend some time looking first at the intersection of research computing and digital humanities

What is research?

Before diving into definitions of digital humanities, it is good to first think about a basic definition of research:

Someone or a group of people have a question or a theory that they want to understand. They think about ways in which they might understand that question or prove the theory, and develop a method for attacking the problem. They figure out what information they need, what tools or instruments might be useful, and review what others might have said about this in the past. They sift through this literature, collect and analyze data, come to some conclusions, and then share their work with others through some means. This work then becomes part of the information available to subsequent researchers as they too do their own unique research.

As our keynote speaker made clear, in certain fields, the introduction of computing has completely transformed how research is conducted.

While there are certainly a number of examples of how research in the humanities have fully embraced computing in pursuit of research questions, for the most part I would characterize those as fringe examples that have not enjoyed wide adoption. Certainly the internet and the web and electronic journals have changed the way humanists approach research, but until recently, research in the humanities has been transformed more by changes in methodologies fueled by theoretical concerns than by the computer,

This however seems on the brink of changing. The term humanities computing has of late been replaced with the term digital humanities. While digital humanities is a term that is as fraught as humanities, with seemingly endless debates about just what it should signify, that debate is playing out not on the margins, but in the pages of the major journals, the chronicle of higher education and on the floor of the major conferences within the disciplines that comprise the humanities.

This talk then will focus on how digital humanities (which where I work, we call digital liberal arts for reasons that will become clearer later) stands to transform humanities research and scholarly communication practices.

To ge

We see on our campus a growth in interest by our humanities faculty in how to transform their scholarly activities by incorporating media, advanced software techniques for analysis, crowdsourcing tactics, the creation of resource sites in support of their teaching.

What could Lee see @ the battle of gettysburg?

In this case, Jason Mittell from our Film & Media Culture department uses an open source plugin for wordpress to create a crowd-sourced peer review of his book on serialized television that parallels the traditional peer review process as a way to explore new ways of thinking about evaluation of scholarship.

This is a screenshot from a website we made with a professor of Arabic Sam Liebhaber to support an archive of Mahri poetry that he recorded as part of his effort to document and analyze this endangered, largely oral literary tradition.

This same phenomena is taking place across schools like Middlebury

Hamilton University of Richmond

And of course, there are myriad examples of DH centers at large R1s

At the University of Richmond, the president Ed Ayers, who did important work early on with his Valley of the Shadow project, has created a small team to generate digital scholarship largely centered on US History and geography. Supporting digital humanities as a form of research computing

The shift to using computational methods for analysis has created a great flurry of activity in developing software tools, and ways of using those tools, to enable analysis through visualization, markup, etc. This in turn presents challenges about how to provide not only access to but support for these new methodologies.

What sorts of workshops do we need to provide? What sort of staff expertise do we need? How do we develop local expertise? What collaborative possiblities exist?

what is similar/familiar?toolsspecialized facilities and personnelstandardsproject managementpreservation

Communication and collaborationAudio interaction (asynchronous)Audio-visual interaction (synchronous)Graphical interaction (asynchronous)Graphical interaction (synchronous)Resource sharingTextual interaction (asynchronous)Textual interaction (synchronous)Video-based interaction (asynchronous)

Data Analysis CollatingCollocatingContent analysisContent-based image retrievalContent-based sound retrievalData miningImage feature measurementImage segmentation

IndexingMotion analysisOverlayingParsingRecord linkagesSearching and queryingSound analysisSpatial data analysisStatistical analysisStemmaticsStylometricsText miningTopic Detection and TrackingVisualisation

Data Capture2d scanning and photography3d scanningGeophysical surveyGPS and total station surveysHeads-up digitising and interactive tracingManual input and transcriptionMotion captureMoving image captureMusic recognitionRemote sensingSound generationSound recordingSpeech recognitionText recognitionUse of existing digital data

Data publishing and dissemination:

Collaborative publishingDesktop publishing and pre-pressDisk publishingGeneral website developmentInterface designResource sharingServer scriptingStreaming mediaUser contributed contentWeb browser scripting

Data structuring and enhancement2d modelling - raster2d modelling - vector3d modelling - interactive3d modelling - vectorAnimationCataloguing and indexingCoding and standardisationData modellingGeo-referencing and projectionGraphical renderingImage enhancementImage restorationLemmatisationPhotogrammetryRecord linkagesSound compressionSound editingSound encodingSound encoding - MIDIText encoding - descriptiveText encoding - presentationalText encoding - referentialVideo and moving image compressionVideo editingVirtual world modelling

Strategy and project management

Accessibility analysisCurationDocumentationGeneral project managementHuman factors analysisIterative designPreservationPrototypingRisk managementSecurity planningSystem quality assurance and code testingUsability analysisVersion control

Research ComputingDigital HumanitiesCurricular ComputingIn reviewing this list of underlying methods and their associated tools, much of this is familiar to general computing support. While there are many domain specific tools (e.g. tools for markup, tools for data mining, tools for indexing) scaning this list also reveals a large overlap with basic methods for managing and presenting digital information.

In the same way that we have historically struggled (at least on campuses where I have worked) to understand how to support these very specific and often cumbersome technologies, we anticipate these same challenges as this method makes its way into the humanities departments.

I want to point out four areas that are perhaps unique to this new enterprise, or at least are of growing concern perhaps as well to research computing efforts as it evolves.

Tool BuildingCuration/preservationBorn digital publicationEvaluation

Tool Building

ZoteroOmekaCommentPressPress ForwardScalar

Many of these tools and platforms can serve dual purposes, both to support research programs, the dissemination of the results of research, and also can be integrated into course activities.

It is clear that this sort of effort is not for the faint of heart, as software development requires more resources and longer-term institutional commitments than most campuses no matter how large have available.

As a footnote, it is worth calling attention to a new project coming out of the Council for Library and Information Resources (aka CLIR) called coherence at scale that is trying to think broad


Unlike the monograph, which is a mature technology that has over its over 500 year history developed a strong set of institutions called archives and libraries to ensure the long-range access to the results of research, when the results of DH research are born digital, they are born into a world that has not yet figured out a long-term preservation strategy. We know this problem all too well as it applies to all software, data formats, and information systems. The challenge we face in this specific domain has to do with how to manage the customized, the non-standard, and how to cope with the expanded time-horizon for preservation. We may be okay with allowing for the obsolescence of certain types of data over time, but how do we think about the preservation of the scholarly record?

Level 1: Collecting metadata only Level 2: Saving the project as a set of binary files and metadata only Level 3: The content can still be delivered as in the original Level 4: Look and feel intact Level 5: The project is completely documented

To what extent do we need to preserve all of this? To what extent do concerns about preservation paralyze our efforts to innovate and experiment? new modes of publication

In the same that the results of research computing in the sciences is often/usually/conventionally published in print (or its surrogate, pdf) , so too that tradition continues as computationally-intensive research methods invades/intrudes upon/makes its way into the research program of the humanities. On my campus, the examples Ive shown (Anne and Jason) both are processes that in the end result in print publications.

That said, some of the for me most interesting questions have to do with what is called born digital that can only be read on the screen, and takes advantage of the affordances of new representational strategies.

In some ways, some of the DH projects on campus are similar to science projects, that while they use high-tech methods to gather data, analyze, and visualize the texts in question, the output in terms of scholarship takes a fairly traditonal form. output of DH is not always born digitalbooksarticles

Press ForwardScalarLever Initiative

scalar vectors

new evaluative structures

Just as the book once required a (fictional) helpdesk in order to allow the new set of users to figure out what this new technology could do, and how to evaluate quality in a world of abundance, so too these new formats for presenting the results of resarch create a need to establish new methods for evaluation and peer review.

Peer Review and EvaluationKathleen Fitzpatrick Planned Obsolescence and commentpressAnvil Press AHA and MLA guidelines

The next challenge we face at Middlebury is thinking not only about what we can learn from our history of supporting technology-based research programs as we ramp up our digital humanities efforts, but also trying to establish the relationship between scholarly projects and the curriculum.

Again, there is much to be learned from the history of research computing in the sciences:

1. This is a great opportunity for students to get involved in faculty research, which for undergraduates has not been obvious in the humanities.2. The resources created through these efforts become in turn teaching resources that can be integrated into the curriculum. Indeed, in many cases, the impetus behind the effort is to create a resource explicitly for use in a course. 3. Students learn to grapple with the complicated issues surrounding the creation of new forms of expression, how to incorporate new media into their scholarship

Despite being nearly 8 years old, the report from the ACLS

is a great place to see the questions framed in national and international context

questions to discuss What platforms and systems are common to these activities?What staffing resources are unique to each enterprise and which can be shared across these three areas?What possibilities exist for shared services across institutions, modelled perhaps after super computing centers? What can be outsourced as a commodity? What are the specific facilities needs for digital humanities (the equivalent of the biology lab?) ?What sorts of policy changes will be needed to foster inno...


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