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DH2017 Abstract – Unpacking Collaboration in Digital History Projects

Next week I will be in Montreal for the ADHO DH conference, where I will present a poster with some results from my PhD research. Below you can find the abstract, and below that the poster itself, designed by my wife Lindi. For those not able to come, follow the Twitter hashtag #dh2017, and if you’re able to come I hope to see you somewhere during a coffee break or at my poster presentation!

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Why do we need a definition of DH?

Like all great debates in DH, the return of the “what is DH” debate started off with a tweet:

This is a recurrent question, and one might ask whether in 2017 it’s still a fair question. Indeed, in 2017 it is not so popular anymore to debate definitions of DH. As I wrote in my previous blogpost, I agree it is not always important, as I don’t think it is an important question when educating students about DH. On the other hand, one might ask whether this isn’t just evasive; we can’t define DH, so we deny the importance of that definition.  In this blogpost, I will not provide a definitive answer to what is DH, but I will argue that is remains an important question for two reasons: practical and epistemological.

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User Required? User Research in the Digital Humanities

The development of tools plays an important role in the Digital Humanities. For the recent DHBenelux conference, I found that the word “tool” was used almost a hundred times in all the abstracts, not counting my own. Still, the actual adoption of all these tools by the target audience, the humanities scholars, does not always reach its potential. [1]Claire Warwick, M. Terras, Paul Huntington, & N. Pappa. (2007). If You Build It Will They Come? The LAIRAH Study: Quantifying the Use of Online Resources in the Arts and Humanities through Statistical Analysis of User Log Data. Literary and Linguistic Computing, 23(1), 85–102. http://doi.org/10.1093/llc/fqm045 ref-closed (OA version ref-oa) In a recently published paper by Martijn Kleppe and me, titled User Required? On the Value of User Research in the Digital Humanities, we look into how Digital Humanities scholars might address this problem.[2]Max Kemman, & Martijn Kleppe. (2015). User Required? On the Value of User Research in the Digital Humanities. In Jan Odijk (Ed.), Selected Papers from the CLARIN 2014 Conference, October 24-25, 2014, Soesterberg, The Netherlands (pp. 63–74). Linköping University Electronic Press. ref-oa

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References   [ + ]

1. Claire Warwick, M. Terras, Paul Huntington, & N. Pappa. (2007). If You Build It Will They Come? The LAIRAH Study: Quantifying the Use of Online Resources in the Arts and Humanities through Statistical Analysis of User Log Data. Literary and Linguistic Computing, 23(1), 85–102. http://doi.org/10.1093/llc/fqm045 ref-closed (OA version ref-oa)
2. Max Kemman, & Martijn Kleppe. (2015). User Required? On the Value of User Research in the Digital Humanities. In Jan Odijk (Ed.), Selected Papers from the CLARIN 2014 Conference, October 24-25, 2014, Soesterberg, The Netherlands (pp. 63–74). Linköping University Electronic Press. ref-oa

No tool can do all

DHBenelux 2015 (8-9 June 2015, Antwerp, Belgium), the second edition after 2014, demonstrated a nice growth from last year with 150 attendees, 62 presentations, plus seven more demos-only and three posters-only (some presentations were also presented as demo or poster): an acceptance rate of 90%.

This blogpost is not intended to provide a complete overview of the conference, but rather to show the discussion from my perspective. The main theme I will follow is that no tool can do all research for you.

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DH funding in the US

Currently I’m following a MOOC on Information Visualization offered by Indiana University called IVMOOC. Each week a course is made available and thus far I’ve done the “when”, “where” and “what” modules. As an additional incentive, students gain access to the Scholarly Database (SDB) with which I have been having some fun.

A did a search in all NEH awards, for which the database contains 47,197 records from 1970-2012 [1]SDB NEH explanation: http://wiki.cns.iu.edu/display/SDBDOC/NEH+Awards. Do note the chart at the bottom showing the distribution of records..

SDB offers full-text search in titles and abstracts. I tried the following:

  1. “Digital Humanities” in titles: 20 records from 2001-2012
  2. “Humanities Computing” in titles: 0 records (to see if there was DH-related work before coining of the term “DH”)
  3. “Digital Humanities” in abstract: 82 results from 2001-2012
  4. “Humanities Computing” in abstract: 3 results from 2006-2008

In order to create an interesting visualisation, I wanted a nice bunch of result, so I made the searches broader by searching for digital OR computational in abstracts, resulting in 654 records from 1985-2012, with a total “original amount” of $95,248,977.4 [2]The data contains several figures, namely approved_outright, approved_matching, award_outright, award_matching and original_amount. I’m still figuring out a bit which figures I should focus on.

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References   [ + ]

1. SDB NEH explanation: http://wiki.cns.iu.edu/display/SDBDOC/NEH+Awards. Do note the chart at the bottom showing the distribution of records.
2. The data contains several figures, namely approved_outright, approved_matching, award_outright, award_matching and original_amount. I’m still figuring out a bit which figures I should focus on.

Grasping Technology

dhbeneluxWith all kinds of digital technologies becoming available, the uptake of digital research methods by the humanities might have been inevitable. How the humanities can incorporate digital tools, and contribute to the development of technology aimed at the humanities were questions central at the DHBenelux conference (12&13 June 2014, The Hague, the Netherlands). Around 180 attendees met to discuss research projects presented in 50 presentations, 16 posters and 10 demo’s.

This blogpost is not intended to provide a complete overview of the conference, but rather to show the discussion from my perspective. The main theme I will follow is that of the humanities grasping technology; referring to 1) taking technology, 2) embracing technology and 3) coming to an understanding of technology.

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The value of keywords for papers

At the Digital Humanities congress 2013, 159 papers and 52 posters will be presented. All abstracts have been made available online, but fortunately it’s possible to browse the material by several metadata elements conference-related such as room and date, or paper-related such as author and affiliation. I was particularly interested in the browsing by keyword, as I hoped to gain an overview of the papers available, as well as gain quick access to material interesting for my research.

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“Just Google It” Abstract

In the summer of 2012, we held a survey amongst scholars, inquiring about their online search practices. The results of this survey were presented in September 2012 at the Digital Humanities Congress Sheffield, titled “Mapping the Use of Digital Sources Amongst Humanities Scholars in the Netherlands“. This August, we hope to publish a (first) paper about the results of this survey in the then launching online journal Studies in the Digital Humanities. This journal will be Open Access, additionally we will make the manuscript available Open Access at the Erasmus University Library RePub, and will publish the survey data Open Access at DANS. I’ll provide the links later on the Publications page.
This paper was co-authored with Martijn Kleppe and Stef Scagliola. Below I provide the abstract we submitted, which undergo some modifications before publication.

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eHumanities Workshop Soeterbeeck: More Digital Than Humanities

On 13-14 June the Radboud University Nijmegen and the eHumanities group from KNAW co-organized the eHumanities workshop Soeterbeeck. This very nice mid-sized workshop with under 50 participants staying in the beautiful monastery Soeterbeeck in Ravenstein included very interesting invited-talks as well as a nice postersession where we presented the PoliMedia project. However, the workshop also demonstrated that so far the Digital Humanities is more Digital than Humanities.

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