Digital Humanities in Practice

Oct 2012 | 192pp

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Digital Humanities in Practice

Edited by Claire Warwick, Melissa Terras and Julianne Nyhan

This cutting-edge and comprehensive introduction to digital humanities explains the scope of the discipline and state of the art and provides a wide-ranging insight into emerging topics and avenues of research. 
Each chapter interweaves the expert commentary of leading academics with analysis of current research and practice, exploring the possibilities and challenges that occur when culture and digital technologies intersect. International case studies of projects ranging from crowdsourced manuscript transcription to computational reconstruction of frescoes are included in each chapter, providing a wealth of information and inspiration. QR codes within each chapter link to a dedicated website where additional content, such as further case studies, is located.
Key topics covered include: 
  • studying users and readers
  • social media and crowdsourcing
  • digitization and digital resources
  • image processing in the digital humanities
  • 3D recording and museums
  • electronic text and text encoding
  • book history, texts and digital editing
  • open access and online teaching of digital humanities
  • institutional models for digital humanities.  
Readership: This is an essential practical guide for academics, researchers, librarians and professionals involved in the digital humanities. It will also be core reading for all humanities students and those taking courses in the digital humanities in particular.

Introduction - Claire Warwick, Melissa Terras and Julianne Nyhan
1. Studying users in digital humanities - Claire Warwick
2. Social media for digital humanities and community engagement - Claire Ross
3. Digitization and digital resources in the humanities - Melissa Terras
4. Image processing in the digital humanities - Melissa Terras
5. 3D recording and museums - Stuart Robson, Sally MacDonald, Graeme Were and Mona Hess
6. Text encoding and scholarly digital editions - Julianne Nyhan
7. Historical bibliography in the digital world - Anne Welsh
8. Open access and online teaching materials for digital humanities - Simon Mahony, Ulrich Tiedau and Irish Sirmons
9. Institutional models for digital humanities - Claire Warwick

"...high value for scholars interested in digital humanities and for academic support staff who are planning projects and programs. Recommended."
- Choice

"...a valuable resource not only for students and researchers in digital humanities, but for a variety of other fields of study especially information management and digital libraries."
- Journal of Librarianship and Information Science

"An extensive range of topics is covered: digitisation, image processing, 3-D recording of museum objects, text encoding, historical bibliography and online teaching materials. The use of social media, especially for encouraging public engagement in humanities research, is also discussed. There is an interesting analysis of institutional models for digital humanities (again based primarily on the activities of the UCL Centre), which touches on some broader issues connected with involvement in teaching and research as well as the provision of training and support. Each chapter is supplemented and expanded by the inclusion of a series of short case studies – projects illustrating the specific application of the topic under discussion."
- Australian Library Journal

Claire Warwick, Melissa Terras and Julianne Nyhan are all members of the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities.

1. Studying users in digital humanities - Claire Warwick
This chapter demonstrates why it is important to seek to understand the behaviours of humanities researchers and the users of cultural heritage resources, in the context of digital tools and resources, so that they may be designed to be more usable and sustainable in the future. The chapter discusses different methods of carrying out such studies and shows why they should be introduced at the beginning of the project and not simply in its later stages. The chapter presents recommendations, based on UCLDH research, for good practice in the design of digital resources, so that they are as
appropriate as possible for their users.
2. Social media for digital humanities and community engagement - Claire Ross
Social media has attracted millions of users, many of whom have integrated these sites into their daily work practices. Although this is sometimes seen as an ephemeral leisure activity – being on Facebook as a distraction from real work – social media is increasingly attracting the attention of academic researchers, who are intrigued by its affordances and reach. Social networks, blogs, podcasts and crowdsourcing are now central to our work in digital humanities. Because of their ease of use, they offer an opportunity for powerful information sharing, collaboration, participation and community engagement. Yet, we know too little about who is accessing and using social media and crowdsourcing applications and for what purpose, in an academic or cultural heritage context. This chapter discusses the use of social media in digital humanities research, highlights the projects at the heart of UCLDH and stresses the opportunities and challenges of utilizing such techniques, both in an academic context and to enhance community engagement.
3. Digitization and digital resources in the humanities - Melissa Terras
This chapter discusses digitization – the conversion of an analogue signal or code into a digital signal or code. This is the bedrock of both digital library holdings and digital humanities research. It is now commonplace for most memory institutions to create and deliver digital representations of cultural and historical documents, artefacts and images to improve access to, and foster greater understanding of, the material they hold. This chapter focuses on the developing role of digitization to provide resources for research within the digital humanities, highlighting issues of  cost, purpose, longevity and use and providing a roundup of sources for guidelines and standards. The recent interest from, and investment by, commercial information providers is juxtaposed with institutional concerns about the creation of digital resources for the humanities.
4. Image processing in the digital humanities - Melissa Terras
This chapter discusses the ways in which images, once digitized, can be manipulated, studied and processed and shows how image processing techniques may be used to reconstruct ancient Theran wall paintings or to help us to read ancient documents, such as the Vindolanda Tablets from Hadrian’s Wall. The chapter discusses different processing techniques and research methods and the new discoveries that these have made possible. In addition to this, the chapter explores why image processing is not a commonly used procedure in digital humanities and advises on how an individual may undertake research in this area.
5. 3D recording and museums - Stuart Robson, Sally MacDonald, Graeme Were and Mona Hess
This chapter show how engineers and museum professionals can collaborate to create new knowledge, using computational techniques. The key principles, advantages and limitations of 3D scanning are introduced and its existing and potential applications in museums are looked at. These include the ability to record objects ‘in the round’ more scientifically (in order to support conservation programmes or enable close comparison of similar objects) and the potential to introduce new interpretations and to reach new audiences globally. The chapter also discusses some of the potential issues – ethical, aesthetic and practical – that 3D interpretations raise for the museum world.
6. Text encoding and scholarly digital editions - Julianne Nyhan
This chapter reflects on how a digital text, created using digital humanities methodologies and techniques, tends to differ from other kinds of digital text. It asks what the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) is and how it can be used, and gives an overview of the advantages and disadvantages of TEI. Current practice is evidenced by the inclusion of two case studies: the ‘Webbs on the Web’ project and the ‘DALF’ project. The chapter closes by pointing to key resources for the teaching and learning of TEI.
7. Historical bibliography in the digital world - Anne Welsh
Given the enormous transformational potential of digital text, is there still a need for the printed book? What is the role of the librarian and bibliographer in the digital age? These are questions that are discussed in Chapter 7. The chapter examines the impact of online resources on the study of the history of the book and on historical bibliography as an academic subject. As well as highlighting key digital resources, their uses and impact, this chapter considers the work that historians, librarians, conservators and other heritage professionals undertake in creating digital resources, from online catalogues and exhibitions, through to digitized texts and born digital materials. The chapter considers the impact of large-scale digitization initiatives, such as Google Books, and shows how the skills of the textual bibliographer remain important when working with digital resources.
8. Open access and online teaching materials for digital humanities - Simon Mahony, Ulrich Tiedau and Irish Sirmons
This chapter discusses open access educational resources: a new initiative to make teaching materials available in digital form. The chapter takes as example, two projects at UCL: one in a traditional humanities subject – Dutch – and one in digital humanities itself. It shows that the digital medium not only makes possible sharing and crowdsourcing of material for humanities research and in cultural heritage domains, but that learning objects can now be shared and repurposed by teachers, as well as enriching the experience of learners. Material from the new MA/MSc in digital humanities at UCL forms part of this new initiative.
9. Institutional models for digital humanities - Claire Warwick
The balance between the various activities undertaken in digital humanities: teaching and learning, research, resource creation and technical support, is an important issue that is discussed in Chapter 9.  The chapter reflects on the institutional contexts in which digital humanities takes place. The model that we chose for UCLDH is highly innovative, since it is the hub of a large network, connecting digital humanities activity throughout UCL and beyond. However, this chapter also considers what we can learn from studying the models on which digital humanities centres and programmes have been run in the past and what these may mean for the future of the discipline. In this context, it is also important to discuss the institutional environment in which digital humanities takes place, in terms of prestige, management support, career progression of researchers and the importance of communicating what we do in digital humanities to others. Given the huge growth in digital humanities globally, it is important that we discuss such issues now, so that recommendations for good practice may be made to support the future of the discipline.