All digital projects have certain structural features in common. Some are built on “platforms” using software that has either been designed specifically from within the digital humanities community (eg Omeka, a possible platform you might use for your final projects), or has been re-purposed to serve (eg: WordPress), or has been custom-built.
We talk about the “back end” and “front end” of digital projects, the workings under the hood (files on servers, in browsers, databases, search engines, processing programs, and networks) and the user experience.
But what creates the user experience on the front end? How are digital projects structured to enable various kinds of functions and activities on the part of the user? All digital humanities projects are built of the same basic structural components, even though the degree of complexity that can be added into these components and their relations to each other and the user can expand exponentially.
User experience and functionality are not the only considerations when creating a digital project. The long-term preservation of a project must also be evaluated. Will the software and file formats chosen for a project still be relevant and in-use in decades to come? Will the web domain exist long past the initial completion of the project? Essentially, how can a digital humanities project be archived so it can be preserved and accessible in the future?
The basic elements: a repository of files or digital assets, some kind of information architecture or structure, a suite of services, and a display for user experience. While this is deceptively simple and reductive, it is also useful as a way to think about the building of digital humanities projects. At their simplest, digital projects can consist of a set files (assets) stored in an information architecture such as a database or file system (structure) where they can be accessed (services) and called by a browser (use/display).
All of the complexity in digital humanities projects comes from the ways we can create structure (in the sense of introducing information into the basic data) in the assets, organize the information architecture or structure, in order to support complex services accessed through the display.
All of this should be more clear as we move ahead into the analysis of examples.
As you are reading these, make a few web annotations. I have provided a few prompts for you that may help you generate some perspectives for annotations.
- The Digital Humanities: A Primer, Ch 5 “Digital Tools” (see Mattermost for password)
- How Did They Make That? http://miriamposner.com/blog/how-did-they-make-that/
How Did They Make That? (Video) https://archive.org/details/howdidtheymakethat
Annelise Dowd – Video 2: Ephemerality, Preservation, and using Evernote https://youtu.be/NSickac25-g
Benjamin Walker’s Theory of Everything, “Artifacts” Parts I and II
- Use Hypothes.is to annotate the two required readings listed above.
- Watch the videos and listen to the podcast listed above.
- Use Evernote to create a “notebook” of a collection of at least five DH projects found on the web. For each “note” you have bookmarked, include a short 1 or 2 sentence description of the DH project. Use multiple meaningful tags for each of your bookmarks. If you are able to find out what technology/software/application used to support the projects, tag your entry with the software used (eg. wordpress, omeka, jstimeline, etc). See my Evernote notebook or Annelise’s notebook so you have a sense of how you can collect and organize your notes. When creating tags, try to think about how useful the tags will be if you try to search for the project within your notebook in the future. Do the tags best describe your project? Do you see similarities and differences between my notebook and Annelise’s?
- Share a link to your notebook in a post at your website. In your post, reflect on the project(s) that resonated with you most. Were you able to find out what tools/techniques were used to support these projects? If so, reflect on what you learned about these platforms in your post. If you were not able to discover any information about the platforms used, reflect on the features you feel are most useful/powerful.