Archive for the ‘Metadata’ Category

  • Programming the Digital Humanities


    Edit 2/16: Here are the PPTX slides from our panel: Programming the Humanities.  Thanks for everyone who joined and participated.

    In a prior book I co-authored with JD Applen (The Rhetorical Nature of XML — see Will Dorner’s review here for a good overview), we looked at the composition and structure of the eXtensible Markup Language (XML) and explored the rhetorical implications of a metadata language that allows individuals to author their own tags, as well as the constraints and politics imposed by the necessity of tools and languages (DTDs, Schema, XSL, XSD, Doctbook, DITA, etc.)  for ensuring validity and interoperability between systems.  As part of this work, we ventured into the territory of programming when we started thinking about the implications of the software parser in this context.  For example, what happens to the data after it is described and written down is (to me, at least) interesting enough to prompt one to consider the rhetorical implications of the software that is designed to act upon particular tags when it encounters them. So, for the last few chapters of the book, we spent some time introducing readers to basic programming techniques and then discussed how implementing such techniques would allow them to build their own XML parsers for a variety of rhetorical purposes.

    This is a long-winded and probably inefficient way to introduce the topic I’m currently most interested in, which is the nature of (computer) programming in the humanities.  My current book project involves partly theoretical work (along the lines of Stephen Ramsay and inspired in part by this post from Matthew Kirschenbaum) examining the role of computer algorithms and programming in the humanities and how these things do and don’t fit together.  This is coupled with an introduction to computer programming for humanities practitioners.  Rather than spending the entire book focused on one language, I instead introduce several different languages that are used by different audiences.  These include Scratch (a programming environment designed to teach children how to program that emerged from Mitch Resnick and the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at MIT), Processing (a programming language environment designed for visual artists), PHP, Python, and Ruby.

    In the spirit of the unconference, I have several different proposals for things I could talk about that may or may not be of interest for the THATCamp 2013 audience.  What I am most interested in is hearing from digital humanists about their own experiences working with code and tools in order to better understand the audiences who may find such a book useful.  Potential things I would be interested in discussing / yakking about:

    • What are the particular needs of digital humanists working in different fields (in terms of tools and software)?
    • Where do extant tools break down and how would you extend (or how have you extended) existing tools to better allow you to pursue your research?
    • Do you know how to program?  If so, what was your pathway to learning this skill?
    • If you code, what were some of the most valuable tips and lessons you learned while acquiring this skill?
    • What are some of the non-programming skills digital humanities practitioners should be aware of?
    • Where do you stand on (or what do you think of) the “users vs. builders” debate?    See Mark Kamrath and Patricia Carlton’s proposed session.

    In terms of a less interactive format, I could also discuss the following:

    • My proposed chapter outline and organization, and what reviewers had to say about it so far
    • An overview of some of the programming languages I mention above
    • My own experience learning to code as a humanities major and teaching coding to other humanities majors
    • The Texts and Technology PhD program at UCF and how I believe programming relates to this doctoral program

    Note: I am only able to attend on Saturday morning and early afternoon, so if any of this is of interest, hopefully we can figure out a good time.   I’d also be happy to sponsor a “hacking” tutorial session using one of the languages above if there is any interest in that sort of thing.

  • Robinson Crusoe in the Public Sphere


    Robinson Crusoe and the Robinsonades are a major part of digital humanities scholarship, particularly in the fields of English, Education, History, Religion, and the Fine Arts. Robinson Crusoe was published in 1719 by Daniel Defoe and has remained a popular adventure and colonialist text to this day. The University of Florida’s Digital Collections (Baldwin Library) has a subset collection on Robinson Crusoe – – that allows scholars to compare the numerous editions of the text since its first printing.

    I would like to have a discussion about how Robinson Crusoe is used by digital scholars. In particular, I would like the discussion to emphasize how Robinson Crusoe is used in the public sphere and the classroom to create new interpretations of digital information and metadata.

  • ”’Using Versus Building’ in the Digital Humanities”


    THATCamp session: ”’Using Versus Building’ in the Digital Humanities”

    In a recent Inside Higher Ed blog posting entitled “The Incredible Privilege of ‘Building’”, Lee Bessette raises the issue of “using versus building” in digital humanities work and “who” does it. It is a topic that Matthew K. Gold and Stephan Ramsay have also engaged in their discussions about how “building and making” operates as a heuristic.

    This session looks “behind-the-scenes” of two Center for Humanities and Digital Research (CHDR) archive projects. It examines the rationale behind an archive about “digital archiving”—the Digital Archiving Information System —and the range of topics, from planning, preservation, copyright, “representation,” and archive management, that anyone needs to engage in order to plan and build a digital archive. It delves into how we can better understand the potential of “the archive” as both a scholarly and teaching tool. In addition, it examines how the NEH-funded Charles Brockden Brown Electronic Archive follows, and departs from, standard conventions of “archiving” in regard to primary and secondary sources—and some of the specific issues that were encountered in building a searchable collection of texts, images, and other data.

    The session welcomes discussion about the practical aspects of doing digital humanities work in general, and digital archive work in particular.

    Mark Kamrath
    Patricia Carlton

  • New Possibilities for Linking Archival Collections Using Encoded Archival Context – Corporate Bodies, Persons, and Families (EAC-CPF)


    For researchers working with primary source material in archives, the paper trail can often be difficult to follow. Although standards like Encoded Archival Description (EAD) have helped make finding aids more visible and accessible, there is another layer that often remains invisible to researchers:  the sociocultural context of the people whose work is preserved in archival collections.

    The EAC-CPF standard was developed to bridge this gap and provide a way to describe the relationships among agents associated with archives, whether as creators or contributors. Large-scale projects like the Social Networks and Archival Context Project (SNAC) are currently laying the groundwork for a national archival authorities infrastructure. In the meantime, what can individual institutions or regional consortia do to implement EAC-CPF and improve access to their archival collections? One open source tool, for example (Ethan Gruber’s xEAC editor), allows users to create EAC-CPF stub records by importing data from DBpedia. New or enhanced EAC-CPF records, in turn, might be used to generate Wikipedia pages via the MediaWiki API.

    This session could serve as an introduction to EAC-CPF and related initiatives and could also provide an opportunity to brainstorm and discuss possibilities for implementing the standard locally or regionally.

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