Getting going with scholarship online: my introduction to Digital Humanities at the DH@Guelph Summer Workshops

In May, I attended a four-day Digital Humanities workshop at the University of Guelph on “Getting Going with Scholarship Online: An Introduction to CWRC”. I attended the workshops as a introduction to what will be a major piece of my doctoral studies when I begin my PhD this September: Digital Humanities.

So, what is digital humanities? It’s a term that I’m quite new to (hence the workshop), but one definition that sums it up succinctly is: a “diverse and still emerging field that encompasses the practice of humanities research in and through information technology, and the exploration of how the humanities may evolve through their engagement with technology, media, and computational methods” (Spiro, 44).

In other words, it’s a field that brings humanities into the digital world.

This is particularly interesting to me in my role as a Senior Writer at OpenText. OpenText is a software company based in Waterloo, Ontario. As Susan Brown, a professor at the University of Guelph, said, OpenText is considered to be one of the success stories of digital humanities.

OpenText started as a University of Waterloo spinoff in the early 1990s, building a searchable digital version of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). So, OpenText was looking for ways to merge the humanities and the digital world, by digitizing and enabling search function on the OED. Since then, OpenText has been helping organizations around the world to survive and thrive in the digital world.

This shift to the digital is at the core of digital humanities studies. And it comes out of necessity: from analytics to social media to TEI, many of the best tools scholars have available to them are now digital tools.

As Susan Brown says in “Scaling up collaboration online: toward a Collaboratory for research on Canadian writing,”  digital humanities is about a shift in infrastructure from the book, the periodical, the printing press, the library, the pencil and paper, to the digital (234). The digital world is drastically changing traditional scholarship, and digital humanities is academia’s way of adopting digital tools and modes of studies.

The Canadian Writing and Research Collaboratory (CWRC) is one way humanities turns to the digital. The CWRC is “an online environment that can become part of the scholarly work life in a way that feels like less of a strain than our current conditions, in which we move ceaselessly between tools and interfaces to work online” (242-3). CWRC is an online repository for digital objects, like an original text, or a text and an image (or a number of other things), and a set of tools that you can use with them. In the four-day workshop, I learned how to take a primary text, transcribe it into a digital format (Word document), convert it to XML using TEI, and then upload it to CWRC. Once the document was in CWRC, I learned how to add tags, which is extremely useful when you’re conducting something like literary semantic analysis. Once all your original sources are digitized and tagged, you can then search through your digitized documents by theme, or import the data into other vizualization tools to help you create visual representations of your data. This is something that I am excited to pursue once I begin my doctorate studies this fall–and I’ll be updating you on this as I learn more and develop my study.

In the meantime, I’d encourage anyone in the humanities to consider the ways in which digital tools can enhance your studies, further your research, or even help you find a job (possibly outside of academia) once you’re done your PhD. I know that’s what I’ll be doing!

 

 

References

Brown, Susan. “Scaling Up Collaboration Online: Toward a Collaboratory for Research on Canadian Writing.” International Journal of Canadian Studies 48.1 (2014): 233-51. Project MUSE . Web. 15 Apr. 2015. < https://muse.jhu.edu/ >

Spiro, Lisa. “Computing and Communicating Knowledge: Collaborative Approaches to Digital Humanities Projects.” Collaborative Approaches to the Digital in English Studies . Ed. Laura McGrath. Logan, UT: Computers and Composition Digital Press–Utah State UP, 2011. Web. 15 Apr. 2015. < http://ccdigitalpress.org/cad/ >

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