Scholarship, Tools,
Research Practices
Sheila Anderson
King’s College London
Judaica Europeana Digital Humanities Workshop
British Library, 31.10.2011
Humanities Research Practices
Hermeneutic rather than experimental
Narrative, textual, rhetorical
Not seeking formal laws and explanations
Recursive, not linear – a constantly questioning
• Deep reading / reasoning of sources
• Individualistic, even when collaborating
• Rooted in disciplinary understandings and
Humanities ‘Data’
Sources rather than ‘data’ – the human record
Texts of all kinds, images of all kinds
Objects, artefacts
Video, film, audio (speech, music)
Publications, grey literature
Complex, varied, multi-faceted – mix of digital
and analogue
• Highly distributed in multiple locations
Digital Humanities - evolution
• Same practices, different environment
• A gradual move into the digital
• Responding to digital content and opportunity
to do ‘stuff’ quicker
• Understanding scholarly primitives
– Unsworth: discovering, annotating, comparing,
referring, sampling, illustrating, representing
– DARIAH: discovering, collecting, comparing,
delivering, collaborating
Digital Humanities - transformation
Changing practices; converging practices
Dealing with scale
Space, place and time
Language and understanding
Social media, social networking
• But remember humanities research context –
individualistic, complex, hermeneutic
Some examples
• General purpose VRE: D4Science and gCube for the
humanities, the gMan project, King’s College London
• Spatial Humanities: GIS in Literary Studies, University of
Lancashire, Indiana University Purdue University, Indianapolis
• Collaborative across disciplines and commercial : 1641
Depositions, University of Aberdeen, Trinity College Dublin,
General Purpose VRE
• Support research processes using digital
content, tools and services
• Support the whole of the research life-cycle
• Provide access to collections, resources and
• Researcher centred: allow for interpretation,
recursive thinking and annotations
• Mechanisms for managed collaboration and
Diligent, D4Science and gCube
• Funded by FP7 – aims to create e-Infrastructure
• gCube: A Virtual Research Environment (VRE)
Management Framework
• A testbed e-Infrastructure built upon grid
• Allows access to heterogeneous, distributed
technologies, services and content and guarantees
interoperability of these resources
• Based on shared local computation, storage and
generic service and from EGI
Use Case for Classics
• HGV, a database of metadata for Greek papyri
• Project Volterra, a database of Roman legal texts
• Inscriptions of Aphrodisias (InsAph), a corpus of
about 2,000 ancient Greek inscriptions
Plus additional content
• Supplemented with additional resources with stable
• Pleiades catalogue of ancient place names
• Lexicon of Greek Personal Names
• American Numismatic Society’s coin collection
• Each URL that resolves to a systematic
representation of the corresponding resource.
• Not imported: used as links from main datasets
• Mirrors humanities scholar’s use of multiple sources
Researchers were able to:
• Assemble virtual collections of documents
(research objects)
• Search across collections (text/date/...)
• Add annotations to (parts of) objects
• Add (annotated) links between objects
• Search across annotations/links
• Share material with selected colleagues
Some caveats
• Can be difficult to import collections –
requires a reasonably high level of
• Would probably require assistance for
those not familiar with digital tools
• Requires investment in training
• Works best for a collaborative
Spatial Humanities
Technology and Tradition
Multiple Data Sources
Volunteer Information
The 1641 Depositions project aims to explore how a
computer environment can be created in which scholars
interested in historical and corpus linguistics can work
collaboratively with historians and other specialists to
interrogate a key historical source, the 1641 Depositions, in
ways not currently possible, by exploiting effective language
technology developed by IBM LanguageWare.
images © James Cranford, The Teares of Ireland (London, 1642)
Tools developed by Humanities Researchers
• Pliny: Pliny is a tool that works with annotations or notes
that you gather as you are reading. It can be used with both
digital (web sites, images and PDF files) and non-digital
(books, printed journal articles) materials. The text of the
annotation can be anything that you wish to record -indeed, whatever strikes you about the material you are
reading is fair game.
• JUXTA: Juxta is an open-source cross-platform tool for
comparing and collating multiple witnesses to a single
textual work
• The Versioning Machine: a framework and an interface for
displaying multiple versions of text encoded according to
the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) Guidelines.
Sites with info on tools
• TAPoR: is a gateway to tools for sophisticated analysis
and retrieval, along with representative texts for
• Digital Research Tools (DiRT): collects information
about tools and resources that can help scholars
conduct research more efficiently or creatively.
• aims to
support and advance the use and understanding of
digital tools and methods for research and teaching in
the arts and humanities
Large support infrastructures
• DARIAH: aims to enhance and support digitally-enabled research across
the humanities and arts. DARIAH is working with communities of practice
– Explore and apply ICT-based methods and tools to enable new
research questions to be asked and old questions to be posed in new
– Improve research opportunities and outcomes through linking
distributed digital source materials of many kinds
– Exchange knowledge, expertise, methodologies and practices across
domains and disciplines
• CLARIN: is a large-scale pan-European collaborative effort to create,
coordinate and make language resources and technology available and
readily usable. CLARIN offers scholars the tools to allow computer-aided
language processing, addressing one or more of the multiple roles
language plays (i.e. carrier of cultural content and knowledge, instrument
of communication, component of identity and object of study) in the
Humanities and Social Sciences.
• European Holocaust Archives Project: EHRI
Thank you!

5. Scholarship, tools, research practices