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Chapter Summaries



Chapter 1: Studying users in digital humanities

Claire Warwick

Chapter Overview

There is little point in creating digital resources in either sector if they are not used, however. We know that people use digital resources if they fit their needs, yet many digital humanities resources are still designed without reference to user requirements. This often means that expensive digital resources remain unused or unappreciated by their intended audience. In Chapter 1, Claire Warwick 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. She 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. She presents recommendations, based on UCLDH research, for good practice in the design of digital resources, such that they are as appropriate as possible for their users.
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Chapter 2: Social media for digital humanities and community engagement

Claire Ross

Chapter Overview

As well as studying users, and trying to design more suitable resources for their needs, digital resources can also integrate user-generated content, using social media and crowdsourcing techniques, as Claire Ross shows in Chapter 2. 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.
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Chapter 3: Digitization and digital resources in the humanities

Melissa Terras

Chapter Overview

In Chapter 3, Melissa Terras 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 round-up 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.
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Chapter 4: Image processing in the digital humanities

Melissa Terras

Chapter Overview

Chapter 4 discusses the ways in which images, once digitized, can be manipulated, studied and processed. Melissa Terras 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. She discusses different processing techniques and research methods and the new discoveries that these have made possible. In addition to this, Terras 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.
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Chapter 5: 3D recording and museums

Stuart Robson, Sally MacDonald, Graeme Were and Mona Hess

Chapter Overview

In Chapter 5, Stuart Robson, Sally Macdonald, and Mona Hess and Graham Were show how engineers and museum professionals can collaborate to create new knowledge, using computational techniques. They introduce the key principles, advantages and limitations of 3D scanning and look at its existing and potential applications in museums. 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. They also discuss some of the potential issues – ethical, aesthetic and practical – that 3D interpretations raise for the museum world.
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Chapter 6: Text encoding and scholarly digital editions

Julianne Nyhan

Chapter Overview

Despite the fascinating work being carried out in image-based computing at UCL, it is, of course, important to remember that digital texts still offers us many exciting opportunities for new work in digital humanities, as Julianne Nyhan shows in Chapter 6. She reflects on how a digital text, created using digital humanities methodologies and techniques, tends to differ from other kinds of digital texts. She asks what the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) is and how it can be used, and she 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.
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Chapter 7: Historical bibliography in the digital world

Anne Welsh

Chapter Overview

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 Anne Welsh discusses in Chapter 7. She 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. She 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.
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Chapter 8: Open access and online teaching materials for digital humanities

Simon Mahony, Ulrich Tiedau and Irish Sirmons

Chapter Overview

We hope that this book may be used to support teaching and learning in the digital humanities and, as a result, felt it was important to include a chapter that is concerned with such matters. In Chapter 8, Simon Mahony, Ulrich Tiedau and Irish Sirmons discuss open access educational resources: a new initiative to make teaching materials available in digital form. They take, as their example, two projects at UCL: one in a traditional humanities subject – Dutch – and one in digital humanities itself. They show 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 our new MA/MSc in digital humanities at UCL will form part of this new initiative.
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Chapter 9: Institutional models for digital humanities

Claire Warwick

Chapter Overview

The balance between the various activities undertaken in digital humanities: teaching and learning, research, resource creation and technical support, is an important issue that Claire Warwick discusses in Chapter 9, in which she 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.
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