The Digital Learning Curve

The process of compiling a corpora and running stylometric analysis wasn’t the only thing that we felt distinguished work on this digital humanities project from work on non-digital literary projects. We come away from this project with an appreciation not only for a new way to analyze a literary text, but for new ways to conduct collaborative scholarship online.

One of the most exciting aspects of digital humanities is how well it lends itself to working with scholars who share a research question and interests, irrespective of their geographic location. To that end, we conducted much of our work and communication online rather than in person, thereby enriching our understanding of and appreciation for the digital world, the humanities, and the exciting possibilities of 21st century collaborative scholarship. Several digital best practices we acquired while conducting our research include:

Streamlining communication with digital collaboration tools: In most of our collaborative scholarship, email has been the preferred method of communication for ideas, edits, and updates. Embarking upon The Dynamiter project, we chose to use two free tools from Google to organize what might have become a cumbersome flow of communication. These two tools proved invaluable:

Google Drive: Google Drive was our cloud-based common repository of the most recent versions of our documents, data, and project management tools (more of which to come). Within the folders, documents, and spreadsheets that we created on our drive, we could review, edit, and check on each other’s work as needed, and never had to contact another group member asking for a needed piece of information. Everyone always had access to the same (and most up-to-date) information.

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Google Hangouts: Hangouts are a group communication portal that we relied on heavily. A Hangout is essentially a chat room that keeps a conversation continued and archived even after one or all people in the group leave the chat. Often working simultaneously, we were able to ask questions and confirm processes through Hangouts in real time as we worked, substantially enhancing our efficiency.

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Using a lineup to manage workflow: One of the most useful tools in our Drive was our “lineup.” We listed in a database all of the tasks to be completed, through to the project’s conclusion, and each task was designated as the responsibility of one or two team members. The lineup included a listed due date, the task’s status, and any notes on the task. One member of our team monitored the lineup to make sure tasks were completed on time, and everyone used it to update the rest of the group on our progress and next steps.

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Tweeting: Edinburgh is a city with deep literary roots, and several other Edinburgh digital humanists have recently turned the city’s rich repository of literary history into a wonderful digital project of their own, Palimpsest, which allows users to geolocate the city’s literary highlights. While that team has their own set of online handles, hashtags, and naming conventions, #DHEdinb was the hashtag our team adopted early on to keep each other abreast of digital humanities news and to generate interest around our project. Coalescing a conversation around this simple tag expanded our awareness of news we otherwise would not have read and people with whom we otherwise would not have connected with. Digital humanists should, and have been, embracing Twitter for its ability to deliver on both of these benefits.

DHEDinb Twitter feed