Within the Digital Humanities there are many areas of practice. We’ve highlighted 14 of them. Each section tells you a little more about the area and the different tools you can use to begin creating. We’ve focused on the areas first (rather than leading with the tools) to encourage you to think critically about the projects and work you’re interested in doing.
Before starting a new DH project, take time to intentionally consider how you will engage in ethical collaboration. This involves ethical labor practices, as well as clearly defining roles and responsibilities among project partners. See, for example:
Our lists of tools are not intended to be comprehensive. Check out this August, 2019 blog post by Digital Humanities Programs Assistant Jared Zeiders about free alternative tools. And explore this set of Ethical EdTech tools.
Starting in the spring of 2020, the Digital Humanities Center has been hard at work creating a series of tool tutorials, with particular emphasis on audio and video editing tools to support podcasting. We've also got tutorials for project management tools, text analysis, electronic literature & digital storytelling (such as Twine and Scalar), and many more!
Digital and social annotation allows folks to markup and share various digital content -- webpages, images, etc. Social annotation allows us to expand knowledge production by allowing commenting, tagging, and other activities that can help clarify and expand on existing resources. Social annotation can be a meaningful pedagogical approach, and there are several tools that can be used in the classroom:
Learn more at our Teaching During Quarantine website.
Crowdsourcing is a practice that connects people with varied skills and resources in order to collaborate on projects and processes. For example, Zooniverse is a platform that connects professional researchers with volunteers in order to enable research that would otherwise be impossible. Explore "Crowdsourcing in cultural heritage: a practical guide to designing and running successful projects," a pre-print book chapter by Mia Ridge (2021).
Data visualization is the practice of creating graphic representations of information and data. It is a visual way of reading, studying, and interpreting information that can be more accessible. For example, TimelineJS helps users turn chronological information into interactive and visual timelines.
Also, consider issues of accessibility when working on visualizations, including color blindness, mobility, visual and hearing. There are numerous tools, such as Color Brewer, that can help you pick accessible color combinations for your visualizations, such as maps.
Looking for something not on this list? Check out this set of data visualization tools (not all are free).
Digital Exhibits allow for online curation, publication, and exhibition of information, artifacts, and works, making these items accessible to more people while preserving the original object. Additionally, the practice can allow for repatriation of items while still providing virtual access (when appropriate). Omeka, for example, is a platform that allows you to create digital collections and exhibits for the public. There are many other digital exhibit platforms, but most require server space, whether hosted by your institution or by a third party.
There are many other digital exhibit platforms, but most require server space, whether hosted by your institution or by a third party. Free website builders/content management systems, such as WordPress or WiX, could potentially be set up for digital exhibits.
Slightly unrelated, but for those doing archival research, the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University recently released Tropy, a free tool that helps you organize, describe, and annotate archival research (particularly the photos you take of documents).
Electronic Literature and Storytelling is a genre of literature where the works are created to be experienced exclusively on digital devices such as computers and smartphones. Twine, as an example, is an open-source tool that allows users to make interactive fiction without previous coding experience. The Electronic Literature Organization maintains a directory of e-lit to inspire you. And check out this blog post, "Introduction to the World of E-Lit," by Brent Ameneyro, 2021-2022 DH E-Lit Programs Assistant.
There are several environments where you can code your own stories, including Google's Colaboratory (for coding in Python) and Jupyter Notebooks (an open-source web application that allows you to create and share documents that contain live code, equations, visualizations and narrative text).
Ethical design is design that prioritizes human values. Most people do not design with the intention to cause harm to others but sometimes that is the unforeseen result. Design can bring harm to individuals and groups of people. Ethical design brings attention to this, and ethical design tools, such as the EthicalOS, aim to help users mitigate (unintended) harm with design.
A website is a collection of resources, such as webpages and media content. All websites “live” (i.e. are hosted) on a server. Hosting is a service that makes websites accessible to others--it stores the information of the website and allows people to recall it via a device and internet connection. CMS stands for Content Management System. It’s a tool that allows users to create and modify digital content and the collection of content without necessarily knowing how to code. Whereas in the past websites were manually coded line by line, a CMS allows you to create and publish websites without having to worry about the code. WordPress, for example, is one of the leading free website creation tools (though hosting a Wordpress site may not be free).
Network Analysis is a practice of visualizing complex networks. It can be used to visualize networks of people, behaviors, ideas, and more. For example, Onodo allows users to map, visualize, analyze, and communicate complex networks and data.
Podcasting is an increasingly popular form of publicly-engaged digital scholarship. Podcasts can take many forms and foci, including academic, creative, current issues (news and politics), and humor, to name a few. The DH Center in SDSU Library is home to two DIY Podcasting Studios that can be booked by all SDSU faculty, staff, and students. We also offer a set of resources to get you started, including recommended tools for recording and editing audio, free audio sites, and best practices.
Resources for Getting Started
Recording and Editing Tools
Getting free, public domain music and sound effects -- remember to credit where you got the sounds and who created them:
And explore this list of top royalty-free and paid sources for podcast music
Resources for creating podcast cover art:
Resources for hosting and sharing podcasts:
A repository is a virtual space for storing, preserving, and providing access to digital objects. SDSU Library’s institutional repository, SDSUnbound, hosts course syllabi, theses, and several digital archival collections.
Related to preservation of DH work is the question of sustainability. Explore The Endings Project, a five-year project to create tools, principles, policies and recommendations for digital scholarship practitioners to create accessible, stable, long-lasting resources in the humanities.
Many DHers are self-taught in the spirit of D.I.Y. Here is a list of tools that can help you learn on your own. While formal routes of education can be cost prohibitive, learning does not need to be. For example, Codecadamy guides people in learning to code for little to no fee.
Text Analysis is the practice of using machines to analyze large collections of text. The result can be visual, as with the tool Voyant, and allow for new understandings of content. Text markup tools let readers annotate digital texts and some, such as Hypothesis, allow for social markup--a group of people annotating text together.
Cookbooks and Open Textbooks for Text Analysis in Python, R and other Languages:
There are many transcription tools available as well, including:
Interested in performing textual analysis of social media sites? Check these out and make sure to consider the ethics of scraping/using social media data:
As you learn more about Digital Humanities and DH projects, you may want to expand your toolset. These directories provide a list of tools and resources.
Translation is the process of taking content and information written in one language and making it accessible in another language. At its core, DH is committed to global diversity. One way to uphold this value is through the translation of projects. Making work and conversations more globally accessible encourages collaboration and community.
Digital Humanities work is deeply collaborative, so it's important to "give credit where credit is due." This includes being transparent about roles, responsibilities, distribution of labor, and specific work performed.
For scholars concerned about how to "count" their DH work for tenure and promotion, this list of guidelines and best practices for evaluating digital humanities/digital scholarship can help:
Several leading professional societies regularly incorporate digital project reviews in their journals. There are also some dedicated venues for peer review of digital projects, including: