Introduction As the Digital Humanities/Humanities Computing
community continues to develop more digital resources
and accompanying tools, it is facing new challenges
in regards to creating awareness and gaining acceptance
of these among potential users. In particular,
research projects must develop ways to disseminate information
about the resources and tools to ensure that
they are used and, at the same time, work to understand
the community of practice which uses their resources.
Viral techniques and other internet analytical tools present
one option to achieve those objectives.
As evidenced by the growing number of conferences,
publications, and digital resources and tools themselves,
Digital Humanities/Humanities Computing has been
successful in their efforts to create useful resources and
tools. As the field moves forward, in addition to responding
to new technological challenges, community
members must address new ones, often beyond their
typical skills, capabilities and methodologies. One issue
faced by many projects is the need to actively create
awareness of these digital resources and understand their community of practice.
Among their recommendations, the LAIRAH project
team outlined that the ideal digital humanities project
has a clear understanding of their users and their needs
as well as actively disseminates information about itself
within the discipline and the community as a whole
(Warwick, Terras, Hunginton, Pappa, & Galina, 2006)
This is further reinforced by a recent report focusing on
sustainability and revenue models for online resources.
The authors discuss the importance of knowing one’s users
and their behaviours in regards to online resources.
They go on further to highlight the importance of specific
activities to create awareness and usage of these resources
(Guthrie, Griffiths, & Maron, 2008). At a more
practical level, Cohen and Rosenzweig (2005) devote an
entire chapter in their book on digital history to the topic
of building an audience for a digital resource. Various
associations within this community are also exploring
ways to increase the awareness of their activities while
developing their membership base.
One tool often used by business to promote their products
and services is viral marketing or electronic word
of mouth. Unlike traditional techniques, viral marketing
campaigns draw upon people’s social networks and
relies on individuals to forward on messages to others
within their email lists (Dobele, Toleman, & Beverland,
2005; Smith, Coyle, Lightfoot, & Scott, 2007). For
many organizations, drawing upon these individuals can
also help build the products and services provide by the
organizations, as Mozilla and Intuit have found (Cook,
2008; Freedman, 2007) . While this form of marketing
is often used by companies to extend their reach with
their customers and find new ones, it can be a useful tool
for other types of organizations to define their present
and potential communities of practice. But how best can
the Digital Humanities community use this tool to its advantage?
To determine the effectiveness of this tool and accompanying
internet analytical tools within this community,
a viral experiment was designed to showcase TEI and
novel ways that it can be used to encode different kinds
of text. At the heart of the experiment was a Bob Dylan
song and its associated video, which incorporated text.
The encoded text was overlaid the video and posted to
youtube and a blog with links to the TEI website. At the
same time, baseline line data over a four month period
was gathered to understand the current community of
practice with TEI. Data on hits to the TEI website and
video website were collected to determine the number of
hits to each site, IP addresses, timing of hits and dispersion
At the time of writing this proposal, final data analysis
of benchmark and viral experience is being completed.
The final report will outline TEI’s community of practice
and provide recommendations for other organizations
exploring similar issues.
Preliminary data analysis of benchmark data suggests
that TEI’s community of practice is larger than anticipated.
While TEI’s 82 member organizations compromise
the core of this community, an additional 6,000 users
visit the website and many download information about
the guidelines. Of this group, about 130 members make
up 80% of the visits. A surprising portion of this group
is from non-English speaking countries.
In terms of the viral experience, the youtube video was
viewed over 4000 times and was briefly the top-watched
video in Canada. A significant portion of individuals
then clicked through to the TEI website for further information.
Interestingly, several blogs also picked up the
video and directed their readers onto the video and TEI.
The benefits to the Digital Humanities community will
be several. First, the paper outlines a means by which
digital resources projects can identify and understand
their community of practice and create awareness of
digital resources and tools. Second, it supports recommendations
made by others which advocate the need for
specific actions to reach digital resource users.
Cohen, D. J., & Rosenzweig, R. (2005). Digital History:
A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the
Past on the Web. Available from http://www.chnm.gmu.
Cook, S. (2008). The Contribution Revolution: Letting
Volunteers Build Your Business. Harvard Business Review,
Dobele, A., Toleman, D., & Beverland, M. (2005). Controlled
infection! Spreading the brand message through
viral marketing. Business Horizons, 48(2), 143-149.
Freedman, D. H. (2007). Mitchell Baker and the Firefox
Paradox. Inc. Retrieved from http://www.inc.com/magazine/
Guthrie, K., Griffiths, R., & Maron, N. (2008). Sustainability
and Revenue Models for Online Academic Resources: An Ithaka Report. New York, New York: Ithaka.
Smith, T., Coyle, J. R., Lightfoot, E., & Scott, A. (2007).
Reconsidering Models of Influence: The Relationship
between Consumer Social Networks and Word-of-
Mouth Effectiveness. Journal of Advertising Research,
Warwick, C., Terras, M., Hunginton, P., Pappa, N., &
Galina, I. (2006). The LAIRAH Project: Log Analysis of
Digital Resources in the Arts and Humanities, Final Report
to the Arts and Humanities Research Council. London,
UK: University College London.
Title thanks to the blog thesecretmirror.com
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Series: ADHO (4)