Spreading DiRT: extending the Digital Research Tools directory

poster / demo / art installation
  1. 1. Quinn Dombrowski

    University of California Berkeley

  2. 2. Matthew K. Gold

    Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY Graduate Center)

Work text
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1. Background
The DiRT (Digital Research Tools, dirt.projectbamboo.org) directory is a longstanding resource for scholars interested in digital tools and methodologies, providing basic information about software that can facilitate different stages of the research process. DiRT was originally designed as a wiki, where a single wiki page contained information about all tools in a given category. In 2011, under the auspices of Project Bamboo, DiRT was completely rebuilt using the Drupal content management system, which allowed for data to be stored in a structured manner. This enabled more complex searching and browsing options (such as allowing the user to limit results based on criteria like platform or cost), and provided individual profile pages for each tool, which could then serve as a locus for specific comments, or be referenced in other tool profiles. For instance, if a profile page indicates that Neatline is a suite of add-on tools for Omeka, a link to Omeka appears on the Neatline tool profile page, and vice versa.

2. Current development project
One of the biggest limitations of DiRT has been the fact that its contents-- the product of a considerable amount of volunteer work-- have only been available via DiRT’s own web interface. Creating and curating the tool listings on DiRT is largely a manual process. A steering and curatorial board takes an active role in shaping the ongoing development of the site and ensuring data quality, but individual contributions by users make up a large portion of the data. DiRT is currently undergoing a new phase of development, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with the goals of making DiRT data available to others who want to incorporate information about tools into other projects, resources and environments, and also expanding the content provided by DiRT to more clearly situate the tools in the contexts of the projects, research workflows, and pedagogical activities that use them. This poster will demonstrate the accomplishments of the current development project and include information about opportunities to get involved with the project, by trying the DiRT API and plug-ins, or contributing to tool reviews and documented workflows.

3. Areas of work
The poster will also highlight the progress made on developing a DiRT plug-in for Commons In A Box (CBOX), an open source scholarly networking platform created by the City University of New York and used by the Modern Language Association (MLA), the regional NYC Digital Humanities group, and an increasing number of projects and organizations that could benefit from integrated access to information about tools. The CBOX plug-in will:

provide users with the ability to display information about their DiRT site activity (e.g. tool contributions and edits, reviews, and tool usage information) on their Commons profile;
provide an interface for searching DiRT within the CUNY Academic Commons, for use by groups with an interest in digital humanities;
provide a link to DiRT to facilitate access for inputting new tools.
The poster will also illustrate other areas of development including:

Use of the DiRT API and the API for the DHCommons project directory to augment DiRT tool profiles with information about what projects are using a particular tool
Guidelines and examples of best practice for writing tool reviews, with potential pedagogical applications (e.g. providing a framework for instructors who want to assign students to write reviews of digital research tools, which could then be refined for ultimate publication on DiRT)
Guidelines and examples of best practice for documenting workflows or “recipes” that combine multiple tools in the DiRT registry to achieve some research objective.
Adoption of the taxonomy of research methods jointly developed between DiRT and DARIAH-DE, to replace the previous ad-hoc set of tool categories. DiRT will serve as one of three initial test cases for this taxonomy, which has benefitted from extensive public feedback.
Documentation for how to develop custom tool lists (e.g. tools to be used in a particular class, or tools that are particularly relevant for the disciplines that a subject specialist librarian supports) that pull from the information stored in DiRT, and display that information on other sites.
Babeu, Alison (2006). Rome Wasn’t Digitized in a Day”: Building a Cyberinfrastructure for Digital Classicists. CLIR reports, August 2011.Borgman, Christine L. “The Digital Future Is Now: A Call to Action for the Humanities.” Digital Humanities Quarterly 3, no. 4 (Fall 2009). http://www.digitalhumanities.org/dhq/vol/3/4/000077/000077.html.Unsworth, John. Our Cultural Commonwealth: The Report of the American Council of Learned Societies Commission on Cyberinfrastructure for the Humanities and Social Sciences. American Council of Learned Societies. http://acls.org/uploadedFiles/Publications/Programs/Our_Cultural_Commonwealth.pdf.

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Conference Info


ADHO - 2014
"Digital Cultural Empowerment"

Hosted at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Université de Lausanne

Lausanne, Switzerland

July 7, 2014 - July 12, 2014

377 works by 898 authors indexed

XML available from https://github.com/elliewix/DHAnalysis (needs to replace plaintext)

Conference website: https://web.archive.org/web/20161227182033/https://dh2014.org/program/

Attendance: 750 delegates according to Nyhan 2016

Series: ADHO (9)

Organizers: ADHO