Digital Humanities 'Readership' and the Public Knowledge Project

  1. 1. Caroline Leitch

    University of Victoria

  2. 2. Ray Siemens

    University of Victoria

  3. 3. Analisa Blake

    University of Victoria

  4. 4. Karin Armstrong

    University of Victoria

  5. 5. John Willinsky

    University of British Columbia

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As the amount of scholarly material published in digital form
increases, there is growing pressure on content producers
to identify the needs of expert readers and to create online
tools that satisfy their requirements. Based on the results
of a study conducted by the Public Knowledge Project and
introduced at Digital Humanities 2006 (Siemens, Willinsky and
Blake), continued and augmented since, this paper discusses
the reactions of Humanities Computing scholars and graduate
students to using a set of online reading tools.
Expert readers were asked about the value of using online
tools that allowed them to check, readily, related studies that
were not cited in the article; to examine work that has followed
on the study reported in the article; to consider additional
work that has been done by the same author; and to consult
additional sources on the topic outside of the academic
literature. In the course of this study, these domain-expert
readers made it clear that reading tools could make a defi nite,
if limited, contribution to their critical engagement with journal
articles (especially if certain improvements were made). Their
reactions also point to an existing set of sophisticated reading
strategies common to most expert readers.
Our fi ndings indicate that online tools are of most value to
expert readers when they complement and augment readers’
existing strategies. We have organized the results of the
study around a number of themes that emerged during our
interviews with domain expert readers as these themes speak
to both readers’ existing reading processes and the potential
value of the online reading tools. By entering user responses
into a matrix, we have been able to measure user responses
and track both negative and positive reactions to different
aspects of the online reading tools.
In addition to these fi ndings, we also discovered that users’
experiences with the online reading tools was infl uenced by
their existing research methods, their familiarity with online
research, and their expectations of online publishing. While
many respondents felt that the “information environment”
created by the online tools was benefi cial to their evaluation
and understanding of the material, they also expressed some
dissatisfaction with their experience. Some users questioned
the relevance and usefulness of the contextual material
retrieved by the online tools. Users were also concerned with
the perceived credibility of research published online and the
limited amount of freely available online material.
The results of our study reveal both the potential strengths
and perceived weaknesses of online reading environments.
Understanding how users read and evaluate research materials,
anticipating users’ expectations of the reading tools and
resources, and addressing user concerns about the availability
of online material will lead to improvements in the design and
features of online publishing.
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Conference Info


ADHO - 2008

Hosted at University of Oulu

Oulu, Finland

June 25, 2008 - June 29, 2008

135 works by 231 authors indexed

Conference website:

Series: ADHO (3)

Organizers: ADHO

  • Keywords: None
  • Language: English
  • Topics: None