CIRCA:Stuff digital humanists should know


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What should a digital humanist know in order to be able to manage digital humanities projects? Needless to say the idea of a body of knowledge that defines a digital humanist can be controversial, but nonetheless it can be useful for

  • Knowledge Representation. You need to understand the choices and strategies involved in representing human knowledge in digital form. Further, to understand the issues you should have been significantly involved in at least one project digitizing materials so you have experience with the processes and real issues.
    • Digitizing Electronic Texts. Many digital humanists learn about knowledge representation through the digitization of texts. Texts are not the only form of knowledge we represent digitally, but they are important enough to the humanities that a passing knowledge of the issues, standards, formats, and technologies for text digitization and encoding is extremely useful. You will find that many projects have to represent textual data, even if that isn't their primary objective. For that reason a digital humanist project manager should know enough to be able to manage others digitizing texts.
    • XML and Text Encoding. In particular you should know about XML and how to encode a text using XML. You should know about XML standards and guidelines like the Text Encoding Initiative guidelines.
  • Technology. You need to know enough about technology to be able to manage technologists and participate in making decisions.
    • Assessing Technology. You should be able to assess what technology will work best for a project.
    • Budgeting Technology. You should be able to cost and budget for technology in a project.
    • Presenting Technology. You should be able to talk comfortably about technology and present it to project stakeholders.
    • Personal Computers and Operating Systems. You should know enough about personal computers that you can get around a PC or Macintosh. You should understand the basics of both operating systems and, if possible, UNIX (which is used for most servers.)
    • Basic Technologies. There are also specific technologies like wikis and blogs that it is useful to have experience using so you can decide if they would help a project. See the Basic Digital Humanities Technologies for a list.
  • Databases and the Web. Two specific technologies that most projects end up using (in addition to XML) are databases and the web.
    • HTML. You should know enough HTML that you can read the source of a web page and create a simple page.
    • Web Architecture and Servers. You should know enough about web servers that you can negotiate for access and then post an HTML page so that it can be published on the web. You should understand what a CMS is and have experience using one so you understand how they can be used in a project.
    • Databases. So many projects end up using a database to keep information organized that you need to know the basics of databases and how they structure information. You should be able to So many people think they want databases that you should also know when not to use a database.
  • Learning, Advising and Teaching. Above all you need to keep up with the field so that you can advise people.
    • Learning To Learn. You won't know everything, but you will be expected to know how to learn new technologies quickly so that you can make informed decisions.
    • Teaching Technology. Inevitably you will have junior people working with you who don't know the technologies being employed by a project. You should know how to patiently teach them what they need to know to complete tasks.

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