Welcome to the second installment of a monthly feature in which I explore how open source software and the open source way are used in the digital humanities. Every month I will take a look at open source tools you can use in your digital humanities research as well as at humanities research projects that are using open source tools today. I will also cover news about transparency and open exchange as well as how the other principles of the open source way being applied to the humanities.
Let's start with an explanation of the digital humanities. The digital humanities is where traditional humanities scholarship—or, the academic study of arts, language, history, and the like—meets the digital age. By using technology in new and innovative ways, digital humanities scholars can create research projects that explore topics in ways that were not possible (or were extremely laborious undertakings) before computers.
Text/data mining, visualization, information retrieval, and digital publishing are some of the key features of digital humanities research. With computers, it is possible to analyze text, discover patterns, and visualize data with relative ease. For example, digital humanities projects can make reading and analysis a collaborative undertaking, like what the Infinite Ulysses project has done with James Joyce's novel Ulysses.
In March, several interesting new software releases and tutorials came out. I have highlighted the most interesting of them below. Perhaps one will inspire you in your own digital humanities research or help you learn about this interesting field of scholarly research.
4 new tools and tutorials
Use Twine 2.0 to tell interactive stories
On The Chronicle of Higher Education's ProfHacker blog, Anastasia Salter shares how Twine 2.0 can be used in education. Salter introduces readers to this beginner-friendly, open source tool for creating interactive, branching stories. Twine is easy enough for beginners, making it great for K-12 classrooms, but it is also powerful enough to be used to create interactive, online lessons.
Using Twine, a historical or literary narrative can easily be transformed into an interactive, choose-your-own-adventure story. Readers could learn by taking an active part in the narrative and making choices that impact their experience. Every branching choice could lead readers down a different path, allowing them to experience a different story and learn new details with each play-through.
New release of Omeka improves accessibility and usability
Omeka is a powerful content management system specifically designed for creating scholarly collections of textual, audio, and visual resources. The newest version, Omeka 2.3, came out on March 10. This latest version has several new features, but some of the major enhancements are in the areas of accessibility and usability. Omeka is already easy to use, but the new enhancements will make for a better workflow.
If you have never used or heard of Omeka, check out the Omeka showcase to see projects built using Omeka, or try the Omeka Sandbox for a sample installation. If you like what you see, you can download Omeka and a large number of add-ons from the Omeka website. If you do not want to host your own installation, Omeka.net—a hosted version with free and paid payment plans—is an alternative.
Create interactive editions of visual materials with Neatline
The Scholars' Lab at the University of Virginia Library released an update for Neatline, an Omeka plugin "for creating interactive editions of visual materials." With Neatline a scholar can create an interactive exhibit built around a map, a painting, a scanned page of text, or similiar items. In addition to the base Neatline plugin, there are a few extentions—NeatlineText, NeatlineSimile, and NeatlineWaypoints—which provide even more advanced features.
Neatline creates beautiful interactive exhibits without requiring too much technical knowledge. Explore the Neatline demos to see many excellent examples of what can be accomplished with Neatline and Omeka.
Design SVG patterns for data visualization with Textures.js
This is a monthly column on the state of open digital humanities. If you have news pertaining to this topic that you would like to share, please send an email to Joshua Allen Holm. If you would like to contribute an article on this topic, please send your submission to the Opensource.com editorial team.