Digital humanities

I went to more than two of the websites because a few didn’t seem to be recently updated and I was just curious.

Pleiades

This site seemed really interesting for anyone interested in history and places (which I am), but it did seem targeted toward a very specific audience.

The site has compiled tons of places, locations, and place names mentioned in Ancient texts and put them on a modern map, including time periods. This seems to be a very useful tool for a variety of scholars, especially since all the data is open access. If I was a classics scholar or involved in sociology, archaeology, or other fields that dealt with the ancient world, this site would be incredibly useful and interesting.

British Museum

This site is the website for the British Museum. It is a very well-done website with scrolling images of their collections. However, the organization is a little interesting — it seems like they web designers were trying to fancier than they were trying to be practical or informative).

What is the difference between a “website” and a digital humanities project?

I think that a digital humanities project (at least from what I could see) tend to have a very specific audience and they have a very specific purpose. Now a website has those things to, but they tend to be more informative (cf. British Museum) and not geared toward analyzing anything in particular. The analysis of data (of whatever kind) or at least compiling a large chunk of information into one place seems to be the goal of many digital humanities sites. To me, it seems like they are open access databases on steroids. Another common factor is that these DH projects seem to be housed at universities, so they would therefore be assumed to serve a scholarly aim, while websites do not have such high ambitions.

What dimensions does [your website] have that distinguishes it?

The Pleaides is a digital humanities project since it compiles a wide range of data and uses that data to map out points of real places that existed, which have now been superimposed on a modern map. Again, this project seems to be geared toward a very specific audience. On the other hand, the British Museum site is for a general audience and does not have a particular scholarly focus.

2 thoughts on “Digital humanities

  1. You mention the web designers of the British Museum site were trying to be more interesting and a bit fancier than with normal site design. This is, I believe, the most important point that nobody seems to look at when dealing with DH projects. How a website presents its information is of utmost importance. Web design (and by extension, database and site navigation) are so integral to the efficiency of DH projects (and nearly all websites in general) that they are practically ubiquitous, yet we pay them little mind other than to mention when they’re bad. Bad web design can sink a fantastic DH project, just like any other website, while good design is (hopefully) unnoticed because it doesn’t get in the way. We spend a lot of time as scholars on the contents of our DH projects – rightly so – but we need to spend an equal amount of time on their presentation. Presentation is, to paraphrase 1990’s cartoons, “half the battle.”

    • Mark,
      I absolutely agree about the problems with design. A number of the other DH projects I looked at were difficult to navigate because of poor design. I think sometimes scholars get caught up in the information and not the usability of the site. I absolutely agree that anything that is designed well shouldn’t get in the way of the user’s experience and, hopefully, would only enhance that experience

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.