NYU Guide to Digital Humanities
(a rough overview)
The 2021 Guide
By Jojo Karlin
Welcome to the DSS (Digital Scholarship Services) rough guide to what digital humanities projects are and what they look like at NYU.
There are a few ways to approach DH@NYU and we want to make sure you find the resources and communities of collaborators that will help your projects succeed. NYU has course offerings and certificates, grant opportunities, community events, library resources, Web Publishing, Web Hosting, Digital Studio, not to mention faculty working at the forefront of Data Science, Media and Culture, and interdisciplinary study.
People often ask where to begin when they decide they want to “do DH” and it all depends on the type of project you imagine and the skills you hope to develop. DH is often a matter of learning by doing, so part of the process is identifying which tools you want to learn for your research and future life. If understanding data spatially inspires you, you may want to work on mapping. If you want to investigate documentary archives, you may want to dive into databases and metadata. Perhaps you want to think about how the public engage with your ideas through interactive web development.
These are all possible paths.
Although no tool will magically organize, visualize, and systematically synthesize your work for you, the process of collecting and organizing data, deciding what to visualize, and devising how to communicate your discoveries can be its own reward. DH projects can be a crash course in data collection, infrastructure audits, web development, data visualization, project management and grant writing. Sometimes these pieces do not follow the most logical order. You will come up against what it means to share your work on the web and how you think about your outcomes and their place in scholarly conversation.
Each page of this guide will hopefully give you a sense of how you might approach your studies using DH methods. Whether you create a basic website for a single project, an interactive web app for your data collection, critically analyze aspects of web culture, or construct a fully digital dissertation, you are part of NYU DH.
Because this guide aims to give you a tour of NYU resources, it highlights NYU-specific services. It is organized by types of projects and attempts to address four overarching categories you need to keep in mind when creating a DH project: Content, Users, Management, and Dissemination. In every type of DH project, you will find yourself working forwards and backwards between practicalities and conceptual possibilities, between your vision and your tangible work plan. A good DH project revises as it goes, setting feasible steps without losing sight of the intellectual ideals. There is no one right way to complete a DH project, but keeping track of your goals, finding collaborators, and finding ways to learn your tools as part of the research can save you some trouble in the long run.
Building Your Work
DH is interdisciplinary by nature, so these categories are by no means discrete. In an attempt to narrow the vast quantity of tools, the following list of project types points to some relatively standard DH tools (though there are many more)
- Story-based projects may deploy more out-of-the-box software so that the researcher has more time to focus on the project narrative.
- Web Publishing, WordPress, Manifold, (StoryMaps)
- Media-centered Projects will require more early attention to the format and specs of the media. While these details can be organized en route, it’s best to know what you’re getting into from the get-go.
- Wax, Scalar, Omeka
- Mapping Projects often combine stories with Geospatial Information Systems (GIS)
- NYU Spatial Data Repository
- Archival Projects, whether beginning with an existing archive or compiling new materials, will demand attention to controlled vocabularies, metadata, and data management. You may also run into questions about permissions and protected materials.
- Web scraping with Python, database work in Open Refine,
- Data-based Projects can mean a lot of things -- your media, your archival materials, even your stories may be construed as data if you’re hoping to process them in a systematic way. NYU has lots of resources for working with Data, but you’ll need to get an idea of your humanities data in order to know which resources you need.
- NYU Libraries data services workshops are a good place to start
- Data Visualization probably should have its own category -- it involves both data management AND design.
- Tableau, R, Python,
- Tool-building Projects may require you to have previous experience with web development AND a strong collaboration with one or more other developers.
- Maker stuff/fabrication can play a part in DH projects. If you wish to experiment with 3D printing, NYU has resources!
- Laguardia Co-op offers consultations and 3D printing.
- Pedagogy Projects (a whole huge thing)
- FAS Office of Educational Technology offers support for faculty interactive projects, check out EdTech’s Digital Pedagogy info
- Open education sometimes overlaps with DH. An area of DH focuses on the concerns around training people how to use technology, create interactive media, and think critically about interactions in digital networks.
- Public Engagement
- Editing Wikipedia and improving metadata is a critical public service! The Wikimedians@NYU Libraries, with funding from the Curriculum Development Challenge Fund grant, is currently surveying NYU faculty and students about teaching with Wikimedia platforms and is developing a curriculum toolkit. Contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Wikimedians@NYU Libraries develops library initiatives related to the Wiki world—workshops for staff to add citations to a Wikipedia article and collaborative Wikipedia Edit-a-thons with NYU partners and Wikimedia NYC. A subgroup, funded by a Curriculum Development Challenge Fund grant, is surveying NYU faculty and students about teaching with Wikimedia platforms and is developing a curriculum toolkit. Contact us: email@example.com
As you decide how you want to move forward with your interests, you will find that you will have to describe your project in a few different ways. You will have to write an abstract or narrative outlining the purpose and vision of your project. You will have to write a timeline outlining the stages of your project. You will have to write a budget -- accounting for time and resources will help you convince others to help you and to fund you. You will have to write a preservation plan -- whereas writing has its own ecosystem of preservation, digital humanities projects often defy traditional preservation standards.
The next part of the guide will point you to resources to help you manage your work. Managing your work can mean setting up a clear work plan, enrolling in the course you need to build the skill to prepare your materials, or sitting down with a librarian to hash out the details of your data plan.
Managing Your Work
What sorts of objects, data, writing do you have?
What sort of storage do these pieces need?
What sorts of file types are you using?
What sorts of software do you need?
What sort of training does this entail?
To help you break down the stages of your project, we want to point you to resources that help you think about the technical constraints of your research. By this point in your academic career, you probably have developed a sense of your preferred research workflow. Maybe you start by amassing quantities of PDFs from scholarly journals and organizing them in Zotero. Maybe you work from primary sources which require some amount of digitization, description or transcription, and analysis. Maybe you have created some means of collecting data.
If you want to talk through some options for Project Management tools, feel free to set up an appointment with Digital Scholarship Services. These tools, like Trello and Basecamp and GitHub’s management tools, can be helpful, but try to limit the time you spend searching for the perfect project management tool.
For help setting up your Data Management Plan, set up a consultation with Data Services and check out DMPTool with your free login with NYU credentials. Some disciplines have data management baked into their methodology, but digital humanities scholars often come from bibliography-centered disciplines. If you’re gathering quantities of data or developing websites for your project, however, data collection and resource management become necessary in the humanities. Whether you’re collecting images, audio files, or other assets, you may benefit from Data Services expertise.
Sharing Your Work
Another aim of this guide is to alert you to resources you will need at different stages of your project. Getting the idea and gathering the materials are only a piece of the greater picture. You can learn a lot by thinking about what “finished” is (a published article? An event? A website?) and where your digital project goes after you finish it (will you host it forever? Do you want to put it on a “shelf” somewhere? Will you apply for funding to make your own public resource?).
- Fair use (what materials can you use?)
- Digital Publishing
- User Experience
- Who is your audience?
- How do you wireframe a project?
- What is your graphic concept?
- Communications Plan
- Who is your audience? (is it the same as the user audience?)
- Why is your project necessary?
- Does your message align with or differ from your research goals?
- What means will you use to reach your audience?
- social media
- Personal networks
- NYU Networking opportunities
- Submit news to firstname.lastname@example.org
A great and terrible thing about Digital Humanities is that there are funding opportunities for projects. Grants offer wonderful opportunities to collaborate with cultural institutions and other DH researchers. As part of your DH research, you will discover that writing grants is one way the field supports and oversees DH outputs. Applying for grants often requires that you solidify your workplan, timeline, and budget, and that you articulate the mission of your project and its audience. We recommend that you start applying for smaller grants, like the Center for Humanities’s DH Summer Fellowship grants, in order to practice seeking funding.
- NYU Grants
- Center for Humanities DH Seed Grants
- Center for Humanities Working Group Grants
- Digital Humanities Summer Graduate Student Fellowships
- NYC Grants
- NYC DH Student Project Award
- NEH Office of Digital Humanities - This office within the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) coordinates the NEH's efforts in the area of digital scholarship. Although all NEH granting programs will fund work with a digital component ( e.g., fellowships and collaborative grants), the Office of Digital Humanities runs several specific funding programs for digital work. See also the library of all NEH funded digital humanities projects .
- ACLS Digital Extension Grants
- Alfred P. Sloan Foundation - Program on Digital Information Technology - This program has primarily encouraged digitizing material in the public domain; assuring public archiving, preservation and open access of this material; and fostering its availability to people everywhere through such technologies as books on demand.
- Andrew W. Mellon Foundation - Program on Scholarly Communications and Information Technology - The Foundation’s grant-making in scholarly communications has three main objectives: (1) to support libraries and archives in their efforts to preserve and provide access to materials of broad cultural and scholarly significance; (2) to assist scholars in the development of specialized resources that promise to open or advance fields of study in the humanities and humanistic social sciences; and (3) to strengthen the publication of humanistic scholarship and its dissemination to the widest possible audience.
- Council on Library and Information Resources - An independent, non-profit organization that forges strategies to enhance research, teaching, and learning environments in collaboration with libraries, cultural institutions, and communities of higher learning. Its goals are to foster new approaches to the management of digital and nondigital information resources so that they will be available in the future, for example, through its Mellon-funded program to Catalog Hidden Special Collections and Archives .
- The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH) - Visiting Fellowships - Visiting Fellowships at IATH can take a variety of forms: a month-long residency in Charlottesville, a year-long networked editing project, an international conference to discuss metadata standards, and so forth. These Fellowships are awarded on an ad hoc basis, and there is no fixed publication deadline. While IATH cannot provide funding to Visiting Fellows, IATH staff will provide advice and guidance to help applicants secure appropriate funding.
While many of these resources have been mentioned above, here is the list of resources for students.
Digital Scholarship Services (DSS)
This small team within the library is here to help set you up with the resources you need to make your DH project. We help NYU faculty and students incorporate digital scholarship tools and methods into their research and teaching. You can request a meeting with one of our experts on digital humanities, data visualization, metadata, and more.
NYU students and faculty can request 2GB of free server space for projects or receive guidance about platform selection (e.g., WordPress, Omeka) on self-managed server space.
Data Management Support & Storage: NYU Libraries has various repositories and storage services for faculty and students, including:
- Digital publishing: Support and guidance for open-access and alternative publishing models.
- Copyright and Fair Use Resources: Self-guided models available through our copyright research guide
- Workshops and Trainings: Look for “Digital Scholarship” workshops and trainings on the
- Digitization Workstations and Support: via the Digital Studio
Web Publishing (WordPress) (also known as WP) provides an easy way for current faculty, staff, and students to create a website or blog using predefined design themes and plugins. The Web Publishing (WordPress) service is NYU's custom WordPress environment and includes features suited to our academic purposes. We have included a number of modern, stylish, and responsive themes as well as lots of additional features through plugins and widgets. We will be continuing to evolve the service as the needs of the NYU community grow.
- Modern, stylish, and responsive themes.
- Accessibility features to help you meet compliance standards.
- Cloud-hosted so sites are secure, fast and always available.
- Available at wp.nyu.edu.
Data Services provides consultation and instructional support for students, researchers, and instructors using quantitative, qualitative, survey design, and geospatial (GIS) software. We advise on projects across the entire research data lifecycle, including access, analysis, collection development, data management, and data preservation.
Research Workspace provides centrally-housed storage that can be mounted locally, enabling users to access and share large data sets from their desktops and lab workstations. It is intended for the use of research projects that depend on high-capacity data storage that can be accessed reliably, offers dependable backups, administrative control by the client over the access of collaborators, and can serve as a workspace for ongoing analysis.
The Spatial Data Repository (SDR) is NYU's portal for previewing and discovering geospatial data. The collection includes resources from open data and proprietary resources, and users can download layers and work with them in many GIS platforms.
The Digital Studio, located in Bobst Library on Floor 5 (South), provides faculty with consultations, training, workshops and resources in support of teaching and learning. An NYU NetID is required for access. Our instructional design consultations foster experimentation with both proven and emerging models of teaching and learning, contributing to cutting-edge research and interdisciplinary collaboration at NYU. The Digital Studio offers one-on-one and small group consultations for scholars who would like advice and recommendations on best practices for their projects or academic programs.
Courses and Programs
For short starter workshops to get a sense of what tools you might use, check out Library Classes calendar. These are one-off workshops you can register for at any time. They will get you started, but you will likely want to enroll in a more substantial training program. There are several programs across NYU schools that support deeper learning of digital techniques for humanities research and exploration.
DH Certificate @ Center for Humanities
The Center for Humanities supports and connects DH activity at NYU. The Director of DH, Benjamin Schmidt, manages the certificate program -- a three course program which can be completed in one year, the Advanced Certificate in DH grounds students in the basics of programming in the humanities.
ITP and IMA: Interactive Telecommunications Program and Interactive Media Arts
From ITP’s website:
“ITP is a two-year graduate program located in the Tisch School of the Arts whose mission is to explore the imaginative use of communications technologies — how they might augment, improve, and bring delight and art into people's lives. Perhaps the best way to describe us is as a Center for the Recently Possible.
We also offer a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree for our undergraduate program, IMA (Interactive Media Arts)!
In Summer 2020, we launched a brand new global, low residency, one-year graduate Master of Arts degree program in Interactive Media Arts, known as the IMA Low Residency Program.
ITP is the Interactive Telecommunications Program, a two-year graduate program located in the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU whose mission is to explore the imaginative use of communications technologies — how they might augment, improve, and bring delight and art into people’s lives. Founded in 1979, it was the first graduate programs of its kind and remains among the most prestigious in the world. Perhaps the best way to describe ITP is as a Center for the Recently Possible.
The new IMA Low Residency (or Low Res) Master’s program will provide an environment for makers of all stripes to explore the application of new technologies in art, science, engineering, design and the humanities. However, the new program recognizes that the existing ITP graduate program needs to reexamine it’s accessibility, and looks to experiment with formats beyond the existing two-year residential masters program. The new program will attract people who need a more affordable and flexible format for graduate study in a series of intensive, immersive residencies across three locations combined with online classes and resources.
The intensive in-person sessions will involve full-time commitment and expect students to be wholly dedicated to the program during this time. The online sessions, while maintaining a high-level of academic rigor and work-load, aim to allow students to continue professional pursuits in parallel with their studies and course work.
IMA is the Interactive Media Arts Program, which was inaugurated at NYU Shanghai in 2013, initially as an undergraduate major. Developed out of ITP, IMA has distinguished itself within NYU Shanghai’s Liberal Arts curriculum and grown into one of the most popular programs on campus. Since then, IMA sister programs have taken root at NYU New York and at NYU Abu Dhabi. With the Low Res MA degree, the IMA program at NYU Shanghai is now expanding to encompass graduate-level education.”
XE: Experimental Humanitie & Social Engagement
From the XE website:
“Just as digital technologies have become embedded in almost every aspect of daily life, so too have they come to have a profound impact on scholarship and public discourse. In recognition of this paradigmatic change in our society and culture, Experimental Humanities & Social Engagement has made the critique, analysis, and use of digital technologies a central part of the program’s curriculum and project work. Within the academic world this kind of programmatic shift has come be known as the Digital Humanities (DH), a continually adapting and expanding set of questions, methods, and tools that are having a profound impact on the study of our world. The advanced inquiry of graduate-level work, the interdisciplinary nature of the program, and the commitment to alternative modes of scholarly production make XE a natural home for DH within NYU and the program is one of a number of hubs of DH work across the university.
Central to the center's offerings are two non-sequential survey-style courses, Digital Humanities: Collections and Connections and Digital Humanities: Analysis and Visualization. These courses consider questions and technologies that are fundamental to the kinds of academic inquiry made possible by the digital medium and computational methods. Through readings, discussion, workshops, projects, and prototype design, students engage with what makes DH work important and engage with digital platforms that provide rhetorical and design flexibility for making intellectual arguments.
Additionally a wide variety of courses are taught with varying levels of engagement with digital practice. Past courses have allowed students to design interactive experiences of fiction, work collaboratively with professional curators and administrators on the design of a digital exhibition, redesign a digital public history site on LGBTQ social and political life in America, and develop a group website on the role of the materiality of technologies on the experience of culture. Along with this growing repertoire of DH-focused courses, the program will also have increased DH-related programming, with speakers and events increasing students’ exposure to the many different ways that these new technologies are influencing the way we work.”
From the IDM website:
“The Integrated Design & Media (IDM) program (formally Integrated Digital Media) fosters creative practice, design research and multidisciplinary experimentation with emerging media technologies. Located within Tandon School of Engineering, in the Department of Technology, Culture, and Society (TCS), IDM is a ‘STEAM‘ program combining artistic inquiry with scientific research and technological practice to explore the social, cultural and ethical potentials of emerging technologies.”
NYU Abu Dhabi https://guides.nyu.edu/digitalhumanities
DLTS works in the library to support bigger NYU humanities projects.
Dual Degree: Palmer School and NYU
“In collaboration with New York University (NYU), the Palmer School of Library and Information Science at LIU offers a unique 52-credit dual master's degree program that prepares subject specialist/scholar-librarians for careers in academic and research institutions or as information specialists in a specialized library or information center. The program grants an ALA-accredited Master of Science in Library and Information Science from LIU's Palmer School and a Master of Arts or Science from NYU's Graduate School of Arts and Science (GSAS) or from three programs within NYU's Steinhardt School: Costume Studies, Food Studies or Media, Culture, and Communication.”
An important way to get to know what DH is is to go to presentations. Event calendars are always hard to keep up with (NYU has a LOT of extracurricular programming). The main thing is to keep your ear to the ground about the projects that interest you. We recommend the following email lists for regular blasts about upcoming events, many of which may be digital even if they don’t call themselves DH.
- Talks by NYU departments/centers/etc
- Digital Forays, NYU Kevorkian Center for Middle Easter Studies
- Center for the Humanities Digital Humanities Program
- Association of Internet Researchers AOIR Listserv
- Sometimes more on the social science side of things, but always interesting
We also recommend that you look for DH within your discipline. The major humanities conferences (MLA, AHA, CAA, etc) will often have dedicated tracks. You can also attend DH-specific conferences ACH and ADHO. For pedagogically-oriented DH, Open Ed and ….. are great options.
Do your best
What is a digital project? What and whom is it for? And how does it last? Lots of libraries are concerned with the preservability of DH projects. To this end, DH researchers bear an extra responsibility when they undertake a digital project.
Looking at the Log Analysis of Internet Resources in Arts and Humanities (LAIRAH), we get a digest of the qualities of a good Digital Humanities project:
“The ideal digital humanities project would
- Have an unambiguous name that indicates its purpose or content.
- Concern a subject that is either popular in a wide community or essential for a smaller expert one.
- Retain its server logs, and make them available to their funding agency and researchers, subject to confidentiality agreements.
- Keep documentation and make it available from the project web site, making clear the extent, provenance and selection methods of materials for the resource.
- Have a clear idea of whom the expected users might be; consult them as soon as possible and maintain contact through the project via a dedicated email list or website feedback.
- Carry out formal user surveys and software and interface tests and integrate the results into project design.
- Be designed for a wide variety of users, and include information to help the non-expert to understand the resource and use its contents.
- Have access to good technical support, ideally from a centre of excellence in digital humanities.
- Recruit staff who have both subject expertise and knowledge of digital humanities techniques, then train them in other specialist techniques as necessary.
- Have access to short term funds to allow it to retain expert staff between projects.
- Have an attractive, usable interface, from which all material for the project may be accessed without the need to download further data or software.
- Maintain and actively update the interface, content and functionality of the resource, and not simply archive it with the AHDS.
- Disseminate information about itself widely, both within its own subject domain and in digital humanities.
Warwick, C; Terras, M; Huntington, P; Pappa, N; Galina, I; (2006) The LAIRAH Project: Log Analysis of Digital Resources in the Arts and Humanities. Final Report to the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Arts and Humanities Research Council: Swindon, UK.