21.465 Toy Chest (tool set) for student project-building

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard_at_mccarty.me.uk>
Date: Tue, 8 Jan 2008 14:56:05 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 21, No. 465.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Tue, 08 Jan 2008 13:50:49 +0000
         From: "Alan Liu" <ayliu_at_english.ucsb.edu>
         Subject: Toy Chest (tool set) for student project-building
in digital humanities courses

Toy Chest (Online or Downloadable Tools for Building Projects):


(or navigate: http://wiki.english.ucsb.edu > Technology Resources > Toy

"Toy Chest" collects online or downloadable software tools/thinking toys
that humanities students and others without programming skills (but with
basic computer and Internet literacy) can use to create interesting
projects. Most of the tools gathered here are free or relatively inexpensive
(exceptions: items that are expensive but can be used productively on a free
trial basis). Also on this page are "paradigms"--books, essays, digital
projects, etc.--that illustrate the kinds of humanities projects that
software thinking tools/toys might help create." Each entry includes a
descriptive annotation, screenshot, and link. Included at present are tools
for diagramming, game creation, mapping, mashup creation, simulation &
modeling, text analysis, visualization/pattern-discovery, and machinima.

RATIONALE: Because digital networked technology is now used across the board
by the sciences and engineering, the social sciences, and the humanities and
arts, it increasingly prompts different disciplines to rethink their own
dominant research/knowledge paradigms in light of other disciplines. (My
favorite anecdote: a computer scientist on my campus, broad minded and
honest, who, upon hearing a fine literary interpretation of a poem during a
planning meeting for a collaborative project, paused reflectively and asked:
"What's that for?" At which point, my social-science colleague piled on:
"That's item one. Where are the other thousand samples needed for a valid
study?" I remember the hush in the room, as the "ships passed in the
          Meanwhile, digital networked technology has rapidly developed in the
directions of so-called "Web services" and "Web 2.0" so as increasingly to
enable non-programmers to use sophisticated software tools in
visual-programming and other low-learning-curve styles to create
conceptually interesting projects (e.g., "mashup"-creation platforms like
Yahoo Pipes and Microsoft Popfly, simulation platforms like Netlogo,
interactive animation platforms like Scratch, machinima platforms like
Moviestorm). (And this is not even to mention blog-engines and wikis that
simplify the creation of database-to-web resources adaptable to any number
of outputs--e.g., archives, editions, museums, epistolary novels, etc.)
          Also, at the same time, humanities and digital humanities scholars
such as Julia Flanders (on text encoding and quantitative imagination),
Matthew Kirschenbaum (on digital forensics and "formal materiality"),
Willard McCarty (on modeling), Jerome McGann and Lisa Samuels (on
deformance), Franco Moretti (on "distance reading" and _Graphs, Maps,
Trees_), Rita Raley (on codework), Stephen Ramsay (on algorithmic
criticism), Geoffrey Rockwell (on textual analysis), and many others have
been creating the theory for crossing between such established humanistic
research paradigms as "interpretation" and alternative knowledge paradigms.
          I created my Toy Chest to harvest the confluence of the above three
trends. The Toy Chest is designed specifically to support a suite of
undergraduate and graduate courses that I am teaching next quarter (after a
pilot course last year) entitled "Literature+" In these courses, the
students are required to choose a literary work and do something with it for
a project that is anything other than literary interpretation. ("Students,
for example, can choose a story or poem to model, simulate, map, visualize,
encode, text-analyze, sample, storyboard, blog, or redesign as a game,
database, hypertext, or virtual world. What are the strengths and weaknesses
of literary interpretation, close reading, or theory by comparison with
other research methods?"):

HELP!: Please post to Humanist any suggestions you have for online or
downloadable (free, cheap, or usable on a trial-basis) project-creation
tools that might be added to the Toy Chest.

SUGGESTION FOR THE FUTURE: I am keeping this Toy Chest on my department's
knowledge-base wiki, so it is not directly editable by members of this list.
I wonder if it would be possible for Willard--as both the genius loci of
Humanist and one of the chief theorists of the trends that the the Toy Chest
represents--to investigate setting up a wiki for this purpose that would be
open (upon Willard's approval) to members of Humanist at large? I think we
could use a central repository of "digital humanities tools usable by the
ordinary student."

--Alan Liu
Received on Tue Jan 08 2008 - 10:15:03 EST

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