January Open Office Hours

Each week, the DSG hosts a “Digital Humanities Open Office Hours,” where beginning and experienced researchers share knowledge about how to use different tools, or to turn an idea into a solid project. We’ll also share current and completed projects, as well as our experiences with many different facets of the DH world.  The month of January hosted some very exciting sessions. If you did not get the chance to attend, check out reflections on the sessions below.

January 16: The Future of CERES: Exhibit Toolkit

Patrick Murray-John, Associate Director for Systems, talked about the future of CERES: Exhibit Toolkit.  CERES is a customized WordPress theme that Northeastern developed and maintains which allows users to build curated exhibits using the Digital Repository Service.  When Patrick joined the DSG in August 2018, he began working on various bug fixes that resulted in CERES 1.2.  Moving forward, a new version of CERES will be released using WordPress 5.0 with the potential for new shortcode options.  Are you a CERES: Exhibit Toolkit user and have thoughts? Let us know!


January 23: Around the Digital Humanities in One Hour

Each person who does DH work has their own personal DH universe.  What does that look like for people? This session brought together many digital humanists from around the Digital Scholarship Group to talk about different tools they each have in their personal toolkit.


Julia Flanders, Head of the DSG and Professor of the Practice of English

What do digital humanists mean by tool?  In a lot of cases, many of the services or techniques used in DH work are not always tools.  Two of the tools that Julia provided for consideration are TEI and Regular Expressions. TEI is a XML language used for humanities markup of text. It marks fields such as name, quotation, bibliographic citation, poem, et cetera. Another meta-tool discussed was regular expressions, which is a sequence of characters that define a search pattern.  It is frequently used in data cleanup and is a core DH capacity.


Sarah Connell, Assistant Director, Women Writers Project and  Assistant Director, NULab for Texts, Maps and Networks

Much of Sarah’s DH universe is surrounded by text.  Her work with the WWP includes a lot of work with XML and text analysis. Even with some of these code heavy tools, tools that do not require a coding language are very useful. Some of the graphic user interfaces (GUI) she uses include SameDif and Word Tree.  Even if you are using a GUI, it is still DH work. From her experience, Sarah suggests that if there are different tools that can be used to accomplish desired goals, use the methodology you are most familiar with.

There are many other tools that do not require coding; check some of them out on the Tools for Non-Programmers Libguide.


Patrick Yott, Associate Dean, Digital Strategies and Services

While some DHers talked about using quick and easy GUIs, Patrick encouraged attendees to have a working knowledge of coding languages like Unix, Perl, or Python.  Each of these tools allows people to complete tasks with large sets of data that is much faster than if done manually. Patrick also talked about the necessity to become conversant in languages such as XML and JSON.  


Patrick Murray-John, Associate Director for Systems, DSG

Patrick talked about tools in various aspects of DH.  On one hand there are tools like Omeka that allow for quick and easy web publishing for cultural heritage sites.  On the other there are code heavy tools such as R and Mallet that have powerful natural language processing tools. The advantage to using tools that require coding allows one to make their own decisions, whereas decisions are predetermined with a GUI.

One of the most interesting metatools of the conversation was Twitter.  Patrick identified Twitter as a place where a lot of DHers engage in professional conversation and where a lot of problems are addressed through this platform.  For information on what is going on in the DSG, follow us on twitter @NU_DSG.


Amanda Rust, Assistant Director, DSG and Digital Humanities Librarian

According to Amanda, there are multiple ways to do DH work, but getting good at one tool is a great way to get started.  Amanda finds spreadsheets to be one of the most useful tools in one aspect of her DH World. Whether it is through Microsoft or Google, spreadsheets make it easy to make structured tabular data that allows for powerful analysis.  

Are you curious about other tools that exist in the DH universe?  Check out DiRT or the Digital Research Tools, a registry of digital research tools.


January 30: Toward Nuanced Videogame Archives

Sercun Sengun, Visiting Assistant Professor of Game Design at the College of Arts, Media and Design at Northeastern, presented on his prototyped project on a proposed videogame archive.  Sercun is a game designer and his research focuses on systems that virtually simulate identities and cultures. For him, there is a discovery problem through the lenses of the Social Sciences and Humanities with finding video games themselves.  The solution to this problem is New & Nuanced Archives for Videogames (NAVG), which allows users to explore this media through different lenses. The various options that Sercun gives users to explore videogames are:

  • Ludic.world: allows users to see what parts of the physical world are represented in videogames through the use of a map.
  • Humans of Games: an archive of videogame characters who are representations of real people.
  • Gamespective: a comprehensive list of games that can provide perspectives on contemporary issues.
  • Games in Research: an archive of videogame-specific research.

Each of these options allows users to find games in different ways whether it is for research or simply browsing for fun.

Have any ideas for an upcoming DH Open Office Hour? Contact Megan Barney at m.barney[at]northeastern[dot]edu with ideas and feedback! Keep up to date on DSG events with the full schedule here.