Getting Started with Digital Work in History

Compiled by Toby Higbie for the “Laboring Big Data” panel at LAWCHA 2015.

DiRT: Digital Research Tools Directory: . You’ll find what you’re looking for here.

Miriam Posner’s Blog: Consistently useful information about history-oriented digital humanities issues, and thoughtful commentary on politics of DH in universities. Good starting spot is “How Did They Make That?”: 

Server Space: it can be difficult to get approval for server space at your university. A free option is GoogleDrive. There are many hosting companies. I use Dreamhost: .

Panelists’ Projects. Mapping Decline: . Growing Apart: Mapping American Social Movements Through the 20th Century: Networked Labor:  

Basic Tools

Any spreadsheet program: Microsoft Excel, GoogleSheets, etc. You need this to organize your information into columns and rows.

Google FusionTables (part of GoogleDrive: ): fastest way to make a map. Free, but of course they’re using your data somehow. Tutorial: 

OpenRefine: clean messy data faster

TextWrangler: simple, flexible text editing

Raw: vector graphics data visualizations. Cool, easy.

Voyant: visualize a corpus of text (word cloud, word counts, and other statistics): 

OpenStreetMap Nominatim: . You can use this to return longitude and latitude for specific addresses. A screencast on the OpenRefine page explains how to do it.

Gephi: open source network visualization platform. A little creaky, but hopefully will get an update soon.

Medialab Tools: essential for network charts and Gephi.

Table 2 Net (convert CSV files to network tables via an easy interface)

Sigma.js: Gephi Plugin creates interactive network charts you can post online

Zotero: free, and almost free, citation management platform. 

Omeka: free and open source platform for building collections and exhibits of digital objects. Based on Wordpress, but with greater specification of metadata. Lots of history/humanities specific plug-ins. the downloadable version of widely used blogging platform. Not as much metadata specification as Omeka. Easier to get started. 

Information Sharing and Project Tracking: If you are collaborating with other people, the hardest part is often keeping track of tasks/goals. Some useful tools: GoogleDocs and Sheets (free and easy to share); Evernote (more elegant, paid version necessary for off line work); Basecamp: lots of tools for project tracking, reminders for deadlines, etc. Probably will have to pay for it if you really want to use all the features.

Power Tools/Pricey Tools

Tableau: Suite of charting and mapping tools. Free version available.

ArcGIS: Geographic Information System program, free trial, then $$. 

CartoDB: another GIS platform w/ free and paid option: 

Social Explorer: (Oxford University Press, paid service based on U.S. Census and other social data).

For the more technically inclined...

R. Open source statistics and charting package. 

Timeline JS: Makes illustrated timelines. Hosted version links with GoogleSheets: Also can download source code to your site: 

Named Entity Extraction

Stanford NER: free, runs on desktop and ids People, Orgs, Locations very well. Can be “trained,” but that’s beyond me. 

AlchemyAPI: free but proprietary, v. effective. 

OpenCalais: free and CC licensed, but they keep your metadata. Have not tried. Used by DocumentCloud: 

OpenRefine NER Extension: free and open source. Uses other web services to id entities. DBPedia open source but not too effective. AlchemyAPI proprietary and very effective. First install OpenRefine/GoogleRefine, then install the NER Extension: