Launching DH-Central : first step

What if there was a central platform that would enable DHists and curious people to gather and exchange information? A platform that would allow people to contribute on projects, as well as compete and learn more by some courses or by great news of the field? This is what is expected from DH-Central. But is this really something that doesn’t already exist? Is there a need for such a platform? It is clear that there is a gap in the market for such a sharing platform therefore a state of the art research tool naturally emerges. This is exactly the gap in the market that our project’s first step intends to fill.

Naturally, it was first essential to properly define what DH is, and that was not as easy as one might think. As underlined by Jason Heppler who gathered @ http://whatisdigitalhumanities.com/ : over 800 definitions that were pulled from participants from the “Day of DH” between 2009 and 2014. It would seem that people have many different words to define what DH actually is. Building a word cloud out of the recurring words is a visual way to see what comes up most frequently : tools, research, computing, media, teaching, history, culture, analysis. Now let’s study the properties of that field.

Size of the community

To evaluate the strength and properties of the DH community, we first used Google Trends, analyzing the popularity evolution of the query “Digital Humanities”. Apparently, the queries started around 2006, and their amount almost doubled over last 10 years. Let’s assume that this means that the community is growing. This trend is observable on Twitter as well. These last weeks more than 300 tweets were tweeted per week.

On Quora, it can be found that 70 questions related to Digital Humanities were asked and that around 220 people currently follow the DH topic. Reddit has a DH channel with only 354 followers that has existed for 4 years.

Graph 1 : Popularity growth
Graph 1 : Popularity growth
Graph 2 : Places of interest
Graph 2 : Places of interest

Existing platforms on DH

Organizations working on the DH topic are pretty numerous : ADHO, EDAH, (…) but platforms rarely combine all the functions that we aim to gather in the DH-Central. For example, Clariah (http://www.clariah.nl/en/dodh/course-registry) focuses on indexing where to find courses covering DH topics : they are concerned with education & learning. DHnow (http://digitalhumanitiesnow.org/about/) is a publication that highlights and distributes informally published digital humanities scholarship and resources from the open web. One true similar concept can be found in DHcommons (http://dhcommons.org/)

How other crowdsourcing platforms work

The most powerful crowdsourcing platform we could think of is Wikipedia. It has a very specific way of handling its community, using human moderators but also bots. Bots are able to make edits very rapidly and can disrupt Wikipedia if they are incorrectly designed or operated. And surprisingly, on the english version of Wikipedia, 16 of the 20 most active contributors are bots (https://fkaplan.wordpress.com/2015/05/26/16-des-20-contributeurs-les-plus-actifs-surwikipedia-sont-des-bots/). These bots have been instrumental in the evolution and maintenance of this website. They can create, build and control the content of the website. We believe it is an inspiring way of managing a big crowdsourcing platform and thus it could be interesting to use it as well for DH-Central.

Finally, step 1 of our project enabled us to get a global idea of the DH community which is now a precious asset to start step 2 : sending precise surveys to the right people and understand what they think of DH-central and the features it should have. All of this in order to refine our idea.