Session 6

Thursday 16:00 - 17:30

High Tor 4

DH Websites and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

  • Jamie McLaughlin

University of Sheffield

Websites are not publications. They are services. They need maintenance to go on functioning. In fact, they often need maintenance in order to avoid becoming a security liability.

Most fields would never expect a website to remain online for twenty years without funding. DH is not most fields. So while ‘maintainability’ is discussed in web development circles, maintaining complex interactive sites for decades with little or no budget is a DH corner case.

Once, digital humanists worried about their sites being rendered obsolete by browser incompatibility or outdated standards. Now, the main threat to website longevity is security. A compromised website will be taken offline as soon as it is detected. If there is no money to fix it, it will never be restored. It could already have leaked commercially or academically sensitive data, perhaps even personal data from the general public with legal ramifications for the hosting institution.

This threat can be heavily mitigated. The methods to do so are partly technical, but they also involve choices about the scope of digital outputs and the planned lifecycle of a DH project. Should off-the-peg or bespoke technology be favoured? Should a site be hosted by an HE institution or commercially? Crucially, what happens when the project ends? To what extent should the full web offering be maintained? What should replace it? In short, what is the project’s web exit strategy?

This paper is the product of auditing over 80 DH websites, some nearly twenty years old. What lessons can be learned from this process? Which sites have aged well, and which poorly? What technical and methodological decisions taken in the ‘90s or early ‘00s paid off for PIs and developers, and which have proved burdensome? The paper will describe a broad range of strategies for maximising website maintainability for the super long term with minimal or zero ongoing budget. Some conclusions are technical, some more broadly strategic. It is relevant to all developers and PIs who plan to create a website as part of a digital humanities project.

Classification of digital objects in scientific philosophy

  • Eva Seidlmayer,
  • Brigitte Mathiak

University for Applied Studies Cologne

Digitalization of research enables new scientific insights and methods in the Humanities. There are many helpful tools facilitating research as well as establishing new scientific subjects and approaches. However, these new digital objects like electronic editions, encyclopediae, mobile applications or  websites representing research projects are not very well-studied and many are not very well known. To fully exploit potentials of digitalization for Philosophy, these digital tools need to be systematized, promoted and improved in accessibility.

In our talk, we will introduce an information infrastructure to index digital objects in scientific philosophy, both existing and forthcoming. The basis is an ontology which unlike existing ontologies in the domain combines domain-specific requirements, such as vocabularies, with ontologies specific to research data and digital objects. While the subject indexing will be based on Indiana Philosophy Ontology (InPhO), we compiled a register of existing digital objects in scientific philosophy mainly from German context in order to deduce the formal requirements of a metadata scheme. Based on those examples, we formulated a bunch of requirements and examined a variety of relevant ontologies, such as Marc21 and DataCite Metadata Schema to find links and constructive mappings. Even though those vocabularies do not cover the requirements completely a widely sufficient scheme has been adopted and modified according to the demanded characteristics.

During the research process we  took into account user needs, the FAIR principles and practical considerations, to design an ontology that can serve as the foundation for an information system as well as provide additional information for secondary system.

As implementing the depicted  information system is our planned next step, we would welcome the opportunity to discuss our findings with members of the community.

Digital Humanities: Project Funding versus Continuity of Research. Some Remarks on the Problem from the Polish Perspective

  • Bartłomiej Szleszyński

Institute of Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences

The subject mentioned in the title generally poses a difficulty in the humanities. This is the case as, firstly, every project needs a closure and research in many fields of the humanities needs continuity. Secondly, it is impossible to build a new team for every new project.

In digital humanities, where projects are more complicated, involving not only researchers and traditional publishers, but also programmers and graphic designers, it becomes a very important problem.

The paper is going to present some ways of dealing with this problem from the Polish perspective in general. Among other aspects, it will introduce the usual ways of project funding and the status of digital humanities in Poland.

More importantly, it will discuss specific solutions to specific problems encountered during our work on some projects in the New Panorama of Polish Literature (NPLP.PL), a digital platform in the Institute of Literary Research, one of the most important Polish research institutions in the humanities (including scholarly editing and compiling dictionaries).

We care a lot not only about the quality of the content we publish online, but also about the form of publication – that is why we work not only with researchers, editors, and programmers, but also with typographers, professional graphic designers, photographers, cartographers and specialists in copyrights. It gives our platform the quality we want but makes project management (and project funding) more difficult.

The paper is going to discuss different categories of projects we work on in the New Panorama of Polish Literature:

  • when all the content is ready at the beginning, and we have to create an adequate form,

  • when the project is divided into two separate phases: creating the content and preparing the digital collection,

  • when creating the content and building the digital collection are so closely connected that they influence each other all the time,

  • when the content needs regular updates.