Another Week | Another Tool Begins

This week, RRCHNM is once again hosting the One Week | One Tool Institute for Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The big question for this week is can a dozen scholars, students, and librarians build a digital humanities tool in one week? And if so, what will they learn in the process? Participants were selected in a competitive process from an international pool of over thirty applicants. While the tool remains under wraps until Friday, August 2nd, the team is sharing details about their collaborative work process.

To decide what to build, the team engaged in an open brainstorming process and nominated software application ideas to meet the needs of humanities researchers and educators. They then invited public feedback to inform their decision-making. Nearly one hundred people posted comments and voted for their favorite ideas. (Although the poll has closed, see results at http://oneweekonetool.ideascale.com). “I was surprised by the number of engaged commentators actively watching what we build,” explains Meghan Frazer, a digital resources curator from Ohio State University whom the group selected to be their project co-manager. Tom Scheinfeldt, the RRCHNM director-at-large who organized OWOT, describes it as “a generative event: it’s live, public, and involves the creativity of people both inside and outside the room” through the power of social media.

The group divided themselves into smaller work teams to focus on design, development, and outreach. Mia Ridge, the OWOT lead developer and a doctoral candidate at the U.K.’s Open University, led the participants in sketching out the software architecture. “Sketching out an idea,” she observes, “is a great way to make sure everyone has a more concrete picture of what the group is talking about, and for me, it’s also a quick test of the technical viability of the idea.” While the outreach team collaboratively wrote a vision for the tool, members of the design and development team identified a common software language for this highly agile development project. “Getting 12 strangers to remember each others’ names—let alone blend skills across teams to make something entirely new—means we hardly have time to eat, let alone sleep,” remarks Brian Croxall, another OWOT project co-manager and a digital strategist and lecturer at Emory University.

As the team scrambles to finish their code and outreach preparations for the Friday August 2nd launch, follow their progress via the Twitter hashtag #owot.

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Since 1994, the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University has used digital media and computer technology to democratize history—to incorporate multiple voices, reach diverse audiences, and encourage popular participation in presenting and preserving the past. We sponsor more than two dozen digital history projects and offer free tools and resources for historians. Learn More

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