Assignment-in-a-box

Note: This "assignment-in-a-box" is designed for use by instructors of digital humanities courses, or other curricula where exploring and assessing digital tools would be an appropriate activity. It was originally developed by DiRT steering committee member Shawn Day. Feedback on the assignment is welcome via our contact form.

Note from the author: This assignment was prepared for a first year module in DH Tools and Methods for an undergraduate programme in Digital Humanities and Information Technology (BA DHIT). The audience is students with no prior exposure to digital humanities or humanities beyond the Second Level. This is one of four assignments offered, each contributing 25% of the overall assessment for the module.

Instructions

This first assignment invites you to locate an appropriate tool in the DiRT repository or identify one of your own choosing rom other sources and carry out a formal academic review of it.

Objective:

To appreciate the diversity of available tools and to develop an ability to critically evaluate a digital scholarly tool or method and assess its suitability to your own digital project needs.

Steps:

  1. Identify a Digital Arts or Humanities *tool* that you are either intrigued by or suspect may be of use in your own project;
  2. You may do this by searching the internet, talking to colleagues, following a reference in an article or on twitter or by searching the DiRT directory (http://dirtdirectory.org);
  3. Carry out a formal review of the tool. This may involve installing or deploying it on your own server space, signing up for an account and using it online. etc. However, the crucial aspect is to complete a critical evaluation of the tool and form your own opinions and share your judgement with the wider Digital Humanities community;
  4. The following structure should help guide you through the process;
  5. After conducting the review publish it on your Reclaim Hosting blog documenting your process, evaluation and judgement; (Variant: After conducting the review, document your process, evaluation and judgement in writing and post it to the DiRT directory; you will need to sign up for an account. If the tool does not exist yet on DiRT, be sure to add it first.)
  6. If the selected tool or service does not exist in the DiRT Directory add it and link your review to the tool submission (you will need to sign up for an account on DiRT).
  7. If the tool already exists in DiRT simply link your review on your blog to the existing tool page by logging in and adding a review.
  8. Send me an email before the submission deadline with a link to your review.

Structure:

Gathering information

  • Does the Tool have a website?
  • Did you collect and summarize information from this website?
  • Are there any existing reviews or learned articles published about this tool?
  • What did you learn from them?
  • Does the information gathered (websites + articles) demonstrate that the tool fits your own research goals?
  • How does this tool compare to other alternatives in its category?

Maturity/Stability/Sustainability of the tool

  • Did you find a development plan for the tool?
  • Is there help available for the tool?
  • Is there a discussion forum or FAQ available for the tool?
  • Is the tool in a stable form? (which means: trying the tool and/or going to forums / discussions lists to see what its users are saying about the tool)
  • How long has this tool been available for?
  • Is there a strong community supporting it?
  • Is it open-source?
  • If yes, where is the source code available?
  • Can you export your data and/or your results?
  • In what formats is the data/results exportable?
  • Do you understand how the tool works?
  • What technologies are employed to deliver the tool?

Evaluation:

Formatting 10%
Organisation 20%
Grammar 20%
Originality 10%
Creativity 10%
Adherence to Structure 20%
Depth of Thought 10%