DiRT receives grant for partnerships with Commons In A Box, DHCommons

The University of California, Berkeley and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York are pleased to announce that the Mellon Foundation has generously provided a $150,000 grant to fund a partnership between the DiRT (Digital Research Tools) Directory, Commons In A Box, and the DHCommons project directory that will develop APIs to link these initiatives, providing new ways for scholars and students to connect with digital research tools.

For scholars who work with digital tools and methodologies, directories like DiRT are essential guides to the broad range of digital humanities tools that are available to meet various research and pedagogical needs. DiRT provides users with the prompt “I need a digital research tool to…” and offers a variety of options, ranging from “visualize data” and “make a dynamic map” to “manage bibliographic information” and “publish and share information.” After choosing an activity, the scholar is presented with a list of tools that they can narrow down based on parameters like platform and cost. When selecting a tool, scholars often weigh factors including what other projects are using the tool and which communities of expertise can provide support. Connecting the DiRT directory to DHCommons and to the Commons In A Box platform–which powers an increasing number of scholarly community hubs such as MLA Commons and NYC Digital Humanities–will make it easier for scholars to connect with others who are using DH tools.

“Developing publicly available APIs for DiRT and DHCommons will allow us not only to contextualize tools by showing the projects that use them, but also to open up the rich data sets stored in these directories for scholarly inquiry,” said project director Quinn Dombrowski (UC Berkeley). “Enabling people to explore digital research tools within the Commons In A Box platform and to connect with communities of practice around those tools will lower the barrier to entry for scholars who are new to digital humanities,” she added.

“The DiRT Directory is a robust resource that provides important information about DH tools,” Commons In A Box Director Matthew K. Gold added. “We think that integrating information about DiRT tools into CBOX profile pages will make it easier for users of those tools to connect with and learn from one another.”

As part of this initiative, the DiRT directory (formerly Bamboo DiRT) will also be redesigned and relaunched at in July 2014. All tool entries will be updated to use TaDiRAH taxonomy terms.

For more information and updates on this initiative, visit

DiRT seeks editorial board

The DiRT directory, a longstanding, well-regarded source of information about tools available to support scholarship in the humanities, is soliciting applications for an editorial board, to ensure the coverage and accuracy of the directory's tool listings. DiRT editors will be expected to:
- Add, edit, and review new tool listings
- Periodically review existing tool listings, and update them as needed
- Contribute to discussions about changes to DiRT's structure and features

DiRT editors will be appointed to a voluntary two-year term, subject to renewal. The editorial board will meet virtually a minimum of twice a year, and will correspond as needed by email. The anticipated workload is 2-3 hours/month, and participants will be officially recognized on the DiRT site as ‘DiRT Editors’.

To apply, please send a statement of interest, including the type(s) of tool listings you're most interested in curating (e.g. geospatial, text mining, etc.), to by May 23. Librarians and academic support staff are encouraged to apply; applicants from outside the United States and western Europe are particularly welcome.

Applicants will be notified by 5/30.

A new taxonomy for DiRT

After a year of development and two public comment periods, version 0.5 of the Taxonomy of Digital Research Activities in the Humanities (TaDiRAH) has been released and will be implemented on DiRT in the coming months. This taxonomy is designed to replace DiRT's current ad-hoc list of categories. TaDiRAH separates research "goals" and broad "methods" (what do you want to do, and for what purpose?) from "techniques" and "objects" (how do you want to do it, and with what content?). Implementing TaDiRAH on DiRT will make it easier to identify, for instance, all tools that could be applied to images, or audio.

Even after TaDiRAH is implemented, categories won't be the only way to find tools on DiRT. There may be some changes to the options presented by the activity-based interface ("I need a digital research tool to..."), but we're committed to maintaining that way of navigating the directory.

We'll continue to improve TaDiRAH based on the experience of implementing it on DiRT, DHCommons, and elsewhere. We'd love to hear your feedback on the taxonomy, and how we're implementing it on DiRT. Send us your thoughts via the contact form.

New categories for DiRT

Since its early days as a wiki, DiRT has used a set of categories that roughly met the goal of dividing the large list of research tools into more manageable-- and identifiable-- sub-sets. In the intervening years, the number of tools cataloged here has increased substantially, and new methods for digitization, analysis, data organization and publication have become more widespread. Feedback from users and an examination of how the current categories are being used both suggested that it's time for the DiRT board to revisit the categories that DiRT uses to classify tools.

Rather than simply revising a set of categories that aren't used anywhere but DiRT, we partnered with a group within DARIAH, a European initiative around digital research infrastructure for the arts and humanities, that had already done the initial work of developing a taxonomy for their Zotero bibliography on doing digital humanities. DiRT's categories and tags informed one set of revisions to the DARIAH taxonomy, and the methods taxonomy used on informed a second set of revisions. One of the major changes will involve separating activities (transcription, modeling, organization) from objects (text, images, audio), which should make DiRT more usable for people who work with non-textual media.

Between now and September 27th, we are seeking public feedback on this taxonomy, which will be implemented on DiRT, the DHCommons project/collaborator directory, and the DARIAH bibliography starting in October. We welcome your comments in the Google Doc where the discussion is taking place. Having a shared taxonomy across multiple directories will provide new opportunities for connecting data, and we'll be publishing the taxonomy available in multiple forms (and languages) that make it easy for other projects to adopt.

We don't imagine this is the last time these categories will need revision. DARIAH-EU has committed to using this taxonomy as a basis for further development into a more complex ontology of digital scholarly methods, ensuring the continued updating and existence of the work currently underway. That said, accessibility for newcomers to digital scholarship remains an important priority for DiRT, and in our own implementation of the taxonomy, we'll continue to offer an "action-oriented" presentation of the categories ("I need a digital research tool to...") in addition to the more abstract terms.

We look forward to hearing your comments in the Google Doc, or you can use our contact form. Many thanks to Luise Borek (DiRT board member), Matthew Munson, Jody Perkins (DiRT Board member) and Christof Schöch for their work on the new categories!

New on DiRT: digital humanities tool wishlist

Inspired by the spirit of One Week One Tool (#owot), this week DiRT has responded to the call for a digital humanities "tool wishlist". Now any registered DiRT user can add a wish for a new tool, an improvement to an existing tool, or an integration between tools. Users can vote for wishes, or express stronger support by contributing a specific use case. The wishlist is available on DiRT here.

How the wishlist happened

The idea of a tool wishlist has come up on Twitter in the past few months (Amanda Visconti and former DiRT board member Josh Honn first brought it to our attention in early June), but the surge of ideas for #owot made it clear that this was more than a niche need. Brett Bobley's perspective on how a wishlist might benefit potential grant-seekers helped make the case that this was something we should implement on DiRT. On Tuesday (7/30), the DiRT board voted in favor of the wishlist.

On Wednesday (7/31), I put together a proposal for how the wishlist would work, and revised it in response to feedback from Twitter. Thanks to Mia Ridge for taking time out from #owot to provide suggestions. Special thanks to Brett Bobley, Ben Brumfield, and Sherman Dorn for their comments on the document, which played a significant role in shaping the wishlist.

On Thursday (8/1), I spent about an hour implementing the first version of the wishlist on our development site, and Alex Gil and DiRT board member Zach Coble beta-tested it and reported the bugs and quirks they found.

Friday (8/2) was for bug fixes and launching the wishlist. It's undoubtedly got a few quirks left unresolved, and we welcome your feedback on how we can improve it moving forward.

Thanks to everyone who encouraged us to make the tool wishlist happen this week! May your tool wishes become reality.


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