Learning a coding language or technical skill can seem daunting, especially when you’re not someone with a computer science background. All of the jargon, technical terms, and math may be a barrier to entry for people with a more traditional humanities background who may otherwise want to embark on a digital humanities project. Even for those who start, it’s easy to get stuck when you feel like every tutorial you try has you learning tricks for things you know you’ll never use, while you never seem to find any information about what you do want to learn.
While no tutorial is going to be the panacea to all your problems, here are a few places you can start your techy journey, created for people who may want to start slow and learn specific skills.
- The Programming Historian — Full disclosure: I love the Programming Historian. Their lessons are written for humanities scholars by humanities scholars. No piece of jargon is left undefined, and their lesson format is both helpful for learning basics, but also explains why you will want to know this skill, and how it will be useful and relevant for the future. Lessons are presented textually, with pictures as examples. They also periodically offer practice questions for you to gauge your comprehension throughout many of their lessons.
- Pros: Written by people who understand the way that you think, and explains the importance of learning these skills as you go along.
- Cons: Presented as text. You do the work separately, and there’s no way to have your work checked by a program like it would be at Codecademy, or similar sites.
- Tooling Up for Digital Humanities: Begun at Stanford, Tooling Up for Digital Humanities includes great overviews of text and spatial analysis, databases, pedagogy, and data visualization. If you need a place to serve as a glossary for terms, or just want brief overviews of what exactly the digital humanities are, and what you can do with the digital humanities, this is a great place to start.
- Pros: Concise information regarding the main flagpoles of the digital humanities, presented in a familiar, unadorned style. Easy to read and digest, and includes introductions to major software and linking to further reading for what you may be interested in.
- Cons: Started in conjunction with a series of workshops in 2011, the site is no longer maintained, and some information may be out of date.
- TEI By Example: TEI By Example consists of online tutorials created to help humanists use TEI (Text Encoding Initiative). Tutorials are divided by subject, starting with the basics of TEI, then moving on to different humanity subjects, including prose, poetry, drama, primary sources, and critical editing. Each tutorial is split between the tutorial itself, an example, a test, and exercises. The really great thing about TEI By Example is that you can either go through all of the tutorials, or pick and choose what you want to learn based on either your expertise, or your interest.
- Pros: User-intuitive and specific to the needs of digital historians. Presents information in a digestible but thorough way, and checks your work for you.
- Cons: Stopped being maintained in 2010, and the user-interface shows its age. Information could also be out of date.
There are so many projects that a digital historian can take on, and nothing should stop you except for your imagination (or maybe your lack of grant money, but that’s a different story). While you need to learn the basics, that’s no reason you can’t tailor your experience to help you focus on what you really need, and keep from frustrating you with things that you don’t.
Remember, if you want to get started with a digital humanities project, or need help with a current one, you can always come to the Scholarly Commons, open 9 AM – 6 PM, Monday-Friday, or email our digital humanities experts, Eleanor Dickson and Harriett Green.