Looking forward to meeting you all! The posts so far have been really exciting.
One of my ideas for a session is similar to Matt King’s post about procedural literacy and Jessica Murphy’s post about theorizing digital archives for graduate students. As I’ve just explained in a longer post on my own blog, many historians in my own field–the history of the early republic–have begun to use proprietary databases like those published by ProQuest and Readex as crucial parts of their research process. The evidence of this is beginning to trickle down into the scholarship published in leading journals in our field; my longer post gives a few examples.
While I am personally interested in how methods like text mining and keyword searching might be deployed in my own research, I also think the increasing use of such methods will require all historians (and I would extend this to humanists generally) to keep up to speed with differences between major proprietary databases. To evaluate, and also to write, the kinds of articles that are appearing now, I think we need an easier way to see, at a glance, what the default search conventions are in different databases (e.g., whether the text layers in these databases are created with OCR or other means, how often databases are changed, how big the databases are, and so on). What I’m imagining is something like a SHERPA/Romeo site that serves as an accessible and human-readable repository of information about proprietary databases used in humanities research.
The questions I have related to this idea are: Do similar sites already exist? Would such a site be useful? What sort of information should it include to be useful? What features (search, sorting) would make the site most useful? What costs and problems would be involved in building such a site? Would it be best housed in existing professional organizations, or cross-disciplinary? Should it be wiki-like, or maintained by a few authors? What funding would be required, and where might it be found? Could scripts or RSS feeds be used to keep the information up to date? What legal issues would be involved? Are there other, better means of helping humanities scholars (even those, like myself, who are on the margins of or new to “digital humanities” proper) abreast of relevant information about proprietary databases?
Alternatively, could many of the same needs be met by developing a “manual of style” for humanists who wish to cite the results of keyword searches in proprietary databases? How rich should the information included in such citations be and how should it be formatted? Could we collectively draw up such a “style manual” for keyword searching at THATCamp?
My other idea for a session deals more with my teaching interests. I’m currently working with undergraduate students in my Civil War history class to build an Omeka site and would be interested in learning from others about their experiences with digital project management in a classroom setting.