Hi all! In this post I’ll be discussing both The Programming Historian and Scalar. Starting with Programming Historian, when following the link provided in the syllabus, the website offers their services in English, Spanish, and French. Although the most lessons are offered in English, it’s still really cool that this service is more accessible to multiple demographics. I clicked on the English option and was brought to a page that looks like this:
The Programming Historian offers dozens of lessons for humanists to get comfortable with using digital tools for their research and project development. Not only do they encourage users to view the tutorials to expand their own knowledge and ability, but they also suggest using their service in the classroom, and crowdsource for contributions.
On the “about” page, it states that the project was originally founded in 2008 as a “Network in Canadian History & Environment (NiCHE) ‘Digital Infrastructure’ project.” Twelve years later, they are now a volunteer-driven nonprofit that is committed to rigorous peer review, open source and open access materials, and diversity.
Now getting into the actual service they offer, the lesson search page sorts the lessons by both action and topic.
I chose a low difficulty lesson to try out, entitled “Beginner’s Guide to Twitter Data”. This tutorial uses a freely accessible website from George Washington University that offers hundreds of datasets of tweets, and tells users how to use this website to filter for relevant datasets, and how to download and “hydrate” you dataset. The article then walks through how to analyze the metadata, and how to link the data in Microsoft excel. This last step is thoroughly hashed our using screenshots the process and detailed descriptions. Once they’ve finished explaining how to acquire and download the data, they offer suggestions of uses and application for the data, including a few websites that allow you to create visualizations of data sets.
At the end of each article, they give information about the author(s) and a suggested citation. They encourage the authors to share their work on other platforms, and for readers to share the articles as long as they use the proper citation.
For those who wish to contribute to Programming Historian, there are a variety of instructive articles for how to contribute in different ways, including authoring a new article, reviewing, translating, and editing. These can all be found under the “contribute” tab.
Finally, Programming Historian also offers a blog where they share periodic updates about the project. The blog is also translated into both Spanish and French. Their first newsletter of the year, published on April 1st, talks about how COVID-19 is slowing their work, new members of PH, and new contributors.
This service could be useful to digital humanists at a variety of skill levels and interests. To anyone developing research or digital history projects, Programming Historian may be a great place to explore new skills and services to use to expand and express your ideas. Another website that serves to help scholars express their ideas and research in new and exciting ways is Scalar. According to their website, “Scalar is a free, open source authoring and publishing platform that’s designed to make it easy for authors to write long-form, born-digital scholarship online.” This website offers a space for scholars to develop and publish work that includes a variety of media platforms and interactive interfaces that allow for non-linear viewing. The youtube video featured on the homepage of Scalar offers a comprehensive walk through of their services and mission, and how Scalar offers a unique platform for scholarly work.
The website itself, run by the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture, is primarily an informational resource for those interested in authoring something with Scalar. On the about tab of the Scalar section of the website, they mostly walk through all of the different services offered to users. There is also a showcase tab where the feature a few of the projects that have been published with Scalar.
They also offer webinars, both for beginning users and intermediate users of the platform, although there aren’t any coming up. Under the “Get Involved” tab, there are options to share feedback, look into hosting your own workshop, and to join the Scalar team. I tried to select the “join” option to see if I could check out what the actual platform looks like, but unfortunately you need to fill out an additional form to acquire a registration key from the Scalar team. I suppose it makes sense to have some sort of vetting considering the service is for scholarly work.
Overall, both of these services seem extremely useful to those looking expand or create comprehensive and professional digital projects. For students, I think that Programming Historian would be more useful, as it is open access and provides low or no cost resources for achieving complicated digital analysis. Scalar may come in handy down the line for people who are interested in publishing scholarship in an interactive, multimedia platform. Either way, these are both interesting, interactive tools to help bring the humanities online in a user friendly and engaging way. Do any of you think you’ll use this in the future? Could you see any of the articles on Programming Historian helping you in your digital projects for this class or expanding them in the future? What sort of benefits do you see to having a non-linear, interacting platform for scholarly work? I’m looking forward to seeing what you guys think!