Opening and Expanding Forms of Scholarly Communication Practicum: The Programming Historian & MLA CORE

Hi guys! Hope everyone is getting through this stressful time of the academic year…

This week’s readings and practicums are about how digital technology has changed the possibilities for scholarly communication in the history profession.  I will be diving into two digital platforms—The Programming Historian and MLA CORE—that offer scholars a way to communicate, share work, and learn from one another outside of the academy and typical methods of sharing work (i.e. scholarly journals, monographs, etc.)

The Programming Historian is a tutorial-based “scholarly journal of methodology” designed to teach digital historians/humanists practical computer programming skills.  It is open access, peer reviewed, and impressively, has lessons published in four languages—English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese.  The tutorials are very digestible, intended for “non-specialist” readers.  If you’re a historian or digital humanist looking to learn how to create an Omeka exhibit, or use digital maps, or even preserve your own research and data, The Programming Historian is a great way to get started.

The home page of The Programming Historian. It also features lessons in French and Portuguese!

When you choose a language portal (I chose English), there are three ways to engage with the site—Learn, Teach, and Contribute.  For the purposes of this practicum, I will focus on the learning aspect.  The site organizes its available lessons into topics and subtopics.  You can peruse lessons by the five phases of the typical research process—Acquire, Transform, Analyze, Present, and Sustain—or by several general subtopics—including data management, data manipulation, mapping, distant reading, and web publishing—to make navigating through the content easy.  The site also lists how many lessons are in each section and subsection.  For example, there are 84 total English lessons and 32 in the “Transform” section.  You can also sort the lessons by publication date or by difficulty/skill-level—low, medium, and high.

Lesson index and sorting method

To practice, I went to “Digital Publishing” and found a lesson called “Creating an Omeka Exhibit.”  The tutorial lists the contributors, the editor, the peer reviewer, the publish date, and the difficulty level and gives a helpful description of how to create a guided tour with your collected items on Omeka.

Example and abstract of a digital publishing lesson

Overall, The Programming Historian is a really great example of “a collaborative, productive, and sustainable effort for scholars to learn from one another.”  I honestly wish I knew about it sooner!

The last practicum of this week (and this semester!) is MLA CORE (Common Open Repository Exchange).  MLA CORE is MLA Common’s—the network for MLA members—digital scholarly repository funded by the National Endowment for Humanities.  MLA CORE “is a full-text, interdisciplinary, non-profit social repository designed to increase the impact of work in the humanities.”  It offers a space to share work, communicate with scholars, participate in groups, and ensure that your work is preserved and accessible.  To access CORE, you do have to be a member of MLA Commons.  You can either join the MLA—which costs $28 per year for graduate students—or create a free account through the Humanities Commons open network.  I made a free account through Humanities Commons which gives me partial access to CORE.

After creating an account, you can upload published journal articles, dissertations and theses, syllabi, in-progress papers, abstracts, data sets, etc. To upload/deposit scholarship, you click “Upload Your Work” on the CORE home page.  The process seems fairly easy.  After attaching a file and inserting some information about the upload, it is up!

Uploading scholarship to MLA CORE

To search for scholarship on MLA CORE, you click “Find Open Access Materials” on the home page.  Deposits are automatically sorted by date, starting with the most recent.  There are some premeditated deposit collections—The Library and Information Science Collection, The Syllabus Collection, and the American Literature Collection, to name a few. You can also browse by subject, item type, date, or by search.  I typed “cold war” into the search bar.  Only the first few results seemed related to my search, so it is important to note that the search function may not be optimal.

Searching deposits

CORE has some other community-building features as well.  You can build up your own profile, browse members’ personal websites, join groups, create groups, and facilitate discussions through the platform.  MLA CORE is an interesting way to share, browse, and preserve work and make connections with other scholars.  It’s almost like a scholarly Facebook! 

Have you ever used The Programming Historian or MLA CORE? What do these sites say about the possibilities for scholarly communications?

6 Replies to “Opening and Expanding Forms of Scholarly Communication Practicum: The Programming Historian & MLA CORE”

  1. Hi Rebecca,

    I have used the Programming Historian before and I found it incredibly insightful. I used it to learn how to install Omeka on my laptop and the historians make navigating code and computers less frightening and daunting. Like you said, it is a great example of collaborative learning and sharing knowledge effectively. The sight is easy to view and I know that I will continue to use it in my future digital history efforts.

  2. Rebecca, thanks for showing us these tools! The Programming Historian looks really interesting. I’ve always had an interest in learning how to code, but it’s always seemed like a daunting task. This site seems useful because it shows specific uses for coding languages like Python in our field. It seems like some of the tutorials do at least expect a basic level of knowledge, but that’s understandable. I’ll definitely keep this in mind going forward if there are any digital hurdles I need to overcome.

    1. Yes! I think this site in particular is really useful because it provides applied instruction. I also appreciate the use if photos in the tutorials as well–it always makes following along so much harder without them!

  3. Hi Rebecca! Thank you so much for demoing these sites. I have sent tweets out into the ether of #twitterstorians when attempting to get insight on digital exhibits, or recommendations for platforms, etc. but there’s so much going on on twitter, and I have such a small following that they get lost. I’ll definitely be turning to The Programming Historian the next time I have digital history how to questions. It looks like such a wonderful resource that I had no idea existed.

    1. I agree, Rosie! I wish I knew about the Programming Historian earlier, especially when thinking about potential digital platforms for digital projects in this class and for our practicums! I think it is also really significant that this site makes technical knowledge accessible to people with little tech experience.

  4. Hey Rebecca! Thanks for the post! Like everyone else, I’m especially interested in the Programming Historian. It isn’t something I have personally used, but I can say from my professional experience that there is so much (literal, monetary) value in learning how to code and have tech experience. So many organizations pay so much money to build websites, apps, etc. and learning (on some level) how to build those skills yourself definitely makes you an asset in the field. I think this type of site offers a learning experience that offers applied work and examples that make the learning process less difficult for people in the humanities who maybe don’t have experience or comfortability with coding.

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