2 Survey Results: Executive Summary
In November 2011, SPEC Kit 326 organized its analysis of digital humanities (DH) support in ARL
member libraries by defining DH as “an emerging field which employs computer-based technologies
with the aim of exploring new areas of inquiry in the humanities. Practitioners in the digital humanities
draw not only upon traditional writing and research skills associated with the humanities, but also upon
technical skills and infrastructure.” 1 This definition covers the pre-DH era of humanities computing that
begins with Father Roberto Busa’s Index Thomisticus (started in 1946), moves through the first compendia
and lexicons started in 1960s, the mid-1980s proliferation of DOS-based text-analysis programs such as
WordCruncher, Text Analysis Computing Tools (TACT), and MicroOCP (the Micro Oxford Concordance
Program), encompasses the start of the Text Encoding Initiative in 1987,2 and applies to the steady growth
of e-text centers to at least 20 by 1994. These are examples of predominantly text and language-analysis
research, but by 2011 work with geospatial data, multimedia narratives, and data visualizations had added
to the variety of DH projects and increasingly crossed disciplinary boundaries into the social sciences
and life sciences. For many ARL institutions, supporting DH has become supporting digital scholarship
(DS), yet this expansion of methods, approaches, tools, and disciplines has created its own tensions and
uncertainties. Some of those who develop and use digital tools and methods resist applying too strict a
definition to digital scholarship because they fear it will limit experimentation or adoption by faculty who
may get bogged down in what “is” or “is not” within the bounds. This battle over definition can also be
a battle for recognition and is one of the initial challenges for promoting and supporting DS in many of
our institutions.
Understanding how ARL libraries support digital scholarship first involves developing a shared
language for discussing DS and its constituent parts. Abby Smith Rumsey, former director of the Scholarly
Communication Institute at the University of Virginia, describes DS as the “use of digital evidence and
method, digital authoring, digital publishing, digital curation and preservation, and digital use and reuse
of scholarship.”3 This is a very broad umbrella that covers familiar tasks such as digitizing analog media
and reformatting a variety of media, creating metadata, creating digital collections and exhibits, and text-
encoding and analysis, and encompassing not only geospatial information (GIS) and digital mapping, 3-D
modeling, and digital publishing support, but also database support, software development, and interface
design. This work helps produce new forms of hybrid and multimodal scholarship that can combine print
and web-based text, video, audio, still images, annotation, and new modes of multithreaded, nonlinear
discourse that can exist only online. The STEM fields have assimilated digital tools and methods into
their research, so it is within the humanities and social sciences that big data, multimedia, interactivity,
and data visualization are rapidly changing how research is envisioned and conducted, how data are
Executive Summary
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