Reflection on Digital Tools

As we move from an analog humanities towards digital humanities I would like to consider a number of the tools that are helping some thrive and others survive through this transition. I will also reflect on how these tools could benefit my digital humanities project.


The tools I will review are Omeka, Scalar, NGram and Neatline. I will also explore the Text Encoding Initiative.




Developed by the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture at the University of Southern California, Scalars vision is to be a sustainable platform for publishing interactive and rich media scholarship. Scalar allows scholars to assemble media from multiple sources and place that media with their own writing in a variety of ways.


I am hugely inspired by the dynamic flexibility inherent in this free, open-source authoring and publishing platform. My mind is alight with possibilities about how I can leverage this for my own digital artifact, which is centered on digital storytelling and immersive story.


Scalar allows for combining and layering of information as a digital publication offering great flexibility in how you tell you story or present your argument as well as the freedom to structure your book in its most compelling form. It is a giant leap forward in my opinion from the liner eBook. (


The features I found most attractive are:


  • Multiple paths through a publication, each one designed for a specific audience.
  • Multiple author functionality (This is ideal for my co-authored digital book!)
  • Archives and metadata are supported (links in with Dublin Core and Omeka)
  • Supports a number of different media types inc audio, video, images, texts, maps
  • Structural flexibility that you don’t get in a blog or a traditional content management system.
  • Visualizations, to make the information beautiful
  • Annotating with media
  • Customizing appearances (I love the emphasis on visual beauty, which I feel a lot of open source software lacks.)


I really like how this open source software is built to last. The pages (which are the key feature) use standard HTML and CSS for styling. It abides by Dublin Core, RDF, Art Stor and other Internet standards.

As I am hoping to create an online space for cross-cultural, health and environmental education, through the attractor of digital story I found Scalars usability for teaching hugely inspiring.


From researching about ‘Teaching with Scalar’ it became obvious how it supports radical pedagogies, de-centralized and student centered learning. Through the multiple user functionality and having been built with scholars in mind it intuitively supports collaborative project based work and communities of learners. It also encourages students to deeply engage with how they use digital media and to take ownership of their work.


I am so far very impressed by scalar and I will most definitely be researching this more as a possible platform for my digital artifact.




Omeka is a Swahili word meaning “to display or lay out wares; to speak out; to spread out; to unpack.” This free open source web-publishing platform really supports the digital humanities sector in that it allows information that may have once been kept for the select few to be made freely available for public view online – opening up our cultural history, moving beyond space, time and financial barriers. Omeka has greatly contributed to the cultural heritage sector and intends in its future plans to continue along this route. (


It is typically used for the display of library, museum, archives, and scholarly collections and exhibitions, lying at the intersection of web content management, collections management, and archival digital collections. The beauty is that the system can be used and managed by people who do not have a particularly high IT level, making it even more accessible and user friendly for many in the digital humanities area.


For my digital artifact I can see how Omeka could be useful for storing the collected stories, I like it because it is a very reliable and sustainable, free digital tool. However the only aspect that I feel is lacking is the front-end design, which I believe could be more visually appealing and dynamic in its nature.




Ngram Viewer looks at the algorithm of words over time. The amount of times words come into use – visually portraying a time line. It opens up the world of computational linguistics, allowing linguistic data, which could possibly hold a lot of meaning for digital humanist researchers to be effortlessly calculated and beautifully presented, as it is done in the Google NGram viewer. (


For traditional humanists this type of research would have been impossible, or near impossible to access. For my thesis I can see how ngram could be a very useful tool to search through the stories presented by the students to see if any patterns or algorithms present themselves.


Text Encoding Initiative


The text encoding initiative facilitates the searching of documents, handwritten and manuscripts for example, allowing digital scholars to generate new meaning from once static texts. This is being used in crowdsourcing projects such as the collection of letters from 1916. (





Neatline is a digital mapping software that facilitates the creation of “beautiful, complex maps, image annotations, and narrative sequences from Omeka collections of archives and artifacts” (

It is a great tool for digital humanists as it allows stories to be told in new ways, visually mapping timelines and concepts. This would be a great addition to my digital artifact, as it would facilitate the mapping of the children’s stories, or even possibly creating a map of the cosmos.


These are just a flavor of the many open source digital tools that are freely available to the digital humanities sector, transforming how we research, process, present and store information in the humanities field. The tools themselves are enabling communities to come together regardless of location, time and financial barriers, to interact in new ways and crowd source information. Tools such a ngram are providing new meaning to information that would have never been correlated without digital technology.





Google Ngram(2016) (online) Available Accessed 28 NOV 2016

Maynooth University (2016) (online) Letters 1916 Available Accessed 12 DEC 2016

Neatline (2016) (online) Available Accessed 8 DEC 2016

Omeka (2016) (online) Available Accessed 5 DEC 2016

Scalar (2016) (online) Available Accessed 12 DEC 2016

Text Encoding Initiative (2016) (online) Available Accessed 12 DEC 2016

Scalar Platform Guided Tour (2012) (online) Available at Vimeo Accessed on 12 DEC 2016

Teaching and Researching with Scalar (2015) (online) Available at You Tube, Accessed 8 DEC 2016



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