The Brennan and Kelly article raise a few interesting points to consider when presenting or trying to gather user generated content for an online project. Although some may seem obvious, i.e., making the interface easy to use for the contributor, often for those familiar with the technology simple is not a level playing field. I think to myself, if I were to build something, would my technophobic Father be able to use it? Questions like this can reinforce the creator not to “dumb down” the project, but to leave the complicated programming and interface behind the curtain, so to speak, and present the public with a very simple contribution area.
It also raises two additional items: one I have thought about quite frequently, and that is control and editorial power over contributions made by the public. Second, I hadn’t considered, and that is creating a buzz over a digital history project for outside contributors. Obviously affiliation with a University would allow the access to resources and the ability to spread the word over a large institution but more importantly, digital humanities need to consider ways to involve the public of projects that seek contributors. This essentially was one of the “crossroads” issues that was discussed during last Friday’s brown bag presentation. I agree with the assumption that digital humanists in part have struggled to define themselves in order to transmit that identity to the public at large. In doing so, digital humanists could most likely expect positive reaction to projects and generate more contributors. Not mentioned in the Brennan and Kelly article were the approach of the project planners to the public, my concerns would be: was the project properly communicated? Were the goals of the project explicit? Not necessarily stated, “we want to hear your story, but rather, up front, honest communication, “We’d like to catalog reaction to events and eyewitness accounts of those events for historical posterity”, or some such explanation. In a sense, digital humanists struggle with defining themselves which prove to be barriers to sharing with the public writ large.
Of course, through the theoretical writings I always find myself coming back to practical questions. The chief concern that has been established in both readings and discussions are situations of funding and the struggle to define digital humanities. These problems of course could be solved with one giant project, I think that would attract attention both of donors and provide an example of what digital humanities could entail. Obviously some projects have attracted that sort of attention while others fail to see the importance of digital humanities. Additionally, the field could be advanced through educators actively engaged with technology that is evolving around them. Dr. Burton’s comment on the student understanding Karl Marx better than the teacher serves as an excellent comparison of the teacher misunderstanding the importance technology will serve in the future classroom.