Practicalities of Becoming a DH Influencer

When an Instagram influencer posts a mirror pic, reverse slo-mo video, or digitally aged photo using a special app on instagram, followers take notice, and the traffic on that influencer’s site along with increased use of these digital tools (mostly via apps) skyrocket. I’m interested in the ways in which our Digital Humanities project pages are similar to Instagram pages in this way – so, this week, we venture into the exciting world of adding content to a website – and how to create truly jazzy exhibits with some simple, practical tools that work somewhat intuitively and work well. In this post, I’ll go through some fun tools we all can use to create exciting online presences and then will follow this with some “DH influencers” who have created excellent content of their own.

Adding your own captions and annotations to videos

Ahh, the enviable ability to simply add text to videos without using iMovie or Adobe Premiere or some other software… this in and of itself is a tricky business in the first place. However, if you are looking for a free way to do this with relative ease, utilizing Youtube’s Youtube Studio (still in Beta form) can provide a way to caption and annotate videos. Since the studio is still in Beta form, there are a few aspects that are not intuitive – captions are under a strange part of the “transcriptions” tab, and going from the studio to the editor can use some finessing. The platform, however, serves its purpose. Another alternative to this is Timelinely.

Chuck Tryon, a Professor of English at Fayetteville University, has written a column post for the Chronicle of Higher Education which outlines the platform SocialBook for editing and annotating videos for educational purposes. Similarly to ThingLink (which I discuss below), this platform seems to be beneficial to students and is geared towards teachers encouraging student users. It does include the ability to connect to their social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, so that could be either a draw or a deterrent to some students.

My personal favorite is ThingLink, which allows for the annotation of video and still image, along with other media, largely for educational purposes.

ThingLink: Educational Tools and Snazzy Exhibit Pieces

The above tour from ThingLink is an example of how you can make an annotated and tagged gallery-like tour through selected works and media. You can include websites, audio, and text in your annotated exhibit, and the exhibit itself is easily embedded in your project page (like the one above). This was quick and easy to make and serves my needs quite nicely – I will definitely be returning to ThingLink in the future and look forward to incorporating video and audio from my own work in musicology into narrative exhibits.

Other DH display tools

Now, there are plenty of other things people include in their DH displays to show research, evidence, and methods. For example, those working with oral histories might include a video or audio of interviews with transcripts. One convenient way to do this is to use the Oral History Metadata Synchronizer from University of Kentucky Libraries. This downloadable software allows you to have a transcript of your interview divided by sections, and you can also make it searchable, which is a huge benefit to people trying to engage with interviews. Finally, with the OHMS, you can have time stamps along the sides of the scrollable transcript, which aids in being able to directly reference timestamps in analysis. And, as far as displaying the oral histories we research, The Archive of American Art has a very compelling display of oral histories laid out attractively in an easy to read and navigate interface. This can be used as an exemplar “influencer” in oral history presentation.

Another tool to have in your DH toolbox is not necessarily one that can explicitly be seen by your audience, but can help you in curating exhibits with proper credit and can help in research that is displayed on your site. This tool is reverse image search – most people already know how to do this, but it is worth covering a couple of different ways to go about it. The first, and most obvious, is Google reverse image search, which is great for finding 3D objects and artworks, in particular. The second way to try reverse image search is TinEye, which is not quite as effective as Google Images for searches, and is far less effective when searching for images of 3D objects as opposed to images of paintings or other images. However, it still may be worth a look if you are struggling to find an image you have no information for.

Reverse image lookup has also been used in revolutionary ways. John Resig’s article “Using Computer Vision to Increase the Research Potential of Photo Archives” outlines how he and the Frick Art Reference Library ” utilized TinEye’s MatchEngine image similarity service and developed software to analyze images of anonymous Italian art in their photo archive.” He goes on to say:

“The result was extremely exciting: it was able to automatically find similar images which weren’t previously known and confirm existing relationshipsAnalysis of some of the limitations of image similarity technology was also conducted. “

John Resig (hyperlinks his own)

Resig does note what kinds of results TinEye brought, however, and some of the results are a mixed bag. The breakdown is below:

Clearly, the technology is not error-free, or anywhere close to as finessed as the human eye; however, it is useful and can bring about very satisfying results!

DH Influencers to Follow (not by any means a comprehensive list)

I would be remiss not to mention other DH scholars and initiatives which have helped spearhead different trends and display methods in DH digital exhibits. Michigan State University’s Institute of Museum and Library Science and the Library of Congress have partnered with other organizations to create the Oral History in the Digital Age website, which is easy to navigate and includes a great “Best Practices” page which not only explains their methods, but their suggestions for others using their resources. This clear list is extremely helpful, both organization-wise and content-wise.

The practice of studying cultural analytics (large sets of data to analyze “massive cultural data sets and flows”) and displaying them can also be useful. The Software Studies Initiative (now housed on a new website under Cultural Analytics) has published an online article on the possibilities of using cultural analytics. This proves to be a very promising, if at the very least visually stunning, way of presenting data. Below are some examples of these visualizations of big cultural data:

Visualization of one Million Manga Pages
4,535 Time Magazine Covers

These visualizations, while overwhelming at times also offer new opportunities for researchers:

“- we are offering a new way for both museum visitors (both online and physical, if we have installation in a museum) to connect to the collections;
– visualizations which show all collection organized by different criteria complement currently dominant search paradigm;
– visitors can discover patterns across all of museum holdings or particular collections – actively making new discoveries themselves as opposed to only being recipients of expert knowledge;
– visitors can discover related images using variety of criteria;
– visitors can discover images by other artists similar to their already favorite works;
– visitors can navigate through collections in many additional ways (in contrast to a physical installation allows only one way to go through the exhibits);
– our techniques are scalable – from large super high resolution displays to desktops to tablets and mobile phones.”

Software Studies Initiative Page (no author credited) 01/2014

If you are interested in working with big data, cultural analytics just might be the way you can combine your interests in tech and the humanities – more information about this kind of research and display can be found at, home to the Cultural Analytics Journal.


Overall, there are many tools for us to use to become just a little more tech-savvy, a little more trend-setting, a little more forward-thinking in our digital displays. But if we want to be a DH influencer, we need to go above and beyond, to seek out new ways of displaying our data and our research so that we may show just how much DH can do for presenting research and educating students.


2 Replies to “Practicalities of Becoming a DH Influencer”

  1. I enjoyed your post this week, Emily, and in particular your comparison of digital humanities project pages to Instagram. You do a good job of describing and summarizing the different digital technology tools we’ve been learning this semester. I was unfamiliar with The Software Studies Initiative before I read your post, and I am interested in learning more about Cultural Analytics. The idea of putting this software into museums is fascinating, and offers an actively engaging experience for the viewer. The idea of the viewer being able to actively make new discoveries themselves as opposed to being the recipient of expert knowledge is a wonderful way for the museum going experience to be more active, rather than passive. I also like the fact that visitors can use this technology to discover images by other artists similar to their current favorite works – what a great way to broaden someone’s artistic appreciation! They could come back to a museum many times, and explore and discover new favorites each time, similar to discovering a new favorite author. Personally, I love the freedom to navigate through the museum’s collection in many different ways, rather than to just walk from one exhibit to another. Anything that can make the museum going experience more exciting and for accessible for people of all backgrounds and interests is something to be considered. Art is for everyone, but many people don’t feel that way. It’s true that there are some pretentious art-types, but I think anyone who truly loves art wants to share than enthusiasm with as many people as they can. I would love for everyone to feel welcome at a museum, and for them to see themselves reflected in something they see there. Museums are changing, and I think it’s for the better. I would love to learn more about what a musicologist does. Do you see these technologies helping you in your main area of specialization? How would these tools apply to a musicologist? I would be fascinated to learn about what you study, and what you hope to do in the future. Is it related to visual art in any way? I am currently doing a research project on Wassily Kandinsky, who believed that color had sound, at least it did for him. Does color have sound? What do you think? For Kandinsky, music and color were inextricably tied to one another. He was said to associate each note with an exact hue. He once said, “the sound of colors is so definite that it would be hard to find anyone who would express bright yellow with bass notes or dark lake with treble.” It turns out he had a rare neurological phenomenon called synesthesia. It’s a condition in which one sense, like hearing, triggers another sense, such as sight. This caused Kandinsky to literally see colors when he heard music, and heard music when he painted. I am curious if there are contemporary artists or musicians who have synesthesia. I enjoyed your post, and hope to learn more about your field in the future.

  2. Hey Emily,
    First, I love the concept of Digital Humanities Influencers– genius. I agree, that in order to be an influencer or even just an advocate for the Digital Humanities, we have to familiarize ourselves with the diverse array of software and applications we can use to create digital projects. I also really appreciate how you craft your blog posts, I find your voice to come through strongly which makes for both an informative and engaging read.
    Your post left me wondering how extensive should an influencer’s toolbelt be. In other words, should DH influencers advocate for only a few resources in which they have a lot of experience or should they be more comprehensive– providing a potpourri of options that perhaps they haven’t employed directly within their own projects? I guess this a question of quality vs quantity and I suppose that there doesn’t need to be one answer. I could see one DH influencer who reviews and promotes only digital mapping software and another who focuses on all the different programs you can use to digitize an image.
    Nonetheless, I think this idea of influencing the DH is awesome and would definitely be useful for students who are just starting out with digital methods.

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