Managing Digital Humanities Projects: Lessons Learned and Best Practices
This article provides an overview of the strategies and techniques used for managing digital humanities projects. The author discusses the various stakeholders involved in these projects and how their needs are addressed. The
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Slide111 Managing Digital Humanities Projects 26 July 2011
Slide22• A bit of background • What are the projects and what have we been doing? • Who are our stakeholders? • What did we do to address their needs? – ‘A day in the life’ (field methods) – Scenarios – Demonstrators – Pilots/iterative development • How were these methods useful in motivating stakeholders? • What lessons have we learnt? Managing Digital Humanities Projects
Slide33A bit of background • What are there differences between corporate project management and research project management? – Clients paying for a product – Prince 2 (UK) and PMI’s PMBOK (US) – Project Management methodologies • What are there difference between working on e-Research projects and Digital humanities projects? • So what is ‘Research Project Management’? – Funding from Research Councils
Slide44A bit of background - about me • Originally Humanities based • Corporate Project and Account Management for 4 years prior to Research Project Management – Large scale e-commerce websites and technical projects • Came to Oxford in 2005 to work on the BVREH project • Moved to the Oxford e-Research Centre in January 2007 • Worked across a wide range of Research Projects since then
Slide55A bit of background • The Virtual Research Environments Programme (JISC) – Building a VRE for the Humanities (BVREH) • Extensive survey across the breadth of the Humanities at Oxford • A ‘Day in the Life’ • Scenarios – A VRE for the Study of Documents and Manuscripts (VRE-SDM) • Smaller scale requirements (informed by BVREH) • Building tech • Iterative development/prototyping • Prioritising with users • Project Bamboo (Mellon Foundation) – Oxford is part of the Workspaces and Corpora Space activities – building applications and shared infrastructure for humanities research • e-Research South (EPSRC) – More akin to Programme Management – Feasibility studies
Slide66What is a Virtual Research Environment? “The purpose of a VRE is to help researchers in all disciplines manage the increasingly complex range of tasks involved in carrying out research. A VRE will provide a framework of resources to support the underlying processes of research on both small and large scales, particularly for those disciplines which are not well catered for by the current infrastructure.” (JISC) Definition of a VRE: “A set of online tools, systems and processes interoperating to facilitate or enhance the research process within and without institutional boundaries.” (Mike Fraser – OUCS)
Slide77Building a VRE for the Humanities • Initially a 15 month project (started summer 2005) • Capturing user requirements from researchers across the division • How do the Humanities differ from large scale Science? • No predefined technology (ground up approach) • Build 3 to 4 prototypes/demonstrators
Slide88A VRE for the Study of Documents and Manuscripts • A pilot ‘Virtual Research Environment for the Study of Documents and Manuscripts’ (Another really long project title!) – Addressing needs highlighted in previous survey – Communication/collaboration – Image viewing – Annotation tools – Access to Library searches and Lexica • Small group of test users initially, the Bamboo project will now help to widen the impact of these tools
Slide99• “people or organisations who will be affected by the system and who have a direct or indirect influence on the system requirements” So, who are our Stakeholders? Kotonya and Sommerville (2002) define stakeholders as:
Slide1111Who are the BVREH Stakeholders • Many different stakeholders • Lots of different motivations and interests in the project • Essential to get common agreement for moving forward
Slide1212BVREH Project Stakeholders
Slide1313‘Our System’ • User Champions • Humanities Researchers (Oxford) • Principal Investigators • User Requirements Consultant • Technical Manager and Developers ‘Directly Interacting Stakeholders’
Slide1414The Containing System ‘Organisations supporting and surrounding the VRE’ • The funding body (JISC) • The Steering Committee • The Humanities Division at Oxford • The Oxford eResearch Centre • Oxford University Computing Services • Other VRE projects
Slide1515The Wider Environment • Humanities researchers outside Oxford • Humanities user communities • Future funding bodies?
Slide1616What did we do? Or… what didn’t we do!
Slide1717User Requirements Survey • ‘Field methods’ stage prior to prototyping (Wixon et al) • Interviewed a broad range of humanities researchers, research projects, libraries and a number of IT support staff to determine: • What is ‘a day in the life’ of a humanities researcher like? • What is the ‘workbench’ of a humanities researcher?
Slide1818• Must consider developers/computer scientists and ways to motivate them • Getting them involved at the user requirements stage has been crucial • In the very beginning no development work during the BVREH survey User Requirements Survey
Slide1919User Requirements Survey • Supported by enthusiastic user champions from within the humanities division • Approach was important in providing users with a sense of ‘ownership’ • Mainly benefited stakeholders within ‘our system’, including computer scientists • Led us to create a number of scenarios…
Slide202020 Simon Brown: Researcher -18 th Century German Dr Mary White : Researcher at a university library Bob Black: Researcher - Classics Gwendolyn Green: Lecturer and artist in the Fine Art department User scenarios
Slide2121Simon Brown: Researcher - 18 th Century German Representing those who believe themselves to be non-technical Simon Brown is a member of the Modern Languages faculty and specialises in 18th Century German He mainly uses primary sources and spends a great deal of time in the library. Simon admits to using his computer as a ‘glorified typewriter’ In recent years, Simon has used the internet to find out about more ephemeral material including articles by journalists and lesser known authors, which in the past he may have missed. Simon finds signing up to email lists an annoyance due to the sheer amount of unwanted, non-related information that results. However he does find one list of particular interest. Simon is particularly keen to hear about grants and potential sources of funding
Slide2222Dr Mary White: Researcher at a university library Representing those who work internationally and collaboratively and is just discovering the benefits of technology Mary White works on a research project in a university library, cataloguing Medieval Manuscripts using local xml tools. Mary uses bibliographic tools and word processing packages extensively and is keen to be able to share her work easily and quickly. Mary works collaboratively with many researchers across the world. Typically she uses email and the telephone to communicate with them. Mary has recently experienced an IRC Chat meeting which she found particularly useful Mary is interested in the idea of the Access Grid however, she is concerned that her colleagues may not have access to the technology.
Slide2323Bob Black: Researcher - Classics Representing those who are technically minded and have significant involvement in digital projects Bob Black is a researcher within the Classics faculty specialising in ancient Greek inscriptions. Bob has been involved with many digitization projects, enabling resources to be made available for study. IT use already reflects the way his group is working. Bob often collaborates with other experts across the world and appreciates the benefits of technology in assisting with this. Like Mary, Bob is concerned that his colleagues don’t have the same familiarity with ICT and although he actively seeks the latest tools, he finds relatively little of use at this time.
Slide2424Gwendolyn Green: Lecturer and artist in the Fine Art department Representing those actively seeking collaborations across subject and institutional boundaries Gwendolyn Green is a lecturer and artist in the Fine Art department. Her work is heavily influenced by science and electronics. Gwen uses the internet and various software and graphic design tools extensively in her work. Keen to work with others across subject and institutional boundaries, Gwen wants to know what researchers are doing elsewhere and how she might work with them. Gwen is keen on the notion of an ‘ideas pool’ where artists and interested parties can advertise their ideas and interests to one another.
Slide252525 Simon Brown: Researcher -18 th Century German • Centralised information regarding grants and funding • Searchable lists of conferences lectures and seminars Dr Mary White: Researcher at a university library • Chat Facilities • Working collaboratively on documents • Assistance in publishing online • Access Grid technology Bob Black: Researcher - Classics • Information about researchers and research interests • Communication tools e.g. Video conferencing/ Access Grid technology and chat facilities Gwendolyn Green – Lecturer and artist in the Fine Art department • Information about researchers and research interests • Centralised information regarding grants and funding ‘Supporting the Mechanism of Research’ ‘Supporting the Mechanism of Research’
Slide2626Scenarios • The scenarios were most useful in reporting to stakeholders within the ‘containing system’ • Steering committee for advice to move forward • Funding body • Services and VRE’s with whom we wished to interoperate • Led us to build a number of ‘demonstrators’
Slide2727Eighteenth Century Workspace • To support a study of Jane Austen’s work • Investigated the options for integrating four online resources: • Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language (1755) • Eighteenth-Century Collections Online (ECCO) • Chadwyck-Healy Literature Online • British Fiction 1800-1829: A database of production, circulation and reception
Slide2828Physical Tools • Physical tools such as communication and novel user interface devices such as digital pen and paper (Anoto) and Personal Interface to the Access Grid (PIG) (It’s all about keeping track of 669 845 157 115 773 458 169 very small dots.)
Slide2929Research Discovery Service • Medical Sciences and ACDT project • Database of researchers and research interests across the division • BVREH working with Medical Sciences to use the service for the Humanities
Slide3030Virtual Workspace for the Study of Ancient Documents • An interface allowing browsing and searching of multiple image collections, including tools to compare and annotate the researcher’s personal collection
Slide3232Demonstrators • Great for taking to humanities researchers to ask ‘is this the type of thing you asked for?’ • Are we on the right track? • Gaining further requirements • Lots of interest for fairly little effort • Excellent ‘marketing’ tools to stakeholders in the ‘containing system’ and ‘wider environment’
Slide3434Piloting/Iterative Development • Pilot VRE for the Study of Docs and Manuscripts • Iterative development was sensible way forward (also recommended by JISC in VRE2 call) • Essential to maintain motivation • Must manage expectations along the way • Demo that exceeds expectations, gold dust • Curse of the demo, can be really demotivating for everyone
Slide3535Piloting/Iterative Development • Filmed researchers deciphering texts and gradually integrated the VRE
Slide3636A VRE for the Study of Documents and Manuscripts
Slide3737A VRE for the Study of Documents and Manuscripts
Slide3838Piloting/Iterative Development • Iterations really useful in gaining further requirements • Users are a part of the process • No nasty surprises at the end • Separate stable version good for marketing to wider stakeholders • On website • Conferences etc
Slide3939BVREH Lessons Learned There have been many, but here are some of the highlights…
Slide4040Lessons Learned • The strongest aspect of the BVREH has been its user-led approach • Researchers were asked what they do • How they do it • What would be useful to them • This had strong motivational benefits and created ‘ownership’
Slide4141Lessons Learned • Getting Computer Scientists involved early on, during requirements gathering was really useful • Helped developers to understand user needs • Helped forge good relationships
Slide4242Lessons Learned • Using demonstrators and pilots allowed us to use iterative development and prototyping • Allows us to keep researchers involved and to learn further from their experience and research processes • Great for demonstrating progress to wider stakeholders
Slide4343Lessons Learned • You’re only as good as your last iteration! • Motivations can dwindle when a demo doesn’t deliver as expected or is delayed • Managing expectations at all times has been essential and not always easy
Slide4444Lessons Learned • You can’t include everyone • Humanities researchers are a huge group • Address immediate needs and market the outcomes effectively
Slide4545Lessons Learned Finally… • It has been essential to budget time and resource for requirements gathering
Slide4646What are we doing now • Hiatus whilst applying for further funding and working on other projects • The tools built during the VRE-SDM project are now being ported over to become OpenSocial ‘Gadgets’ as part of the Bamboo Project – Usable in iGoogle and other containers such as Alfresco, HubZero and Sakai – ‘Gadgets’ mean that the tools can be added into the ‘container’ or portal at will, they do not depend on one another and as far as possible are non-platform specific so usable in VRE’s and VLE’s that are OpenSocial compliant • Through the Bamboo project we hope that the tools will reach a wider Humanities audience • We’re shortly to release the first version of the updated tools and begin another round of requirements and testing – Time for requirements and testing was built into the project plan
Slide4747Managing Digital Humanities Projects Questions?