In Digital Scholarship, Collaboration is Key

The Digital Scholarship Group encourages members of the BC community to consider incorporating Digital Scholarship (DS) methods into their research. Whether you know it or not, you engage in digital scholarship when you integrate new, digital sources of data into your research, use computing tools to process that data, or leverage digital platforms to present your findings dynamically online. 

What is DS?

The phrase “Digital Scholarship” (DS) has a reputation for sounding snazzy and being hard to define. In short, it means asking and answering new research questions using digital tools and methods. With the help of technological advancements–including software, programming languages, computing power, and troves of data–we can undertake research that was not possible before, not only in the sciences but also in the humanities and social sciences. These research projects can involve digital sources like census data, digitized text, or videos; digital processing of those materials; and/or digital presentation of the results. (See “What are Digital Scholarship and Digital Humanities?” for more information.)

Why DS is Collaborative

The big slate of technological potentials (e.g., data visualization, programming, and 3D modeling) requires too many for one scholar to master. Therefore, DS is at its best when it’s collaborative and interdisciplinary. Almost no single DS practitioner can build a substantial project from start to finish; rather, the best DS experts assemble teams with different technical skills and varied disciplinary perspectives. The lore of the lonely academic writing and researching in her office day after day doesn’t hold up in digital scholarship. Instead, we work together–side by side or spread across the world–to bring together sources and lenses that cannot be combined in traditional academic publishing.

Using collaborations with my DS colleagues as an example, Antonio LoPiono and I have been part of a team working to excavate Anne Bradstreet’s house (See “Seeking Bradstreet”); he can make 3D models of the artifacts, and I can digitally encode the accompanying records from the local archives. Once all our data are ready, Dave Thomas can develop a web app to make our models and documents visible and shareable online. Our complementary skill sets create projects that each of us never could on our own! 

Collaborative Projects

Resulting team-driven digital scholarship projects are as varied as the groups that create them. Some of the longest-standing digital scholarship projects are digital archives and editions that have made more text freely available online than ever before. The Whitman Archive, for example, has worked for 25+ years to share the thousands of manuscripts, publications, letters, etc., that the American poet Walt Whitman created in his lifetime. Other archives allow users not only to read and download carefully edited texts but also to visualize data points. For example, DraCor collects thousands of plays in multiple languages and allows users to see each text in new ways using tools like network analysis. Finally, some DS projects use text to create geospatial visualizations; Mapping Ancient Athens collates records of a century of archeological digs and displays them as an interactive map to allow users to see what has been excavated across the city. These are only a few of the many projects DS teams can create when they harness both technology and subject area expertise.

How We Can Help You?If you’re interested in learning more about the projects our Digital Scholarship Group can help you create–or the instruction we can offer in DS skills–we would love to hear from you! We are happy to help you brainstorm, develop a project plan, or guide you through the DS project creation process. You can reach us at