Those of you who have initiated DH projects are, I'm sure, familiar with the environmental scan, in which one surveys existing projects, both to make sure someone hasn't already done what you're about to do and to see if others have developed technology on which you might build. It's a big part of NEH Office of Digital Humanities start-up grants (as well as just generally good practice).
At UCLA, we've been asking our grad students to do environmental scans as part of their final projects, and I've noticed that this can pose a challenge for some of them. Here are the challenges, as I see them:
- Students have trouble surveying projects outside their home discipline (e.g., art history projects that may be relevant to students in literature).
- Before they've embarked on the "building" part of their projects, students have trouble understanding what kinds of technology might be relevant to what they're doing (e.g., understanding that what they're about to do is a network visualization).
- The number of potentially relevant projects is overwhelming.
I'm thinking of ways I can help them overcome these challenges. So far, this is what I've come up with:
- Check various directories of projects (e.g., arts-humanities.net, DiRT, Spatial Humanities, DH Commons). Still, this can be confusing, because it can be hard for students to tell what they should be looking for.
- Ask! Tweet, ask at DH Answers, ask me, ask librarians. However, when the project is in its infancy, it can be difficult for them to articulate it to others.
Those of you who have completed many projects: Do you have an informal checklist that you run through when you embark on something new? What else might I tell these students?