Why Use Digital Arts and Humanities Methods In Research?


This workshop introduces methods used for digital research and creative analyses and outputs, with a focus on research questions and data framing. In this workshop, we'll:

  • ask you and your fellow participants to consider your research questions, your current research sources, and potential digital methods through three poll questions,
  • provide a brief video overview of methods and outputs in digital arts & humanities research,
  • show example digital projects from IUB affiliates,
  • present IDAH's project charter as a model for project organization, and
  • provide a small collection of resources available to you through IDAH and IUB.

If you have a moment before beginning the workshop, please take a second to fill out our workshop intake form. We'll follow up with workshop participants mid-semester to see how we can help with your individual research needs--but we can only do that if we know who you are!

If you have any pressing questions or need speedier help, you can also send us an email at any time at idah@indiana.edu with the subject line "Research Workshop 2021." And as we'll mention repeatedly throughout these workshop materials, you can also schedule a consultation with us via our online scheduling platform. Thanks for watching, and enjoy!


Introduction: Why Digital Arts and Humanities for Research and Creative Output?

Description of the video:

Digital arts and humanities encompass technologies and techniques associated with the digital world as it intersect with the academy in two places. One of them is scholarship, inquiry, and scholarly communications in humanities. The other is a critical way of appropriating the digital for creative outputs and audience reception in the arts. Increasingly, we're seeing a blend of those two worlds, in which artistic production and humanities scholarly output come together through the use digital methods.

It's worth noting here that the digital does not negate the analog. They work hand in hand, and you'll see examples of that principle at work as we explore some of the digital arts and humanities projects done here at IU Bloomington.

It's also worth noting that digital arts and humanities can make use of old-school technology like spreadsheets, or be for-real cutting edge. For instance, our mango box was made with lasers. It's literally cutting edge. But the mango box is also a great example of the analog and digital coming together, the arts and humanities joint emphasis and the collaborative spirit that digital arts and humanities projects represent. We worked with Fei Hsien Wang in the history department, Adam Maltese and Ryan Mandell who each run a makerspace on campus, and Mary Borgo Ton, whose research appointment at University of Illinois is based on her makerspace interventions in Victorian religious ministries.several makerspace directors  in SOAAD. The whole project encompasses art, making, propaganda, history, literature, hero worship, digital pedagogy, and public reception.

It's also an example of the three biggest reasons to engage in digital arts and humanities:

  • Compelling research. It doesn't have to be big data, it can be research at different scales from artistanal hand-cratfted intetewtionst o big data types of analsys
  • Compelling teaching. We're always looking for ways to produce the Unessay
  • Broadened horizons for professional development is really important. It's skill acquistion that supports arts and humanities work in cultural heritage, public libraries,


Wondering what this looks like, or who's forging paths for this kind of work at IUB? We've compiled some example projects from our affiliates below. If you want even more examples, check out our #WhyDAH Featured Projects, our past cohorts of Faculty Fellows, or our past cohorts of HASTAC Scholars.

Images from Shining Lights: Magic Lanterns and the Missionary Movement, 1839-1868, Dr. Mary Borgo Ton (digital dissertation) 
Images from The Swinburne Project, Dr. John A. Walsh
Images from Olivia Wikle's Master of Library Science/DH Specialization capstone project: Musical Worlds of Ann Radcliffe 
Images from Networks of Performance and Patronage: Russian Artsist in American Dance, Vaudeville, and Opera, 1909-1947, Dr. Alexis Witt's (part of dissertation)

A slide from IDAH's research workshop showing images from Dr. Mary Borgo Ton's dissertation


Dr. Mary Borgo Ton's dissertation focuses on early screen culture through Victorian-era magic lantern stories and projections by four prominent missionaries at the time. Part of her research included recreation of obsolete magic lantern parts using 3D fabrication in order to perform original magic lantern shows.

View Dr. Borgo Ton's dissertation via Scalar


  • Magic lantern slides
  • Magic lantern performance scripts
  • Primary and secondary sources, including catalogs


  • Embedded model of phantasmagoria lantern to contextualize lighting conditions and operative procedures
  • Design thinking and wireframing to recreate immersive lantern viewing experiences via a website


  • 3D reconstruction of magic lantern
  • 2D projection of lantern slides via website
  • Dissertation published online using Scalar publishing platform


  • Making
  • Digital reconstruction



Dr. John A. Walsh's research focuses on Victorian poet, Algernon Charles Swinburne, through a critical digital edition of Swinburne's works that leverage digital methods such as text analysis, network analysis, and mapping for closer reading across Swinburne's corpus and related documents. 

View the Swinburne project online


  • Text


  • Critical reading
  • Tracking tropes through thematic encoding (by hand) that then generated a visualization that allowed Dr. Walsh to trace the tropes throughout Songs of the Springtides, both juxtaposing and overlapping.


  • Book chapter
  • Paratextual analysis in digital edition through glosses
  • Interactive visualization of tropes


  • Text encoding and analysis
  • Thematic network analysis




Olivia Wikle, former IDAH HASTAC scholar, uses a combination of text analysis and mapping to uncover the intersection of literature and music in late eighteenth century Britain by mapping musical performances that gothic novelist Ann Radcliffe may have heard. 

View Olivia's project


  • Novels by Radcliffe
  • Newspaper reviews of musical performances
  • Historical maps


  • Text analysis including topic modeling of Radcliffe's novels
  • Critical reading of novels and reviews
  • Georectifying maps


  • Digital humanities capstone project, including digital maps and capstone thesis




Dr. Alexis Witt's dissertation traces the influences of Russian musical performers with American audiences in the early 20th century, and relied on network analysis to examine relationships and kinds of relationships (patronage, educational, etc.) between Russian performers who were performing abroad.

View Dr. Witt's network visualization


  • Concert programs
  • Newspaper reviews
  • Diaries (archival materials)


  • Determining relationships and connections between and across Russian performers: artistic, professional, familial, educational, and personal


  • Dissertation
  • Interactive visualization



Putting the pieces of your previous poll responses together, consider which digital methods might be best suited to your own research. 

Methodology Matrix


Project charters are an incredibly useful tool to incorporate in the initial stages of your project, though you can collect and assemble this information at any time. This section presents IDAH's version of the project charter, and shows how this single document can be used in a variety of different ways--as a research document, as a project management tool, and as an ethical guide. 

If you'd like a template to begin building your own project charter, you can download a copy of IDAH's annotated project charter from tiny.cc/IDAHCharter


A project charter offers a 2-in-1 macro/micro view of your digital project--it serves as a single guiding document for the entire project, and it also breaks down the project into digestible pieces. It can serve as a basis for documenting methodological approaches, and, later on, can form a foundation for grant applications.

Note that none of this means that your project charter needs to be static or "perfect." Rather, a charter is a living document that is meant to reflect adaptations. 


IDAH's version of a project charter, which we use with our HASTAC Scholars and Faculty Fellows, is made up of twelve parts:

  • Title
  • Project Description
  • Research Questions
  • Models
  • Project Team
  • Audience and Impact
  • Deliverables
  • Tasks
  • Budget
  • Timeline
  • Ethics
  • Sustainability


This view of the project charter is equivalent to a literature review or bibliography. It sets focus on research questions and creative goals for new knowledge and new creative outputs, and positions the project for multiple audiences: academic, public, etc. 

This view centers on the following elements:

  • Project description
  • Research questions
  • Models
  • Audience and impact


This view of the project charter tracks project logistics such as funding, staffing, etc. It supports work to be conducted in phases, and encourages long-term planning for project deliverables. 

This view centers the following elements:

  • Project team
  • Deliverables
  • Tasks
  • Budget
  • Timeline
  • Sustainability


This view of the project charter considers all sources, including gaps and biases. The charter helps ensure that all collaborators are credited appropriately, and allows for attribution and possible reuse of work.

This view centers the following elements:

  • Project team
  • Audience and impact
  • Ethics
  • Sustainability


With any luck, this workshop gave you the opportunity to analyze your own research and creative needs and guided you towards the exploration or selection of a digital method. We're here to help along the way, so don't hesitate to get in touch if we can be of assistance.

If you have a moment to fill out our exit survey with any comments you have about this workshop, we'd sincerely appreciate your feedback! And as always, for more personalized support, please feel free to schedule a consultation with us. Thanks again for your time and attentionwe hope this workshop was useful for you!