The digital humanities is often thought of as the incorporation of technology and the internet to provide new ways of analyzing and distributing information. These are exciting times for this kind of work and fantastic projects being launched all the time. I strongly believe though that there is another older, messier, more humble but incredibly important aspect of the digital humanities that sometimes gets forgotten: hacking together solutions for small everyday challenges we face in the course of our academic research.
Academics and graduate students use a wide variety of research tools, note taking software, bibliographic databases, and word processing environments. When dealing with massive amounts of notes, sources, documents, etc. there is often a great need for ways of making small improvements on the workflow that can save time, typing strain, and help organize and categorize data. Often, a little bit of programming, such as writing AppleScripts for OS X users, can go a long way.
I am an amateur in the world of programming, self-taught and plagued by bad practices, but below are a few scripts I have thrown together during the past years that try to solve some of the minor tasks I have wanted the software I use in the course of my research and writing to accomplish. Often times these scripts build on code found on scripting forums and in chat rooms and I have given credit when it is appropriate. Feel free to use, modify and redistribute the scripts:
A script to automate the importation of Zotero bibliographic database entries into DEVONThink, give them their own group folder, and create a main rich text note file for the source.
Description and instructions on how to reproduce my workflow for getting PDFs of documents or books from pictures taken with an iPhone, including post-processing of the images to optimize readability.
A guide for students and scholars teaching the basics of using RSS feeds to keep up on the latest research.
These two Applescripts are for the outlining software OmniOutliner. They will set the “note” of the selected rows in an OmniOutliner file either to the contents of the clipboard (in the case of one of the scripts) or prompt you for some text to assign the “note” via a dialog box.
I created a script that scrapes the official Harvard Library Hours website, which is overly busy and contains many libraries my friends and I rarely visit, and extracts the hours for today and tomorrow for a select few libraries and displays them on page which is optimized for both desktop browsers and mobile browsers such as Safari on the iPhone.
A Ruby script and AppleScript for getting a list of vocabulary definitions saved from the Chinese dictionary software Wenlin into a format that can be easily imported into flashcard software.
An OS X dashboard widget to convert years from Japanese era names in the modern period.
A OS X dashboard widget to add tones to Chinese words when tone numbers are provided.
An OS X dashboard widget to calculate years from the Korean dating system.
On how to send yourself an email and have it automatically transformed into a note in Yojimbo database software.
A tutorial on how to get your Mac up and running to write in Korean.