I am in the process of writing a section on tools for the digital humanities, and I enjoy the complexity of this issue. Basicallly I am trying to find a way of categorizing and thinking about different kinds of tools used in the humanities information and technology. One of my interests is distinguishing between standard and analogue-based tools and tools that encourage critical exploration and interpretation. I use some of Löwgren’s and Stolterman’s discussion of digital artifact qualities. Their work has a strong design perspective. They list qualities in categories such as motivation, immediate experience of interacting with a digital artifact and the user´s creation of meaning in relation to a digital artifact. After Matt Ratto’s seminar (realmedia stream) on emistemic committments I am also trying to think about tools in this context (reading Karin Knorr Cetina among others). I will look at three or four examples of more ‘innovative’ tools used in different disciplines. One example is the TAPoR project at McMaster University.
I find the materiality of tool interfaces very important and not something that can be easily seperated from the functionality of the tool. A good, responsive and conceptually interesting interface that incorporates relavant materials and addresses interesting issues can change the way we think about what we study. I think we will see many more light-weight, web-distributed, modular and very ‘physical’ tools in the digital humanities in the future. I just tried Picnic out which fulfills all these criteria although it is not a digital humanities tools primarily. Picnic is a relatively simple graphics editing program that is web-based. Quite impressive and very accessable. It has a nice feeling to it.