Blog Post

Duke's Digital Tools Bootcamp: Event #1

The Digital Tools Bootcamp was the first public event put on by the Digital History Working Group (DHWG) and sponsored by the Ph.D. Lab in Digital Knowledge. A series of three luncheon meetings, the Bootcamp took place over three consecutive weeks in late March/early April (3/22, 3/29/, 4/5). The goal of the Bootcamp was to introduce graduate students and other colleagues to various digital tools that scholars are using in research and teaching. This spring, the tools we covered included Evernote, Devonthink, Scrivner, Twitter and Wordpress (blogging).

The first Bootcamp luncheon took place on Friday, March 22, 2013. During this event two of our DHWG members, Claire Payton and Paige Welch, presented on Evernote and Devonthink. They both provided the participants with an overview of the tools and then walked us through the ways they have personalized the tools for their own use. Additionally, one of the highlights of the luncheon was the large amount of audience participation. In total, eighteen people attended the first event (more than we expected!). The attendees not only engaged the presenters with questions, but also offered their own insight on the tools being discussed, which greatly enhanced the discussion. 

Presenting on Evernote, Claire demonstrated the way she uses the tool to keep track of academic scholarship and for her own research. You can find her thoughts on the event here. In my opinion, there were two points that really caught my attention. First, as a graduate student preparing for prelims, I have been thinking about how to catalogue/keep notes on academic readings. I recognize that I need a strategy and I strongly believe that my note taking must make use of the digital tools available. But, which tool to choose?  Claire has chosen to use Evernote for all of her academic notes because of the web-clipping function. You can also connect notes via tags and organize them by notebooks. I have found Evernote to be helpful with class notes, meetings, and presentation.  The web-clipping option is also fantastic in capturing articles that I want to incorporate and link to my academic work. However, my hesitation in using this tool for prelims note-taking lies in the fact that it is easy to clip and never read.  Additionally Evernote does not offer the citation capacities of Zotero and Endnote, two citation management tools that also offer note-taking capacities, and the ability to create tags and notebooks (although they lack the web-clipping function).  Nevertheless, learning that Claire and others have chosen Evernote over Zotero/Endnote made me rethink my strategy. 

The second point that caught my attention in Claire’s presentation on Evernote was the recording feature. Essentially, Evernote allows you to make a sound a “note.”  Claire said that this feature could be helpful for those who are interested in oral histories. You could record and type within the same note. The voice recording is also exportable so that you could use it as a separate file at a later point if needed. This particular function could also be useful in class. You could take notes and record at the same time.  I imagine that this would change the way that I take notes. Instead of focusing so much on transcribing what is said in class, I would focus more on capturing the key points in class discussion.

Paige Welch presented on Devonthink (she has bloged about the experience here). A more complicated program than Evernote, Devonthink allows you to create your own database of archival material. Perhaps more useful for organizing notes than capturing them, Devonthink provides a way for historians to replicate the archive and personalize it for their research.  For example, Paige explained that after her research year abroad she had taken tens of thousands of photographs of documents. Uploading them to Devonthink was a way to ensure that all of her photos would remain in one place. Additionally, once uploaded, the photographs became searchable becaue of Devonthink’s OCR feature. Not only does OCR make the documents easier to find, but it also allows you to run analytics and draw connections between documents that you might not have noticed otherwise.  Paige also highlighted the “merge” feature, which allows you to merge to photographs into one document. Devonthink also allows you to upload pdfs and duplicate folders to other locations in the database.

As I have yet to embark on my research year, I have less more questions than answers about how to navigate the archive and replicate it on Devonthink.  For example, I wonder what is the most effective way to organize archival information?  Paige separated her folders by archive and box number. I think this is wise, but there another way?


What are other ways that people are using these tools?



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