Stories the collection of tools tells

Laure Barbot, Andrea Scharnhorst, Edward Gray, Jennifer Edmond, Francesca Morselli, Arnaud Roi, Femmy Admiraal

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterScientific

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In Digital Humanities we are accustomed to think about tools as a means to tell a story, whether it be a story about artefacts, events, or patterns in the past. This paper looks at it from the other end, namely that each tool comes with its own story. When we group tools together for means of dissemination, re-use, and accountability in the coordination of an infrastructure we are also telling a story. Certain selected ensembles of tools, which encompass and supersede the individual stories of the tools, create a story of their own.

In this paper we take as a case various tools reporting efforts in DARIAH (from the DARIAH contribution website (IKCT), to the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to the SSH Marketplace (MP)). We reflect which story is told by whom, for whom, and for what purpose.

Doing so, we build on the fact that the stories that tools tell not only shape the (DH) field in which they are built, but are also products and artefacts reflecting the priorities and the technological choices made by the communities building them. (Barbot, 2019; Scharnhorst et al., 2019; König and Uytvanck, 2020; Ďurčo et al. 2021)

Reflecting about tools and their lifecycle is not new: some are success stories, some are encompassing failures (Dombrowski, 2014); some are collective stories, while others are more personal ones.

Interestingly, and maybe increasingly so, we see a growing emphasis on the need to provide context to tools, particularly in their documentation and registration - not in the least as a means to encourage sustainability and re-use. Still, in practice, we see a co-existence of various ‘documentation streams’.

In this paper, we articulate the stories behind various documentation streams that have been designed and are now being executed in DARIAH. With the IKCT, administrative and technical descriptions are centralized; the more recent KPIs put emphasis on DARIAH’s outreach and impact and the even fresher MP targets the functioning of DARIAH-related tools as part of the EOSC landscape. By making the stories around those specific ensembles of tools visible, we shed light on the different communities, stakeholders and their interests, relying on earlier debates around DARIAH’s reference architecture (Barbot et al, 2021, De Leeuw et al, 2017). We also reflect how the different stories mimic the changing strategies of DARIAH and the maturity of tools and services in it. In practice, we see sometimes the same tools figure in different stories, or even making a ‘career’ between different types of storytelling, but we also see new types of tools emerging.

Documentation is never a pure administrative act (Hackman 2009, Smiraglia 2014). By unravelling the ‘secret stories tools whisper in the infrastructure’ when being documented, we raise further awareness why we document what in which form. Ultimately, the reflective layer contributes to a more effective documentation. Therefore, we hope to give guidance to the storytellers, to those which tell the story of one tool, and those which tell the stories of ensembles of them.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 02 Jun 2022
EventDARIAH Annual Event 2022 Storytelling: Storytelling - Athens, Greece
Duration: 31 May 202203 Jun 2022


ConferenceDARIAH Annual Event 2022 Storytelling
Abbreviated titleDARIAH AE 2022
Internet address


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