What will Alfalab do?

In a nutshell, Afalab will build an provide access to digital tools for the community of humanities researchers; disseminate knowledge about digital tools and platforms applied in the humanities; explore success and failure factors related to the use of digital tools in the humanities research; investigate how digital tools and platforms can support and stimulate collaboration in the humanities.

More specifically, Alfalab will be active in the following ways:

Alfalab will develop online research infrastructure for collaboration in the humanities
As an online research environment (VRE), Alfalab will include a virtual laboratory, which will combine a tools registry and a dataset registry. Two teams of combined humanities researchers and IT engineers will develop a small number of demonstrator tools. These tools will mainly focus on the problem of heterogeneous data on a proof of concept basis. Specifically, the demonstrators will show how the tool functions may be geared around common tasks, rather than being impeded by heterogeneous data. The implementation and integration of tools into an online research environment will also demonstrate Alfalab’s philosophy of distributed services, which allows for multiple instantiations of the same tool in different virtual environments.

Alfalab will examine success and failure factors in digital humanities.
As an exploratory project, Alfalab will examine success and failure factors in the field of digital humanities, and it will critically consider which tools and infrastructural solutions to support. Alfalab will also test the extent to which a critical review of digital tools enables a selection of viable options, and it will include—at the earliest phase of tool development— an in-depth analysis of user needs. The overall process of developing digital tools, its implications, impact and success factors will be studied and evaluated through ethnographic and survey research. This research will result in a comprehensive study on aspects involved in the creation of rich and sustainable research practices anchored in the use of digital tools and distributed infrastructure.

Alfalab will disseminate knowledge about digital tools and data applied in the humanities.
In disseminating knowledge about digital humanities research, Alfalab will be geared both towards outward dissemination and inward feedback. Outward dissemination will come in the form of workshops, tutorials, online manuals and documentation for the humanities researchers. Dissemination will also be implemented through the university curriculum, in order to strengthen the chances of an active research community evolving around Alfalab. Equally important will be the feedback cycle Alfalab wants to create. Alfalab does not want to be yet another implementation of a top-down vision on virtual research environments for the humanities. Rather, it is interested in producing a concise and comprehensive prototype of such an environment and the supportive infrastructure, to be reflected on by the humanities community.

(The complete Project Plan ‘Alfalab, Phase 1’ can be downloaded here: projectplan_alfalab_20090622_en.)