Evaluating GitHub for DH

GitHub is a popular platform for sharing and managing versions of programming projects, and Digital Humanists have used it to develop and share DH projects. However, using GitHub can be an obstacle to participation and inclusivity. For instance, popular DH tutorial journal Programming Historian saw a drop in women’s participation after moving to GitHub.

But what do we know about who uses GitHub for DH and what have their experiences been? What DH projects are using GitHub and how has GitHub shaped them?

Version of the GitHub Octocat logo, originally created by Simon Oxley and further developed by Cameron McEfee.

In 2016, Lisa Spiro and I tried to answer these questions to better understand GitHub’s potential impact on the field of DH. We surveyed and interviewed Digital Humanists to see how they used GitHub, and we used GitHub’s API to explore how DH repositories’ usage compared to other GitHub repositories. We presented our findings at the Digital Humanities 2016 conference, and you can download our presentation on the right.

Our work was conducted as part of the “John E. Sawyer Seminar on Platforms of Knowledge in a Wide Web of Worlds,” sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and was also supported by Rice University’s Humanities Research Center and Fondren Library.

Digital Humanities 2016 presentation.