Tool Criticism for Digital Humanities

22 May 2015



The workshop on Tool Criticism in the Digital Humanities is co-organized by the Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica, the eHumanities group of KNAW and the Amsterdam Data Science Center. The aim of this workshop is to bring together people with an interest in Digital Humanities research for focused discussions about the need for tool criticism in DH research. With tool criticism we mean the evaluation of the suitability of a given digital tool for a specific task. Our goal is to understand the impact of any limitation of the tool on the specific task, not to improve its performance.

While source criticism is common practice in many academic fields, the awareness for biases inherent in digital tools and their influence on research tasks needs to be increased. This requires researchers, data custodians and tool providers to understand issues from different perspectives. Researchers need to be trained to anticipate and recognize tool bias and its impact on their research results. Data custodians and tool providers, on the other hand, have to make information about the potential biases of the underlying processes more transparent. This includes processes such as collection policies, digitization procedures, OCR, data enrichment and linking, quality assessment, error correction and search technologies.

With this workshop, we aim to identify:

  • typical research tasks affected by by technology-induced bias or other tool limitations
  • the specific information, knowledge and skills required for researchers to be able to perform tool criticism as part of their daily research
  • guidelines or best practices for systematic tool and digital source criticism

The main part of the workshop will be a hands-on breakout session during which we will discuss concrete use case examples in groups of 4-6 researchers. Participants can suggest use cases (tools & research questions).

A report summarizing the discussions is available here.


The workshop is planned to be a full day event. We are still working on the details, but the following schedule gives you an impression what we are planning to do:








Short presentations of submitted use cases


Lunch with a purpose (LWAP)


Break out session


Reporting back session


Final plenary discussion


Drinks & Dinner at Café-Restaurant Amsterdam

Submitted use cases (click to see the slides):

Date & Location

22th May 2015
Pand 020

For further information,
please contact:

Jacco van Ossenbruggen
Myriam Traub


Sally Wyatt, eHumanities


Jacco van Ossenbruggen, CWI
Myriam C. Traub, CWI
Victor de Boer, VU
Serge ter Braake, VU
Jackie Hicks, eHumanities
Laura Hollink, CWI
Wolfgang Kaltenbrunner, UL
Marijn Koolen, UvA
Daan Odijk, UvA