EYE TRACKING FOR THE EVALUATION OF DIGITAL TOOLS AND ENVIRONMENTS: New avenues for research and practice

Introduction

Digital tools for humanities research are defined as “software developed for the creation, interpretation, or sharing and communication of digital humanities resources and collections" (Nguen & Shilton, 2008:59). These tools serve many purposes—they help scholars work with texts (e.g., digitize documents and use archives); analyze texts (e.g., conduct computational analysis, study metadata, perform text mining); create other tools (e.g., games, applications, collections, databases); assist with methodological aspects of their work (e.g., help with field work, ethnographic research, user research); and support traditional scholarly activities (e.g., reading, studying historic documents, writing) (Given & Willson, 2018). Due to the social nature of digital humanities research, tools or their features that support communication, collaboration and information sharing are a must (Carter, 2013). Available for free or on subscription or paid only basis, digital tools differ in complexity and completeness — some are as simple that can be readily used without any special knowledge, others are complex and require a certain set of skills; some are fully developed and some appear to be under some stage of development. Digital tools for humanities provide access to scholarly content in different modalities (e.g., texts, images, video and audio or combinations of thereof) and can be available as a stand-alone technology' or through a shared Internet-enabled resource hub of research applications and communication tools, known as Virtual Research Environments (de La Flor, Jirotka, Luft, Pybus, & Kirkham, 2010).

Advances in the development of information technology' have also resulted in the development of a broad spectrum of digital tools for humanities research. The fact that these tools are rapidly created and improved and redesigned on a regular basis contributes to situations of too many choices. Large variability in designs and functionality of digital tools and their availability for digital humanities scholarship, however, does not always result in their high utilization (Gibbs & Owens, 2012; Warwick,Terras, & Nyhan, 2012). During the 2005 Summit on Digital Tools at the University ofVirginia, it was reported that only about six percent of humanist scholars used more complex digital tools in their scholarship while the majority of scholars preferred to use general purpose information technology (Summit on Digital Tools for the Humanities, 2005). It is very likely that the use of digital tools in humanities research has improved over the years; nevertheless, noticeably' low and slow adoption rates of digital infrastructures intended for research purposes in this domain remain to be an issue. This status quo, therefore, calls for more research in search of reasons underlying successful adoption and use of new technology as well as strategies for improving the processes of technology' design and development.

 
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