Plain Text Workshop at THATCamp New England 2012
The Humanist’s Operating System; or, Scholarship in Plain Text
An operating system is the most basic software on a computer, which allows the computer run higher order applications. Scholars also need an ‘operating system’—a set of basic tools that work together reliably to handle the low level tasks of scholarship so scholars can concentrate on higher order thinking. We will begin this workshop by drawing some ideas from the philosophy of the Unix operating system, especially the idea that (almost) all scholarly work can be done in plain text. We will then experiment with Unix-style tools that can be used on any computer operating system. We will spend most of the workshop trying out the components of a plain-text scholarly operating system, including text editors (take your pick), plain-text markup (Markdown), document converters (Pandoc with a nod to LaTeX), and version control (Git). Along the way we will also learn the basics of interacting with a computer through a command line.
Participants will get more out of the workshop if they install Pandoc and a good text editor (TextWrangler on Mac, Notepad++ on Windows) before the session. The links above to ProfHacker posts may also be helpful.