So, this is the last blog, my reflection for the class. It has been a weird semester. I am sure most students around the world would agree. Ironically, what has been most frustrating with learning digital humanities in our Zoom second life is that it is not a subject amenable to online learning. Our fearless leaders told us at the beginning of the semester that they will miss not having us all together in the lab, and now I know what they mean. Historians tend to be a solitary lot, grinding away in archives and trying to put our interpretations down on paper. When it comes to putting our ideas into ones and zeros, though, we need help. I would suggest that anyone wanting to learn about the digital humanities wait to take a course when you can work things out with people in real life. God, I can’t wait to sit at a table with my colleagues. I digress.
I have to admit, I struggled with this digital humanities stuff. I came into this without much knowledge (even less than I thought) and am leaving feeling like I only dipped my toes in the water. The nice thing is now I have some direction on where to go when I want to expand my knowledge. There was not enough time in a semester to make much real progress on fully comprehending the technical side, but we did get plenty of theoretical pondering on what the digital humanities are and their place in academia and beyond. We also were able to explore a wide range of tools which were more than just simply digging around in the sandbox. They exposed us to work across multiple disciplines in the humanities. It was especially interesting to see how big data is being manipulated and made sense of.
Although I will probably never venture into things like distant reading and other types of text analysis, at least I know they are out there and have a bit of working knowledge. One thing that kept me going this semester was a reading we had toward the beginning by Rachel Sagner Buurma and Anna Tione Levine where they outline the idea of sympathetic research imagination. As a scholar who has traversed multiple disciplines (way back in the day I was an English major [never would have met my wife without this interest], then I switched to get a degree in Anthropology and then another in Ecological Food and Farming Systems, and now I am pursuing History), I appreciate learning about the hybrid, trans(maybe even inter)-disciplinary space which is digital humanities. Our colleagues in the seminar were from across many disciplines and it was enlightening to see not just how digital tools fit into them all, but how people from many perspectives could collaborate in meaningful ways. I still am not quite sure what the “digital humanities” are, though (I honestly am still am trying to figure out “humanities”)…and I am still humbled.
I finally finished my archive/mapping prototype. You can check it out below. It was a painful exercise trying to figure out how to get everything working. Many times throughout the semester I wanted to just throw up my hands and say to hell with it. For example, spending hours trying to get Omeka Classic to work right, only to find after finally having a second set of eyes look at what I was doing they found a missing slash mark in a bit of code I edited. But I pushed on, and am glad for it. The hands-on experience I was pushed to do in this course got me to a level I never would have made it to on my own, and I want to expand this to my dissertation research in the future. Will this be “digital humanities”? I don’t know.
While all the academic calisthenics were great, and checked off a box in my requirements to graduate someday, the most value from this course came from what you are reading right now. As I mentioned way back in the first blog post, I have never had much of an online presence and never stuck with any sort of blog. While it seems elementary, simply building this WordPress site and having to post weekly gave me the discipline needed to have the confidence to write and have it instantly be readable by the world (I mean honestly, though, my analytics show only a handful of people, thanks mostly to my family. Thanks y’all!).
Will I keep posting now that I don’t have to? We’ll see. My summer plans include organizing primary sources I have collected over the last decade. The section on research management we had way back in February got me to start using Zotero to organize my files and I hope to integrate Tropy also. Additionally, I hope to continue building the Omeka archive I started with sources as I re-find them. Maybe I will keep up with this blog and let people now how it is going. But then again, I get my second vaccine shot in a couple of days and I may not want to sit in front of a computer for quite some time.