Or, You’ve (I’ve) Come a Long Way Baby.

This slogan was a popular ad campaign marketing progress for women (and cigarettes) in the late 1960s. I’m not a smoker, but that slogan is how I see what this class has done for me and for digital humanities as part of my degree plan, and possibly my future. If you heard the term “digital” in the 1960s, you will see here that it probably referred to numbers or toes. I had no idea what to expect from this class and probably less of an idea of what digital humanities was – or even what humanities was, for that matter. These blog posts have helped shape my definition of digital humanities. What that boils down to is using technology as an avenue for searching through massive amounts of data – big data – and analyzing it in a new way, then sharing that information. In part, the posts have helped to shape me, too. My open posts were all over the board. Some followed the virtual Friday themes, especially the posts relating to Twitter and the election. Some were based on my interests – crafts, jobs, social issues, current trends, education and more.  Some were self-explanatory, like the info-graphics. Others, like the post about exit polls required more of an explanation, and even generated some discussion. I’m not entirely new to blogging, we had weekly blog posts for one of Matt’s classes. Most of those didn’t have much depth; his goal was to get us used to writing and responding to other posts. I’ve also followed some blogs relating to my interests. These are some of the things I’ve learned about blogging, websites and ME from A Critical Approach to Digital Humanities.

I’ve used the internet for some time, but had not given much thought to whether a website had a goal, so maybe that is my epiphany for this class – going from glancing over a website to really gaining an understanding of the information on the site, and the purpose for its creation. Analyzing a website as a mature digital humanities project exemplified John Unsworth’s Scholarly Primitves for me, and also helped to point out shortcomings of websites which may not be readily apparent upon first glance. That became very clear when listening to the presentations about other websites. I chose Railroads and the Making of Modern America. I love trains, so this was an easy choice. It is also leading to some research for another of my classes. The site creators are mainly educators and experts in their fields. The site is practical and efficiently provides links to lots of data rather than being flashy. I did find the site somewhat limiting in that it focused primarily on the latter half of the 1800s. When listening to some of the other presentations, it became apparent that the same group of researchers has created other websites relating to the same period in history. That is a striking example of big data and how it can be analyzed for different purposes. Creators stated their goal was to “use digital medium to investigate, represent, analyze and document their findings.” In my opinion, they’ve met their goal and this site is a “strong example of a mature digital humanities website.”  In the bigger picture, they have added to the larger bodies of knowledge in the discipline and in digital humanities.

The post I struggled with the most, and which has probably had the biggest impact, was the personal Manifesto, I don’t think I’ve had my epiphany for that yet, it is still a work in progress. This post made me think why I’m doing what I’m doing. Pursuing a bachelor degree is something I’ve always known I wanted to do, and timing was an important factor in choosing the PCEM degree. Am I nuts for doing this at this point in my life? Realistically… This post made me put that goal into written words – I had talked about it – and put it “out there”. That adds a measure of accountability. The manifesto is still pretty general. As I noted, “Bottom line – I don’t have a definite direction.”  I am still looking to define that. I’ve never thought of myself as a writer, math always made more sense to me – but who knew that math and history were part of the big picture of digital humanities. (And, I never did see that young maiden standing by the window in the castle watching the river flow serenely by from that literature class.) So this pushes my limits. It makes me re-define creativity and tap into something I always thought I lacked. Writing these posts – both the open posts and the virtual Friday posts – has helped me to analyze and organize (and reorganize) my thoughts so they are more connected and make more sense.  In a sense, it is adding to my larger body of knowledge, one of the goals of digital humanities. Success! Oh, and another success is learning linking and embedding – things that without having to  learn them would have been very easy to procrastinate about.

So, this class is the End of the Beginning. It is my jumping off point for digital humanities, and who knows where it will lead. I, rather accidentally, have worked in digital humanities for the past couple of years, and I could see that in my future. In a perfect world, I would be able to afford NOT to work and have the time to really delve into what interests me. Meanwhile, back to my blog posts and classes.

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