Week 11 (Practice in practice)

Topic: Doing Digital Humanities work

No reading for this week. Instead, your task is to decide on how you will “do” digital humanities work in class and write and post a brief explanation of what you will do and why it qualifies as “doing digital humanities.”

You are not entirely constrained by this plan, but you should be guided by it.

Besides our scheduled reviews, we will all be doing DH during this class session, so make sure you are prepared!

4 thoughts on “Week 11 (Practice in practice)

  1. David Ainsworth Post author

    Looks like many of you will be writing your plan as part of the practice of digital humanities!

    What will I be doing? Beyond coordinating and advising y’all in doing your work–I suggest that digital humanities work partly entails facilitating digital humanities work–I’ll also have the options of doing preliminary planning for a DH mini-project my Milton class decided to do for their class project this semester. This work, at this stage, will mainly involve sitting down with pen and paper and sketching out the kinds of work that needs to be done, computing the number of students expected to contribute, and working out how best to match up work with students. In addition, I need to offer opportunities for extra credit, and I want to delineate what I expect without fully dictating what happens. This is non-trivial pedagogical work, but as it relates to a DH project, it is DH work as well.

    Posting on this site, or other active engagement with the DH community, can qualify as doing DH, but we’re again confronted with that problem of DH as meta-DH: writing about the DH conversation itself qualifies as doing DH, but perhaps it shouldn’t.

    Recall, when confronted with that possibility, that most of the other ways to “do DH” require a considerable investment of time and resources and a large number of people. Well-funded projects can take a year or two to get to the stage where they “go live” and have something to show for that investment, and even then they are merely making a start of their work. We’ll likely have an example of this at semester’s end as we talk about the Digital Public Library of America project.

    1. Lauren Liebe

      Trying to pin down a definition of “digital humanities” is, it seems, an exercise in futility. This isn’t to say that the digital humanities aren’t an incredibly useful field of study. Calling any computer-based humanities project “digital humanities” is at once both as vague and as specific as calling any collection of paper bound together a “book”. While this is an accurate definition, it is far from a specific one. The term itself gives no indication of what is contained within the project, what kind of project it is, what the quality of the work is, or any other useful information.
      Doing digital humanities is just as vague a term, if not more so. Should this include only the actual act of working on a digital humanities project? What about accessing one for outside research? What about doing old-fashioned research using physical books towards the end of creating a digital project?
      For my “doing digital humanities” project, I plan on doing research using the English Broadside Ballad Archive, and examining the intersection between ballads and music used in Shakespeare’s plays. I am especially interested in the effect of one on the other. To this end, I will also be consulting Shakespearean texts (from shakespeare.mit.edu) alongside printed books. This is a project I am interested in pursuing further next year as I begin working on my thesis.

  2. Rebecca Fil

    This week, I will be working on my web page for Shakespeare Navigators (details will follow in my project review this evening). I’ve already done the fun part, literary analysis, and now I have to learn how to do HTML coding. This qualifies as doing digital humanities because I’ve already done the humanities part, now I just need to convert it into digital. That was awkwardly worded. I’ve never done any kind of coding before, so if anyone wants to help me, that would be great/also justifiably “doing digital humanities”.

  3. Cassandra Nelson

    Since I failed to post my plan for DH practice, I decided instead to post some reflections on how and why my initial plan failed. Originally, I had e-mailed the head of a project that I was interested in working with a few days before class, hoping that she would have responded and given me something to work on by the time I got to class on Wednesday. This, however, did not happen. In fact, it was a full week and a half before I received any sort of response. I’m not complaining or trying to be rude; I understand that this individual is a very busy professor who probably has a lot on her plate right now. However, I think that it’s interesting that DH constantly seems to assert the benefits of collaboration, but they so seldom acknowledge the difficulties that come with it. Of course, we’re already familiar with the anti-DHist argument about the issues receiving joint credit for a collaborative publication, but there are also simpler issues involved in collaboration that, in my opinion, prevent DH from being the cure-all that it presents itself as. Collaboration, especially when it’s long-distance, is not always easy or efficient. As my attempt at practicing DH has proven, it can definitely slow a project down, limit participation, and hinder contribution. That’s not to say that collaboration is bad. On the contrary, it can actually be a very good thing that produces some insightful, intriguing results. However, I think it is an excellent example of how DH, for all of its positives, is not and cannot be the solution to every problem that exists in the humanities since it still has unique problems of its own to work through.

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