End of Week 1 Training!

After a week of training, I’ve found that a digital humanities project can come in many shapes. Just this week, while making a practice website for Defeat of Jesse James Day, we combined an online map, timeline, and exhibit into a single project. For each different project we take on, there are tons of online resources to help. For example, we’ve looked at websites that build custom timelines and maps that hardly require any coding on our side. Sometimes the process was as simple as inputting our data into a spreadsheet, and pasting an embed code onto the web page! As the term progresses, I’m excited to learn more about the digital humanities tools that already exist and how we might further customize them to fit our needs.

Tyler’s Introduction

Hello!  I’m Tyler, a sophomore prospective math major at Carleton.  Among other things, I’m interested in the ways that digital humanities projects process and manipulate data (I also enjoy the more math-y parts of math like proofs, but they make for less interesting blog posts).  As a digital humanities associate, I am excited to see how technology helps scholars analyze large amounts of data, while still making the result understandable to the average person.

After a day of training, I’ve realized just how much thought scholars put into the methods used to process and present their findings.  In digital humanities, sources that scholars interpret must be made readable by a machine- but the processed sources must then be put back into a form that people would want to read!  This year, I’m looking forward to developing a better understanding of the various methods digital humanities scholars use to produce their finished works.

Martha Says Hello

img_5824Hi! My name is Martha Durrett, and I’m a junior Computer Science and English major at Carleton College. Computer science and English! What? “Well those don’t overlap at all,” you might say. In some way you’re right…I certainly won’t be counting any of my CS classes for English credits. But in many ways that’s wrong – for example, digital humanities! Could I have found a more fun and engaging way to integrate my two majors?

As I learn more about digital humanities, I’m hoping to continue to break down that distinction between “English major” and “computer science major.” I want to discover fun and engaging new ways to integrate not just English and computer science, but any subject that piques my interest. Who says subjects need to be separate? (Finland doesn’t – check this out if you haven’t heard about Finland’s radical educational reform.)  Throughout the rest of the year, I’ll be thinking about how the digital world is changing expectations about how we’re supposed to learn about and interact with the humanities. If you ask me, the humanities (whatever that hefty term entails) have spent far too long hiding inside of textbooks, and it’s about time we did something new with them!

Lydia says, “hello world”!

my_faceHi! I’m Lydia, a senior Linguistics major at Carleton College interested in documenting and revitalizing endangered languages and in leveraging the power of tech for social change. I was led to Digital Humanities through doing linguistic documentation of Nukuoro, a Polynesian language spoken in Micronesia. Last summer, I was part of a team that contributed to Swarthmore College’s Talking Dictionary project. This work required me to think a lot about publicly accessible digital scholarship and data organization. (While working on this project, I also found some time to learn some sweet Micronesian weaving techniques, which you can see me demonstrating in this picture.) Since then, I’ve learned that there is a thing called Digital Humanities that lets me apply this type of process to other fields I’m interested in! You could say that I’m pretty excited to get started.

This past week was training week, a brief period of calm before the storm of fall term started. I learned more than I can possibly remember all at once, but the piece I remember most clearly was about metadata; namely, I learned that good metadata is both important and extremely difficult to write. Using Dublin Core standards, I and the other Digital Humanities Associates filled in metadata entries for a number of items that ranged from photographs of people to sacred texts. During this process, I found myself asking a lot of questions: is this a photo of an artwork or is it an artwork artwork? (Gosh, I love contrastive reduplication.) Relatedly, if this is a photo, is the relevant time period necessarily the time at which the photo was taken? How detailed should I be with the description? With the geographic location?

This small exercise that took all of ten minutes made me realize two things. First, the fact that we have online databases and metadata standards and functioning, searchable libraries at all is nothing short of a miracle. Second, data — and data about data — is rarely ever objective. Description is inherently biased towards who the writer thinks the audience is and constrained by how the item may be used. Who knew data could be so wacky? Stay tuned for more of Lydia’s data adventures.

Ana’s Introduction

photo-on-9-13-16-at-2-20-pm-1Hello! I’m Ana Yanes Martinez, a sophomore at Carleton College and still waiting for my eureka moment to realize what I want to major. In other words: I don’t know. I was introduced to Digital Humanities in a class I took during the fall of my freshman year, and I became really fascinated with the intersection of the humanities and digital world. Apart from my interest in the digital humanities, I have a passion for art, cultures, food and a semi unhealthy obsession with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I am certain my Hogwarts letter was lost or stolen before it reached me.

I think a very important aspect of digital humanities I learned during training is the thought process given to figuring out what platforms and even software are better suited to specific projects. We looked into three different platforms: Omeka, Reason, and WordPress. I think each have distinctive features suited for specific type of projects. Omeka seems better suited for metadata and archiving, whereas WordPress seems to have more theme availability and design flexibility. Reason on the other hand, seems to be  administrator friendly, and so far the easiest to use. This could be the most comfortable to use for people who want a way to display information without having to learn much HTML and CSS or other programming languages. The downside is that Reason is limited in themes and may leave its users wishing for more. Considering the pros and cons of each platform is necessary at the start of each project as it can prevent the need to migrate between platforms halfway through the project and save time in the long run.

Qimeng’s introduction

I’m Qimeng, a junior math major at Carleton. As opposed to what you may assume about math majors – was how I wanted to start my second sentence, but I have to confess that I fit pretty much into all the common stereotypes. I like working with data, programming and writing (poking holes in others’) proofs. I also enjoy Hitchcock movies, Stephen King short stories and Sudoku.

It’s my second year working as a Digital Humanities Associate. Last year I worked mainly on two projects – JHNA (formatting articles to be published on Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art) and Image Management (exploring the world of metadata of graphical materials and testing various managing tools). I got the opportunity of working with students from different academic fields, ranging from Computer Science to Studio Art, which opens my mind to new ways of approaching problems.

My favorite part of our DH training is wandering on Lynda.com. Going through lists of tutorials for so many amazing software exhilarates me more than online shopping. Not only a wonderful source of knowledge, Lynda is also a reminder to me of the importance of consistently educating and bettering myself.

Elizabeth’s Introduction

DHA Elizabeth admires a large wall map
DHA Elizabeth

Hello! I’m Elizabeth, a sophomore at Carleton College intending to major in history. I was exposed to digital humanities in a class last winter, and I’ve since become fascinated by the possibilities offered by digital humanities! My other interests include traveling, maps, musicals, and Sudoku.

Prior to this week of training, I had not thought extensively on the necessity of matching a project’s needs to the suitability to a platform, especially content management systems (CMS). During the past week, we have explored three distinct CMS – Omeka, WordPress, and Reason (Carleton’s own website builder).

While all have the same basic goal, each best suit different projects. Reason, which is used for Carleton’s website, is quite easy to edit and requires absolutely no coding experience. However, it does not allow the degree of customization available in Omeka or WordPress. On the other hand, Omeka and WordPress are not as intuitive, and thus harder to learn, and coding experience is helpful for both Omeka and WordPress. Thus, each CMS is better suited to some projects than others; no one platform is always best for all projects. The correct CMS for the job depends on a project’s goal, scope, content, and workers.

Introducing… Bard

13900097_10205740773433412_3525587915357198074_nHi, I’m Bard, and I hate writing introductions. When I was supposed to introduce myself as a freshman at Carleton on the Facebook page, I got so worried my introduction would sound like every other one that I wrote a sonnet instead. Since then I’ve found outlets for my interests in medieval history and literature, romance languages, early music and folk music, roleplaying games, programming, and theatre. I’m a Computer Science major and a Medieval and Renaissance Studies concentrator. I got excited about digital scholarship as the natural intersection of my disciplines. As a DHA I hope to learn new software and best practices for collaboration in digital scholarship so that I can apply them to research projects in grad school and beyond.

During this week’s training, I was surprised to learn just how much our group of student workers helps build websites. I was used to thinking of 3D printing and modeling or GIS (geographic information systems) as standard digital humanities projects, but at its simplest and most widely useful, our job is about making scholarship digital and widely accessible, and the way to do that is by making (good) websites. Time to actually learn some CSS.