#transformDH: Feasible… to a point.

I’ve been watching Master of None, and this song is not relevant to anything I’m saying, but it’s a fun song anyway and you should check it out!

Reading the article “Debates in the Digital Humanities: #transformDH, Growing Up” created some thoughts that are still… kind of critical of this field. They will look selfish, and they will look a little negative. I agree with everything this stands for, but there comes a point where you need to start prioritizing where you put your energy.

I admit when I signed up for the fellowship I was merely hoping to do some research and create a digital project. I wasn’t expecting to be part of a bigger community, or bigger movement. Research, to me, has always been relatively isolating work because that’s what professors expect from you- you sign the honor code and remind everyone that this is your work and you did it on your own, right? Or else you get kicked out of school or at least get a bad grade?

DH, since I first defined it, hasn’t changed its definition much besides the possible addition of “interdisciplinary” to the word choice. The idea of politicizing it more kind of adds a bit more pressure to someone getting into the field who wants to do research and learn about how to make a great project, and get recognition for said project in the field the project is in. It’s very easy to get caught up in the politics of DH and act like you know what you’re saying when you barely have anything to show for yourself and credibility. While I do preach you should never disregard an amateur’s fresh eyes and lack of jadedness, there should be some basis to back up their points and minimize their ability to get attacked.

I also think that the DH community is trying to tackle too many things at once- making their own house safe for the queer and feminist community while also trying to get taken seriously by the respective fields digital projects are in while also trying to be politically active. There isn’t enough time to cover all of that, and there isn’t enough people too. We’re all human and have our own issues to focus on too.

The reading mentions utopianism in DH and trying to get more feminist and queer voices in the DH discussion, but I don’t think it will ever be perfect. There will always be a group that isn’t satisfied. I think the politics of it are important and reflect major issues that society is seeing in general, and even I don’t think that we will reach the agenda that radical queer groups and feminists are hoping to get. We keep mentioning castle in the sky, and building a log cabin instead- and no one seems to accept the log cabin.

I’ve accepted the log cabin. I don’t think my project will be that transformative- because I don’t want it to be. I think quality should speak for itself, and that’s what people are looking at my project for at the moment. It’s what I’m looking for. I want my audience to learn about cool art pieces, and literally while I was writing this Julia retweeted this:

I like that. If we all just agree to be good people, and not a jerk, and work on our projects to make things accessible but high quality, that’ll be a good transformation. I think that’s a better pathway than trying to overthrow the system.



As I was reading, Reflections on a Movement, I realized that I really connected with it! A lot of my frustrations with DH were being addresses and talked about! I really appreciate #transformDH, for what it has done and what it can do. I think it is important for all people to be aware of hierarchies and how they affect the work that we create and the production of knowledge. The values that Moya Bailey, Anne Cong-Huyen, Alexis Lothian and Amanda Phillips are really important values:

“1. Questions of race, class, gender, sexuality, and disability should be central to digital humanities and digital media studies.

2. Feminist, queer, and antiracist activists, artists, and media-makers outside of academia are doing work that contributes to digital studies in all its forms. This work productively destabilizes the norms and standards of institutionally recognized academic work.

3. We should shift the focus of digital humanities from technical processes to political ones, and always seek to understand the social, intellectual, economic, political, and personal impact of our digital practices as we develop them.”

I believe that every movement should embrace the values like the ones above. The world would be a much better place if these issues were addressed in all walks of life.

By making DH more inclusive not only will more people be able to interact with digital projects, but more people will be able to be part of the DH community. I believe that the more diverse a community is the better it is. It can more easily meet the needs of others, help to educate those in the community and address the bias in some forms of scholarship.

I didn’t realize how powerful hashtags could be. I knew of #OccupyWallStreet and #BlackLivesMatter but I didn’t realize the extent to which that hashtags can literally support/ create movements and be used by activists. I think it is really cool that no one can own a hashtag. Although that might be a little scary, because they are not owned they are open and anyone can share their beliefs with a hashtag. All opinions might not be taken seriously, but they are all documented if the same hashtag is used. Hashtags can empower people to change the direction of a movement by having their voice heard by everyone that uses it.

Before this summer I did not have a lot of respect of Twitter and I did not like using it. Although I may not use it in my everyday life, I think it is extremely beneficial to connect communities, especially DH communities. I am very excited to start using #transformDH.

The most important values of DH are openness and accessibly and I believe #tranformDH should be given credit for helping to create that.

Elevator Speech

This weekend I went home for my sister’s graduation from high school. While I was home I went to 8 graduation parties for 12 of my sister’s classmates. Because I have not been home since January many people wanted to catch up with me. I told them about my trip to Morocco, Little Rock and this fellowship. Each time I explained my research, my elevator speech got a little better. I am going home this weekend for my sister’s graduation party and I will mingle with more people and talk to them about my research. I will also practice my elevator speech with them. I did not have a hard time explaining my research, I actually had a harder time explaining this fellowship and the digital humanities.

Transformative DH

Reading “Reflections on a Movement” by Moya Bailey, Anne Cong-Huyen, Alexis Lothian, and Amanda Phillips brings different aspects of DH to light. DH as a field encompass much, but it cannot encompass everything, and less visible issues tend to be pushed to the side. To combat this, according to the authors, #transformDH was born. It was used to bring issues pushed aside into the light and critically look at how DH is being used. The article itself can explain all this better than I can summarize here, so I suggest you read it for yourself.

In guiding my own project, the quote that most stand out to me is as follows:

“We should shift the focus of digital humanities from technical processes to political ones, and always seek to understand the social, intellectual, economic, political, and personal impact of our digital practices as we develop them.”

I know that technology is a big feature of this fellowship. In creating any DH, it is digital literacy is a required skill. However, technology is not the only part of a digital project. This quote encompasses that idea for me. In doing DH, I want to create a project not to simply be online and “with the times”, but to reach people on their terms.

My project can be transformative by giving space for stories not otherwise heard. Gettysburg has a history beyond the Civil War, one that is told in places but overlooked in others.  I have focused my energy on interpretation to bring these histories to people while using digital platforms to do so effectively. To make my project more transformative, I can make a place in it for discussion and give ways to contact me if there are any more overlooked stories that need recognition. While my project is historical, it does not have to be backwards looking. The past can be used to shape the future.

This program is a perfect place to do so. The program is not one where authorities dictate why things like DH matter, but one where conversation and critical analysis are encouraged. When I look at digital tools and projects now, I am looking for ways they can be improved, what biases they show, and what impact they may have. That is the strength of this program. While DH can give spaces and voices to people otherwise silenced, the DSSF program allows the fellows to talk freely (and sometimes cynically) of the nature of DH itself. Since this the first program dedicated to DH I have participated in, I have nothing to compare it to. However, because of the perspective given by this program, I’m sure as I grow as a Digital Scholar I will be able to offer a more exhaustive analysis. All in all, the program has a great basis for transformative DH because it opens discussion and challenges of the norm.

As a bookend to this, I want to return to the idea of DH and what it means. What exactly are we transforming? As this program has gone on, I’ve come to the conclusion that DH cannot be defined by platforms or programs, only by projects. The content is what truly makes something DH. Narrowing the definition only serves to marginalize people in a field that prides itself on inclusivity. The definition does not have to be set in stone and exclusive, especially not when DH always has the potential to evolve.

Meme-ingful Conversations


The first morning of the PCLA Digital Learning Conference, groups of Digital Scholars from Gettysburg, Muhlenberg, and Ursinus gathered to eat breakfast and wake up. To get to know the other groups and what work everyone was doing, we were asked to make “spirit memes”.  After that, everyone was wide awake, trying to think of puns while waking up with coffee. These are some of the results:

Gettysburg College
Muhlenberg College

Now, these are by no means an exhaustive analysis of all the programs. They are a snippet of information communicated comedically, created in five minutes at 9 AM. They did not need to be. The use of memes (and the puns and hashtags to come out of this exercise) set the tone for the conference. It allowed us to have more meaningful communication by breaking the ice. Because of this, we were able to bond and make connections, as Britt pointed out earlier.

It also gave me a chance to talk about memes.


-Emma Lewis

Special thanks to RC for his impeccable meme ability. 

Wet Cheese Balls, or The Product of Forcing Bored Strangers to Live Together

I don’t have a good song for this, so Spoon is always a good option.

I’ve said in a previous blog post that we keep emphasizing community in DH, and that’s something I only recently began to see. I also mentioned in my last blog post that we went to Ursinus for PCLADLA17 and that kind of turned into something even I didn’t expect: friendship? I had way more engaging discussions at this workshop and conference with both students and advisers, and I definitely felt more engaged with the community for once. We were joined in that nice house by the members of Muellenberg’s DH cohort, and it honestly turned into one of the most fun and low stress nights I’ve had in a while. That’s a lot coming from me, especially given how I don’t really like people (as my mother tends to point out). One of Muellenberg’s cohort is actually a former music director, and one thing I haven’t had the complete pleasure of doing is talking about the weeds of radio music directing. It was safe, relaxed, and many laughs were had.

Community is good. Make sure to appreciate it when you can, even if it’s with a few random strangers, a giant jar of cheese balls, and a pinochle deck they thought was a regular card deck.


Je suis prest!

Like my fellow colleagues, I found Ryan Cordell’s article “How Not to Teach Digital Humanities” a breath of fresh air. I appreciate the fact his work was both real and honest. Additionally, Cordell addressed many of the frustrations I have been having with Digital Humanities lately. Reflecting back on my year-long experience as a Digital Scholar, I think I can now adequately unpack my frustrations and hopefully propose a better way to immerse undergraduates in DH.

Coming into the fellowship as a rising sophomore was both exciting and intimidating. I was excited to research and learn more about DH but was intimidated by the digital aspect of the fellowship. I was completely terrified that I was going to fail. As I progressed on my 10 week DH journey, the fear of failing started to melt away. I found that through DH, I could make an impact and was excited and proud of what I was doing. I loved the fact that through DH, I could share my passions with a public audience.

As I continue on this DH journey, I find that the “honeymoon phase” has worn off. I still believe in DH but I am starting to find cracks and imperfections on its surface. Coming into this fellowship a second time, I can honestly say that I am not as enchanted with DH as I was a year ago. I keep getting hung up on the question “What is DH?” or more specifically “What is DH and why is it relevant?” I think undergraduates tend to care more about the question “Why is it relevant?” than the question “What is DH?” .

Undergraduates completely fail to understand why digital humanities is relevant. Cordell is right when he writes “As an opening gambit, I want to suggest that undergraduate students do not care about digital humanities.” Undergraduates don’t care about DH because we are failing to make DH relevant to them. I have to agree with Lauren’s conclusion to why undergraduates at Gettysburg College have not immersed themselves in the field of DH. DH is time-consuming and many students don’t want to take the time to learn about DH. They simply just want to learn how they can use a tool to get an A on an assignment. Additionally, many students are not exactly passionate or interested in the project they were asked to create. I believe this disinterest in the project hinders a student’s ability to truly connect with DH. I am passionate about DH because I believe that DH gives me a space to educate the public about my passion. Completing a mandatory digital project does not leave undergrads with the same feelings of passion that I have.

In order to get undergraduates excited about DH, I think we need to show them how DH can be used to further their own research and academic passions. We need to make DH relevant to their own specific interests. Furthermore, instead of talking about DH in theory, we need to give them tangible examples of how DH has induced change.

I believe that the DSSF cohort can “make DH relevant” to undergrads. Instead of focusing on the larger and broader questions of DH, let’s start narrowing our focus to the needs of undergrads. Although I have left the honeymoon phase, I am not ready to get a divorce from DH. Instead, I am ready to develop a better way to teach DH to undergraduates.

So, in the words of Jamie Fraser “Je Suis Prest!”

Best Wishes,


Facebook, a History of Your Life?

Social media is controversial. Some people post all of their thoughts, beliefs and ideas, while others are more private and some edit every photo only posting the perfect ones. I think only posting perfect photos leads to several issues, but that’s not the point I am trying to make. Facebook is literally a digital scrapbook of our lives. Future researchers will look at our profiles to understand our lives and our beliefs. Books (or maybe digital websites??) will be published about some of our lives using Facebook as a primary source. Wow… that’s crazy to say. Facebook as a primary source?!?!

Although Facebook depicts my life, and others lives, how accurate is it? I was recently going through my newsfeed and one of my friends was dating someone that looked different from whom I remembered. After looking at her profile I realized that she had a new boyfriend. I tried to remember the name of her previous boyfriend, so l looked through her old photos but noticed that none were there. I completely understand why someone would delete previous photos from a relationship or friendship or even delete embarrassing photos of themselves, but what will happen in 50 years when someone is trying to understand your life and there are huge “Facebook” gaps ? I mean I guess understanding the culture of Facebook is key to understanding the bias depiction of someone’s life… but still.

There have been countless times throughout my research where I have wished there was more information about an event, another photo, or a photo at a different angle. It’s okay if those documents never existed, but if someone purposely deleted them because they were standing next to their ex-boyfriend, or they looked bad in it or whatever, I find that so frustrating.  I would consider myself a relatively sentimental person when it comes to photos, but my main hesitation towards deleting digital photos is that they never come back! Just because the photo is not there, does not mean a friendship, or a relationship or a bad hair phase did not exist it means there is poor documentation of it.  Every time permanently I delete a photo, I cringe a little bit.

Just like you need to think before you post please think before you delete.

Many people that have done research on poorly documented events

We Need More Undergrads

I found Ryan Cordell’s article, “How Not to Teach Digital Humanities,” to be particularly refreshing because he did not shy away from addressing a number of things I’ve experienced when I try to mentor fellow undergrads (or in my own undergraduate experience in DH). His assertion, “that we must work to take both undergraduate disinterest and graduate resistance as instructive for the future of DH in the classroom,” is incredibly important. It’s tempting to ignore undergraduate apathy, or to gloss over it by idealizing digital humanities as being  a brand-new and flawless alternative to traditional scholarship, but doing so further alienates undergraduates and hinders the constructive development and growth of the field. In thinking about this blog post, I reflected on my now year-long experience in DH and developed a few hypotheses about why Gettysburg undergraduates haven’t engaged with digital projects.

I entered the field of DH last summer as a digital scholarship summer fellow. As such, my sole focus for ten weeks was digital scholarship–both the theory behind the field and how I could apply the theory to transform and present my own personal research interest. Initially, the field was scary; I was wandering into unfamiliar territory and working with previously unheard of tools. However, I had the resources and time I needed to work my way through the field and produce a project I was proud of. The “so what?” of digital humanities became clear to me–I felt like I was making a difference and potentially educating others.

Unfortunately, I do not think that most undergraduates who are assigned digital projects at Gettysburg over the course of the school year feel the same as I did at the conclusion of last summer. In my opinion, (and from what I know from my experience), the number one reason why undergraduates don’t engage with the digital humanities is because they do not have the time that they need to immerse themselves in the field during the semester. Consequently, they miss the all important “so what?” that validated my summer research and brought me back to the program as a senior fellow. When students are asked to complete digital projects during the school year, they are often rushed, stressed, and not necessarily interested in the project that they’ve been asked to complete. Under these conditions, time is budgeted according to priority. A major reason why Julia, Keira, and I chose to do the fellowship last summer was because we were passionate about our self-selected research topic. Prioritizing digital tools and facets of DH theory was worth it for the sake of actively engaging with and educating others on a topic we cared about. Our projects were also interminable–we were prepared to return to them and continue their life. It is unlikely that a student would feel the same way about a project assigned to their class. Ordinarily, the project would be an item on a checklist, completed for the sake of a grade, and then left once the project was over.

As discouraging as this may seem, I do think that there is a concrete way to bridge undergraduates and the digital humanities–involving more undergraduates in programs like the digital scholarship fellowship, and giving undergraduates representation within DH. Julia, Keira, and I all understand the challenges that may prevent a student from involving themselves in DH for the sake of a school project. However, we also know all of the benefits of being a DH practitioner, and why introducing and using digital tools is so important. Accordingly, we lower the barrier of entry by showing the student that one of their peers was able to create a project, and can provide them with feasible advice and scope for their own work. Additionally, it is important for more and more undergraduates to share their experiences and projects at conferences and within their colleges or universities. Too often, undergrads are mentioned at conferences, but are not there themselves. Fellow non-undergraduate DH practitioners can gain realistic insight by hearing from students, and undergraduate researchers see themselves represented, which is important for developing interest in the field and forming a functioning community of practice.

Project Review: Jack Peirs

A link aPEIRS!

The First World War Letters of H.J.C. Peirs is a digital project made by Dr. Ian Isherwood, Amy Lucadamo, R.C. Miessler, with the help of student assistants and letters donated by a former student named Marco Dracopoli, a descendant of Peirs. They made this project to preserve the history of Peirs and create more of a learning opportunity for the students. Each letter by Peirs is digitized, transcribed, and annotated before being published 100 years to the day of when it was written.

The project was made for WWI historians and students, but is also meant to be approachable by the public who may have an interest in a more intimate understanding of what transpired during WWI through the eyes of someone who was there during the major campaigns. The project states its main goal is to make these letters widely available, and focuses more on preserving the history with some commentary about how he writes about the war to his family back home. The authors talk about the way Peirs describes the war and also what he doesn’t describe, especially since Isherwood knows a very good history of where Peirs would be when the letters were written, and can compare his accounts with other, more graphic accounts.

The home page is inviting and interesting, and the site itself is easy to navigate. Isherwood’s writing style, while still has some formalities, is approachable and understanding to keep in line with the project’s main goal of making the letters widely available.

The project utilizes a WordPress site and puts the scans of the Peirs letters next to a transcription of them. The authors also put Peirs’ location when the letter was written on a StorymapJS map, and I’m surprised at how accurate they made it, right down to the trench location. Frankly, I find that incredible that we’re able to do that with a single man, all of my issues I discussed in my review of StorymapJS aside.

The project I would say is far more interesting and interactive than a traditional research project because you can build more and more on it as time goes by, with the touch of putting up a letter 100 years from the day it was written letting the project be a longer time commitment with an easier and steadier pace than doing it all at once. Isherwood or other members of the staff can add his own little chats on the side when he has an idea or thought about what may have been running through Peirs’ head when he was writing his letters, and connect it to other events and a bigger picture of the First World War.

War and history can be tough subjects to sink your teeth into, and for some Americans it can be even harder for some since we came into the war so late, and at least until my junior year of high school the only thing discussed about the era was the League of Nations and that’s it. The Peirs project does what it aims to do- make this available and approachable, and I really like it. Thanks, Gettysburg Staff I Totally Don’t Know.