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.


Exit, Pursued by a Bear

There’s bound to be a ghost at the back of your closet no matter where you live.

Greetings from a place that isn’t Gettysburg again! The 2017 cohort has given the 2016 cohort a much deserved break from our nonsense and taken it to Ursinus College for the PCLA Digital Learning Conference! The college was kind enough to stash us in a couple of houses for the two nights we’re here, so it’s me, Emma, and Christina vs. the adults we brought along in the other house. Mind you this place might be a little old, and with all old houses they tend to make weird noises. Emma and Christina are a bit spooked, but frankly with what Ursinus hooked me up with, weird noises don’t freak me out and I’ve had WAY creepier stuff happen. If a ghost comes, let them come at me because you bet I’ll fight them and probably win. Ghosts aren’t high on my list of fears… otherwise that would make going to Gettysburg a little awkward.

Shoutout to snapchat for my ability to put geofilters on things and have any inkling of where we are besides outside of Philadelphia.

Besides, I’m sleeping in a former dining room with a pretty dope bay window, and the lighting makes me happy because I, the second most extra person in the overall cohort, can do my makeup and take cute selfies. Priorities, right?

You bet your ass I totally took a selfie just to prove it.

Obviously we’re not here to only appreciate the accommodations, but I’m excited to meet more DH scholars and learn more about DH overall. It’ll be fun to hear different perspectives on definitions of DH, and also hear more about other digital tools I might be able to use to put my project together. Maybe it’ll help me like Scalar more! We’ll find out!


P.S. peep that shakespeare quote because… Ursinus. Bear? HA!

Digital Project Review- Maps as Art

What is the link to the project?

Who created the project? Why did they create the project?
Daniella Snyder. She was a Mellon Fellow and created it to showcase her research.

Who is the audience for the project?
-Art Historians
-Map Historians
-Special Collections
-Future DSSF Fellows
-Future Kolbe Fellows
-Graduate Students
-Map Collections
-The Gettysburg College Community

What research question does the project appear to be asking? Is there a central thesis?
Daniella was looking to understand and analyze Willem Blaeu’s “Noca Totius Terrarum Geogrpahica ac Hydrographica Tabula” map A 1643 print, after a 1606 original. Her main question was “how can maps be pieces of art work?”.

How easy is the project to navigate and use? Is there an inviting home or front page?
The project is very easy to navigate. There is a navigation bar, a home page, and all of her scans are hyperlinked. If someone did not have much technological knowledge they would be able to navigate through this website. She even explains how to explore the website. I think the home page is very inviting. I wish the navigation bar was centered differently, but other than that, it is great!

Is the writing clear, succinct, and precise, or does it read like a traditional scholarly paper?
The writing is extremely strong. As Daniella analyzes the different aspects of the map, it becomes more scholarly because it uses specific art terms, but I think for her audience it is okay. She is very detailed but does not write too much. Each page and section of the Storymap is manageable.

Is there an About page, or other information page? Is there any technical information about the creation of the project?
There is an about page on the website. It explains who Daniella is, what a Mellon Grant is, some of the research she did and the people that assisted her during her work. She does discuss the digital tools that she used.

What kinds of digital assets are used? Is metadata available?
Daniella used scans of her map on her website. I did not find any metadata about the map.

What kinds of digital tools are used for the project? Why were they chosen?
Daniella used WordPress and StoryMapsJS. She does not have a section on her website explaining why she used each tool. I believe she used StoryMapsJS because it is very easy to annotate images.

What can you learn from this that you couldn’t from a traditional research paper?
This project allows users to interact with, visualize and understand  the map and the parallel images that the border is based on. This would be very hard to do with a paper especially if there were no images in the paper. I think this project is best as a DH project.

I really love this project and really enjoyed watching her create it. It has helped to inspire my project for this year. I hope to see more projects like this one!

Thank You!

I have spent the past week reading through files upon files for research. This can be tiring, but it would be even harder if not for the cataloging efforts of those who work at archives. Anything I find has already been documented and categorized by an archivist, which makes my job of reading and interpreting the material much easier. Since the collections have already been catalogued, I can find material through finding aids and the like, searching for words and ideas that pertain to my research. Thanks to the people at Special Collections, the Musselman Library, and Adams County Historical Society, my work is made possible. The trove of information open to me because of the work of others is invaluable. So, I will take a quick break from researching to say thank you all. Then I will go back to the finding aids to dig up more information so graciously catalogued for all to use.

Emma Lewis

Digital Project Review: What Jane Saw

In all digital work, user exerience must be kept in mind. If a DH project cannot be understood or navigated by a user, then the DH project has failed. A good way to understand this as a designer of a digital project is to look through other examples to see what others have done with their user experience. Through the DSSF17 website, other projects can be seen and analyzed to do exactly that. For this post, I examined  “What Jane Saw” from the University of Texas at Austin College of Liberal Arts.

Created through the Department of English, the main researcher was Professor Janine Barchas. She is the only person to have been linked, although credit is given to others for coding and research, and the project itself is supported by the Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services.

The main page is relatively simple in design, and from the language it appears to be for a more general audience than a closed off academic one. The main page is not cluttered or overwhelming, it invites people to come and investigate the site. The purpose of the site is to compare two art exhibitions that took place in the same space over the span of 17 years. It is framed through Jane Austen, who went to both exhibitions. Users are, in essence, seeing what Jane saw when the exhibition space was still standing. Jane is not called upon often. The about page for each exhibition devotes one section to Austen’s experience of the space, and  in the digital exhibition pages she all but disappears. However, the aim of the site is to show two different points in history, and at that it succeeds.

The site appears to be a custom build at first glance, which is confirmed when users go to the “About WJS” page. ( 1796 and 1813 each get their own page) While it makes sense to give each exhibition its own page, the fact that the information about the site construction and content can only be accessed through other pages is disorienting. That is one aspect of user experience which could be improved. The build of the site is not disclosed on any page. A few coders are given credit, but not much else is given as far as site information. The page source can be viewed, but that is not accessible to all users.

That said, the project itself is very interesting. I chose to analyze this due in part to its home page. The page is simple, not overloading new visitors with information. This urges users to look further, to click over an exhibition and discover what was there in 1796 or 1813. Once a user clicks on an exhibition, they are taken to a digital exhibition space.  Paintings can be clicked on to produce a clearer image and metadata. Different walls and rooms can be looked at by clicking to the left or right. A scan of the original catalogue can also be accessed to navigate the space. This, unlike a traditional research paper, puts users inside of this lost space and allows them to experience the exhibition. It is not exactly as Jane Austen would have seen it, but it is as close as we can get.

The site does a wonderful job of transporting users to this space. In this space, however, some things can be confusing. The catalogue is my biggest issue. Unlike the paintings, which keep users in the same digital space, the catalogue and each page it contains is put on a separate page on the site. In order to get back to the rooms for exhibition, users must either click back through the pages they just read or choose a link to a painting to be taken to it in the digital room. If the painting is in another room, users can get disoriented. There is a map of the floor plan to help in this case, but it is still a shock and undercuts the ease of use the site had.

Overall, this site works well to engage users in its material, even if there is a learning curve to using it.

Emma Lewis

A Dead Poets Society Moment

One thing that struck me about this article was that it addressed my confusion about my frustration about the field that I’ve been feeling lately. After being immersed in DH and the DH community for about a year, I’ve noticed something: we never stop asking what DH is. We opened last summer with the question “what is DH?” and we opened the first conference of the summer, a year later, the PALA workshop opened with asking “what is DH?”. As DSSFs we fully expect to be immersed in the field so questions of asking what the field is, in the beginning, is expected. However, these articles and discussions are not easy to understand for beginners and use jargon like “pedagogy”, “Community of practice”, and even “Digital Humanities” itself.  If you’re being introduced to DH and have no idea what Digital Humanities is, these articles and discussions will confuse you. The only conclusion I can draw from this is that discussions about “what is DH?” is for audiences who are familiar with DH, not people just being introduced.

So why do we always ask what DH is? Haven’t we come to a pretty solid conclusion as a community right now? If DH prides itself on openness and accessibility, why are discussions and papers that discuss the concepts and definitions of the field littered with jargon and theory, assuming that their audience are never beginners in DH? I get it. Once you’ve been so immersed in a field you forget what it’s like to be a beginner, for everything to be new, strange, and confusing.

There is elitism in DH. We have built ourselves an ivory tower. Say what you want about History and History’s high ivory tower of academia but there is a low barrier of entry into the history community because anyone could pick up a book, go to a historic site, see a sign, hear from their family, etc. and be touched by history and pursue it. There are millions of non-academic historians and millions of academic historians as well. There is elitism in history but in a different way. History is like a backdoor speakeasy, where you can get into the main establishment easily, but to get into the academic area, you need to know a password or know someone to get in. Digital Humanities is more like the Ravenclaw common room, where you must answer a question to get in at all and much like in the Harry Potter books, there will be frustrated students who do not understand that will be left outside.

In my experience with teaching digital tools to students who weren’t necessarily in DH, I wouldn’t just hand them Lisa Spiro and say “Welcome to DH, now tell me: what is DH?”. That’s not what makes Digital Humanities. While readings do help further understand the field, I don’t feel they’re as constructive to beginners. I feel like I’ve learned the most about the field by doing my own projects, looking at and teaching tools, interacting with others projects and talking with other scholars.

While I agree with the author on many things, I disagree on one thing: I do believe that Digital Humanities can have a “Dead Poets Society moment”.

“In many ways, I think the way we often frame DH tries a bit too hard to achieve a Dead Poets Society moment: “your other teachers taught you literature with close reading and literary criticism, but in my class we’re going to disrupt that stale paradigm using computers. Now rip up your books and pull out your laptop!” But those attempts fall flat, for all the reasons I have tried to articulate thus far.”

-Ryan Cordell, “How Not to Teach Digital Humanities”

I don’t know if you’ve seen Dead Poets Society but ripping pages out of the book is not the purpose of that scene.

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are all noble pursuits, and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman: “O me, o life of the questions of these recurring, of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities filled with the foolish. What good amid these, o me, o life? Answer: that you are here. That life exists, and identity. That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. . .What will your verse be?”

-Robin Williams, “Dead Poets Society”

The human race is still filled with passion. Even with all the assumptions that technology is making us lifeless and brain-dead, we are undeniably filled with passion. Just like the author in his own course makes a comparison between Digital Humanities and Traditional Humanities by recalling that the Gutenberg Press was once newfangled technology and its opposition by traditional fields at the time; humanity has always found a way to express themselves and has adapted to new technology. The reason why that scene is so powerful is because everyone can relate as members of the human race that feel and love and dream. Instead repeatedly asking “What is DH?” to beginners who don’t even know what the acronym ‘DH’ is, maybe we should finally give an answer and that answer could be as simple as “It exists. It is an expression of life and identity through a new medium.”. Instead of focusing the field on that one question, we should focus on engagement and contribution because that powerful play goes on, life goes on, and we may contribute a verse. Asking “What is DH?” for the 1000000000th time might sustain the life of the field, but digital projects and engagement are what makes the field worthwhile.



Finally Reaching an Understanding, Which Leads to Gratitude

Accompanying Song

One more for the road

I’m sure the followers of this project noticed my absence from the #dssf17 tag this week, and that is because I wasn’t there to make the jokes and comments that I usually make to spice up the hashtag while Christina tries to make us look good.

The quick explanation? I went home because I needed some time to collect myself. A sudden blow hit my mental and emotional health that took it down to a solid 1% emotional battery remaining. Honestly, I’ve been riding at a solid 55% emotional battery the past few weeks, but I’ve been afraid to acknowledge it and talk about it under the fear that people wouldn’t want to talk to me, Debbie Downer. It’s easier to hide behind funny jokes and smart comments to try and fake it til you make it, or at least help others not feel the same way. I knew I wouldn’t be able to focus on the work properly, not without breaking down into tears at the slightest mention of anything I associated with the person involved in this event.

When I interviewed for this fellowship, I asked what the best part of the fellowship was. Keira was the only fellow at my interview, and she told me cohort. Lauren mentioned at one point that it surprised people when at a panel about their research, someone asked a similar question and all three fellows answered “Cohort.” R.C. came and checked on me at one point and said we all have to rely on each other because campus really, really is dead right now. I hadn’t understood it, honestly. I’m introverted and anxious, if you met me- and if you found me right now it would be honestly worse. Several years of people I care about hurting me has led to me isolating myself more out of fear of bothering people or looking too needy or inconveniencing them. That wasn’t helping me bond with the other people in the cohort as much as it looked with Keira, Julia, and Lauren.

This weekend changed those feelings. If it weren’t for the cohort, there would probably be some crazier stuff that would keep me from posting, and it wouldn’t be good. My cohort helped get me home and hugged me and told me it was going to be okay. My cohort sent me positive messages and checked on me to make sure I made it safely, and that I was feeling better. Christina’s hashtag documentation was helpful in keeping in the loop, and now I’m back in the house with everyone else after several days at home recharing.

Admittedly, it’s going to take a while to get back to where I was once before shit hit the fan. I can’t describe my feelings about what happened with proper words beyond “aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa,” but I guess I’m just going to say the jokes on the hashtag probably aren’t going to be back for a bit. Also, this might be a pretty personal post to put here, but digital humanities are about preserving and appreciating the human experience. All of us are human, and humans aren’t immune to emotions and pain. I wish I was, but I figured this was good to document. For this paragraph and the entire post’s verbosity (this pattern seems to come up often), I apologize.

For everything else, I just want to say thank you. It means a lot to me, more than you think it does.