Other Digital Projects

After being part of this fellowship this year and aspects of it last year, I can’t help but think in terms of Digital Projects. The following are some digital projects that would be really cool to do.

  • Easy Meals to Make for College Students
  • Ways to Save Money as a College Student
  • Fun Things to do and Places to Eat in Gettysburg
  • More projects on Sheet Music
  • Greek Life at Gettysburg
  • The Social Implications of Twitter
  • Campus Culture at Gettysburg
  • A Website Dedicated to Blue and Grey’s Menu (and the significance of the names of the good).
  • Comprehensive Sex Education Information Center
  • The History of Sandwiches
  • How Feminist are Disney Movies?

Those are just a few of my thoughts! Maybe someone will turn one into a project.

Critiquing and Creating DH

Digital Scholarship and Humanities, although a relatively new field, already has copious amounts of criticism written on the subject. This past week, the DSSF cohort had to look at “Neoliberal Tools (and Archives): A Political History of Digital Humanities” by Daniel Allington, Sarah Brouillette, and David Golumbia. It made a splash, and is an interesting read for anyone trying to understand DH and what it has the potential to do (if not in practice).  The basic argument of this piece is that DH is not really revolutionary, but a prime example of how colleges have essentially “sold out” to technology, using it without purpose. (For more on this look at “The Neoliberal Arts: How College Sold Its Soul to the Market” by William Deresiewicz- these criticisms can be quite scathing).

There are some things in this criticism I agree with. Their critique of empty “Silicon Valley” buzzwords is valid, and only serve to complicate an already ambiguous subject. Analyzing anything down to its true core cannot be done and should not be attempted, especially in a vast subject like DH.

I do take issue with their stance on DH trends as a field.”Digital Humanities,” they argue, “is not about, despite its explicit claims, is the use of digital or quantitative methodologies to answer research questions in the humanities.” Digital Humanities is not exclusively empty projects hosted on digital platforms to justify the existence of the humanities. That is not the DH I have encountered and that is not the DH that people are passionate about. Looking through the past blog posts on this site readers can find examples of other meaningful DH projects and initiatives to transform DH.

The DH I encounter does have a clear purpose and works to answer a humanities research question, because that is the nature of the Digital Scholarship Summer Fellowship. Over the summer, Fellows work to complete a project with a purpose, using the digital format to enhance their work in ways that are not possible with more traditional formats. The projects are born digital, but the tools do not control everything. Tools simply augment what already exists. Digital Humanities is not wholly one thing. While the criticism may hold true for some programs, it cannot hope to define the whole of DH.

That said, no criticism is written to only disparage. Lessons can be taken from criticism to improve on what exists. Digital Humanities, as a field, has plenty of room for growth and improvement. My DH experience is different from what is outlined in the criticism because the field of DH encompasses many different programs, including that which needs improvement. What this criticism hates about DH does not always have to be DH. By writing this criticism, Allington, Brouillette, and Golumbia hold a mirror up to Digital Humanists so the different programs may be examined in a larger context. Criticism should be taken in stride, and used to create better DH.

(There are many more issues raised in the criticism and responses to it that I cannot touch upon in a meaningful way, but can be read for your own enjoyment)


Emma Lewis

Neoliberalism, DH, College, and Avocado Toast

That’s not true / That’s a rotten thing to say / That’s a damnable lie

This week’s uplifting reading was about the liberal arts college political history of DH and how colleges have sold their soul to the neoliberal devil. As the friendly neighborhood fiery liberal (but not radical… this is best saved for a different blog post), I’m bitter and salty. Neoliberal economics is a dirty term, and I kind of advocate for more of a international relations approach of “Keynes at home, Smith abroad.” It ignores the important role government plays in regulation and making utilities safe and cheap for all to use.

Also, I’ll fight Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher and their stupid political bromance while angrily playing the Sex Pistols.

Okay, back to DH and college.

I’ve had limited exposure to other DH programs and admittedly, I see the author’s point that it’s being much more about teaching people how to use tools and just throwing them out into the world to see what they can do. This probably is a product of a school’s lack of understanding of what DH is, school priorities, and also that undergrad research isn’t taken seriously.

Colleges are a gigantic mess of bureaucracy that is currently at a crossroads. They’re trying to all facilitate the same allegedly desirable qualities of leadership and skills and trying to meet requirements, and not trying to stimulate their desire to learn, and that’s mainly market driven by how people keep saying there’s no money in the humanities and arts. As pointed out by Deresciewicz, most students are now going into vocational majors and not the stuff traditionally appreciated by most students. They’re not arguing and discussing to try and leave a mark on the field of their dreams, and instead just trying to get into something with more money so maybe one day they can get what they were promised, and they’re not being taught to do it either.

DH is a victim of that lack of arguing, shoving it to the bottom of the food chain of priorities. I think colleges are trying to get you a nice LinkedIn page with plenty of skills to endorse, and make students think they’re going to be leaders and top of the food chain so they can get more money. It gives you the tools, shows you what they’re used for, doesn’t give you ideas on how to use them or pique your interest in a way to figure out how to use them best, and then says “have a nice life! Go do something and make money so you can pay us back and also donate to our alumni campaigns!” They don’t care about the impact. They care about the money. Putting money into a niche field to do niche research doesn’t show immediate benefits and they have too many money-making problems to try and make more money to worry about instead of, you know, giving students money. And besides, it’s not like it isn’t taken seriously by the academic world anyway.

Finally, undergrads are only viewed as soulless, potential candidates to give a school hundreds of thousands of dollars that will be shouldered for years to come. They come in exhausted after a 12 year sprint through high school, and come in hopeful to engage their curiosity more until they get smacked with collegiate realities. A student has the right to ask to do research, but then there’s the question of funding for it and also time with the rest of classes. I remember a point being mentioned that no students were biting on helping with a project because they “wanted money or something.” This is a reflection of a societal mentality of millennials are spoiled and like money to you know, live, eat, and maybe enjoy leisure if possible. Oh, and avocado toast.

I don’t even like avocados.


Making Data “Digestible”

The syllabus for this past week focused on data, how it is archived, and how it can be sorted and shown. Visualizations- not necessarily management- can help users understand data better by making it essentially “digestible”. That is important to ensure an interpretation does not go over the heads of those who want to learn from it. Visuals can communicate more effectively than text in some cases.

I, however, am not using text or visuals- I am working with audio almost exclusively.  That does not mean I can’t use any visuals. The interpretation portion will rely on descriptions, but the website itself should utilize all available tools to make user experience easier. Maps, charts, tables, catalogues of sites- all can be used to create a site that is easily understood and still full of information.

At this point, I plan on using a map and charts to organize my information. Going forward, I now have a few more tools to investigate and explore to hopefully improve my user experience.


Emma Lewis