Week Six Reflective Essay

Similar to my response last week, I feel that discussions about DH as a discipline that link it to other broad topics tend to be unproductive, since each practitioner of DH tends to have different ideas of what their project contributes to the discipline as well as how their project (re)defines the discipline. In that spirit I would like to focus this reflection on how my interactions with DH have affected my specific project.

Pretty early on, I changed my vision for the way I wanted to present my project. Most of our first discussions about DH emphasized the diverse possibilities for our product. During our project management session we talked about the “log cabin in the sky” philosophy of planning, where plans are lofty but attainable, but I was inspired by many of our other sessions. Early on, while attempting to define DH, we talked about the emphasis on experimentation and the possibility that comes with it. This allowed me to make plans for my project that I wouldn’t otherwise have ventured, having no idea what attainable even was for my project and the platforms I hoped to use. Since then, I’ve been genuinely amazed at the product I’ve been able to create. I’ve never had faith in my ability to work with technology of any kind since I’ve always filed it under “math and other things I can’t do.” Although I’m by no means a tech wizard, this fellowship has really changed my views about what’s possible through DH as well as what’s possible for me. In every experience where I buckled down to make something digital although terrified of breaking it, I’ve been delighted by the result. Still, if I hadn’t been encouraged early on about the possibilities for my project, my product would have been entirely different.

In addition to the way the presentation of my project has changed through specific conversations, the content of my project has changed as well. Coming into this program I had a fairly conservative idea for my website in that it would be a relatively simple interconnection of information that I gathered in a very traditional way. I imagined myself finding materials about each author in the same way (and from the same sources) as I would for a traditional essay. Then I imagined writing brief essays that bring together my source material, again with an emphasis on similarity to traditional essays. Since my project is primarily for use in the classroom, I assumed that the only way to make it seem validate was to replicate traditional scholarship on a digital platform. When I started my research, I definitely struggled with fitting this kind of research to the eight-week timeline because of the sheer number of authors I wanted to fully cover. As I result, I started using different sources and feeling more comfortable linking out to online sources rather than summarizing them as I would with a traditional project. In this way, the time frame of the project forced me to change my methods for my project; however, it was one of our discussions about DH that made me change my views of the project.

One of the most productive discussions — at least for me — that we’ve had about DH was our ongoing conversation about what “counts” both as DH and as scholarship. Although I have been jokingly asking “is this DH?” about seemingly minute details, the repetition of the phrase has definitely shaped how I conceive of DH, but moreover how I conceive of scholarship. If you had asked me at the beginning of this experience if I would consider linking out to sites like Wikipedia rather than writing a biography for some of these authors, I’d have told you that was a cop-out, largely because in traditional work, it would be viewed that way. At this point in the process, I recognize that the work done on Wikipedia is valuable and freely available, so not using it for the sake of presenting legitimacy is not a good option either.

Week 6 Reflection

Every week, we look at more and more Digital Humanities projects, and I find myself wondering where I will fit in. There are many times where I think about how future DSSFs will probably look at my project and critique it. I am not afraid of that, but it is just a fact.

I want them to think that it was an interesting addition to the collection of websites they review. I want them to think that it was well-executed and well-designed.

But more than just wanting them to like my project, I want to take away something from it.

I want anyone who comes across my project to consider the arguments on both sides for living history models. I want them to confront their existing opinion, or consider the ideas for the first time. I think that wanting your audience to think critically about a given topic is pretty common surrounding most published materials in academia, nonetheless, I maintain that this is something that I am heavily considering with every design decision.

I recently changed my theme to my website. It definitely set me back some, both in time devoted to looking into other options and in work put into customizing the website the first time. But I still felt as though it was important. Every day, more likely every minute, I find myself considering whether or not I would visit my own website if it was not mine.

More often than not, my answer is no. Not only do I not see myself spending a large amount of time perusing the digital humanities projects of undergrads. But my internet usage if usually based out of necessity, and not in wandering through different urls. And I think those two things are similar for many other people.

I have found myself stuck in that crisis a few times and have realized that my approach was unproductive and pretty negative. Now I ask myself: if I was to encounter my website, how long would I stay? I spend my time attempting to lengthen the time of my answer with everything I add to my site.

I more likely than not will have an audience mostly consistency of the DH community, and the friends and family I explicitly show my project. But I want them to forget the original goal of seeing my website, the goal of seeing the tools I used or appeasing their annoying friend, and experiencing what I have been experiencing for 6 weeks now. If I can get an audience to just let their guard down enough to actually read what I have to say, I will consider this a success.


DH and Philosophy

One thing that I’ve struggled with throughout this project is how exactly to make it truly digital and yet at the same time make sure that it stays within the vein of Philosophy. I have attempted to make it make sense as a digital project, but there have been times when I wonder whether this is really necessary or not. I haven’t had any examples thus far of digital projects that are Philosophy oriented and so I often feel like I’m paving this road and trying to walk it at the same time.


Philosophical topics are very different from other humanities disciplines. History pulls from primary sources such as photographs, manuscripts, artifacts. Other disciplines pull from cultural practices that can be measured. But Philosophical musings come from ideas. These ideas are often grounded in real phenomena, but they are not often tangible objects that a person can see. How do you justify making a digital project out of ideas that you can’t see?


I chose to situate this project in the trends of the modern and postmodern eras because they are so based in cultural trends that are demonstrable. I chose to use student works from the college because I wanted to take these ideas and make them more concrete by giving real examples of the changes in thought. I have had to walk the line between History, English, and Philosophy this summer while ensuring that the end product would still be considered a Philosophy project.


There are a few things that I’ve done to hopefully make this the case. I have created the page for the Philosopher Bios in order to at least honor that these ideas show up in a strong way for philosophers. I have also attempted to focus on certain themes that I think are abstract enough to be philosophical. Lastly, I have put a great deal of time into my “Where are we now?” page because I know that the arguments I make here based on the self are contemporary and appropriate, yet at the same time asking questions about the nature of our lives. This is a question that I am confident is philosophical in nature. So while I don’t think that all of this project uses Philosophy, it is building up to a philosophical argument and therefore makes sense within the discipline.


My further question, however, is how many philosophical inquests should really be done through digital projects. Because, while I am confident that mine works as such, I haven’t quite figured out if this was the absolute best format for this project. I think that part of the discipline of Philosophy is about writing in order to build up an argument slowly. I recognize that this can easily be done without using an essay format, and in fact this is what my project does. I think that if anything, the reason this functions well as a digital project is because it provides more accessibility for ideas that are rarely very accessible. I am proud that my work provides relatively simple explanations for ideas that are difficult to grasp even at high levels. However, my remaining question is what kind of person would actually care to look? Are these ideas too specific, too niche, for someone who is not already a philosopher to care about? This is the part that I really question, and it makes it difficult to feel completely confident that my project can really make any difference.

Hope for the Future: Critiquing DH

It is easy, in the context of our program, to lose sight of the larger trends in Digital Humanities. For these few weeks over the summer I am focused on producing good scholarship and researching well. The issues of the larger world of DH do not seem so important when I have tools to learn and books to comb through.

However, the purpose of this program is not to simply create a work of DH. It is meant to educate fellows about DH and give them tools to debate and engage with the community. I have sadly neglected that in my work this summer.

Reading “Neoliberal Tools (and Archives): A Political History of Digital Humanities” forced me to consider our program and the future of DH. The article argues that DH is essentially killing creativity in favor of tangible results and technological innovators. Digital Humanities has favored the digital over the humanities in its attempt to restructure academic circles. It paints “Digital Humanities as social and institutional movement is a reactionary force in literary studies, pushing the discipline toward post-interpretative, non-suspicious, technocratic, conservative, managerial, lab-based practice.”

While those skills are important, they are not the heart of DH that I have come to know. I am lucky, as I am involved in DH on a small campus where we are encouraged to think critically in our projects and produce transformative work. This program has produced projects that deal with political action on campus, women’s history at the college, and has encouraged us to examine our own biases. During the first weeks last year, we delayed a lesson to discuss the idea of digital imperialism and whether or not we were contributors. This program has expanded thinking, not narrowed it.

The authors of the article acknowledge that the DH they are talking about may not be the DH all people experience. Yet they argue that their view is not one of outsiders, that they themselves have experience as digital researchers, and that the DH community itself shares in their critiques. I cannot disagree with that statement, as critique is a key component of this very program. Their warnings that DH avoid the model of Silicon Valley, which prizes disruption and success over diversity and critique, are valid and need to be addressed.

My issue with this article is that it seems to regard these issues as irreparable. The article gives example after example of the failings of DH. While the last few paragraphs somewhat advocate for the transformation of DH into what it was promised to be, it has a pessimistic tone, doubtful that any transformative proposals could be truly implemented.

While I do not refute that the issues laid out in the article have an impact on DH, I will argue that they are not representative of DH. Programs like ours give agency to students to create critical works and engage with the issues facing the community. We have not sold our soul or sacrificed our integrity.  Other digital humanists have criticized this article for being pessimistic and focusing on the problems with DH instead of striving for improvement.

It is easy to look at the negatives and feel useless. I do not know if I can do anything that will increase diversity in DH or encourage transformative work. But that does not mean that DH is beyond hope. The article is reductive and casts all DH as irreparably flawed. I contest that DH is still being formed and will continue to change as new scholars, technologies, and ideologies gain support. DH is not dead yet, and our program is proof that it can change for the better.


ILE Reflection #5

From my understanding, the main purpose of digital humanities is to create an open access understanding of topics that are 1.) uncommon or 2.) costly. As the weeks go on and I look for tools to incorporate into my project the more I realize that I have to go without some tools or settle with a free, semi-functional tool.  Creating my website logo opened my eyes to this aspect of digital humanities; many websites state that their tools are “free” however they are not. Users have free access to the tool, but the product has to be bought or abandoned. The sites usually cost over $10 a month – no options to pay for one day use.

Last week was another revealing week in terms of the limitation that accompanies digital humanities – honestly, my bias and direct access to the tools bought by the college really limited my understanding of “free” access.  During lunches, the cohort is reminded of our Sites pages, but it did not hit me right away that I have access because I am a college student here at Gettysburg. After reading the article and reading more on neo-liberalism, I began searching these tools without connecting to any Gettysburg account. WordPress is not free (https://wordpress.com/pricing/?sgmt=gb&utm_source=adwords&utm_campaign=Google_WPcom_Search_Brand_Desktop_US_en&utm_medium=cpc&keyword=wordpress&creative=277412335400&campaignid=998785131&adgroupid=53026924047&matchtype=e&device=c&network=g&targetid=kwd-295456403946&locationid=9006728&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI_I7qtYKS3AIVSj0MCh0S1gkSEAAYASADEgIKAvD_BwE). To have a nice, functioning website the starting price is $48 a year – users can choose to update their plan which only increases the price. The plan includes domains without wordpress.com  after a unique site name.

Deresiewicz argues that colleges sell their soul to the market – which makes sense. I cannot image it is possible for an institution to not join the market. Both, public and private colleges and universities, cost large sums of money that contribute to: maintenance; access to online and in-person texts and tools; income of employees; and whatever else institutions use money on. After searching the internet myself for these tools, I have realized that colleges have no option other than to join the market. Open access rarely exists outside of institutions in education and/or business. Public libraries are around, but library card do not provide users with access to tools like WordPress or Sites; a library card only grants access to print and online materials in the library’s possession.

Academics are able to build or pay to have someone build an online presence because funding is typically part of the process. I hope to go on to graduate school and into a position as a college administrator which will – hopefully – continue to give me access to these tools. Individuals will have a harder time joining the digital humanities without proper funding or access to some tools. I can confidently say that without funding from DSSF I  would not be able to complete my project. Not only are costs for the tools and sites I am using out of my price range, but I would also have to consider the time that I am spending creating a project. Time is money – as a low income student, I cannot afford to waste my time lollygagging. Digital humanities fits into my life right now because I am an undergraduate student with funding to complete a project I am passionate about. If I had paid more attention to the benefits of DSSF, I would have joined last year because I am learning more and gaining access to tools that I might not have by next May.

Institutions continue benefit from exploitation. As much as we want to believe it , nothing is ever free or benefits those that need it the most.

Week 5 Reflection

I was doing an interview for my project a few weeks ago where my professor, an alum of the college, told me how different students were. He said that this new email fad where students add all of their titles under their name is so new. Beyond that, we discussed how resume oriented everyone seems to be. I think that new fad proves that there is some truth to Daniel Allington, Sarah Brouillette, and David Golumbia’s article.

They argue that digital humanities “is, instead, about the promotion of project-based learning and lab-based research over reading and writing, the rebranding of insecure campus employment as an empowering “alt-ac” career choice, and the redefinition of technical expertise as a form (indeed, the superior form) of humanist knowledge.” And I don’t think they are wrong. There is something to be said about the amount of time that I have caught one of us saying, “well at least I can say I learned this tool.” But is that really true?

We have learned all of these tools to serve our purposes, but we haven’t really worked all of these tools. The idea of project-based learning is somewhat in line with the way we were taught to write essays.  Is learning just enough WordPress to turn out a website really any different than writing an essay in the 11th hour for a grade?

Can I really say that I can create a digital humanities project after this? I can say I created this one. But there is really no telling if the next time I do this it will take any less time. I think it would be slightly ignorant for any of us to think that we have really conquered the heart of some of these tools.

And then, there is the funding. The article argues that “[t]he work that the NEH and the Mellon Foundation tend to fund remains largely confined to the “tools and archives” paradigm that many in Digital Humanities claim to have surpassed, but that continues to drive the institutional expansion of Digital Humanities through its likely receipt of major research grants. This is no coincidence. Digital Humanities enabled the creation of new pools of funding specifically devoted to an entirely new conception of the humanities that was promulgated by a small minority within English departments.” The concept that we are being paid to do what we are doing, while very nice, makes me question the worth of what I am doing.

Realistically, I don’t think my work is going to positively or negatively affect anyone, other than myself. It seems a tad ridiculous that foundations are funding these programs instead of putting that money to a more worthy cause.

However, I don’t think this is the fault of the digital humanities ideology. I think it is the fault of the ideology of higher education. We have, as a society, turned higher education into training epicenters for white collar jobs. We all pride ourselves as being so open-ended in our learning processes, but we are just as goal oriented as a vocational school.

We can all do better to think of the real-life effects of what why are doing way up in the ivory tower. We need to fix this privileged ideology of education for the sake of education. There is so much that needs fixing in this world, and if we are among the privileged few that get to receive a higher education, we owe to ourselves, and the rest of the world to create a system that breeds altruistic intellectuals, rather than resume-obsessed ladder-climbers.

#Transform DH and My Project

When I think about the transformative nature of my project, it is a bit difficult to see anything overtly transformative at the start. You have only to go to my philosopher bio page and scroll down to notice something a little disconcerting. All of the philosophers are white men. At first it may seem like there’s no way to bring about a transformative project when the ideas I’m using are based off of those of people steeped in the patriarchy, but I think that my project can be transformative in subtler ways.

Many of the ideas that these white male philosophers have are ones that most people would not encounter unless they were to take a course on them in a school. Of course you can find their ideas online, but often the writing is confusing and difficult to understand even for a scholar. One of the aims of my project is to avoid the scholarly type of writing that I so often encounter in my own research. I try to write the ideas in a way that makes sense. The ideas are still complex and may have to be ruminated on for a while, but at least it shouldn’t take reading it five times through to understand what’s going on.

I also chose to focus a great deal on certain publications that are not academically or scholarly inclined. They are protest publications, written by students who found that they did not fit in with the typical college academic. I will be talking about publications such as Black Awareness, EASTIT, Acid Express, and Junto. The first was a publication meant to discuss the experience of people of color both at Gettysburg and in the larger community. EASTIT was a publication that was very critical of the institution and aimed at un-clouding the idealistic minds of the first years. Acid Express was written to help the Gettysburg community understand the positive effects of mind-opening drugs. And Junto was a magazine that was put out by the Christian Association which often spoke of issues of social justice. These were not the mainstream publications put out and supported by the administration. Some of these publications were of concern for the higher up individuals in the college because the messages ran counter to all that the college was trying to teach. But the writers thought that their messages were important enough that they had to put them out into the world. Celebrating the bravery of these writers, (many of them anonymous) and discussing their words brings voice to communities outside the mainstream.

In the last section of my project, I use an online publication called SURGE. This is a contemporary website in which students share their stories and experiences on topics such as race, gender, sexuality, social justice etc. Many of the writers are anonymous, but they are all trying to further discussions of social justice and expose what is wrong in our society.

White male philosophers may have written about these ideas and spread them in their classrooms, but it was these marginalized groups that took these ideas and used them in a call to action to transform the world. My project is not about celebrating the philosophers. It is about taking those ideas out of the stuffy classroom and analyzing how they affected the real, living, breathing, changing world. It’s important as Digital Humanists to always think about where the ideas that we work with come from, how the white and patriarchal world has affected them, and what we can do to fight against it.

Week Five Reflective Essay

Scholarship is not apolitical. Indeed, nothing is. The dizzying, eternally reproducing, mise-en-abyme-inducing fact is that statements to propose neutrality are self-defeating because they too propose a particular stance. Every attempt I have made to further explain my thoughts on DH has dragged me further into the paradox of the situation, so I hesitate to try again.

I have said in previous blog posts that DH appeals to me because it allows for accessibility in new ways, but the fact that it is linked to private institutions means there are still bars to access that ought to be addressed. Rather than continue to articulate this, I want to be devoting my time to making those beliefs manifest in my project and other scholarly work I do.

ILE Visualization

Student timeline – this is  a collection students and events of Gettysburg College.