ILE Week 8 Reflection

I cannot emphasize how drastic my perspective of digital humanities changed over the course of the program.  The first sentence of my summer reflections is: 

“Before our conversations on the definition of digital humanities, I thought DH was a collection of information given to a person and turned into several digital format. ”

In other reflections I expand on the importance of individualizing digital humanities projects to increase learning outcomes and improve digital literacy. However, as I sit and reflect on my experience in digital humanities, I can say that I understand the discourse on properly defining DH better than I understand DH myself. That isn’t to say that I do not have a definition for DH, but I am working on creating a clear definition to encompass the contradicting aspects of DH. Cordell addresses the issue of DH being defined as a singular thing by reaffirming that it multi-faceted and unique to institutional needs. From the undergraduate perspective of DH, programs like this one appear to hand pick individual research projects that relate to Gettysburg College or can benefit a specific community on campus – which is understandable. However, the DSSF program is formatted differently from UPenn and Swathmore; these institutions assign students with pre-existing DH assignments needed by a faculty member on campus. Here I see a relationship between DH in communities near by and the DH Cordell describes in his piece.

It appears that my understanding of digital humanities went from the two extremes – independent DH is better and more beneficial to assigned DH makes the most sense. It was one or the other. I am leaving the program with a literal definition of digital humanities, but I cannot say that I have a solid definition of the practice of DH and the community. Each institution tackles the concept differently according to their needs – small liberal art schools are focused on fostering creative independent researchers through supporting outstanding projects while larger schools focus on creating competitive environments for students to strengthen skills they are already good at.

Goals sent by the committee influenced my understanding of DH greatly because I experienced the program as an independent researcher where I had few limitations. This project was imagined and created by me. However, the Bryn Mawr conference changed my perception because students presented on projects assigned to them. I can understand the benefits of assigned projects; students’ concern shifts to creating the vision of someone else but their level of involvement is the same, but I can’t confidently say this since my DH experience was significantly different.

This program taught me about DH and the complexities, but the most important thing I leave the program with the ability to adjust definitions and be accepting of the fact that I will have to edit what I know. We subconsciously have this skill but the awareness adds another layer of growth students often lack.

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