A Final Reflection on DH

It’s the end of my final week as a DH fellow and I can honestly say the eight weeks have flown by. On my first day, I don’t think I could have adequately defined DH if someone had asked me. By the end of my first week, I had a had a much more broad understanding of all that his encompassed by DH. In my first blog: My DH I described a better understanding of the values of DH as well as the importance of community. In particular, I emphasized accessibility, public participation and collaboration, and critical thinking as the primary values of DH. I had also begun to see the potential for social justice work in DH.

At the end of these eight weeks I still agree that accessibility, public participation and collaboration, and critical thinking are some of the primary values of DH. My understanding of the projects that DH can encompass, however, has been vastly expanded. In particular, attending the PCLA Digital Scholarship Student Symposium at Lafayette College we so a wide array of DH projects both with similar and different approaches to my own cohort’s. From medieval archives to a baseball predictor, projects in DH have endless opportunities and potential purposes. With this in mind, however, when I started with DSSF, my perception of DH was narrowed primarily to history projects. Engaging with a broader DH community definitely showed me the opportunities in this field.

From our discussions and communities of practice, I would also be much more hesitant to point to something as not being DH that was intended to be. I’ve come to believe that if scholarship is utilizing digital tools to present information in a collaborative and accessible way than it can fall within the field of Digital Humanities. Additionally, being a part of this program has definitely made me think more critically about what is considered scholarship, particularly in the tenure process for professors and even within my own classes at Gettysburg College. Even at a liberal arts college like Gettysburg, my academic work before this fellowship has been almost entirely limited to academic papers and the occasional presentation. There is a whole world of scholarship in the form of DH that has been largely untapped by the traditional undergraduate academic system.

Overall, I am so grateful for the research and learning opportunities I have had in the past eight week with DSSF! My project grew from a singular research question to a project and website I’m proud of as well as an introduction to a community I was completely unfamiliar with prior to this summer. I know that I will continue to use this foundational knowledge in DH moving forward with all future academic projects.

Engaging in the DH Community

The emphasis on community in the Digital Humanities field is one of the defining characteristics that distinguishes DH from the traditional humanities. From the very beginning of our fellowship, the importance of collaboration between other digital humanists has been emphasized as essential. Although we are all completing our own individual projects, sharing our process and reflecting as a group on the challenges of researching and creating a DH project has been a significant component of the fellowship. Being able to ask for and receive weekly feedback has been so important for the gradual improvement of my project. For example, with their feedback, I was able to fill in some of the information gaps I hadn’t realized that I left as well as reorganize pieces of my project which didn’t fully make sense to a viewer. Additionally, my project would not look nearly as polished if I was not able to go to others for help with the things which I lack prior experience in. For example, I had no experience with CSS before this summer, yet with the help of our librarian mentors I was able to make my desired changes like adjusting colors and resizing my header images. I really appreciate that, unlike the traditional humanities field, DH promotes and relies upon collaboration. Building a community in the past seven weeks with DSSF has definitely altered my perspective to look more favorably upon group work. Sharing knowledge can only improve a project, after all.

In addition to collaboration within the DSSF cohort, we’ve also had the opportunity to engage in our communities of practice through the PCLA Digital Scholarship Student Symposium at Lafayette College and spending the day presenting to the Bucknell DSSF fellows. Although I was unable to meet with the Bucknell Fellows (why would they schedule the LSAT for a Monday?), being able to view the vast array of DH projects created by other undergraduate students and discuss their research processes was a very cool component of the fellowship. It certainly demonstrated how diverse both the projects and digital humanists themselves can be.

In terms of how I see myself fitting into the larger DH community of practice, although I’m still very new, I feel as though the DH community is so open that it allows people to contribute at any stage. DSSF has allowed me not only to create my own project, but also to become informed and promote awareness of DH as a field. When people ask me what I’m doing this summer, they have almost all never heard of DH before. Being able to discuss DH in the context of my project as well as the projects of my DSSF cohort introduces others to the values of DH.

Sound Engineering

In “Sound Engineering: Toward a Theory of Multimodal Soundness,” author Jody Shipka argues for the “purposeful choosing, experimentation, and communicative flexibility” of all mediums. This week’s reflection asks us to consider: “In what ways does your project leverage the affordances of the digital tools you selected—in what ways is your project soundly engineered?”

Purely on the basis of being a Digital Scholarship project, all the summer fellows have chosen atypical mediums for displaying their information in contrast to the normal scholarly paper. In terms of my own project, I have deliberately chosen mediums that move viewers through my information chronologically. This decision resulted in my choice of the platform Scalar. With Scalar, it is (relatively) easy to define a path for viewers to follow with a singular click. It is also easy to link different pages of information with similar backgrounds, either with a tag or physical link which I have done throughout the project. This decision was important in order to demonstrate how I argue that the college’s engagement with the community has evolved over time.

In addition to this, my project is primarily defined by words and images. I made the decision to include many images in order to more strongly connect viewers to projects of the past along with more superficial aesthetics. For example, I have chosen to use the carousel widget in order to display the many images I have gathered in a compact space, in chronological order. This moves viewers through time, from the beginning to the end of a particular service partnership. Videos created by the Center for Public Service over time have also been linked. The purpose of this is to include more engaging mediums as available.

TimelineJS is an additional example of a digital tool selected in order to “soundly engineer” my project. Firstly, it provides an overview of all of the service projects that will be discussed in depth throughout my site. Additionally, it provides links to explore that in-depth information as a viewer prefers. It also provides the option of continuing to move chronologically through all the projects, carrying on my time-oriented theme throughout the project.

Overall, my project is “soundly engineered” to be more engaging and reach a wider audience than a traditional academic paper. Strong visuals and ease of use were carefully considered to achieve this overarching goal. As a result, I focused on one primary digital tool (timelineJS) with a more time-consuming platform (Scalar). It is important to note as Shipka does that my project is soundly engineered “for now.” Inevitably factors will change over time. Nevertheless, I believe that careful planning from the early stages of DSSF has helped me achieve soundness “for now.”

“Reflections on a Movement”

In “Reflections on a Movement,” authors Moya Bailey, Anne Cong-Huyen, Alexis Lothian, and Amanda Phillips discuss the #transformDH movement which places social, economic, and institutional contexts of DH at the forefront of the conversation. The article’s focus on social justice echoes our prior discussions and readings which have examined the unrealized opportunities within DH to move humanities studies away from the “ivory tower” into a more inclusive space in regards to race, sex, and economic background. This inclusivity has particularly failed queer individuals and women of color.

With this article in mind, this week’s reflection asked us to consider the following: How can your project be transformative? How can this program transform to change the needs of digital scholars? We discussed during the first day our ideas of what is and isn’t digital humanities/scholarship. How have your own thoughts on this changed?

Considering these questions for my own project, I think that the accessibility of my project meets one of the transformative components of DH. The public medium of scalar means that anyone who wants to see my research is able to without cost. I additionally think that my doing the research is a transformative component in itself. The opportunity for a female, undergraduate student to complete humanities research for the use of others is quite significant when put into the context that much of non-digital humanities research is often monopolized by an elite set of white, men in the academic world. Finally, my project is meant to be community-based, using diverse voices and experiences to explain the evolution of community engagement.

In terms of transforming this program to the needs of digital scholars, from my experience this summer, I would say the program is not meeting the diverse call of #transformDH. I realize that this is not an easy fix as this problem is not unique to the program, but rather is a larger problem with lack of diversity in liberal arts universities. It is notable that this program creates a platform for anyone to create a DH project. Making the program more attractive to a larger audience may be the issue. I additionally think #transformDH calls for greater engagement with the larger DH community. I also realize, however, that the program is limited by time constraints. Additionally, meeting other DH scholars at Lafayette was a great step towards this goal.

Overall, I would say my view of what is digital humanities has greatly broadened in my time with the program. Reading articles, attending the conference, as well as learning from my DH peers, I have seen such a wide range of DH projects that, although have very different purposes, all embody the values of DH. I have additionally become significantly more hesitant to call a project I am unaffiliated with “not DH.” I have found that the beauty of DH lies within the diversity of projects that it can produce.

DH and Neoliberal Values

For this week’s reflection, we’ve been tasked with answering the following: To what extent do you think the Digital Humanities (inadvertently or not) embraces neoliberal values in higher education? My background in answering this question comes from, “Neoliberal Tools (and Archives): A Political History of Digital Humanities,” Matthew Kirschenbaum’s “Am I a Digital Humanist? Confessions of a Neoliberal Tool,” and Grace Afsari-Mamagani’s “In Defense of DH,” as well as, of course, my own experiences with the digital humanities over the past four weeks.
To begin, I think it’s important to have a definition of neoliberalism in mind. According to Wikipedia, neoliberalism is the 20th-century resurgence of 19th-century ideas associated with laissez-faire economic liberalism and free market capitalism. When first presented with this week’s question, my gut reaction was to reject lumping the digital humanities in with neoliberal tools. After all, the digital humanities allow people with diverse backgrounds and experiences to share knowledge of importance to them, with less of a focus on an elite background. Is this not counter to neoliberalism? I attempted to go into the article with an open mind (understanding the weaknesses and criticisms of your field of interest is vital, after all) but finished the “Political History of Digital Humanities” unconvinced by the authors’ arguments. Moving to Kirschenbaum’s article, a direct response to the former, the author discusses his own path in the Digital Humanities, ultimately arguing that he is a digital humanist due to “the socialization of academia” and is not a tool of neoliberalism. To these points, Kirschenbaum’s article is largely an argument rejecting the idea that the digital humanities embrace neoliberal values in higher education.
Along a similar line, Afsari-Mamagani’s article differentiates between the agenda’s of projects created by corporations like Google Books projects created to promote access by academic departments or libraries. I agree that lumping both together is to misrepresent the diversity of digital humanities projects. I particularly agree with Afsari-Mamagani’s conclusion that the digital humanities foster “a sense of sociopolitical consciousness.” A value which is not consistent with neoliberalism.
Does this mean that the neoliberal criticism of the digital humanities completely without merit? Certainly not. The digital humanities are beholden to outside funding, often with an agenda. Is this a unique, defining factor of the digital humanities warranting the scorn of the “Political History of the Digital Humanities article?” I would say not. It is, however, an existing factor worthy of consideration in analyzing this reflection’s question. Overall, I would argue that the digital humanities is largely a rejection and counter to neoliberal values in higher education, at least, as much as any field of scholarship can be that has its roots in a Western, capitalist society.

– Michaela

Information Sharing

In Chapter 3 of Digital_Humanities authors Burdick, Drucker, Lunenfeld, Presnet, and Schnapp, consider “The Social Life of the Digital Humanities.” This idea encompasses a wide variety of themes including publishing, authorship, and legitimation of information. Within these themes arises the essential question: What happens when anyone can speak and publish? What happens when knowledge credentialing is no longer controlled solely by institutions of higher learning? This question is a complex one, with significant potential positives as well as risks. To begin, I want to expound upon the risks that the article considers of a community in which anyone can publish information without the accreditation of higher learning institutions.
Today, being able to determine the credibility of information seems more critical than ever before. As the chapter discusses, social technology with more authors and information does not equate to the promotion of democratic values. For one, this emerging social technology has the potential to be used as a conduit for social control. This issue encompasses all social technologies with limited regulations and, as the 2018 elections demonstrate, have yet to be adequately addressed. Going hand and hand with this issue, when anyone can speak and publish it can become more difficult to differentiate between what is real and what is not. The ivory tower is inherently problematic, historically limiting authorship to white, men and limiting the flow of information to an “academic elite circle.” Keeping this in minds, information being regulated by higher institutions and peer review did reassure the credibility of the information.
On the flip side, the digital humanities also offers a diversity of perspectives previously restricted from information sharing as they fell outside the walls of the ivory tower. This is particularly important for “reach and relevance” of the digital humanities in addition to what the authors call “decolonizing knowledge.” While platforms that support diversity are more of a lofty goal than present reality, this concrete goal is consistent with the core values of the digital humanities. Furthermore, unlike traditional humanities, the digital humanities invites those voices that were once excluded from the conversation to not only participate in active discourse but also to collaborate and further expand the field. Changing the notion of whose voice matters will broaden the range of information available as well as the audience attuned to the humanities.
Overall, I would contend that the value of expanding authorship and publication far outweighs the risk and offers an exciting future for the humanities as a developing field. The humanities cannot remain limited to a select group, representing only a tiny proportion of the population and their experiences. This emphasized, the inherent dangers of the digital humanities must not only be acknowledged, but methods to combat these pitfalls must be deeply considered. Acknowledging that legitimation is a problem in the field is not enough without responding with potential solutions.
– Michaela

TimelineJS Evaluation

For the purposes of this critical evaluation, I will be focusing on the TimelineJS tool. I intend to use TimelineJS as the primary tool for my digital scholarship project. As such, critically reflecting on its biases and limitations in relation to the values of the Digital Humanities community is essential to creating a final product also in line with those values.

According to its creators, TimelineJS is an “open-source tool that enables anyone to build visually rich, interactive timelines.” At its core, the tool only requires a Google account to input information into a spreadsheet. From there, users can build their historical narratives using a template provided by the site. Additionally, users can use media from other sources like Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, Vine, Google Maps, Wikipedia, etc. This offers additional opportunities for collaboration.

Diving more deeply into this using the Criteria for Digital Tool Evaluation , I would conclude that while it does have inherent flaws, TimelineJS largely meets the criteria set by the evaluation tool. Some criteria that stood out to me is, firstly, TimelineJS is free to use. Anyone with a computer who wants to use it to display their data can do so without being limited by economic barriers. Along a similar line, the tool doesn’t require any sort of professional background. If you have internet access and the time to learn how to navigate the tool, you can use it successfully. The TimelineJS site even includes a video tutorial to assist new users. Very basic html code can be required, but if an amateur like me can figure it out, I am confident that anyone can. Of course, experts are able to create a more complex final product, such as using JSON to create custom installations. The site also provides answers to frequently asked question. Overall, TimelineJS meets the openness criteria of Digital Humanities with flying colors.

In terms of inherent limitations to accessibility, TimelineJS is clearly intended for an English-speaking audience. This also extends to support questions, which the site moderators specifically state can only be answered in English. I address this while also acknowledging that such a limitation is practically unavoidable. There will likely always be language barriers affecting who has access to what information depending upon who created the tool.

Overall, TimelineJS seems like a great tool for both new and savvy members of the DH community. Thus far, the tool seems like an excellent way to display historical events in a narrative form. For projects like mine, it can clearly demonstrate the evolution of events over time. Although it is limited by language and access to basic computer skills, all of the tools that we have encountered so far are similarly limited.

Project Charter

Project Name:  Bridging the Gap: A History of College-Community Partnership

Project Owner: Michaela Crow

Project Summary: This project intends to explore the evolving community partnership between Gettysburg College and Adams County, primarily through the Center for Public Service and the Chapel program that preceded it. This will be achieved by highlighting the service programs which have bridged the divide between college and community.

Research question: How has the community partnership between Gettysburg College and the greater Adams County community evolved over time? What are the service projects between the two that have defined the last century and what has their impact been?

Project Scope: Over the eight-week period, I hope to create a timeline exploring the service projects led by the Chapel and Center for Public Service in Adams County with a potential additional page for service led by the Greek community. I intend to link the timeline to pages describing the service project in depth with supplemental photos and articles from the Gettysburgian. I would also like to provide a platform for community members to record their own experiences with the programs.

Audience: Gettysburg College students and Adams County community members that have been affected by this history of partnership or are researching the College’s history of community service


Scalar – platform


The description page of service projects – photos, history

Oral Histories: Vannorsdall, Mattson, Olinger, etc.

Article from Gettysburgian online archive

Special Collections – manuscripts, Junto, etc.

Images from CPS – digitize


Week 2: Project charter due Friday morning

Compile relevant dates from CPS timeline

Decide on service projects images needed from CPS

Research in Archives – 1 box done

Week 3: Wireframes due Friday morning

Select and digitize images from CPS

Create a timeline of public service

Week 4:

Connect Timeline to titled pages

Write descriptions and contextualize

Website homepage drafter

Week 5:

Have a timeline and images finalized

½ of connected pages done

Week 6: Project Draft Due Friday

Complete about/summary page

Have peer review work

Draft of the project finished

Week 7: Final Project due Friday

Final edits completed

Reexamine all pages for errors

Week 8: Presentation week

Prepare for presentation

Practice presenting to audience

End of Life/Future Plans

Due to the nature of the project, there is clear opportunity to continue updating the timeline with community programs which emerge over time. Additionally, the project will ideally carry on through crowd-sourced reflections and experiences related to service programs described. Following my graduation, the project could be continued by CPS or left in a final form updated till 2019. The project will continue to be preserved on the college’s website.