Final DH Thoughts

When we first started to talk about Digital Humanities in week one we had a pretty broad definition of it, that is using digital tools to explore ideas, to teach, and to learn. We also agreed that it should be considered scholarship. I still agree with the definition of DH we came up with during the first week and still think it should be considered scholarship.

Before this project I had a narrow definition of digital humanities, I thought it had to be specifically digital humanities researched related. My definition has expanded to be a lot looser, that it can be anything created on the web and that it does not have to specifically be humanities based. I saw that with the visit from Bucknell because some of them were based on compiling scientific data or looking into scientific information, as well as how computer scientists also work on creating digital humanities projects. DH projects also don’t have to be about research, they can be creating a database, gathering information in one place, or an examination of one topic. This is more than just research, and includes more people than just academics. And especially that all DH projects should be considered scholarship because an article or book is not the only way to explore new ideas or argue a point, as well as it does not need to come to a definite conclusion to add to the conversation.

A resource that I used in a class last semester is a DH project that I did not understand to be a DH project till this summer. The Slave Voyage Project tracks the ships that left Africa full of slaves and where they went. It uses both digital tools and a database of the ships manifesto. Previously I would not have considered it DH because it is not necessarily doing research. But it is still furthering the conversation and contributing to the discussion even if it is not published in an academic journal. This also fits into the DH definition of how it should be considered scholarship. We viewed this database and time-lapse timeline in class and looked at it before class just like we would have to have a discussion about an article from a journal.

Participating in the DH Community

I have engaged in the community of practice in DH this summer by collaborating, making my project accessible, as well as one of the goals of the project is accessibility of the information I am exploring, and using open sourced tools. I have participated in the collaboration side of Digital Humanities by engaging and giving feedback with other DH scholars, either at PCLA or at our weekly check in meetings. Working with the cohort and the DSSF committee has helped to shape my project and helped me grow it to what it has become. One way it has shaped my project is the suggesting of the “College Connections” page. It was suggested by a member of the cohort, I could not figure out how draw my project together when someone suggested a page that summed it up as a type of conclusion. This is exactly what it needed. This project would not be possible without their advice support, and guidance.

My project also engages with the value of accessibility by making sure that my website is accessible to everyone by having alternative image descriptions for screen readers and making sure the colors are high contrast. But also, a core part of it is about the accessibility to the buildings themselves, it is partly what inspired the project. There are many people who are interested in places that are locked and I wanted to learn more about these buildings but could not gain access to them.  By gaining access and posting pictures and the history of them I am helping others be able to see these places despite them not having physical access to them.

Lastly my project is based on open source tools, like TimelineJS and JuxataposeJS. My project would not be the same without those tools. I used TimelineJS to show the concrete dates of when things happened to the buildings and the transfer of ownership for them. I could have just written it out, but having the timeline adds to the interactivity on the site. And JuxtaposeJS helps to highlight the differences between the before and after by putting them side by side.

My project would not be what it is today without the help and support of the DSSF committee, the cohort, and the other Digital Humanists that I have had the opportunity to meet and interact with. I hope to continue to further the values of DH with this project and future endeavors.

Soundly Engineered

A good example of how Constructing the Past is soundly engineered can be seen by looking at the menu bar. I wanted it to be pretty minimal when I first made it with only three items on it. But after some feedback and discussion I realized it would work better to add a little bit more to it. The first three items on the menu bar were, About/Welcome (I have yet to settle on a final name for it), Buildings, and Photo Gallery. The About menu contains the information about the project and the History of the College. But History of the College could also work as it’s own menu bar since it is not necessarily a sub-category of any of the information. Another menu bar that I am thinking of adding is one about the conclusions of the project and the connections between the other buildings. I have yet to come up with an encompassing name for it yet but would add this to my menu bar to stand alone with no subcategories. This would bring it up to five items to select from in the menu bar.

The most important item in the menu bar is the Buildings item. It lists the three buildings I am looking at and the subcategories that they have, Timelines, History, and Looking At (Which is not the final name). I decided to put them all under one tab because that means that potentially more buildings could be added to the analysis of the campus community. If they were all up in the menu then it makes it seem like those are the only buildings to look at when using buildings to analyze the campus. Those are just the ones I chose. By having them under a building tab it shows the potential to add more since many other buildings on campus would work and could potentially be added. This is soundly designed it was an active choice to represent how the information is organized.

This project is also soundly engineered because before starting this project I looked into what resources or documents existed.  I had already talked with the McPhersons, went to the Adams County Historical Society to look at information on the Breidenbaugh family, and talking to people at facilities to determine what information they had on the buildings and to see the Brua Architectural plans that they had. This project was guided by the information that I had already gathered. I could have found other buildings to focus on, and in my research I found many other buildings that would reflect the changes that were made and their reflection on the campus community. But I chose the three that I did because I was interested in them and had the information. I thought through all the planning of this project before starting it and checked that the information that I would need to complete it would be possible to get. This helps insure it is soundly engineered because potential directions of the project have been explored. I am also ensuring that it is soundly designed by giving my process for deciding things here, like the students did in Sound Engineering: Toward a Theory of Multimodal Soundness in Jody Shipka’s article.

Transforming Digital Humanities

My project can be transformative by digging out the history and reckoning with some of the negative parts of the past of the buildings I am studying and the organizations that have occupied them. For example with 227 Carlisle Street the Alpha Chi Rho organization is a fraternity on campus, but they have gotten into trouble many times and have been kicked off campus twice before, and currently have lost their house with no foreseeable future of getting it back as a result of their bad behavior. Even though this project is about the house, it can still highlight all of its history of what occurred in it not just the good parts. I can also reckon with issues that are brought up today that occurred in the past in their relation to the house. An example of this is the recent surface of the picture of an Alpha Chi Rho member wearing a Nazi uniform for a Halloween party was discovered. The brother was identified to be a big alumni donor to the College and the campus community had to decide what it wanted to do about that. This can be transformative because it is criticizing the fraternities which support a traditional white male view.

I don’t think that much of this program needs to be changed in order to make it more transformative, because it really gives people the ability to choose a project that interests them allowing a large array of projects to exist. But I do think it could make sure to bring in a diverse array of workshop leaders. The projects that we looked at as examples focused on a wide array of issues, from being based in history to being based on current political issues which is good. I think the most important thing that can be done is to make sure that these opportunities to do digital projects are open to everyone on campus and to make sure it is not only white students making these digital projects.

In the original discussion of Digital Humanities and if it is or is not scholarship my opinion has not changed much. I still firmly believe that it should be considered scholarship and that it is a great way for academic institutions to be more inclusive of people who are typically excluded from traditional academic institutions. It has made me want to do more Digital Humanities projects that look at Gettysburg and the way that minorities are represented within the educational system, like how much of the collection in Special Collections features items that are from people of color or deal with issues of race. And how much of that is used in classes? It would help to transform institutions if they knew the diversity of what they are teaching with.

Brua Hall Timeline

A timeline that highlights the changes in Brua Hall’s history. Made using TimelineJS.

Neoliberalism and Digital Humanities

The Neoliberal value of money driving institutes is seen as the drive behind institutional support for the digital humanities by some. It might be part of the reason that major academic institutions are putting their support behind developing digital humanities, but the actual digital humanity scholars are getting involved because they really care about the work that they are doing. Digital humanities are a new frontier of academia, giving more opportunities for different kinds of research, different kinds of thinking, and for more people to be involved. It challenges some of what is considered traditional scholarship but that is good because scholarship should be constantly evolving.

Digital Humanities is appealing because it allows for there to be new ways of thinking and for academic institutions to be less exclusive since the values of digital humanities are about collaboration and openness which is appealing to people new to the profession or who wants to see a change within the institution. William Deresiewicz comments on the neoliberal changes to academic institutions in his article, The Neoliberal Arts: How College Sold its Soul to the Market show how digital humanities can be a response to help make higher education more about learning instead of about getting a job. Digital humanities is more about learning because for most projects there is no profit to be made, it is about curiosity and research.

The values of digital humanities are of curiosity, openness, collaboration, none of which have to do with money. This is talked about in Matthew Kirshenbaum’s article Am I a Digital Humanist? Confessions of a Neoliberal Tool is about how he is part of the Digital Humanities and made it his life work because he was interested in it, not because it made money. He could have left academia if he wanted to make more money. But Grace Afsari-Mamagani’s hopeful ideas shared in her post, In Defense of DH are about how digital humanities also shows the newfound interest in the field and how it can change research in the humanities and develop new ways of thinking.

I do not think that digital humanities embraces a neoliberal value in higher education, it is where there is a lot of money but that is an unintentional side effect. Digital humanities help to inspire new types of scholarship that people are invested in. Neoliberalism is about playing a game where there are winners and there are losers, but that is not part of what digital humanities is. Digital humanities are about furthering learning and curiosity. Digital humanities might unintentionally support some neoliberal values but overall does not.

Digital Humanities as the Expansion of Scholarship

The questioning of what happens when anyone can speak and publish explores the ideas of the elite status of academic institutions. There are many prestigious publishing presses all around the world, and they are well respected for the high level of work and effort that goes into the books, articles, and journals that are published by them. But they are also very exclusive because it allows only one path for publishing and there are strict standards of what can be published, which allows only a certain type of people to be published. Academic institutions are exclusive in that they only allow certain people in, which is where privilege coming into play. People with certain privileges like being white or coming from a middle-class background helps them access these opportunities in a way that people of color do not have. This is how publishing in academia is controlled, through who has access to these elite institutions.

But this limited access does not allow for the full diversity of ideas and opinions, because people from marginalized backgrounds, people of color and people from the LGBTQ+ communities often do not have access to these institutions or have more institutional barriers in the way of getting into the institutions. And when the it is mostly straight white people, often times white men, who get published and given the prestige it is leaving out these other perspectives and backgrounds that lead to new ways of thinking and to new discoveries.

Allowing knowledge to be credentialed by other people, instead of elite academic institutions allows for more people to have the opportunity for their knowledge to be credentialed. This leads to a wider diversity of thought, ideas, and creators. But when credentialing is no longer controlled by an institution it does lead to potential issues with misinformation, information cannot be checked or vetted in the same way because there is not an institution to check it.

A good compromise for this is to allow for people to publish their own work in their own way and to expand the idea of scholarship. This can be done through digital humanities. Traditional academic institutions do not yet consider digital humanities scholarship in the same way that a paper being published is considered scholarship. Digital humanities allows for more opportunities because it is more accessible to people from marginalized background because it is based on sharing information and tools that are free. Digital Humanities is often run by people already in academic institutions but it also allows people who are not within those institutions to work within them, engage with the community, and by engaging in the community the work and knowledge can be credentialed.

Wireframes – Maci Mark

Here are the Wireframes for Constructing the Past

The homepage, about page, buildings pages, and the selection menus

A larger view of building page and what the photo gallery would look like

A closer look at the History of the College, which is under the About tab and the page for when you click on an image in the photo gallery

Analyzing StoryMapJS

The StoryMapJS digital mapping tool allows the user to either have a section of a map or a still image and then choose points to add commentary or more information. This mapping tool is different from other mapping tools because it allows you to map a still image. Other mapping tools only allow mapping of geographic maps. This tool can be helpful for pointing out historic locations on a map or when using still images highlight important points. In my project looking at historical architecture it can be used in a variety of ways. I can use it to explore before and after images, showing two images and pointing out how things have changed. Or I can just use it to point out architecture features and add a commentary about the reasons for them.  This tool has good user experience design in mind because it does not make people have to scroll across the map, it just jumps from point to significant point, and it lets the viewer see the big picture in the beginning.

This tool is free to use which makes it accessible to anyone with access to the internet. To use this tool the user just has to either choose a location or upload an image. In order for it to be used the user has to upload all of the information that they want displayed, the tool just organizes the information into a map. The site for the tool does not give information on the privacy or who owns the data that is input. The about page of the site does not list when the code for the tool is updated but they have people currently working on it at Knight Lab, so it could be assumed that it is kept pretty up to date. It also gives information about what code to change if you want it to appear in different ways. StorymapJS does not have much bias in the way it allows for any information to be added making it pretty accessible. This tool is not very tricky to figure out, although it does go faster with someone there to show how it is done.

I can definitely use this tool in my Digital Humanities project because it will allow me to annotate photos I take of the different buildings on campus as mentioned previously. I also think that this tool embodies a lot of the Digital Humanities core values, one of them being its openness. This tool is free to use, which gives a lot more access versus a tool that needs a subscription to or one that needs to be paid for, like WordPress. It is also relatively simply to use which makes it accessible to people who are just starting out in Digital Humanities. It does not allow for much experimentation because it is set up in a pretty straightforward way that cannot be changed. Another core value of Digital Humanities is diversity and while it is hard for a digital tool to be diverse it is still important for the creators to be diverse and when taking a look at who helped to create StoryMapJS at the Knight Lab it is both racially diverse and diverse in its inclusion of undergraduate and graduate students.

Project Charter

Project Name: Constructing the Past

Project By: Maci Mark

Project Summary: Constructing the Past is a study of 3 buildings on campus and the coming together of the people who lived in them, the college, the community and the intersection and influence of the architecture. Each building 227 Carlisle Street, 250 Carlisle Street, and Brua Hall have a unique history that also reflects the changes that took place in Gettysburg over time. These buildings are similar in many ways, but are also vastly different in their connection to the college, their original purpose, and how their purpose has changed over time. Buildings and their architecture reflect changes in a community and changes over time, this project will show that. This will culminate in a website that shows these buildings past and current uses, and draws together the community connections.

Deliverables: In order for this projected to be completed I will need access to 227 Carlisle Street, 250 Carlisle Street, and Brua Hall, primary sources from Special Collections and Adams County Historical Society, and digital tools such as scalar, TimelinesJS, and WordPress to create a website.

Project Timeline:

Week 1: I will begin contacting people about different resources

Week 2: Start doing research into the different buildings, make plans to go to County Recorder of Deeds and Adams County Historical Society, Project Charter Due

Week 3: Go to Adams County Historical Society and County Recorder of Deeds, Wireframes due

Week 4: Start narrowing down information

Week 5: Work on organizing information and building website

Week 6: Document 227 Carlisle Street, Project Draft Due

Week 7: Add recently acquired information, Final Project due

Week 8: Present

Future Plans: This project will be preserved in the state it is in at the end of the summer, but there is the potential for more to be added to it in the future.