Welcome to Day of DH 2014. Though unfortunately my personal day of DH starts late in the evening, the posts following are the final hour and a half of my day as a digital humanist student. Please enjoy as I recount my learning processes and my applications of DH as I go into the future coming fresh out of my first DH class.
Coming fresh out of my first DH class, I plan to use my new found knowledge and skills and apply them towards my own field. I am not a student who is actively working towards being recognized as a Digital Humanist, and the only day I am doing so is coming to a close in an hour.
I will take the digital tools and ability to represent and visualize forward, aimed towards my future work. I think of myself as more of a creator rather than someone who reviews, but the power to visualize and understand texts from a macro level is something that is sure to be handy in future research in English. Maybe next year I will be able to surprise a professor by using Google Fusion Tables to represent the journey of a fictional character on a map in the middle of a research paper. The skills of a Digital Humanist are so valuable academically, I would be hard pressed not to think back and use the skills acquired during my time spent as a Digital Humanist student.
I have recently tried to educate myself further on exactly what the Text Encoding Initiative meant. I understood that I was tasked with using markup to encode text and that I had to follow the TEI guidelines, but I didnèt understand the aims nor the outcome that I was supposed to aim for. I am relatively self taught with TEI, but my understanding stems from my DH class and the many, many tutorials I found online.
I originally sat with a plain-text in front of me, open in Oxygen XML editor with a dumb look on my face. I was provided with a basic guideline, a template of sorts to work with. In order to learn TEI I didn’t want to just throw together an imitation of what the class needed for the project, so I researched terms and the reasoning behind TEI guidelines. My first step to understanding something is almost always research into backgrounds, so why shouldn’t TEI be the same? After getting a broad overview of TEI, I wanted to focus my search to understanding how to apply TEI and XML to my plain text. I ended up learning a lot about the elements I was going to be marking up with, and ending up altering my entire plan for my encoding project in order to reflect my ongoing studies of TEI. As I worked I learned more about TEI guidelines and elements and used this to refine my encoding.
After finishing the project the best advice I would give to someone going into an encoding project, such as the one I have completed, would be to research as much as possible, know your text, and plan your focus of the encoding before beginning anything. The not-as-great advice I would give is to have fun with it, it’s a learning process and as you work towards your goal you are actively improving in the field and there are few projects that can claim this.
To learn DH it is vital to have a little bit of both the digital and the humanities. I thought myself rather tech savvy, and well versed in literature and creative writing but in order to understand DH I had to learn some new skills. The greatest asset I can say that I can come out of last semester with is the ability to write some basic HTML and CSS. This translated into learning about XML and then TEI in order to encode a chapter of Braddon’s “Lady Audley’s Secret.” I do not proclaim myself even a little bit of a master when it comes to any of the aforementioned acronyms but I do feel confident enough about understanding and applying them given enough time and reference. To me DH is all about learning new things and applying this to what I am working on, whether it be marking up text or building a website for a non-profit organization. My Day of DH is taking the things I learned in the digital tools and applying it to my work and personal projects.
My background of the Digital Humanities is cut down to a single course I signed up for under the guise of an English course. The course title as I signed up for it was ENGL 3550 – DGTL HUM CRT LIT, and is most assuredly a DH course (not that I knew what DGTL HUM even stood for at the time). The course in question covered the groundwork for what being a Digital Humanist meant, starting with a definition of DH which turned out to be rather…abstract and made understood as an umbrella term. The focus of the class was to represent and visualize texts, and our professor conveyed this by introducing us to tools and splitting the class between lecture and hands on work.
We covered HTML and CSS as well as web tools like Voyant and Google Fusion Tables, putting down the foundations for a full blown class project of encoding Braddon’s “Lady Audley’s Secret.” To me everything was new and exciting, the learning process became my justification for saying that I understand what DH is and I can make a contribution to the Day of DH community if just for my voice as a beginner and a student of the school.