Encoding, apologising

Browsing around some posts by other Day-of-DHers, I noticed a few apologising for not being able to devote as much time as they would have liked to blogging. I am now clambering aboard that very train of regret. As much as I value Day of DH, and appreciate the window it opens onto the work of colleagues the world over, I simply found myself unable to find the time to make any further posts yesterday afternoon. So, here I am, wrapping things up on the Day After Day of DH.

I spent the afternoon writing a budget report. There followed a meeting with a colleague to discuss the final lecture in a course that we are involved in teaching. We had a quick scan through the student evaluations from the course and talked about the pros and cons of reading such evaluations straight away, after a cooling-off period, or when the time comes for planning next year’s lecture course.

Finally, I finished the day by spending an hour on a recognisably-DH activity: encoding a text in TEI.


An interesting part of Ida Federica Pugliese’s talk at the Digital Scholarship Seminar in the early afternoon was about the potential value of failure in digital scholarship (a topic covered in the past by John Unsworth). What struck me about Ida’s experiences with various databases and visualisation tools was that, while occasionally frustrating, they seemed to prompt her towards a valuable assessment of many first-principles of scholarship. In my own experience, this is the case with encoding texts. Marking up a plain text insists on a deep consideration of the very nature of textuality, and the process has helped me to develop a richer understanding of what texts are and how they work. (In my more receptive moments–I very often complain about what a tiresome chore text encoding can be, too).

The tools that we deploy in Digital Humanities might not always make our research work the way we want it to work. But this trial & error–heuristic–exploration–call it what you will, often causes our minds to work in unexpected and valuable ways.

Digital Scholarship

My morning was spent on admin, mostly. Students from my lecture course are due to submit final essays tomorrow, so queries were landing in my inbox at an alarming rate. I also returned some overdue library books, slightly aggrieved (in a digitally-entitled way) that I could not simply renew them online. The book historian in me, however, appreciates the imperative to make readers pass through the library doors every now and again. I then visited the printer’s to pick up booklets for a series of public talks on poetry that begins this Thursday. And I spoke to a colleague about a conference that he is hosting at NUI Galway this June. Those of you who study Victorian print culture, take note.

This afternoon saw the final installment of Digital Scholarship Seminar for the current semester. This is a seminar which I established along with Padraic Moran in early 2013 with the aims of promoting digital scholarship in NUI Galway, providing a forum for researchers to present their work, and forging a community of digital scholarship practitioners from across the university. We deliberately decided to call it ‘Digital Scholarship’ instead of ‘Digital Humanities’ with this last aim in mind, cognisant that interesting digital work is happening locally in disciplines outside the School of Humanities. Today, indeed, a colleague from Political Science & Sociology presented his work on nationalism in the digital space, while another colleague from the Moore Institute discussed the advantages and disadvantages of using network analysis for examining information collection and management in the Enlightenment period.

The seminar drew a good attendance, which is heartening to see at the end of semester, when people have so many pressing commitments. As far as community-building goes, the seminar has been quite successful, as we have a core group of regular attendees. While we like to believe that the quality of the scholarship encourages this loyalty and interest, one should never underestimate the appeal of a free lunch.

The remnants of another tasty Digital Scholarship lunch.
The remnants of another tasty Digital Scholarship lunch.

Sick-day of DH

In past years, the Day of DH has seemed to fall on an irregular day. Either I would be away at a conference, or doing something out of the ordinary that required explanation. At any rate, the Day of DH rarely seemed to be one of those mundane, quotidian days that included some teaching, some administration, some research. As it happens, today might just be one of those days, but–inevitably–with some added spice. I am sick.

Today's diet of throat lozenges
Today’s diet of throat lozenges

NUI Galway is proving to be a quite treacherous environment these days. A couple of factors are contributing to the growing dominion of germs around campus: a nasty bug has accompanied the recent change in season, and the university has seen an occurrence of measles. I’ve always thought that the collective sigh of relief breathed by faculty at the end of semester is heard by colds and fevers as an invitation to attack the momentarily relaxed and defenceless constitutions of the staff. Just when you begin to think about turning your mind to research that has been shelved by the teaching semester…BAM: here’s a temperature and the sniffles to weaken your resolve.

But, as many of us have found, taking a sick-day is often a luxury reserved for more serious sickness. I was away from the office last week at the EADH Spring Academy in Antwerp, and have been busy playing catch-up since my return. Taking a sick-day would merely have plunged me further into the backlog.

Just another Day of DH 2014 site

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