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.