All posts by Thomas Padilla

Postscript – Getting Started in the Digital Humanities

When I think about the role that the library can play in supporting Digital Humanities research part of my thinking turns toward emphasizing it as a natural point of confluence for facilitating discussion. And so we organized a panel of DH scholars and asked them a series of questions tied loosely under the heading of “Getting Started in the Digital Humanities: A Multidisciplinary Perspective”. Not the smoothest title but I think it gets the point across. I wanted perspectives on this thing that we do from different intellectual and professional cultures.

The panel included Natalie Philips, Liza Potts, Sean Pue, Dean Rehberger, and Jessica Marie Johnson. Huge thanks to them all.

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The questions I delivered for the first part of the event were most of the following, encoded in t.padilla lefthanded scratch format on a wood pulp substrate.


Im a new librarian (just started in January) so admittedly I had some nerves kicking off our “Getting Started in DH” event in front of new colleagues (where I am that librarian doing some inchoate thing called DH), and a whole bunch of scholars whose worked Id admired before I ever set foot in the mitten.

Nerves led to the following gem.

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I think I can say that it was ultimately a relatively non-grumpy event, so achievement.

It was awesome to hear the various perspectives of the panelists – how they defined DH and realized that definition in the course of research, how they got started and why, what resources they use, and what their objects of inquiry are – giving form to data so to speak. It is my hope that collectively we’ve provided a sense of possibility and promise around DH for those new to DH and maybe even renewed excitement for the more experienced.

Now my thoughts turn toward notes on comments and subtexts heard in remarks from the panelists and the audience. Drawing on that data Ill continue the work of improving MSU Libraries ability to drive forward digital humanities research.

Early Rising

Today like most every day is a busy day. It starts with waking before dawn. My brain has the unfortunate tendency to peter out in the afternoon (email writing is nearly always a mistake at that time). So today Im up early because Im productive but also because I enjoy it.

Routine before arriving at Library

  1. Drink coffee – necessary to maintain equilibrium
  2. Turn on computer Рsee the below image which makes me smile Рsomething Ill always associate with DH Рimportant to not take yourself too seriously, be okay with being humbled Gzk9U
  3. Twitter – interesting things are favorited and automagically sent to a Google Spreadsheet and Evernote for later reading using IFTTT, also might make a wisecrack or two, promote interesting DH opportunities by retweeting
  4. Email – given brain weakness in previous afternoon, powerful(relatively) morning brain tackles outstanding issues and composes messages to drive forward other DH goals at MSU – each time I write in this medium I think about an excellent lecture that Jeff Grabill gave to the new librarians on professional communication in email – a medium characterized as fulfilling either relationship building, reporting, or proposing – consisting of a series of “moves” – thanking, alignment, or requesting
  5. Goals & Objectives – review DH and subject area goals document in Evernote for the week, the semester and so forth
  6. Current Project Review Рglance at MSU Google Drive docs to prioritize task tackling for the day  РGoogle Docs have their issues (formatting hell), but they are great for working on docs collaboratively, either from instantiation or once you are ready to share a draft with a group
  7. Drink more coffee
  8. Hacking/Reading – messing with new tools and methods, doing the same with new/old readings, some DH some not – motivation to do either is typically driven by seeing an interesting project and wanting to reverse engineer it – always helps my DH motivation to have a concrete example of why I would want to learn a skill/method/etc rather than an attempt in the abstract
  9. Framing – when the days are loaded and it seems like the overwhelm becomes a physical thing, I try to recast the difficult aspects as challenging opportunities – nothing worth getting ever came easy