Happy Day of Digital Humanities 2010!

Good morning from Athens, Georgia, where my girls are very excited about the Day of Digital Humanities.

Happy Day of Dh!

Emma's sign

Emma, in fact, is so excited that she helped me to make a sign for the day. She included an earthworm (at the bottom), a portrait of a digital humanist (note the bow) and a Christmas tree (on the right). I think she was a little confused about the nature of this particular holiday.

Future Digital Humanists

Emma and Tessa Steger - Future Hackers

Class #1 – Humanities Computing I

9:30 am – my first class. I’m teaching the second semester of our three-class Humanities Computing series. The University of Georgia is proud to have been among the first institutions to offer Humanities Computing classes.

The Humanities Computing Lab at UGA

The course is designed around three mini-projects: one in which students use text analysis tools, one in which students design projects to display their mastery of XHTML and CSS, and one in which they apply a basic markup scheme to sample texts and use XSLT to display the XML documents.

On the slate today: we have just finished the unit on XHTML and CSS, and we begin class with the three final presentations of the mini-projects. While the students present, their classmates evaluate each others’ work: I will aggregate the feedback in my own evaluation of their work.

Carissa Shows Off Her Skin

After the presentations, we discussed some of the definitions for Digital Humanities that were posted on the Day of DH site. I have a particularly smart group this semester, and thought that the community might like to hear a little about and from these undergrad and grad students who signed up for Humanities Computing – some of them without even really knowing what they were getting into. They divided into groups to come up with their own definitions for Digital Humanities, and I asked them also to share a little bit about themselves and why they are interested in the field.

Humanities Computing I Students at UGA (Humoring Me With a Group Shot)

Class Definitions of Humanities Computing – Group One

Chelsea Gattung, Erica Morgan, Justin Sperlein, and Erica Morgan came up with this definition for Digital Humanities:

Digital humanities concerns the ways in which developing technologies such as computers and digital media affect our understanding and research of the traditional discpline of the humanities. Furthermore, DH seeks to unpack how our culture uses these digital tools and what that ultimately reflects about our understanding of the humanities.

Discussing How to Define DH (with Vannevar Bush in Background)

Chelsea Gattung: I orginally signed up for this course to satisfy a requirement of the New Media Certificate. The institute requires 6 hours of coursework related to technolgy outside of the NMI. Through those 6 hours I have learned how to effectively communicate to an audience through the use of graphics, and in this class I have learned how to define digital humanities and its importance to our culture as well as CSS/HTML/XHTML coding. This class has instilled a new understanding of researching/analyzing text through the use of new technologies. I now understand how our society can manipulate technology (such as computers and programs) to find the “new” out of the “old.”

Erica Morgan: My name is Erica Morgan and I am a 3rd year Telecommunications major and English minor at the University of Georgia. I stumbled upon this class because I needed a upper level English class to complete my minor requirements. When I saw the title “Humanities Computing” I was a little curious as to what that meant. Obviously I knew that it had something to do with computing and english so I was up for the challenge. The first day of this class I learned that it was a type of english class that implemented onine coding. I always wanted to learn how to code and felt that this was the perfect opportunity. I recently, last semester, started to take an interest in web design and graphic design through dreamweaver and flash. This Humanites Computing has allowed me to go beyond what I thought I was capable of doing when it came to digital computing.

Justin Sperlein: I am a first-year linguistics MA student wending my way down the humanities computing track. I have a linguistics BA from BYU, and most of my work is in phonetics and computational linguistics. I have used digital tools to study the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I plan to use my MA as a spring board for a linguistics PhD, or else to continue work as an automated speech recognition researcher.

Ben Watt: “I became interested in the digital humanities after taking several composition courses that introduced me to non-traditional formats for academic texts. For instance, one course in compositition (and rhetoric) introduced me both to the online journal Kairos and the general trend of digitalization over print . Shortly thereafter, I took a writing for the web course at UGA in Fall of ‘09 in which I got some practice in creating native web-texts which I began to identify as integral to any future in academic research and writing.
The experience that sealed the deal and spurred me to enrol in digital humanities, however, occurred in Fall of ‘09 when I began researching the various facets of the digital divide–especially how it relates to higher education.
I intend to enroll in master’s program in English in 2011 with an emphasis in Rhetoric & Composition and especially how it relates to digital technology and the ways in which this technology may affect these programs in general.”

Class Definitions of Digital Humanities – Group Two

Allison Cass, Carolyn Crist and Carissa Pfeiffer wrote the following definition of Digital Humanities:

Digital Humanities – Studying the traditional objects of humanities research in a new way transformed by digital tools as well as recognizing and theorizing about how those tools change the way we’re able to look at the human experience and cultural products.

Humanities Computing Class - Complete with View-Obstucting-Load-Bearing Post

Allison Cass: I am a Senior Public Relations major with a concentration in new media. I signed up to take this course to satisfy my New Media Certificate requirement not knowing a single thing about DH or what this class was going to be about. Having been in this course over half the semester now, I have learned so much that I know will benefit me in my future. I plan on getting a job working with computers, online social media, and web development. I have a better appreciation of web site building after learning to write HTML and CSS instead of just playing with Dreamweaver, which is what I have learned in the NMI, to create aesthetically pleasing products. Here I have learned the background to getting the end product, and I now have a greater appreciation of the final product.

Carolyn Crist: I’m a senior newspapers and English major at the University of Georgia. Admittedly, I joined this class as a leap of faith. Looking at the syllabus, I still wasn’t sure what I would learn, but the words HTML/CSS/XML told me it would be useful. I didn’t expect to encounter a discipline with such a wide scope, and I’ve found over and over again how the tools I’m learning help my journalism field. I’ve already used text analysis for a paper in another English class, and I plan to use coding in my new job. If I weren’t graduating, I would certainly pursue more courses in HC. I definitely plan to keep teaching myself from here.

Carissa Pfeiffer: I am a double major in English and Printmaking/Book Arts, two areas that are steeped in old, old traditions. I was drawn to this class by my interest in computers, and I’ve become more and more interested because of the ways that it informs and changes the way I think about the traditional concerns of both of my majors.

Class Definitions of Digital Humanities: Group Three

Joshua Hussey, Summer Nelson, and Ashley Sammartino wrote the following definition for Digital Humanities:

There is a little bit of technology in everything.
We are learning and teaching ourselves to manage information with technology . The process requires creating and exploring in collaboration with individuals as well as media tools.

Joshua Hussey:Joshua Hussey is pursuing a PhD in English, focusing on the 20th century. His interests lie particularly in “mapping,” which broadly speaking, investigates both surface and depth of text.

Summer Nelson:I am interested in this class because I enjoy the exploration, creativity, and collaboration of computer and web tools. Since life requires much of this collaboration whether in relationships, homework, hobbies, etc., this class allows me to use these same practices through digital means. It is exciting to learn new codes, tools, and information, as our culture is becoming more and more media centered. I don’t want to just keep up with such technology, but stay ahead of the game. Eventually I would like to end up working for a publishing company, such as a magazine, working on layout, design, editing, and hopefully the online versions of all of these.

Ashley Sammartino: My name is Ashley Sammartino. I am currently a Senior, focusing on a degree in Advertising.
I decided to take this course to learn more about website design and building, as a means of helping me in my academic endeavors. Honestly, when I signed up for the first Humanitie Computing course, I had no idea what it was. I’ve found it interesting to see how these two worlds, HC and Advertising, can rely on each other. The use of text anaylsis tools, such as wordle for example, have been a useful tool in defining brands or a focus group’s thoughts on a brand and presenting it a visually pleasing way. I hope to be able to continue to use these tools, once I enter the work force.

Class #2 – ENGL 1101 (Freshman Composition)

11:00 am – I leave my HC class and head down to the first floor of Park Hall to teach my freshman composition class. Embarrassingly, on the slate today is a VHS video for Revising Prose. The students are in the final stages of revision for their second papers.

Oh yes. This is VHS. You can go ahead and kick me out of the DH community now.

While there’s nothing particularly DH-ish about this class, I have noticed a huge increase in the number of laptops that students bring to class. And the number of Macs. See for yourself:

My ENGL 1101 class and their laptops

Development Meeting

After I teach my second class on Thursdays, I head to the “Hack Lab” (a converted broom closet – but hey, it’s our space!) to meet with my co-developers on the emma project. emma is our homegrown system for collecting, sharing, and commenting on materials and student writing at UGA.

In general, our development meetings usually involve some show-and-tell of whatever new code we’ve been working on, followed by a discussion of what we need to do next, followed by a little group code work. We tend to bang our heads until we get something to work, then divide-and-conquer the coding to be done in the intervening week. This week it’s jQuery work.

We’re a small team – Ron Balthazor (Lead Developer), Robin Wharton, John Weatherford and me – but what we lack in size, we make up for in sheer stubbornness. Ron, Robin and I have worked on emma for three years now together and they have become family. Ron, a Thoreau scholar, always reminds us to simplify, simplify, simplify – whether in the code or in life.

Developers at Work. Do Not Disturb.

Class #3 – ENGL 4520 (19th Century Novel)

3:30 – My final class. Today we’re studying Dracula – a novel that is deeply concerned with technology. In fact, the first of two student presentations focuses on how cutting edge Bram Stoker was in incorporating the latest technological innovations in his novel as tools for defeating Dracula: the typewriter, the phonograph, and shorthand.

The 19th-Century Equivalent of the iPhone

And really, Dracula is a great finish for my Day of Digital Humanities. Stoker uses technologies as a means to connect his heroes. They battle the old world – holding high their innovations and insisting that times are changing. They suppress superstitious nonsense and ignore the nay-sayers. They transform their texts from the original format, collect them in an archive, and theorize about how the resultant changes in scale and scope offer new knowledge about their culture.

Sounds a bit familiar, no?

The Delightfully Unexpected

Two things that made my day today. First off, one of my brilliant HC students, Carissa Pfeiffer, gifted me a printing of her work, inspired by Katherine Hayles:

Carissa's Posthuman Vision

And right after I described the Day of DH to my final class, one of my students piped up – “Hey, there’s a stormtrooper in the hallway!” AND THERE WAS!!!

Random Stormtrooper in Park Hall