Digital Humanities

Nathalie's Thoughts

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I haven’t wrapped my mind around DH yet or how it fits in with what I’m doing now. This is definitely a semester and course where I’m really exploring something completely new to me, which is interesting in itself to me. As someone trained as a literary critic in British 19th century literature, I can see how DH can completely support what it means to be a scholar in the field. I remember doing research during my MA and encountering entire archives online dedicated to Wilkie Collins – I was so impressed and it was huge and I can SEE IT ALL in front of my computer in my sweatpants and slippers. Pretty intense and awesome. Actually, it’s almost overwhelming in a way. What do you tackle when it’s all in front of you? There’s so much information, right there, accessible. I also remember bumping into a 19th century women writers website which is still under construction.  But, they (students and professors) were in the process of archiving all of Elizabeth Braddon’s works including her letters, diaries and notes. So, in working with those archives and bumping into them, I could see how DH completely changes the way we approach knowledge. It’s no longer flying to London (although I’ll still do that), to go to some space where paper archives are held, where you reserve a room (I’ve done that at the NYPL for a grad class) and have someone bring you boxes. But now, it’s a huge space online where work is digitized and available to all that are interested, not just scholars, but anybody. I imagine that will widen the conversation among such literature.

For example, here’s the project currently being developed to archive all of MAE’s work. Mary Elizabeth Braddon Archive

or here’s the quarterly review archive, which is in the library on microfiche

Quarterly Archive



After going through the readings for this week, one of the most common themes that I could find is the idea of collaboration. Whether the readings were focusing on the history of DH, different tools or fundamental questions about research, the word collaboration shows up constantly. In Kirschenbaum’s piece, he describes DH as a a common methodological outlook instead of an investment on any one specific set of texts or technologies and that the community of DH have a strong sense of purpose and collaboration. It could be collaboration as we see in the Bentham project, where anyone can jump in and start transcribing, or collaboration on twitter, where it’s mostly about following a larger conversation, which I finally appreciate! I really loved the article in the NYT’s Humanities 2.0 about the word count in the Victorian novel, not just because I’m a Victorianist at heart, but because the concept is interesting and I could see the way that impacts close reading. Actually, a student last semester created a word cloud of his final portfolio to see what words he used the most in all of his writing. He then generated a list which gave a word count of how many times each word showed up (And I mean each word of every piece of writing in his portfolio). It was really neat to see him to do this and incorporate it into his reflection piece about what it means to compose and express.

Regarding my current interest, writing studies, I see DH working in a variety of ways. Much of my current thinking is about first year writing classroom pedagogy, which includes everything from voice finding, to cultural studies, to language, place-based stuff and on and on and on. I’m very interested in using lots of genres in first year writing. I like to get students thinking of writing as more than a paper, but rather composing in a different genres, which could include words, websites, pictures, art, dance, lyrics and this list goes on and on. Last semester, one of my assignments in class was writing six word memoirs. One student decided for his final project, to create Vine videos ( 6 seconds) and mix them with his six word memoirs on a blog. It was really amazing. So, in this class, in the readings and discussions, I’m hoping to think a lot about ways of incorporating projects like the one above, where there is critical thinking, design and creation all combined in one but most importantly reflective of that unique student’s voice. Currently, I have a tumblr for one of my classes, and I ask students to use hashtags, as it’s a whole other language out there that they use and I want them to become aware  of that language and other ones they use everyday.

What am I getting at? I’m not sure! It’s all confusing at the moment, but I know there’s lots of room for creativity in the writing classroom because of digital humanities. It’s more than just writing on a open space like the internet and thinking about audience, it’s asking students to really think what platforms, mode, languages, etc they want to use to express, to compose, to write. The questions in the writing classroom become greater and I’m not sure how that will work in the classroom, but I mostly imagine that it will make students and writers more aware in a variety of ways. It’s no longer just a five paragraph essay that has to be perfected. Right now, DH is making me rethink how I’m going to use all this digital in my conversations in the classroom.

I also like that this course is already pushing me to explore – last night I registered for Twitter – whoa! exciting. I followed way too many people, but I’m going to keep adding anyway.

Open Syllabus Project -this is pretty cool. It’s called the Open Syllabus Project. I found it while searching info on DH and comp studies. I can see this kind of stuff creating a huge, open conversation in different fields where everyone can participate and more ideas can be generated and created. So, right now, the DH’s’ first impression on me can be summarized in the idea of community and collaboration, which I think is extremely awesome.


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