Digital History Fellowship

I was selected to be a Digital History Fellow at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media for the 2014-15 academic year.

The September 11 Digital Archive

During the second semester of the fellowship I was placed in the Public Projects division and was tasked with going through several collections within the September 11 Digital Archive. The following blog posts discuss three of those collections.
> Collection Highlight: Boston Federal Aviation Administration Filings
> Collection Highlight: Sonic Memorial Project
> Collection Highlight: Middle East and Middle Eastern American Center Interviews

Papers of the War Department

Also as a part of my work in the Public Projects division, I helped maintain the Papers of the War Department (PWD), a community transcription project. I created user accounts, protected documents that had been fully transcribed, tweeted about nominated documents needing transcription, and writing blog posts. The blog posts fell into one of two categories: highlighting interesting documents found within the PWD and providing monthly updates on the project.
> Transcribe this and “oblige a poor woman”
> Transcribe this: Fever in Philadelphia
> Community Transcription: Forty-Seven Months
> Transcribe this: “We have alarms every day”
> Community Transcription: Forty-Eight Months
> Transcribe this: Creation of a School for Indian Children

Timeline of CHNM Projects, DH Centers, Technologies, Scholarship, & Blogs

This project was completed for the seminar portion of my digital history fellowship. The exhibit was created in Omeka and I used Timeline JS to examine various digital humanities projects, digital humanities centers, technologies, blogs, and works of scholarship. Within the exhibit, I analyzed the overlap between the internet and CHNM’s first digital projects, the use of SmartFox in conjunction with the Firefox browser, how open source has affected digital humanities, and the birth of blogging platforms.

Digital Campus

Producing for Digital Campus involved coordinating a time to record that worked for all hosts; reading up on current trends in DH, technology, and pedagogy; and presenting various stories that might be commented upon during the podcast. During the recording, the producers also worked as scribes. Once the recording was completed, the producers created a short blog post containing a synopsis of the podcast. Along with my second-year mentor, I produced three podcasts:
Episode 106 – Back to the Future of Digital Humanities
Episode 109 – What do Fabio and Naked Laptops Have in Common?
Episode 112 – Digital Campus Classic


During the conference celebrating the 20th anniversary of CHNM, the DH Fellows worked as scribes during the breakout sessions and live tweeted panels and sessions. The conference schedule includes the talks, tweets, and texts from the panels as well as Google Docs of the breakout sessions. I created a Storify of my tweets from the conference.


The DH Fellows at the Center maintained an active blog that detailed our experiences and work during the fellowship. For the first semester, I blogged after completing rotations in each of the Center’s divisions, as well as the seminar and 20th conference. We were also tasked with live tweeting a day in a division, and then blogging about tweets as a form of scholarly communication. For the second semester, my posts centered on reflections of the work I was doing in the Public Projects division, as well as a synopsis of Micki Kaufman’s brown bag presentation on her dissertation. Below are the posts I generated for the fellowship.

Final Reflection

Read the original post on the DH Fellows' blog

Since posting my midterm reflection, I've been continuing to work on the Papers of the War Department and the 9/11 Digital Archive. Anne and I produced Episode #112 of Digital Campus in March, which featured three of the hosts discussing current trends in technology, including the demise of Internet Explorer, the Apple watch, and the new one-port MacBook. On behalf of the DH Fellows, Amanda Regan coordinated Micki Kaufman's brown bag presentation on her dissertation, Quantifying Kissinger, which I briefly blogged about and live tweeted.

Papers of the War Department (PWD)
For the PWD I've been creating user accounts, monitoring the wiki page, and protecting and exporting transcribed documents. I've also written several "transcribe this" blogs describing various documents: one discusses the fever in Philadelphia; another mentions the state of affairs in the Ohio country; and my final post will be published next week that concerns the appeal for the creation of a school for Native American children. I've also written the community transcription updates for the months of March and April. In addition to blogging, I've populated the PWD Twitter with links to documents needing transcription that appeal to a wide audience. Some of these tweets cover such topics as George Washington's presidential agenda; Washington's 1792 speech to the Five Nations; a resignation of a brigadier general; a 1795 American expedition into Florida; and death in Early America.

The September 11 Digital Archive
After completing the review of the Sonic Memorial Project Collection, I wrote a blog post for the 9/11 blog that highlighted the various types of items housed within that large collection by going through the history of the physical space the World Trade Towers inhabited. I also reviewed the Middle East and Middle Eastern American Center (MEMEAC) Interview Collection, which is a group of over seventy interviews of Arab-American and/or Muslim Americans that were conducted by the Graduate Center, City University of New York between 2002 and 2003. Currently I am drafting a blog post that describes that collection.

In addition to my work on those projects, I also performed user testing for the newest version of In addition to my current work on 9/11, I also used Omeka in Public Projects last semester while working on describing the items in the Boston Federal Aviation Administration Filings Collection, so I was already familiar with the user interface, adding content, and describing items. By testing the latest version I learned much more about how the content management system works as well as the purposes for all Omeka plugins, and I was successful in finding a few minor errors. Also: the LC-Suggest plugin is so incredibly helpful and useful!

My work this semester in Public Projects has taught me to engage with wider audiences that are not necessarily scholastic in nature. I've been able to choose PWD documents to tweet or blog about, and I chose to review the MEMEAC collection for my final 9/11 blog post. My blogs and tweets are meant evoke public interest in the projects, and as such the subjects of each must be compelling and interesting to scholars and non-scholars alike. In addition to understanding and reaching out to various audiences, I've also gained a greater understanding of the two platforms both projects are built on: MediaWiki and Omeka. Before working on the PWD I had never worked with MediaWiki, so I had to acclimate myself to the interface. I also now have a great appreciation for Dublin Core metadata after reviewing various items and collections within 9/11. I have greatly enjoyed my time in the Public Projects division, and am amazed at how much I've learned over the past nine months. At the end of August last year, I came in with very limited technical knowledge and was baffled as to what exactly digital history encompasses. Working at the Center as a Fellow has allowed me to broaden my technical horizons, engage with programming languages including Python, have first-hand experiences with the frustrations of American copyright laws, make history accessible to various audiences, and learn the intricacies of Omeka.

Reflection on Micki Kaufman’s Presentation & Live Tweeting

Read the original post on the DH Fellows' blog

Yesterday Micki Kaufman came to CHNM to deliver a presentation on her dissertation, "Everything on Paper Will Be Used Against Me": Quantifying Kissinger. Her presentation was fascinating, and her use of digital methods was eye-opening. What I found particularly interesting was the subtext that ran through both the presentation and the question-and-answer session about how various specializations/professions view and analyze information; in particular, how historians, librarians, and digital historians/humanists do so. This was especially evident when she was discussing the computer-generated and human-generated list of topics found within the documents after running them through topic modeling software. Historians may or may not find that one use of Cambodia in a document of use to them, but librarians have to list Cambodia as a subject because the associated metadata is intended to show the breadth of the document. Another interesting point I took away from the presentation was that digital methods don't have to solely be a methodology. The use of digital methods can also be epistemological in nature. The way Micki approached her research is fundamentally different from how historians have traditionally operated. Rather than going into the archive with a prepared set of questions, Micki took all of the documents from the archive and, using digital methodologies, discovered what the documents were telling her. A question I think should now be approached is how to reconcile the epistemology of digital history with that of traditional history. Do the two have to remain separate from one another? How can we, as digital historians, make it easier for traditionally-minded historians to adapt digital methodologies into their research?

I also live-tweeted Micki's presentation, as did other staff members at the Center. My thoughts and opinions on tweeting as a form of scholarly communication have not changed since my November post on the same topic. Twitter continues to be an excellent platform for scholars, and is an easy way to remain up-to-date with the happenings in the DH world. I especially like using Twitter for presentations and conferences because my tweets can serve as my own notes and simultaneously I am making information available to the general public.

Midterm Reflection

Read the original post on the DH Fellows' blog

This semester I am working in Public Projects. Last semester, when the first year DH fellows were rotating through the division, we worked on the Histories of the National Mall and the 9/11 Digital Archive. This semester, I am continuing to work on the 9/11 Digital Archive in addition to the Papers of the War Department (PWD).

Papers of the War Department

I am assisting Ron and Megan in managing the PWD. My work includes creating transcriber accounts, protecting and exporting documents, communicating with the transcribers when needed, and raising awareness of the project through blog posts and tweets. I always find it interesting to discover why people are signing up to become transcribers, whether it's because they are history teachers or students, conducting genealogical research, or are simply interested in the time period. I've finally started to gain familiarity with the MediaWiki page, having never before used a wiki page. The variety of subjects contained within the PWD is fascinating. I wrote a blog post about a document in which a poor mother was inquiring whether her son, who had served in the Revolutionary War, was due any clothing or money at the time of his death. Today I tweeted about a letter written by George Washington in which he discusses his thoughts on the commander in chief uniform.

9/11 Digital Archive

For the Archive I have been working on reviewing content and making collections public. I first worked on the 13th Anniversary Collection and the 10th Anniversary Collection. Both of these collections include personal reflections on the respective anniversaries of 9/11 in the form of pictures, audio clips, and text. I went through each item within the collections to ensure there wasn't inflammatory content, and then made both collections public. I also wrote a blog post about the Boston Federal Aviation Administration Filings, which Jordan, Stephanie, and I worked on describing when we rotated through Public Projects last semester. It's a fascinating collection, filled with interviews, reports, transcripts, and more, and I hope the blog post draws attention to that particular section of the Archive.

Currently I am working on reviewing the content of the Sonic Memorial Project, which tells the history of the World Trade Centers (WTC) through interviews, voicemails, ambient sounds, and stories. Like the PWD, I am continually amazed by the diversity of items within this collection. There's information about and recollections from a range of people, who provide (often first-hand) insight into Radio Row, which preceded the WTC; the Mohawk Ironworkers who helped build the Towers; building stewardesses who answered questions when the WTC was still under construction and a point of controversy; artists-in-residence at the WTC; stories of love and marriage at the Towers; the Fresh Kills Landfill; and memories of 9/11.

Some of the material is shocking and saddening, like the FDNY radio transmissions from 9/11, or this compilation of WNYC's coverage of the day and weeks following. Other items reveal how people have dealt with the events of 9/11, including this recording of a poem, and this artist's description of her Day of the Dead art installation at the Pelham Art Center. Despite the sadness, there is a multiplicity of people who called into the Project to describe happy memories, including this doctor's story of her engagement, which happened at Windows on the World.

Seminar Reflection

Read the original post on the DH Fellows' blog

My final reflection for the semester is on the first year fellows’ time in the seminar block. We began our first week with a group of readings on the establishment, structure, and dissolution of digital history centers in addition to readings on the history of the Center. During the discussion of the readings, we talked about the physical location of DH centers, many of which are housed within university libraries. While that seems to be a reasonable and logical choice, it is not always best for DH centers for various reasons, least of all funding. This particularly peaked my interest because, as a librarian, I can see how placing these centers within libraries would impact libraries and the services they provide to their patrons, as well as how such a location would impact the libraries internally and the DH centers.

We also worked on compiling the information and notes taken during the 20th anniversary conference. We edited the Google docs from the Saturday morning and afternoon sessions and created an archive of the Tweets from the conference through Storify. All of this work can be accessed here. I am glad we were able to re-visit the notes from the sessions, and adding a synopsis and further resources was helpful in reminding me of the breadth of discussion that occurred at the conference. It’s also been convenient since I was unable to attend all of the sessions that I wanted to, as many of them overlapped.

Finally, we began working on our final projects for the semester. I’m working on a timeline using Timeline JS that maps out the birth of various technologies, centers, projects, works of scholarship, and blogs. I wouldn’t have been able to complete the timeline if it hadn’t been for Anne, Mandy, and Jannelle’s work on DH centers, this map from Vox, and this timeline from the Pew Research Center. It has been interesting to see what has overlapped, when certain technologies came out and how that affected centers, the first digital history projects, and the birth of blogs. It's been difficult to find a stopping point for adding information to the timeline - there is always more that can be put in, since the history of digital history encompasses so many things. For example, I know that the timeline would really benefit from a history of CMS; adding in death dates of centers when appropriate; a history of flash; a history of CD ROMs; and more DH projects from other centers. As it is, I already have over 200 entries on the timeline, and the process has proved to be very time consuming, but also fascinating and fun. I am hoping to create four pages within an Omeka exhibit that explore Firefox and Zotero; blogging technologies; open access/open source; and Who Built America. All of our final projects will be put up on the RRCHNM 20 site.

RRCHNM20 Reflection

Read the original post on the DH Fellows' blog

The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media celebrated its 20th anniversary by holding an unconference on November 14 and 15.

On day one, I worked at the registration table in the morning. I was able to catch parts of the lightning histories and remembrances, and I attended the session on 22 short stories about CHNM history. After lunch I went to the discussion on gender and centers, and the part I found most interesting was the question of whether DH centers are starting to replicate the gendering of work that happens in academic libraries. In the second afternoon session, Anne and I produced Episode 109 of Digital Campus. It was great to have Dan, Tom, Mills, and Stephen in one room rather than recording via Skype, and as that is such a rare occasion, I had hoped the question and answer session would generate more inquiries from the audience.

Day two featured panels and breakout sessions. The first panel, featuring Ed Ayers, Brett Bobley, Bethany Nowviskie, and Stephen Robertson, spoke about the future of digital humanities centers. I appreciated Ayers' statement that the AHA needs to embrace digital humanities scholarship as true scholarship, and I realized while listening to Bethany that I need to re-read Roy Rosenzweig's piece on scarcity and abundance. Bethany listed many issues that we need to be more aware of, including excessive consumption, the carbon footprint, adjunctification, and disparities inherent in DH centers due to budgets or location. After the panel I went to the first breakout session of the day, where we discussed global and domestic access. The part of the discussion that I most enjoyed was that of language barriers and how we need to ensure the accessibility of our technologies to all parts of the globe. Neatline is one example of a DH technology that fosters and embraces diversity and global access.

After lunch we had our second panel, during which Tim Hitchcock, William Thomas, Kathryn Tomasek, and Spencer Roberts discussed the future of digital history. Tim brought up a great point when he stated that books should not stand by themselves, and digital history needs to reinvent history writing and telling. There is more than one way to effectively study history, and the monograph should no longer be the pinnacle of academic achievement for historians. Bill mentioned revising the peer review process, and that is a topic that has come up time and again in our Clio 1 course. Spencer's presentation was critical and informative, and he talked about a wide range of topics, including the faults inherent in the digital history fellowship model utilized at the Center, the issues surrounding digital dissertations, and the problems graduate students face as a result of lack of funding. Then we moved into our breakout sessions, and I took notes during the discussion focusing on rethinking the physical archive.

I left the conference feeling inundated with information about the future of digital humanities and digital history and the problems we need to discuss and collaborate together on to remedy. I was constantly in awe of the level of intellectual discourse occurring, and I greatly enjoyed listening to both panels' presentations. It was great to meet some of the authors of our Clio 1 readings and the digital humanities scholars I follow on Twitter, and the big names in DH in general. I ended up with more questions than I could possibly elucidate here, but I must admit that the conference completely sold me on the utility of Twitter. Not only was it useful for me for note-taking purposes to live tweet as much of the conference as a I could, but the hashtag created for the event allowed a diverse audience of people to tune into the days' events.

Public Projects Division Reflection

Read the original post on the DH Fellows' blog

Working in Public Projects has been a great learning experience. While working in the Division we were able to “sample” several different projects, which provided me with a firm understanding of the breadth of work this Division does.

I live tweeted our first day in Public Projects, which you can read about here. The focus of our first week was Omeka, the content management system used in online digital collections. We first looked at the showcases of Omeka to learn more about the front end. Our Clio class that evening was on Public History, so it was convenient to have the overlap between work and class. For the rest of the week we played around with the back end of Omeka. Megan took us through the steps of downloading Github, placing it in our directory on the dev server, and using command line in our Terminal to navigate. We also did user testing of Omeka, during which we installed the guestuser and poster plugins. We worked on generating posters on each other’s sites. We then installed all available Omeka themes and used them to test out the captions in both static and carousel views.

The second week we became more familiar with Histories of the National Mall. We compared Baltimore Heritage and Heritage Pin to Histories of the National Mall. Those sites have similar goals but use various methods to achieve those goals. Personally I liked History Pin – it’s a great example of crowdsourced history and it encompasses all parts of the globe rather than a single geographic region. Later that week we went on a field trip to the National Mall to do some live testing of the site. Since I don’t have a smartphone, I brought an iPad with me. Unfortunately for us, the wifi on the Mall wasn’t functional that day, so I was unable to do any testing (except for one minute when I was right outside the National Gallery of Art). Jordan and Stephanie graciously let me look at their phones so I was able to have some interaction with the site. At least our visit was a true visitor experience. After our field trip, we were each given a Mall Exploration to review and revise. I learned quite a bit about alternative plans for the Washington Monument. First I edited the content and trimmed down all five sections to under 50 words (apparently I’m unable to read directions that clearly state the sections can be 100 words or less). Then I fact checked the Exploration, using Dan Savage’s Monument Wars, a Washington Post article, the Library of Congress, and the National Park site. Editing and fact checking is a part of the writing process that I really enjoy, so I had fun with the Exploration.

Our final two weeks were spent on the 911 Digital Archive. We worked with several documents from the Boston Federal Aviation Administration Filings. I was given five of them, which I read through and then added metadata to the item record. Using Dublin Core, each document was given a title, description, date published, subjects, contributor, rights, and an item type. I never used Dublin Core standards in library school since I didn’t specialize in archives, but I am fully convinced as to the utility of the standards in museums and archives. Working with the Boston Federal Aviation Administration Fillings reminded me of my love of metadata and collection description.

Working in Public Projects has been incredibly rewarding. I greatly enjoy working in the public history field, and was pleased that we were able to work on so many different projects during our time in the Division. I found that working with the Histories of the National Mall Exploration and creating metadata for the 911 Digital Archive to be fun, which isn’t something I would have expected, but I attribute my love of editing content and creating metadata to my library background. Since this Division undertakes public history projects, when working on them I found it helpful to keep the audience in mind. What would a person creating a poster need or expect? Where might they run into difficulties? What type of wording in my Mall Exploration is the most concise, cohesive, and easy-to-read for a variety of reading levels and ages? When someone accesses the Boston Federal Aviation Administration Filings what sorts of data are they looking for? Is the wording of my description descriptive enough?

While I cannot believe our time is already over (I say that at the end of every Division but time really does go by too quickly), I am looking forward to CHNM’s 20th Anniversary Conference on Friday and Saturday!

Live Tweeting a Day in Public Projects

Read the original post on the DH Fellows' blog

The semester is flying by, and last week I realized I had yet to live tweet a day in a division. I figured today would be a good day to attempt this assignment since it marks the beginning of the first year fellows' time in the Public Projects Division. In addition, it's Monday, which seems to be the busiest day of the week for the Center, so I thought I would have no shortage of things to tweet about. I also need to preface this blog post by admitting that I am not very social-media savvy: prior to this semester I was not on any social media site (unless you count LinkedIn) and was happy with that. My net-anonymity bubble burst quickly after starting at the Center, which is undoubtedly a good thing. I had to create a Twitter account for Clio, and have become familiar with the platform and follow several different digital historians. In doing so I have come to see how Twitter is used in an academic environment.

Twitter seems to be an excellent platform for scholarly communication. The telegram-style tweets that emerge as a result of the 140 character limit are useful in that the person tweeting must get to the point quickly and the viewer doesn't have to waste any time in trying to understand what the tweet is about. There is no space for someone to get on their symbolic soapbox. I think this is definitely a product of the current generation, who want and expect everything at the click of a finger. Things must happen quickly: people must convey ideas in a timely fashion, and the audience must be able to comprehend that idea in just the same amount of time. While you wouldn't expect it to, this lends itself well to the digital humanities, and to all of academia.

Every project that I have worked on so far at the Center has a Twitter account: PressForward, Digital Humanities Now, Histories of the National Mall, Zotero, Omeka. 100 Leaders is the only exception to this, but I think that is because 100 Leaders was created for National History Day and is not a sole creation of the Center. Twitter is a great way to promote such projects, get out information about updates on plugins and apps, and let everyone know about outages. One of the benefits of Twitter is that it is so popular, which makes spreading the word fairly easy, but it also shows how connected the Center is with social media and current trends in technology. For all academic institutions, Twitter one way to remain connected to a core audience.

Tweeting conferences is another way in which Twitter enhances scholarly communication. It can be overwhelming to have a deluge of tweets from one person on a specific day, but there are many benefits to it as well. One of the digital humanitarians I follow live tweeted a conference she was attending and it was useful in that I was able to get a brief snapshot of what was going on at the moment, such as who was presenting and a shortened version of their argument and/or project. Since I've never attended a THATCamp, I would find it helpful to follow someone attending one so I can get a feel of what sorts of things are discussed and presented. I think that the 20th Anniversary CHNM Conference should be live tweeted to get the word out and to broaden the discussion. I will attempt to live tweet at least one of the two days.

Twitter has been useful to me in understanding what exactly digital humanities is and to observe the conversation among scholars in the field. Twitter would be useful for any newbie in the digital humanities or academia in general to learn the ropes, understand the trending topics, and see which scholars are the most active either in their scholarly pursuits or on Twitter, or both as the case may be.

Education Division Reflection

Read the original post on the DH Fellows' blog

Another four weeks has gone by! I cannot believe our time in the Education Division is already at an end. We’ve had a busy and productive month.

Our first task was to find images and videos of the people featured on the 100 Leaders website. I enjoyed examining the leader gallery, seeing which leaders were chosen by the panel, and debating with the other fellows over leaders that should have been included (like John Adams). We had to find videos or images of the leaders in context or performing some action rather than portraits, so for Martin Luther I used a picture of him nailing the 95 Theses to the church door at Wittenburg. We also had to find images of the leaders that exemplify the five qualities of leadership: articulating a vision; motivating others; making effective decisions; willingness to confront tough issues; and impacting history. It was immensely satisfying to see the images we collected highlighted in the video Chris created on using 100 Leaders in the classroom.

The only problem I ran into with collecting images and video footage was, of course, copyright. While in library school I took an excellent class titled Legal Issues in Information Handling: Copyright and Fair Use in the Digital Age, taught by Dr. James “Kip” Currier. In this class we delved into the problems and consequences of American intellectual property laws, including patents, trademarks, trade secrets, and copyright. It was both frustrating and interesting from an academic standpoint to see how far the hand of copyright can reach into historical work. The fact that we cannot use a decent image of any of the Founding Fathers is ridiculous. The problems I encountered with copyright furthered my opinion that American intellectual property law hinders rather than helps the creation, promotion, and usage of intellectual property.

We also did user and mobile testing on the 100 Leaders site. I first tested the site out on my laptop and didn’t have too many problems. Mobile testing was much more problematic. I used an iPad and had a really difficult problem using the slider. What struck me most was how many changes I saw on the site from one week to the next. The voting box looked completely different after only one week of work. User and mobile testing helped me understand how much work goes into creating an interactive website. Any problem we had with the site was reported to make sure that everyone who will vote on National History Day will have a positive experience and be able to navigate and use the website.

We also worked on creating a user guide for the 100 Leaders site for when we turn the site’s management and maintenance over to National History Day. Between the first year fellows we divided up the content portion of the site. I worked on providing step-by-step instructions for how to edit the biographical information associated with each leader. We had to ensure that our work was consistent in style and that the screenshots were uniform. Prior to starting work on the guide we were able to play around with the back end of the site, since we had previously only used the front end for user and mobile testing.

Working in the Education Division has given me an appreciation for knowing one’s audience, something we’ve been discussing in Clio 1 as of late. The work we did in Research with PressForward and DHNow was catered to an academic audience, but the work we did with 100 Leaders is for a much younger audience of school-aged children. When we were discussing what went into choosing the leaders, determining the qualities that make a leader, how the site was constructed, and mobile and user testing, I was constantly reminded that National History Day and 100 Leaders was designed for children in school to be able to understand and use for their own purposes. Especially with mobile and user testing, we had to think about how children would most likely interact with the sight. We had to consider such things as: would the slider or a dropdown box be more appropriate? Would they have a problem moving the slider? Is it visually and aesthetically appealing enough for that age group?

The Education team is busy with a multiplicity of projects and it’s been fun listening to what everyone is up to at the weekly staff meetings. I also found the lightning talks informative and I would have never known about The American Yawp, the timeline Stephanie told us about, or the religious atlas that Jordan discussed otherwise. The lightning talks were a great way to highlight digital tools and resources for educating all age groups about history.

I’ve really enjoyed my time in the Education Division. I’m looking forward to seeing how the voting turns out on National History Day and I’ll be sure to vote for a few of my favorites!

Research Division Reflection

Read the original post on the DH Fellows' blog

It’s hard to believe that the first year fellows have already completed our first rotation within a division. I was nervous to begin the fellowship in the Research Division, since I’m not super-technical (I was rightly told that I can no longer claim to not be a “technology person”), but I have had quite a learning experience. I learned new skills – I can now effectively explain to someone what a plugin actually does and how it works – and went out of my comfort zone in learning Python.

In our first week, we began with PressForward. After playing around with the sandbox site, I installed the PressForward plugin onto my dev site to get a better handle of how it worked. Once I was more comfortable with the logistics of the plugin I moved on to working as an editor-at-large of Digital Humanities Now. It was incredibly interesting to see how the plugin can be used for academic purposes and how it aggregates and organizes content. I was astounded by the quantity of content that was part of the all content feed, especially since a disproportionate amount of the posts were not related to digital humanities.

In our second week, we shadowed Tuesday’s editors-in-chief, Amanda and Mandy, and watched them go through the process of examining the articles under review and deciding which pieces should be published. Prior to Thursday, I familiarized myself with the editors-at-large corner and read several editors’ choice articles. I especially enjoyed reading “Thoughts on feminism, digital humanities and women’s history,” since my area of research is women and gender. On Thursday we were editors-in-chief, which was such a fun experience.

It was beneficial to begin work with PressForward from the ground up. We started with the sandbox, moved on to seeing how the plugin worked for DH Now, and then used the plugin to publish an issue of DH Now. It is a fantastic tool for disseminating often overlooked material to a wide audience and for collecting and curating information. Overall, I had a positive experience with PressForward and DH Now.

After PressForward, we started learning Python through the Programming Historian lessons. I had minimal experience using HTML, CSS, and XML to create a website from scratch when I was in library school, but programming is not something I am comfortable with. At first Programming Historian was fairly easy and the first few lessons seemed straight-forward, but once I got past the “Manipulating Strings in Python” I started to feel lost. After completing those lessons I moved onto the Zotero API lessons. These were more difficult for me to comprehend, especially since, as Stephanie pointed out, they are not in layman’s terms. With help from Jordan and Spencer, I was able to get through the lessons using the sample Zotero library.

I cultivated my own Zotero library and then went back through the API lessons using it instead of the sample in order to see how much of the lessons I could understand on my own. I was successfully able to get through the first two lessons, which was very exciting. I ran into some problems with the third lesson when Text Wrangler was not reading the URLs from the first two items in my library. It was working when I used the sample library because the URLs are links to simple HTML pages, but the links in my library are linked to more complicated sites, such as the source’s record in EBSCO. Jordan had discovered another problem earlier with the user and group tags, and I went into GitHub and reported both of our problems. I am excited to see how I will use Python in the future with other digital humanities projects.

It was an illuminating contrast to work with both PressForward and Python and to see how the latter influences the former. I can understand why we began in the Research Division since the technical skills we learned are necessary in order to have a solid foundation and understanding of digital history.

Digital Campus Podcast: Back to the Future of Digital Humanities

This past Friday, I co-produced a Digital Campus Podcast with help from my digital history mentor and second-year Digital History Fellow at the Center, Anne Ladyem McDivitt. Stephen Robertson hosted, and Dan Cohen, Amanda French, Mills Kelly, and Tom Scheinfeldt joined the discussion. Of particular interest to me was their debate about the use of Twitter as an academic outlet, how it has evolved, and the possibilities for the future. Will the academic community return to blogging or will Tumblr be the go-to platform?

Digital Campus Episode #106 - Back to the Future of Digital Humanities