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Toward a More Creative DH

(Reposted from the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media’s DH Fellows blog. See the original entry here.)

Inspired by a MediaCommons survey thread I wrote about at the end of my first year as a DH Fellow, I decided to spend my second year tracking how digital humanists are embracing creativity in their work. The MediaCommons thread asked: “What is the role of the digital humanities in transforming and responding to the arts?” and featured a number of responses how about putting the arts and DH into conversation creates the potential for more engaging, ethical, and exciting work in the field. Because I study music history, I am always looking for new ways to engage with sound, and sensory history more broadly, in the context of digital work. In the field, I noticed not only a reinvestment in podcasting as a medium, but also projects that take sound as its central point of study, including heightened attention to archiving and making sound artifacts available through the work of projects like the Radio Preservation Task Force and The Great 78 Project.

This attention to creativity also came through in the ways that DH scholars have assessed and defended the field. For example, Sarah Bond and Michael Kramer both raised important questions this year about what happens when we reconsider the roots of DH, and how this can lead to more open idea about what, and who, should be considered as part of the field. A number of posts also explored more creative digital pedagogy, and how it can create space for our students to approach history and technology on their own terms in more personally and academically productive ways. Finally, other scholars expressed a more creative approach toward archival work by continuing to broaden and critique what is considered an archive and being forthright about how scholarly and artistic philosophies can influence one another.

I expect that these threads will grow as DH scholars continue to push the boundaries of DH work and make room for ethical and radical scholarship. This work requires a more creative approach, as it seeks to reshape DH around truly decolonizing, anti-racist, and feminist practices. Another important aspect of this thread is the ability for scholars to discuss failure as much as success as a way to learn from one another as the contours of the field continue to expand. As Sean Michael Morris says in the context of what he calls “ethical online learning,” these kinds of projects can serve as important sites of resistance for our students to become “imaginers of an education less technicist, and a world less oppressive.” By continuing to let DH transform and respond to the arts, there appears the promise of a less technicist, less oppressive future for all of us.

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Wrapping Up the DH Fellowship in Public Projects

This spring 2018 semester I continued to work in the Public Projects Division. Since I first arrived in this division in spring 2017, I have primarily worked on the Hearing the Americas NEH planning grant to help in the production of a prototype and a future implementation plan. The design document that concluded this planning grant was completed by the time we arrived back from winter break. This semester, I assisted with the next phase of the project: to submit an NEH production grant drawing from the progress we made during the planning grant period in order to build and launch the website. I helped to draft a preliminary version of this grant proposal that is currently in its last week of editing by the Hearing the Americas team before being submitted for consideration in this grant cycle. Working on this project has continued to be a dynamic way for me to draw from and expand my knowledge in music, digital, and public history. Being involved in the grant writing process, throughout the planning grant and production grant phases, has also provided invaluable experience learning how much work goes into drafting a substantial grant application.

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Public Projects Update

(Reposted from the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media’s DH Fellows blog. See the original entry here.)

I spent the Fall 2017 semester in the Public Projects Division. Since the end of the Spring 2017 semester, as well as over the summer, I have been primarily working with the Hearing the Americas team to complete an NEH planning grant. This digital project will explore the history of the early music industry by recontextualizing digitized recordings from the LOC JukeboxUCSB Cylinder Archives, and the Internet Archive’s Great 78 Project. Working on this project has been an excellent opportunity to connect my interests in music history and digital public history. I first conducted content research, reading through secondary sources on the history of the early recording industry and locating primary sources that can complement the digitized recordings. Drawing from this research, I created some sample content that reflects the kinds of information and pathways that the site will provide. This sample content included Music Trivia questions, which will give users in depth explorations of important artists, songs, or themes, as well as sample Omeka item pages that include artists, songs, and genres. In addition to textual sources, I also helped to compile a sample set of visual primary sources including advertisements and catalogs that will be included as content as well as guide the aesthetic design.

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Digital Humanities as Resistance

(Reposted from the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media’s DH Fellows blog. See the original entry here.)

We spent our first year as DH Fellows tracking and discussing the blog posts that filtered through DH Now, and were asked to track specific themes. I decided to follow posts where DH and activism intersected, especially as the recent campaign, election, and administration made political conversations hard, even irresponsible, to ignore. Before Donald Trump’s election in November 2016, the grey literature of DH had had a slightly more intellectual focus. There were certainly many people thinking about critical theory in DH, but those advocating for DH as activism in its own right was not as visible of a conversation. Of course, there are some exceptions here, most obviously in the form of media scholars, and particularly those who incorporate feminist critical theory into their work (for instance the #TransformDH community that formed in 2011). Aside from these groups, much of the DH discussion was focused on how to study or support activists working in the age of multimodal movements like Black Lives Matter. Not surprisingly, the discussion has become not only more critical but more urgent. It seems that DH scholars from all disciplines started to take stock of what we do well—promoting open access knowledge with a balance between theory and praxis (although not always an equal balance)—and found new ways to deploy those skills as acts of resistance.

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Wrapping up with Public Projects

(Reposted from the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media’s DH Fellows blog. See the original entry here.)

We ended our first year as Digital History Fellows in the Public Projects Division. As someone with career goals in Public History, I was most excited to get to work in this division. However, doing this year-long rotation through the Center allowed me to witness the strengths of all three. I was able to work with projects I wasn’t familiar with, and become more familiar with ones I was, as well as gain a broad understanding of digital humanities work. It was also interesting to see how the various parts of the Center function with distinct tasks, work styles, and guiding philosophies, yet come together to create one cohesive Center.

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Research Division

(Reposted from the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media’s DH Fellows blog. See the original entry here.)

Laura and I spent the first half of the Spring 2017 semester in the Research Division. We were given a range of tasks, some of which definitely took me out of my comfort zone. First, we were asked to work through the Python tutorials on The Programming Historian. After that, we worked through the HTML and CSS tutorials on Code Academy. At the same time, we are taking Clio II (or, Data and Visualization in Digital History), which is introducing us to R programming. So, I suddenly went from having no real familiarity with any coding languages, to having at least a cursory understanding of four. Although a bit overwhelming at first, I can now see the benefits of this kind of exposure, as it better enables me to assess other digital history projects and have realistic understandings of how this could fit into my own research. We were also asked to try out some of newly acquired HTML and CSS skills by designing a mock-up redesign for the Press Forward website. After spending an entire workday tinkering with row sizes, fonts, and colors, we produced a mock-up that really wasn’t so bad, and was actually pretty fun to build once I started to get the hang of it.

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An Eight-Week Education

(Reposted from the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media’s DH Fellows blog. See the original entry here.)

Our first rotation through the Center sent us to the Education Division (ED). Although set back from the main workspaces of the Center, it soon became clear that the ED’s work is central to the reputation and productivity of the Center. At our first weekly meeting, we were introduced to the progress board, a large white board listing each project in the ED and details about the progress of each. Every Tuesday morning, members of the ED would update the group on the progress of each project, of which there were many, and record those changes on the board. This all seemed a bit overwhelming at first, but by the end of our rotation I was (mostly) able to keep track of the many projects the ED is constantly (and successfully) juggling.

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Playing With History

(Reposted from the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media’s DH Fellows blog. See the original entry here.)

We began our first year as DH Fellows in a seminar where we were asked to choose a project from the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media’s 20th anniversary site, and develop an Omeka exhibit that tells the history of that project. The Lost Museum, an early online game developed in the late 1990s and early 2000s, immediately caught my attention. The Lost Museum allows users to move through a virtual recreation of P.T. Barnum’s American Museum, destroyed by an unsolved arson attack in 1865, while investigating potential suspects and learning about 19th century social, political, and cultural history (to learn more, visit the exhibit). A professor assigned this game in a class I took as undergraduate, and I remember discussing the project not just for its historical content, but as a historical artifact itself. It has been updated since then, but still maintains the characteristics of an early internet website: playful, creative, and idiosyncratic. Developing this exhibit has allowed me to explore the early days of digital humanities projects, and the direction the RRCHNM has gone in since then.

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What IS the internet doing to our brains?

images-1In The Information: A History, A Theory, A imagesFlood, James Gleick explores how recording and transferring information has evolved through intellectual technologies (first writing, then the book, then the library, and on and on, until we reached the Internet). In The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, Nicholas Carr grounds his work in cognitive science to explore the implications of the ever-present internet on our ever-evolving minds. These two books raised more questions than answers, three of which I will attempt to unpack below (with even more questions).

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