Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Gathering Inspiration

Hello again, readers. Let me start this blog off by saying that I am so grateful for the responses generated by last week's post! I received so many helpful ideas via tweet, comment, and email, and I am floored by the helpfulness of this community.

In the past week, I've gathered excellent resources for my project, and I'm going to list some of them here. First and foremost, I'm going to share my incredibly old-fashioned web of ideas that I made a few weeks ago, and which has been slowly growing in size.

Don't you feel like you're back in elementary school? 
This web actually helped me a great deal. I'm a huge pen-and-paper fan, and it helps me to compile all of my ideas into one place. That being said, last class we were introduced to a few compilation tools that I have already found to be helpful. 

First up: Evernote. Evernote has been great for me because it's a program, app, website, and Chome extension that help the user to compile links from all over the internet into one place, using tags and folders to categorize things. Here's a glimpse of my saves thus far:


Next up, Feedly. There is so much on the internet, and it's impossible to track it all, but Feedly has been incredibly helpful. I'm going to attach another screenshot below to show some my DH feed but to put it simply, wow. Feedly has led me down rabbit hole after rabbit hole, in the best possible way. I've spent hours pouring over links that I've found through the syndicated blogs on my Feedly dashboard.


Since class last week, I've thought a lot about how I want to frame my thesis, and how I want to go about presenting my findings. As I've said, the most important thing in this project is going to be the presentation of my findings to an audience of educators in the most understandable way possible, and the programs I use need to reflect this. I'm considering breaking my thesis into sections based on the accessibility of the programs I talk about. Perhaps something along the lines of "accessible," "more advanced," and "advanced," based on the programs that I decide to include in my work.

As for programs, it was brought to my attention that something as accessible as hypothes.is could be incredibly useful to both students and teachers for the sake of annotating texts, working in groups, having text-based discussions, and tagging things that might be important later on. One Twitter user, @dr_jdean, sent me this link to a project that was done using hypothes.is, which I found quite interesting. I have personally used hypothes.is to annotate articles both for class and for personal use, and I used it to edit a friends eLit thesis project, which was an incredibly seamless experience (and, as a nod to her excellent thesis, you can check it out here. In addition to being online electronic literature, she published it on Amazon, isn't that cool?). I think this could be a great tool to talk about in my own thesis work.

Programs like Voyant and Wordle have also come to my attention as things that would be exciting to show students as examples of simple text analysis by way of word frequency. When I was first interested in DH, I was fascinated by word clouds. I think this would be interesting to any student, and could lead to interesting discussions and writing prompts. 

Google Ngram viewer would also be an interesting text analysis tool, as it harnesses the data of all of the books on Google books to search for word frequencies. This could be a great tool for text analysis, or for researching authors or themes in literary genres. I am still new to Ngram, so exploring this will be a learning experience for me.

It has also been suggested to me that Google Maps is a tool that could be used to track the lives of authors or locations in texts, in order to present a visual representation of a written story. In considering this option, I thought about authors like the Beat poets, whose lives would make for a very interesting interactive map. Recently, my fiancĂ© and I took an incredible walking tour around NYC, guided by a guidebook called The Beat Generation in New York City and, although it's a great guidebook, it occurred to me that it would also make for an excellent DH project, as it could help bring literature to life for students. 

I would consider the use of programs such as Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel for the sake of text analysis to be more difficult, but I'm still toying with the idea of including such options in my work as an advanced method of DH that might interest students who are more tech savvy. I'll have to try to learn it first myself, before deciding if it's an accessible method for my thesis.

In terms of the texts that I'll be using as basis for the research in my thesis, I've come up against the issue of copyright laws, fair use, and public domain. Many new works of literature are firmly guarded by copyright, so it would be difficult to obtain text files for research purposes. This has led me to consider options that aren't copyrighted, both new and old. The dystopian novels I'm currently considering, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and Brave New World, are no longer within copyright, so I would turn to sites like Project Gutenberg in order to obtain their text files. However, this also opens up the possibility of exploring works that are recently published and not protected by copyright laws-- something else to consider in the shaping of my work. 

Last but not least, I'm awaiting the arrival of two books from our great god, Amazon: Distant Reading by Franco Moretti which, as a student interested in DH, I feel the need to own, and Reading in a Participatory Culture: Remixing Moby Dick in the English Classrom by Henry Jenkins, which was recommended as a helpful resource in my endeavor.

I'm getting more and more excited for this project! This was a particularly good week for research, and I can't wait to see how much more comes of my idea. As usual, comments and suggestions are always welcome!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

#DigitalHumanities community, can you help me?

Happy Wednesday everyone!

So, today I come to the research and Digital Humanities communities looking for help/direction with my thesis work. As you can learn from my first post, I have an idea of what I would like to do with my thesis. To recap:
I still consider myself very much a newcomer to this field, however I believe that this status puts me in the unique position to be a newcomer speaking to other newcomers-- that is, teachers who have not yet fully incorporated digital methodologies into their classrooms. I'd like my thesis to be an introductory walk-through of 3 (or so) Digital Humanities methodologies that a high school English teachers might utilize in their classrooms, in order to introduce their students to the field, alongside the traditional lessons in close reading and text analysis. I believe that the modern student's work can be enhanced by the DH. To narrow down the scope of potential tools, I am most interested in visualizations and text analysis. 
I plan on choosing a handful of books to accompany my walk-through of DH methodologies and to serve as examples throughout the thesis. DH methodologies could be applied to unpack any genre of literature, I could use Shakespeare or Dickens or Austen, however, this is where I would like to tie in another subject I am passionate about: dystopian literature. In addition to my love of 1984  and Brave New World, and my personal interest in unpacking such texts, I think that dystopian novels introduce an interesting lens to my project. Considering how dystopias are often crafted on advanced technology, fear, and control, this might suggest something about how us traditionalist "liberal arts-types" feel about bringing the digital into our text based work.
The first important tenant of my idea is that the methodologies that I work with need to be easily accessible and understandable to anyone who is new to the field. My talents, unfortunately, do not extent to Python and other such programming languages, but I still believe that I, and others like me, can use pre-built programs to lead our students into the 21st century of text analysis.

Next in importance is my reason for being interested. When I was in school, we had a computer lab filled with clunky PCs on which made Power Point presentations with word art, and learned to type using Mavis Beacon (and somehow I still don't type correctly). Now, kids have ChromeBooks in every classroom, and type more than they write. Even so, DH is a relatively unknown field to the younger generation

The first I heard of the DH was in my Masters program, and I believe strongly that kids should learn about such possibilities sooner. Just like schools are developing and pushing STEM programs, I believe we need to be introducing the DH in our English classrooms but, to successfully do this, we need to train teachers who might not be steeped in knowledge of computer programming-- and that's okay! High school is the time to whet kids' appetites for future work. I believe that they deserve to know that there is merit in the Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out that they do online. Close reading is not the only way to mine a book for ideas and, additionally, I believe that such work could also lead to cross-curricular interests, and a kid who excels in computer science might find parallel interests in literature.

That being said, can anyone help me? I'm looking for programs like Voyant that aren't terribly difficult to learn or teach, but provide a solid jumping-off point for the DH. Digital Humanities community, are you out there?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

NetSmart and the start of a new semester

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I can't believe the summer flew by so quickly, but I'm glad to be entering the start of my thesis work, and the beginning of my last year in my Masters degree journey! Hello all, you know me but, if you're reading this and you don't know me, my name is Marissa Candiloro. This blog is going to be dedicated to my first semester of thesis work, which we are calling #ResNetSem, and will be filled with my thesis research progress, along with responses to readings and the events of the semester.

I'll start by talking about my interests and goals in regard to my thesis. First of all, my intention post-graduation is to find a teaching job in a private, classical, Catholic, or Christian high school. I am passionate about teaching English (literature and writing) as well as the atmosphere and mission of such schools. My goal in writing my thesis is to tie my interests into a marketable project that I can show to future employers.

As for my interests, in my time at Kean I have been introduced to a group of fairly new methodologies that are aggregated under the title of "Digital Humanities" or "DH." The DH field includes many different methodologies such as mapping, text mining, and visualizations, to name a few. These methodologies serve as vehicles with which you can examine data in ways that go beyond human capabilities. My favorite example of anything done using DH methodologies is the following chart:

Read about it here
Last semester, I did an independent study that I called Intro to the Digital Humanities, wherein I read,

blogged, and learned about the field and it's methodologies. I even got to attend THATcampDC 2017, which was a great experience. You can read about my independent study here.

I still consider myself very much a newcomer to this field, however I believe that this status puts me in the unique position to be a newcomer speaking to other newcomers-- that is, teachers who have not yet fully incorporated digital methodologies into their classrooms. I'd like my thesis to be an introductory walk-through of 3 (or so) Digital Humanities methodologies that a high school English teachers might utilize in their classrooms, in order to introduce their students to the field, alongside the traditional lessons in close reading and text analysis. I believe that the modern student's work can be enhanced by the DH. To narrow down the scope of potential tools, I am most interested in visualizations and text analysis.

I plan on choosing a handful of books to accompany my walk-through of DH methodologies and to serve as examples throughout the thesis. DH methodologies could be applied to unpack any genre of literature, I could use Shakespeare or Dickens or Austen, however, this is where I would like to tie in another subject I am passionate about: dystopian literature. In addition to my love of 1984 and Brave New World, and my personal interest in unpacking such texts, I think that dystopian novels introduce an interesting lens to my project. Considering how dystopias are often crafted on advanced technology, fear, and control, this might suggest something about how us traditionalist "liberal arts-types" feel about bringing the digital into our text based work. I need to work through my ideas, but I'm excited to see where this idea takes me.

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Regarding this week's reading, I am so excited to see Howard Rhinegold's work pop up again! I have read some of Net Smart, and I have an immense amount of respect for his work. I think it's fascinating that Rhinegold dove, head first, into the digital world when it was in its infancy, and it's amazing to read his thoughts on how far it has taken us into the future.

Link to Intro & Outline

My intro is kinda a trainwreck right now, so I'm going to share the link to it, rather than posting my segmented ramblings here. W...