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?


  1. The Digital Scholarship Centre up here in Hamilton, Ontario Canada (McMaster University) uses AntConc. It's freeware and the creator is pretty supportive via video tutorials. There was another project up here (actually spanned all of Canada and beyond), the XML Mandala Browser, but it doesn't seem to be thriving in 2017. However, it may still be worth a quick look as it's still available for download.

  2. Check this collection

    1. Blogger doesn't like to tell me when I have comments, evidently! Thanks Alan, I just saved this link with Evernote to my links folder. Some of these tutorials look helpful, especially the ones relating to Project Gutenberg, which I explored a bit in my IS last semester.

  3. I will be following this. And seeing what I could use with my high school seniors. Thai sounds like great work!

  4. will give you good overview of tools similar to Voyant.

    It seems like maps and timelines would lead to some interesting dystopian explorations but perhaps in more of a classroom than thesis scenario.

    I found some powerful options using Timeline JS from the Knight Lab to break down texts as part of close reading. Here is a Maus example from a number of years ago

    And a really detailed Google map from the novel Whirligig that led to lots of research and close reading.

    1. This is excellent, thank you! I'm already finding ideas on TAPoR.
      I'm entirely unfamiliar with using maps/timelines in this sense, so I appreciate the examples. I think they're great to show to any student of the DH to get them interested in the possibilities of the field. The map of Whirligig is very cool. It occurs to me that a similar project would be a interesting way of following the Beat poets on their vagabond journeys.

  5. I walk
    with books
    as my companions,
    digital spines
    with digital words
    on digital pages
    in order to make sense
    of the digital world.
    Tools for engagement
    and go,
    and what remains is
    the humanity of
    the digital -- the way we interact
    with each other
    between the gaps of the

    -- Kevin

    PS -- Good luck! Glad to see thinking in this direction for high school

    1. Oh, what a beautiful poem :) Thank you Kevin, I'm excited about the idea of bringing this tech to younger kids.

  6. Hi Rissa

    As a novice DH student myself, I started by playing with ds106. They have a toybox full of digital tools to get one started.

    My current favorite resource, the DH Commons, has a list of more complex DH projects and a Collaborators page with hundreds of skilled Digital Humanists.

    Best Regards


    1. This site is great, thank you Mark! I'm checking out ds106 now, and I just added DH Commons to my RSS feed.


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