Reflection on Lab 1

I found this process to be relatively straightforward, albeit frustrating at times where I could not do exactly what I wanted on my site. I’ve always found the process of creating a website somewhat intimidating, but the GitHub interface and the explicit instructions made the process very approachable. I think the most frustration I encountered was in the process of forking the theme that I wanted. Ultimately, my first choice, second choice, and third choice themes simply were not working for me, and I had to choose something that I was not particularly excited about. Not having the technical skills to troubleshoot the issues with the theme or even adjust things I don’t like on the one I have gone with is frustrating, but ultimately I hope to gain those skills in time to make my website more personalized. I have been able to adjust some things; I’ve added my social media links to the footer, changed the color scheme, and adjusted the post settings to show excerpts on the main page (with limited success, as all it shows at the moment is the header.) As I continue to play around with settings more, I am sure I will pick up on how to adjust other aspects of the site as well.

After going through the steps to set up my site, I did encounter some issues as I attempted my first post. I worked on this outside of class after forking a new theme and some of the tiny details that are essential to successfully posting escaped me while I was on my own. Not only did I forget the .md at the end of my post name, but I also miss entered the date. At first the post simply did not show up, and then I got a very aggressive looking error message. Luckily, the error messages on GitHub are quite detailed and let you know exactly where in the process the post went wrong. I was able to fix the date on the post and have it successfully show up on my actual site. The final step in this process, successfully writing in Markdown has been an interesting experiment. It has been quite a bit of trial and error, adjusting formatting to see what the effect will be. (An earlier version of this post had the text in a strange scrolling box, and I still don’t quite know how that came about.)

The process of downloading GitHub Desktop and Atom was surprisingly easy, and I actually found this portion the most exciting. I feel like a proper coder with my own program with which I can edit my Markdown files. (A software engineer friend of mine jokes that for every programming language you learn, you should acquire another monitor. I’ll stick with Atom for now.) I like the color scheme on Atom, and the prompts for formatting will definitely help ease me in as I learn the language of Markdown. I feel like the process of using this site as well as the rest of the tools we learn this semester will definitely be a lot of trial and error as this process has been, but I hope I can hang on to the feeling of excitement from seeing the changes I make on the back end of my site show up on the front end!

My Goals for This Semester

I have a few goals for this course, but the primary one is to become comfortable and literate in the tech we are working with. I want to be able to transfer the skills I gain in this course to other projects, and to do so I need to understand how to use these tools outside of the context of the classroom. I really want to get to know these skills so I can properly have them in my arsenal going forward, rather than only understand how to work with them in a controlled environment. I also want to be able to use this knowledge, of coding and data, to better understand other projects that I use. There has been a surge of DH projects in the field of Early Modern studies, and having this background knowledge will help me to understand the work that has already been done. I would like to be able to look at project like RECIRC and understand some of the digital methodology behind it.

Apart from a bit of digital literacy, I would like to make some serious headway on the DH project on which I am currently collaborating with Kate Albrecht and Katie Sanford. We have a pretty decent Wordpress site with integrated CSVs currently up, but I would like to take that further both aesthetically and practically. Our dataset, early modern print and manuscript works by women, is extensive and still incomplete. I want to continue adding to that dataset and start seriously thinking about everything our data can do. I want to start thinking about visualizations, processing, and otherwise putting our data to work for us. I think this course can really help us answer not only what our data can do for us, but what we can do for our data. One of my primary motivations in working on this project was increasing access to information like this. Incredible resources like Early English Books Online (EEBO) and digitized manuscript collections at institutions like the Folger Shakespeare Library has already increased our knowledge about early modern women’s writing, but there are not as many tools that actually make accessible the raw information all in one place. Something I have been thinking about since the Digital Humanities Research Institute has been audience. We have envisioned a primarily scholarly audience with a secondary focus on the general public, but we have not really talked through the differing needs of those audiences. To what extent will each of those audiences be utilizing our data and for what purpose? How can we best set up our data to meet those needs? Providing access to this information is certainly a priority, but the organization of the data is equally important for the varying audiences we have.

Finally, pedagogy is something I have been thinking more about lately, being surrounded by the really passionate educators in our PhD program. My personal style has a tendency to be stuck in the past, but I have been pressed to update my technology usage by my undergraduate students, even if that just looks like using more digital tools in the classroom over the whiteboard. Not only would I eventually like to be able to impart some basic skills, or at least the option to work with digital humanities tools on my students, but I am considering how students might get involved in DH projects. Using resources like The Pulter Project and EMROC as examples, I want to consider ways that undergraduate and graduate students might contribute to our project. Being active participants in a project that is making real headway in the field might just help students engage with older material as much as the modern.