Thursday, May 11, 2017

Semester Round-Up

Well my friends, it seems the semester has come to a close. It's gone by so quickly and although I'm ready for a few months off, I have learned so much this semester after my journey through the Digital Humanities.

Last week, Hailey and I presented our work for the semester to a class of our peers in Kean University's English and Writing Studies M.A. program. We summarized an introduction to the field, and had the class play around with Voyant-- which we decided was the most user-friendly DH program to introduce to beginners. The class seemed to respond well to the presentation, and it was a great way to sum up a semester of work.

I'm grateful for the experience of taking this independent study. Going into the semester, I didn't know where I'd end up in my journey. I used the first two weeks to compile my reading list, which can be found here, and used that as a jumping-off point for the remainder of the semester. Navigating my reading list proved to be helpful throughout the semester, and I edited it quite a few times over the months as my needs changed. I learned a lot about the background behind the digital humanities, as well as the coding and technical work behind the programs.

The biggest turning point in the semester happened in March, when I found out about THATcampDC. Toward the end of February, I had hit a wall in my work. I knew a good deal about the field, but was unable to find ways to practically apply the information I was learning. I knew about all of the DH programs, but didn't know how to use them. As I've come to understand, the DH is such a new and technological field that the programs can have a pretty steep learning curve. However, when I attended THATcampDC, I received the help I desperately needed. I sat in three sessions in which I met individuals in the field who were able to guide me. It took a good bit of courage for me to venture out into this new field of academia, but I'm thankful that I had the opportunity to meet some of the key people in the field.

As for what's next between me and the DH, next semester I start my thesis. Although I still have some thinking to do, I think I am in the perfect position to use my work this semester toward my thesis, by walking people through the DH and explaining how it can be used by students. The field can be daunting to people who don't understand it, but students are the perfect group of people to introduce it to. Young adults have grown up in the Digital Age, and I think they'll be able to utilize technology in ways that will amaze the world. I am particularly passionate about young adult dystopian literature, it is one of my favorite genres, and I think it would be interesting to study a handful of works using DH methodologies and incorporate this into my study as examples of how the methodologies can be used to analyze literature, as well as discussing things that can be revealed using computers. This way, I'll get to use DH methodologies, as well as talk about why the field is important.

The biggest thing I've learned this semester is how amazing the digital humanities are, and how vast the field is. Going into the semester, I knew it was interesting but I didn't know specifically how I would apply it to my work. As the months progressed, I realized that I needed to start small. You wouldn't jump into the deep end of a pool without learning how to swim, and I won't be attempting complex coding before first knowing how to use the basic programs.

All in all, I feel more secure in my understanding of the field, and I feel that I have a good cornerstone for further learning, and that was the goal I hoped to achieve this semester. Going out I can say, it's been an excellent experience.

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