Mission accomplished!

I just wanted to say how much I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s posts. I know I didn’t reply much – the workflow of my week was always such that homework for this class was always on the weekend, and by the time I got around to reading the blog, I really felt like I had nothing insightful to say because everyone else responded so brilliantly. (Good job!)

I will say, however, that the most useful posts were the ones about our digital start-up proposals, but for reasons other than the interesting ideas shared. More importantly, I took comfort in knowing that other people were struggling just as much as I was, and that I wasn’t the only one feeling uncertain or extremely challenged by this class. It gave me the reassurance I needed to keep going, and to not feel inadequate when I struggled.

Thank you all so much for your candor. It was more helpful than you probably realized

Preserving Fandom as a Cultural Heritage

I’m pretty sure my idea will be the roughest out of everyone’s. The first week “off” we had from assignments in order to work on the proposal, I kept spinning my wheels and hitting walls. I had a hard time coming up with something that hadn’t been done before, or done in a way that I could improve upon or repurpose. I was feeling decidedly unimaginative and un-smart in terms of Digital Humanities.

As I was working with Mukurtu for the CMS evaluation, I got inspired by thoughts of culture and heritage. As one of my research interests is fandom studies, it occurred to me that fandom is a culture (which contains many subcultures, depending on the specific fandom or ways people choose to participate), and fans thus have a heritage. Fandom has changed quite a bit since the Internet, and as many older fans are passing away, many of the older stories are lost, as are some of the artifacts. For the purposes of this project, the fandom community I will focus on are members of MediaWest*Con (http://www.mediawestcon.org/), a fan-run convention whose history dates back to 1978.

Ultimately, the final product I imagine is a website on which a CMS (Mukurtu repruposed, or something like it) for use by scholars and the fandom community alike in order to archive fandom artifacts (digitized photos, fanzines, correspondence, fan art, news articles, etc.), which would be available and searchable for scholarly research. Members of the fandom community could contribute artifacts themselves, but one of the best features of Mukurtu is the ability for community members to add metadata in the form of a “cultural narrative.” For example, imagine that a collection of photos from a particular convention costume contest was archived. If a community member knows something about the photos – information about how a costume was made, a story about a situation that was occurring during the contest, etc. – the user can add that as a cultural narrative through a text editor, thus giving researchers (and other fans) more rich detail about the artifact, which would ordinarily be lost when all one has is the artifact.

To begin, I will have to assemble a team of coders and scholars to adapt Mukurtu to the purpose. I am uncertain if I will need software developers or not – I’m assuming not, if I am going with repurposing Mukurtu, but I could be wrong about this. I would also likely need to recruit some fan community members for the development and beta testing phases – likely someone among the convention organizers or committee members who would have access to artifacts to be added to the site and/or be knowledgable enough to add to what is already there.

I would also need to determine if I am to assume that my institution will provide me with server space and a database to populate, as well as IT support, or if my fictional team and I are completely on our own in that regard. (I guess that’s a question for Dr. Schocket.)

This is about as far as I’ve gotten, seeing as this particular idea was just born Sunday night. I welcome any and all suggestions and feedback, and QUESTIONS!!! Anything would be greatly appreciated.

In the meantime, I plan to hit this pretty hard tomorrow and develop it some more.

CMS evaluation assignment

Hi, everyone.

I have to say, the CMS evaluation has been one of my favorite assignments so far. The platform I chose was Mukurtu, which is geared toward archival and cultural preservation work. I found it very interesting and I encourage you all to take a look at it if you have a chance.

The best part: while I was exploring Mukurtu for the assignment, I got inspiration and ideas for my digital start-up proposal. I’d been struggling to come up with a worthwhile idea for that project, and in the process of doing this evaluation, it made me consider things like how “culture” and “heritage” may be defined, and the different communities we all belong to. I now have fresh ideas and renewed energy, and am excited to dig back in to the proposal.

DH – Who’s In? Who’s Out?

The common thread through all the essays in Part III of Debates in Digital Humanities goes beyond the question of who is or isn’t in the dh, and it asks questions about who should be included but isn’t. After these readings, one might see a picture of dh that is white, male, and ableist, which runs contrary to the themes of social justice and activism. This isn’t meant to be an accusation so much as it’s an observation that, given that dh attracts personality types who care about social justice and activism, it’s interesting to me that lack of diversity and other social issues need to be solved within dh, while dh-ers are also working on them within general society. I don’t know – maybe it’s a naïve assumption that many people share that issues would be solved within a community if the members’ attention is directed outside.

In the tradition of “language shapes reality,” the overall theme of this section was “computing shapes reality.” I struggled most with Tara McPherson’s “Why Are Digital Humanities So White?” I didn’t struggle with the need for more racial diversity in dh – I was completely on board with her on that issue the whole time. The struggle for me came with the comparison of “modular” coding to segregation. At the end of the essay, it’s clear that she doesn’t mean that coders are making the world racist; rather, that a compartmentalized, modular world view is reflected in both things. Again, I don’t disagree, but for me, it was harder to concentrate on her larger point when the thought of, “But…modular code that lets computers run smooth and reliably and that’s a GOOD thing! Everyone likes it when their machines run well, no matter who they are!” kept intruding. I had to let go of the good/bad judgment for a bit, realizing that a racist would argue that a “modular” (segregated) society makes things run more smoothly (at least for them). I’m not advocating bloated, clunky code any more than McPherson is saying that writing modular code creates racial problems; rather, I had to remove myself from “good/bad” subjectivity in order to keep following. This will likely be an essay I revisit as I contemplate the ideas of computing shaping our experience.

The essay I found most interesting is “What do Girls Dig?” by Bethany Nowviskie. Following the flow of the tweets, particularly when people were telling Brett Bobley to invite women in data mining to the conference by name, vaguely reminded me of the #WheresRey hash tag in the wake of the strong, central female character being absent from much of the merchandising tied in with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This association was especially strong in my mind when the tweets in the essay turned to “Boys & unicorns & SPARKLES!” Similar conversations ensued among Star Wars fans who wondered why they’ve been left out as a target demographic when they’ve been active consumers of Star Wars and its merchandise since 1977 – and furthermore, why would they undermine the strong, self-reliant lead character by excluding her? While the data mining conversation didn’t result in the same occasional vitriol and tone-deaf defenses of why such an exclusion would occur, both situations identify a need to examine why women are participating in some activities and not others.

Much to digest in this section – almost too much to cover in a single blog post – but these are the things that stuck with me the most after reading.

From “Scary” to Valuable: Macroanalysis

I confess that when I read Part 1 of Macroanalysis, I was a little thrown by the idea of distant reading/macroanalysis versus close reading/microanalysis for literature. I haven’t taken a literature class since my undergraduate days, and it seems like everything was about close reading back then.

Continue reading “From “Scary” to Valuable: Macroanalysis”