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We’re live! The Digital GC: 2014-2015 Year-End Showcase

The Digital GC: 2014-2015 Year-End Showcase

Please join us on May 19th 2015 for a special event at the Graduate Center showcasing the innovative and diverse digital projects initiated during the 2014-2015 academic year! Presentations will be given by: the Digital Praxis Seminar, the GC Digital Fellows, Provost’s Digital Innovation Grantees, the New Media Lab, the Interactive Technology and Pedagogy Certificate Program, the Futures Initiative, and the GC Library.

Event Details:

The Digital GC: Year-End Showcase
Tuesday, May 19, 2015, 4:15 pm
The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue between 34th and 35th Street
Room 9205

The Digital Praxis Seminar: Final Project Launches

Digital Humanities Praxis is a two-course sequence that introduces students to the landscape of digital humanities tools and methods through readings, discussion, lectures, hands-on workshops, and culminates with students collaborating in groups over a single semester to build and launch working prototypes of Digital Humanities projects. The instructors for DH Praxis are Stephen Brier and Matthew Gold (Fall, 2014) and Amanda Hickman and Luke Waltzer (Spring, 2015).

Event hashtag: #digitalgc

Students in the Digital Humanities Praxis course at the CUNY Graduate Center will launch four new projects:

@DigitalHUAC: http://digitalhuac.com
Consolidating thousands of hard-to-find #HUAC testimonies into a single, searchable, interactive archive. http://digitalhuac.com

@CUNYCast: http://cunycast.net
Broadcast classes, conversation & controversy with online radio at @GC_CUNY. Shout it out http://cunycast.net #CUNYcast

@dhTANDEM: http://dhtandem.com
Simplify text & image data generation with @dhTANDEM, a unified #Djangoapp that combines #OCR, #NLTK, and #OpenCV.

@NYCFashionIndex: http://nycfashionindex.com
NYCFashionIndex scrapes fashion imagery from @instagram for tagging and analysis, building a real time social index of fashion. http://nycfashionindex.com/

Additional Presentations:

Following the Digital Praxis project presentations, the following programs will present their most recent projects and accomplishments:

The GC Digital Fellows

Provost’s Digital Innovation Grantees

The New Media Lab

The Interactive Technology and Pedagogy Certificate Program

The Futures Initiative

The GC Library

 

A video of last year’s Digital GC Showcase can be found on the Videography Fellows Website.

Please visit the Graduate Center Digital Initiatives website to view all of the current and past Digital Initiatives at the Graduate Center, and please follow us on twitter.

This event is sponsored by the Graduate Center Provost’s Office and the GC Digital Fellows Program.

 

Open to the Public

Contact: Matthew Gold
Contact email: mgold@gc.cuny.edu
Public course blog: https://dhpraxis14.commons.gc.cuny.edu/
Course Hashtag: #dhpraxis14

#skillset@SteveReal

I tried to think about what I would bring to each of the roles. Here is my #skillset:

Project Management: I have 30 years of experience managing software development projects. This is such an obviously good fit, that I think I would prefer a role that is new to me and forces me to learn. I would gladly help out in the project management capacity.

Developer: I am a “baby” Python programmer, which is to say that I know the basics, but have little experience. I know a little R and have old experience (can you say COBOL?) developing code. I am quite tenacious at problem solving and learning new technology and have a pretty broad background at the conceptual level. I would enjoy this role.

Design/UX: In my career, I have quite a bit of experience in this area as it pertains to software usability. I have seen a project fail when it met all the requirements, but was hard to use. I am not a graphically talented person, so making a project “look beautiful” is not something I would be good at. I would be glad to play this role focusing on “ease of use”.

Outreach: I have limited ability to use social media. I am a Twitter and Facebook dabbler. I am dubious that this would be the best use of my labor.

Desperately Seeking Sustainability

Yale’s Digital Collections Center image

Apologies, Desperately Seeking Susan, for the poor pun.

 

 

 

Hi DHP14.

I wish I were having the dataset success of Liam, Sarah, James, and, I imagine, others (in my vivid imagination you are all succeeding marvelously). Liam, I tried to follow your line of investigation and wound up in a Mallet vortex that left me feeling more out of my depth than before. In order to find a tool that felt a little bit more manageable, I poked around on diRT again. Since the scope of possibilities felt overwhelmingly vast, I looked to the dhcommons directory of projects to see if some might bring me some amazing idea. Beside seemingly active projects (Entity Mapper, Boston Marathon archive, Modernist Versions Project, Pulp), there were many forgotten ends (Forget Me Not’s sadly forgotten guest book, Bulgarian dialectology) or unrealized projects (Kanon Foundation archive) or proposals unlinked to their outcomes (Fordham DH pedagogy). While I grant that this database, an initiative of CenterNet, might not be their primary focus, the seemingly short shelf-life of some of these projects seems relevant to the approaching Tom Scheinfeldt visit. In his webinar on October 14th, he discussed generating funding and the human needs of maintaining these projects both in terms of community and of maintenance.

I googled digital sustainability (I know I’m not the only anxious person). About 50,400,000 results. Jisc, historically Joint Information Systems Committee– now just Jisc, has a guide to sustainability, but it hasn’t relieved my mind much.

Now back to the task I (data)set out to accomplish. If anyone has good suggestions for text analysis tools for the tech-challenged (beyond the Manovich-maligned tag cloud), please point me in the right direction.

-Jojo

 

Also, I really enjoyed this image (even though I’m not talking about sustainability in terms of digital decomposition….)

Kyle Bean, The Future of Books

Hyper Focus – What To Do When Everything and Everyone Are Important All The Time?

Is there an answer to “what to do when everything and everyone are important all the time?” Truth be told, the brain will do what the brain has been designed to– reduce the information into manageable segments. Some stuff will stick. Some won’t.

Laura Klein’s YouTube presentation posted on the CUNY commons for the DH Praxis class offered insight into the use of maps and graphs throughout history. Her demonstrations focused on the powerful influencing capabilities of data visualization.

I simultaneously skipped around watching Lev Manovich present live at MoMA in between pauses to Klein’s video last night. Manovich suggested that digital photography is the new art form now employed by billions of people. He described it as “new, young, and sexy.”

Meanwhile, I spent the past weekend at the 2nd annual conference for the New York Academy of Medicine. The NYAM festival was celebrating the 500th birthday of the anatomist Andreas Vesalius. Early anatomical drawings, it could be argued, were also maps of sorts, charting the human body as early as the 1500s. Dr. Brandy Schillace gave a talk titled “Naissance Macabre: Birth, Death, and Female Anatomy.”

The highlights of Dr. Schillace’s presentation were renderings focused on the pregnant form. The renderings of chaste females were often poised next to potted plants symbolizing the container quality of the pregnant woman. As Laura Klein suggested in her video, the symbolism indicated makes suggestions about how to best view the role of mother in Western culture. She is a vessel.

The afternoon at NYAM concluded with a presentation featuring ProofX 3D anatomical printing, which fashioned a heart valve over the next four hours. The demo-guy gave me his card. Armed with two lectures, several books, and some practical experience I suddenly felt empowered enough to log onto GitHub.

I plugged in a recent article on “Mothers Who Do It All.” Since I haven’t gotten into the programming end yet, I opted for the word cloud. Initially punching in 256 words from the article. I reduced them to 230 (so I could slightly control the visuals) and have uploaded the by-product here.

Word_Cloud_SmThe article cited wasn’t brilliant. It’s a rehash of the same old problem and doesn’t get to the point of possibly viewing women as intelligent procreative forces. Instead it’s a familiar subject from my days as an artist 20 years ago. How can women do it all, and make music too? (See MaMaPaLooZa). The word cloud isn’t particularly stunning either, but it represents a leap for in terms of the subject of “motherhood,” DH and how mapping might eventually lead me somewhere? (I couldn’t find anything of major consequence in my Google search).

Let me also conclude this blog by acknowledging that I recognize what a ‘soft’ subject motherhood is. To use Lev Manovich’s words, I’m not even sure it is very “sexy.” Even the word cloud looks “soft” evoking a “Hallmark Cards” visual. I know the subject doesn’t sound scientific or technical, and I’m not even sure what my angle is yet (although I have a few ideas). But as Laura Klein indicated in her presentation, while some cartographers, and data graph makers knew exactly what they were doing, others didn’t always have a clear concept at the onset.

If anyone finds any references to data, the digital humanities, and motherhood please send them my way. I’d be most interested. ~MJR

Stitching on the Old to the New: Tracking Change through Maps

I recently attended a workshop on Map Warper at NYPL that dealt with ‘georectifying’, an often arduous and tedious post-digitizing processing of maps, that the NYPL Map Division has managed to turn into a fun and engaged activity by opting to crowdsource it. Funded by the NEH, the Map Warper is a tool suite, used by library staff but also open to the public, to align (or “rectify”) historical maps to today’s digital maps, adding valuable geographic context to old maps. Importantly, all work done is in the public domain. In NYPL’s words,

“Tile by tile, we’re stitching old atlas sheets into historical layers, that researchers can explore with pan-and-zoom functionality, comparing yesterday’s cityscape with today’s. Along with other tools — such as one for tracing building footprints and transcribing address and material information found on the maps — we are laying the groundwork for dynamic geospatial discovery of other library collections: manuscripts and archives, historical newspapers, photography, A/V, ephemera (e.g. menus) etc.”

Given our discussions these past weeks, it seems to me that the points of departure are numerous. I’m reminded of Sarah’s post on mapping the urban setting of fictional characters, when I think about how this tool can help recreate the urban setting of historical characters/personages in today’s context. All one needs is a time period and location, if the Map Division has a corresponding map, lo, and behold! you can see the past and present streetscapes simultaneously.  From an urban planning perspective, it is fascinating to see how the cityscape wears the passage of time and explore possible lessons for urban design. I expect it also will help planners visualize and chart the imperceptible movement of real estate, the steady shift of the cityscape over the underlying landscape, which is only possible with tools such as this.

warper-labs

Source: Map Warper, NYPL Labs

“The above image shows a warped map sheet from an 1857 William Perris Real Estate Atlas depicting a section of Manhattan to the southwest of Union Square (see it in the context of the Warper). By stitching this to its sibling sheets from the atlas, we can build a complete 1857 historical layer of Manhattan, observing changes in the street layout and conjuring the ghostly footprints of old buildings. This is just step 1 in a larger integration effort, in which we can pull together archival records, newspapers, photography and other literary and historical documents that are associated with places on the map.”

Link – http://maps.nypl.org/warper/

For those of you interested, there is also a helpful tutorial video on their website to get you started on the project, and helpful Map Division staff are available for tech support.

Eversion, Conversion and the Role of DH?

As I was reading ‘Eversion’ by Steven Jones, I couldn’t help but engage the subject with my personal experiences in South Korea, where I was born and raised, until I moved to New York in 2007. South Korea has the fastest average internet connection speed (AICS) in the world. In a report by Akamai Technologies in 2014, South Korea recorded 21.9mbps AICS with an average of 68.5mbps at peaks speeds, which is almost twice as fast as Japan (2nd) and China (3rd). AICS in the U.S. recorded 10.0mbps, which has generally improved over the past few years. (http://www.xconomy.com/boston/2014/04/23/u-s-10th-in-average-internet-speed-rankings-s-korea-still-no-1/) I still clearly remember the emergence of the internet, and its development to its current ultra-high-speed broadband service in Korea, which is why I could relate the reading to my experiences. The reading raised the question: What is the relationship between the internet speed (based on broadband service) and eversion?”

I was about 12 years old, which was approximately 1997, when I first noticed that my classmates and friends were consistently going to a place called PC Bahng (literally a computer room).” As soon as school ended, students ran off to PC rooms near school. I was never drawn to video games, but I too visited these rooms to meet with my friends. My first impression was not so pleasurable. It was a small, smoky dark room with rows of computers lined next to each other, facing the wall. There was also a huge stack of routers by which high-speed internet was made possible. A bunch of teenagers in their school uniforms were playing “Role-playing games”, like Warcraft and Starcraft, or “Simulation games,” mostly involving warfare. Regardless of the genre, I noticed something they shared in common; gamers were communicating with each other through online “chat rooms”. Besides the games, cyber chatting had become very popular among the students. Often times, online chatting would lead to in person meeting, which became socially controversial. In this respect, “eversion” was already occurring in South Korea, Yet, most adults viewed using computers as distraction until then. The culture of PC rooms, however, was much more prevalent than the adults had imagined. Despite the skepticism, the numbers of PC rooms have increased tremendously, and have become hyper-mature, mainly for its monetary value (it became the most promising entrepreneurial opportunity), and soon I could see PC rooms on every other block. It had become ubiquitous in a couple years since its emergence. With its expansion, adults’ perceptions on internet had gradually changed in a positive way. They started to see the possibility of productive uses of internet for education. Consequently, AICS in Korea had become even faster around 2001. People were able to play their video games at home without experiencing any connection issues. The only reason students continued to visit PC rooms was to keep their parents from finding out that they were playing games. However, the development of high-speed broadband internet service did not occur autonomously. The Korean government started its subsidy on high-speed-internet from 1995, and by 1999, 10 million people were using the internet. It was only a little less than one quarter of the entire population. Also, with the government’s support, Korean mega-corporation, represented by Samsung, L.G., SK Telecom and etc., started investing a preponderance of money and dominating this industry.

Around 2000 or 2001, a good portion of high school students possessed mobile phones, and the mobile connection speed was significantly advanced as well. Soon, virtually every area was provided with cellular data and WiFi service. People were even able to stream online television on their phones underground on subway stations and even in trains, and this was nearly twelve years ago. In comparison, New York has just started to provide WiFi in select train stations, and is still unable to provide connection in most areas underground. Already by this time in Korea, noticeably less people read books or newspapers in the trains, and more people looked at their mobile phones, playing video games, watching TV shows and messaging their friends. When I visited Korea in 2008, I remember I was quite surprised to see people video chat so casually on their cell phones without any kind of lag, even in high-resolution. Independent Korean IT companies have developed their own search engines and blogs, represented by NAVER(http://www.naver.com/), which, according to Korean people, is still used more frequently  than Google in South Korea. I also noticed that popular social media platforms in the United States, like Twitter and Facebook were unable to gain the same popularity in South Korea. This is because Korea has developed their own media platforms and systems which they believe to be more effective and ergonomic. South Korea currently seems to be rather “converted” than “everted”. The people’s daily lives heavily depend on the internet; they are simply lost without it. According to CNN’s article, In 2010, 94% of the population has access to high-speed in South Korea (http://www.cnn.com/2010/TECH/03/31/broadband.south.korea/). Except for their times of labor and sleep (although most times they use computers at work), they spend their lives online via their computers, tablets or phones. Socializing, entertaining, cultural or intellectual cultivating, and etc. all happen online these days. To me, it seems like its world’s leading AICS and the characteristic of the citizens (which I need to talk about) resulted this converted phenomena. The mixed reality has become replaced by the substitute reality. They’ve created alternative egos and personas in their cyberworld (or rather the real world to them) with different social que and culture, feeling more comfortable and secure than when they are in the external world. It seems their actuality is compromised by the virtuality; it’s converted. Another interesting concept is that the public spaces are not limited for public usage anymore. As long as people have computers or phones, the public areas become their private/personal (online)spaces. Korean citizens mostly communicate via texting and messaging. I’ve met a number of young people who claim that they experience a slight phobia of speaking on the phone or having conversation in person, especially when speaking strangers. The youth in South Korea have difficulties speaking formally because they are so accustomed to communicating through a specific manner and abbreviations commonly used online. Soon people began to use these terms and abbreviations while their conversations in the real world. At first, it seemed to be started as a joke, but over the past few years, it’s become quite common to speak, especially among younger generation, in this manner.

Instead of looking at the history behind IT development in South Korea to me, it seems more imperative to analyze the socio-economic influences that results from it. South Korea, from my experience as a native, is a highly implicit, domesticated, and conformed society. The people tend to be very self-conscious about different opinions or lifestyles as opposed to the norm. Being “different” means often times being “wrong”. For the same reason, debating culture is an alienated concept among the general public and even among intellectuals and politicians. The education system and pedagogy are heavily geared to recitation and memorization, rather than a more progressive and creative form of learning. The people consider art as a substitute to scholarship. Their prejudices and stereotypes overpower their rationality, conformity is a virtue, critical thinking is a vice, the efficacy of the humanities is ignored, and women are still repressed in a patriarchal society as they are objectified as (sexual)commodity in the media. Additionally, the gap between the minority of opulent and the majority of the rest continues to  increase. What i’m trying to say is, due to the characteristics of their repressed culture, as the cyberspace has prevailed among their lives, Koreans have been developed cultic and almost dogmatic cultures in their online world. Most major online platforms including social media have been dominated by vulgar talks and series of meaningless images among citizens. Online platforms and mobile phone applications emancipated their regressed emotions and expressions. We can also look at the phenomenon in a psychological lens, and it seems quite plausible to say it is a neurotic symptom that is massively and gradually emerged among the general public in Korea, prompted by their long-time-repression, and released by the advent of the anonymous world of cyberspace. And as I’ve foreseen, fanatic culture in South Korea has become like a secularized religion to the point where watching a bunch of almost naked 16-year-old girls dance to the psychedelic songs on a television and internet has become the norm. Even more shocking thing is they export this culture to other parts of Asia (now even in Europe and America), supported by the government, saying “It’s our great cultural asset.” I see it’s no different from subsidized exported pornography. It is, so-called, K-pop. Slovenian marxist philosopher, Slavoj Zizek, once warned Korean people about the danger of undermining quality of K-pop and trance music during his visit (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8kzbsT8e_k – It starts at 14:00). However, this kind of political topic, unfortunately, does not usually disseminate on their online platforms. Even if it does, they’ve lost the objective and critical eyes to look at political issues.

Although I point to these extreme cases of conversion in South Korea, this phenomena is present in many other cultures, varied by the distribution of the internet technology. An everted world seems irresistible. The problem is how we can deviate this subversive culture into a productive and progressive one. In my opinion, not because I’ve been taking this class, but I think Digital Humanities is the key to it. Utilizing advanced internet technologies and channeling people’s conforming characteristic to the interest in academia would be a great challenge of DH to accomplish. We can also utilize digital platforms to replace the old reciting and implicit education system (especially for the case of Korea) to a discursive one, provoking participations from the students who are more comfortable on the online platforms. Practices and discussions online will draw more attentions from the young students. And, of course, the primary nature of DH,  egalitarian pedagogy will be necessary for this process so the students from various fields (including myself) such as art and design have more opportunities to be involved with interdisciplinary  praxis, collaborating with the students from the scholarly fields.

The rising of the Digital Humanities

Actually, I am not a big fan of technology. First, I had a hard time to understand computer languages such as HTML, JAVA etc because those texts or languages looked like codes from the movie Matrix for me. I guess I wasn’t enough to be motivated to study computer field. Second, I don’t trust the Internet resources. I still rely more on primary resources or books. However, it is not necessary to resist using technologies. To tell the truth, the society rapidly changes and evolves. If I still avoid learning to utilize digitized tools, I will get far behind. In the end, I will be an extremely narrow-scoped person. I saw many people use digitized technologies to learn and work productively. I realized that I also need to know how to use digital technologies. I guess DH coursework will help me understanding digital languages and synthesizing technology and academia.

Professor Gold asked us to define digital humanities in one sentence on the first day of class. I think DH is a mixture of technology and academia that will lead our life styles. I agree with Professor Brier’s idea that DH is a blended theory and practice. At first, I thought that I was not close to the digitized technology, but the technology is fully embedded in my life.  According to professor’s work, DH incorporate a broad range of data throughout the scholastic world.  DH contributed to preserve and visualize written information. It led “scholarly communication in networked environment.” For instance, Archaeology faculty focus on reconstructing and preserving records by software programs.  In this respect, Archaeology epitomizes what DH aim to do.

2014-09-01-20-09-34_deco

In the end, DH transform from paper to digital recording, it is still recording. Educational institution need to introduce DH to many students and make it more accessible to many people. In the long term, the knowledge and skill from DH will be useful in working industry as well. Most of firms require to interpret and synthesize data in digitized forms.

Living History

I read with avid interest Susan Hockey’s piece, “The History of Digital Humanities”. It turns out that this history closely parallels the arc of my life. By sheer coincidence, I was born in the year that Father Busa began work on his “index verborum” and I finished school about the time the concordance was first published in 1974. Like James Mason (https://dhpraxis14.commons.gc.cuny.edu/2014/08/29/digital-humanities-instilling-optimism-in-academia/) , I got my degree in English and could not do anything with it.

Finally, in 1978, I fell into a job as a mainframe computer operator. I had fun driving that big old machine, working with punch cards and huge reel-to-reel data tapes. My career led me to programming and then project management. Just as Hockey describes the advance of technology in the humanities, I lived through a similar evolution in the corporate IT world. The “invention” of word processing, the arrival of personal computers, the breakthrough of GUI (graphical user interface) and of course the history shaking impact of the Internet. I remember sending my first email. I remember working remotely on text-based terminal that operated over a telephone line at 300 bytes per second (it had no CRT; the I/O took place on spool of paper).

What is intriguing to me is that the tension between technologists and users of technology that seem to be taking place in the Digital Humanities is not a new phenomena. Techies have always been more interested in the tools than what can be done with them. I believe that Humanities has only lately been grappling with these issues because the technology is finally mature enough to deliver real value. It was much simpler to create systems that keep track of debits and credits, than to open up insights into the complex subjects that concern humanists. What seems to me to be unique to academia is the ongoing argument over the definition of Digital Humanities. Wouldn’t it be easier to simply do the work rather than agonize over what to label it?

Time will tell if this MALS program will lead me into a new way to study literature and theatre again or if it will open up a new arena for me leverage my technology career. Perhaps it will do both.

The Importance of Place

By, Martha Joy Rose (you can call me Joy 🙂

Screen shot, Madonna, Material Girl video (1985)

Screen shot, Madonna, Material Girl video (1985)

To quote Madonna, “we live in a material world.” Bodies are the containers for our intellectual, sensation-filled, pleasurable, and of course painful lives. My material body is the place from which I interact with the world. The biological shape it takes interprets data and responds accordingly. It is my home, and its receptors process my life experiences. That’s why I titled this first blog for the Digital Praxis Seminar “The Importance of Place.” For people wishing to push past the limitations of the material world, online portals provide unique opportunities to connect beyond the place and space individuals physically occupy.

During the first Digital Humanities Seminar class participants wrote one-sentence definitions of DH. My short and sweet assessment was, “DH is the intersection between information and technology.” Expanding on that idea is the notion that every subject within the interdisciplinary humanities has the potential to be available via the internet. These systems have already begun to change the learning landscape through MOOCS (Massive Open Online Courses) and digital libraries. Optimally the internet expands opportunities and enhances the physical/mental landscape into information highways, hyperrealities and more. This is a fascinating new frontier with its own possibilities and limitations. We are still at the forefront of this burgeoning new “place” learning to manage the opportunities presented and the pitfalls created.

This summer I watched Morgan Spurlock’s special on CNN delving into Futurisms. You can see the YouTube video here. The episode is a sometimes-frightening glimpse into humanity’s technological future, of which each of us plays a part, like it or not.

Because I still live in a body, but because my body lives in a world of rapidly developing technologies, I embrace the importance of both spheres relatively. I exercise my body, eat right, and love my physical form (in all its stages), but I am diving full steam into the new important space of digital humanities where information and connections find scope and life online. I absolutely think it is the next important place to be.

(If anyone needs extra help getting in the wordpress groove, I’m happy to help. Just write me at my gmail address and we’ll set up a chat time by phone)
My Twitter Handle is: TheMediaMom
E-mail: MarthaJoyRose@gmail.com
Website: MarthaJoyRose.com

Digital Humanities: Instilling Optimism in Academia

House of Leaves, by Mark Danielewski. Text no longer moves in one direction.

House of Leaves, by Mark Danielewski. Text no longer moves in one direction.

“I consider this mutability of language a wise precaution of Providence for the benefit of the world at large, and of authors in particular. To reason from analogy, we daily behold the varied and beautiful tribes of vegetables springing up, flourishing, adorning the fields for a short time, and then fading into dust, to make way for their successors. Were not this the case, the fecundity of nature would be a grievance instead of a blessing. The earth would groan with rank and excessive vegetation, and its surface become a tangled wilderness”

-Washington Irving, “The Mutability of Literature”

Studying Digital Humanities is something I never knew I wanted. Years after beginning my undergraduate career I cursed myself for choosing an English degree. Sure, I loved reading and discussing literature, but aside from pursuing a life in academia , what real-world purpose did it serve that I could parse the connection between the sarin gas attacks in the Japan subways in 1995 and Murakami’s depiction of time in A Wild Sheep’s Chase? Sure, I have a handful of sonnets memorized, and while they might be fun to recite in front of girls, they most likely won’t get any potential employers in bed with me. I had so many interests growing up! Why did I choose the one that—based on my limited knowledge of the job market—seemed so fruitless? In my free time I studied digital rights management, so why didn’t I change my major to law? When I was 13 I learned HTML while playing Neopets, so why didn’t I change my major to Computer Science? After writing a research paper on digital media, consumer convenience, and the future of software models, why didn’t I go for business? Finally, why did it take me so long to find out that Digital Humanities was a thing?

After finishing my undergraduate English degree (get this… you’ll never believe it…) I applied for a doctoral degree in English. Unbelievable, right? Despite my utter pessimism about the efficacy of studying text, I decided to study text some more. I believed that I would either end up a professor of English, or quit academia and get a job working in new media and digital software, parallel, yet distant paths. One day I would stray too far in one direction and the other path would be forever obfuscated, lost in a sea of software or perhaps a forest of leaves. Before hearing back from graduate schools, I filled my time by recording a weekly podcast about video game sub-cultures. A friend and I bought recording equipment, learned audio editing, studied distribution methods via RSS feeds, built a website, and wrote a list of topics that would last us over a year. We got together every week, and recording the show became a labor of love. Not only did I get to speak passionately about a topic I was enthusiastic about, but I became a participant in active conversations regarding e-sports in America, online streaming, and the efficacy of new business models for digital software. I worked for hours every week drafting show notes, learning history, and gathering opinions from experts to discuss and refute. This solidified that reading and writing text could not be my sole future. When I was contacted by a representative from the Graduate Center, it was to tell me that I was not accepted to a doctoral program, but also that I should consider a Masters track for Digital Humanities, as it seemed better aligned with my interests and work. I wasn’t upset, just intrigued. After reading up on DH, I realized I wasn’t just interested, I was already a participant. In fact, many people with my interests were already unknowingly participating in Digital Humanities.

Not only did Digital Humanities as a concept renew my interest in academia, it renewed my interest and optimism in English and Literature as a viable track of study. While text continues to be an important facet of humanism, there are many alternative media formats, such as films and games, that can speak on similar subject matter, albeit, without the seniority. Digital Humanities not only grants us a space to re-examine texts in digital formats and tools, but creates a bridge through which English might become a more multi-faceted, interdisciplinary track. After all, being able to read and write at the highest academic levels seems attractive when you consider just how much you’re reading and writing through social media platforms.

I believe that Digital Humanities has the ability to alter the approaches and pedagogy of not just English, but any discipline held back by the trappings of academia. Lisa Spiro states in her essay, “This Is Why We Fight” that “emphasis on specialization and professional authority clashes with the collaborative, crowdsourced approaches of the digital humanities”, and I believe this to be the definitive attraction to DH: it truly encourages an iterative, interdisciplinary approach, whereas many tracks and individuals intentionally alienate themselves in an attempt to gain absolute authority over their ideas. How does that better the medium? How can one learn and innovate if they shut themselves out from all that is available to teach?

There’s so much more to say, but this is already far too long. I have so many questions and so many ideas, all I can say for certain is I’m optimistic about the future.