Understanding DH through #DayofDH Projects

When I was in art class in high school, we consistently used the words “systematic investigation” and “creative problem solving” to the point where it almost became a joke: “My entire project just fell apart… I guess I have some systematic investigating to do!” The more the teacher used the term to guide us in creating, the more it made sense. We were using trial and error, asking questions, and working to solve problems in a creative way. I had never put together the experiences I had in art and digital humanities until I read David Lacho’s write up for his project for the Day of DH, “Mapping the Day of DH: Using Google Fusion Tables to build a map of #dayofdh and #dayofdh2016 from user’s location on Twitter.” 

One concept that Lacho touches on in the first part of his blog post is that of the archive, which we have written about on the blog before. He writes: “If anything [the project] will serve as an archive of a day where digital humanists participated in making a day that belonged to them.” The notion of making a space for ourselves as DHers made me oddly emotional. It reminded me that if there isn’t a space for something we want, or if there is information we want but can’t find, then we can create it (like the maps of day of DH). In elementary school, my friends and i created a holiday called nothingwhatsoever day where we would exchange gifts. It was in May, and we made it because we wanted to exchange presents, but there were no holidays in May where we could do so. We’re creating a Scalar project on humanity because we believe that it’s important to talk about. And with the globalization of the internet, technology, and ideas behind DH allow for ideas like this to be abundantly spread.

Lacho’s project also put into concrete terms for me the greatness of the open projects that exist on the internet, through the DH world. And the greatness comes from the projects and data collection all being open for interpretation. He writes: “I put the tools and the data in your hands.” The final post, where he links to the spreadsheet and all the data used, is even titled “And here be thy data: This project is for you.” The project demonstrates the DH community’s ability to interpret, share, and collect data. Through looking at the data and the maps that were created, I can draw my own conclusions. I didn’t have to do any of the problem solving of creating the tool or gathering the data, but now I can go into my own type of systematic investigation and close read the data to create an argument (if I wanted). It’s reminiscent of the “beginnings” of DH, where primary sources were uploaded to the internet so that people could gain access to these documents.

At the heart of it, Lacho defines DH in a way that is very similar to my experience in the art room:

To me, the digital humanities is exactly what I did today. I asked questions and I came up with a solution, which led to more questions. I would say the Digital Humanities is an iterative cycle in itself, always stepping towards another question, but remaining reflexive on our tools and processes.

It’s helpful for me to hear DH phrased in this way and looked at through this lens. Currently, I’m working in a group to create a project questioning the humanity in digital humanities. Many times, I’m finding myself having more questions than answers. And Lacho has assured me that this is just part of what DH is. If our project raises more questions, then it has done its job.

Digital Humanities Quarterly: A Review


Digital Humanities Quarterly (DHQ) is a journal that publishes at least once a year. The publication includes articles, issues in digital humanities, reviews, and case studies. The journal is mostly read by those in the DH community. However, the website specifies that the journal “extends more broadly to related domains and to the interested non-specialist: for instance, humanities faculty, digital artists, museum curators, archivist, and the like.” Some of the journals are labeled as special editions because there is a particular theme woven throughout every piece published in that edition. For example, 9.2 is Feminisms in Digital Humanities. On a larger scale, the journal addresses the interests of the rhetoric of digital authoring, addressing the divide between the print and the digital, experiments in interactive media, reviews of different books, websites, news media art installations, and digital humanities systems and tools. The journal is versatile and relevant in its content. Some topics that the journal’s readers may be interested in include the new and upcoming tools in DH, being able to read about tools before the use them, the discussions and debates within the community, theory related to DH content.

In terms of navigation, the website is incredibly easy to navigate. The left side of the page has the different issues, which link you to the table of contents. In the table of contents, there are links to the actual articles. Perhaps one of my favorite parts of the way the website is set up is that you can click on a plus arrow below the author’s name and it will open the abstract for you on the page. This makes it easy to navigate and get a preview of the article before you open it. There were no issues I ran into while moving throughout the website. DHQ is specifically designed to be able to withstand times and changes in formatting and the internet. The format in which they publish is meant to be easy to navigate and not change if the internet does.

DHQ is not particularly beautiful, but it is simple. The main logo is in the top left corner, and the banner is easy to navigate and is set up in a way that makes sense. No matter what page you move on to, the issues stay on the left hand of the page which makes it easy to click around and still get back to where you need. I did not find myself getting particularly “lost” in the website. Perhaps one of the most appealing parts of the website is how easy its appearance makes it to navigate. The aesthetics, overall, do converge with the content in ways that make visual sense to me.

The submission tab is on the top of the navigation bar and is easy to find. The tab links directly to the submission guidelines. DHQ accepts submissions at a rolling two-month intervals. The submission must be in XML encoded in the DHQ markup language, XML encoded in TEI, or RFT, Open Office, or MS Word. In order to be published, the editors specify that the submission “must fall within the content of the journal, it must be addressed to an appropriate audience, it must have an argument and should represent an original contribution to the research and practice of the digital humanities field, or should offer an original analysis, critique, or viewpoint on some aspect thereof, and it must be well writing, and must present its argument clearly and interestingly.” After the article is submitted, it is peer reviewed before being considered for publication. There is no guideline specifying whether or not there can be co-authored submissions. However, there are many co-authored articles and case studies that are in the journals. The articles can have visual images in them (including images, audio, video, and accompanying data sets). The biggest thing for DHQ, though, is to be able to maintain long-term access to the journal content so their guidelines for formatting visual images are very tight. DHQ encourages the writing submitted to be inclusive of people who may not be privy to the DH scene. However, they do only accept articles, issues in DH, reviews, or case studies. If something creative or non-academic could fit into one of those categories then there is a chance. But most of the articles I found were centered around more academic topics.

I wish I could spend all my time reading the articles that are in the journal.


What possibilities can you envision for using datasets, maybe beyond literature? In gaming? In soci0-cultural study?

When I saw this question my mind went blank for a little bit at first but I then remembered something I did in my Teacher Cadet experience that I used data sets for. They were used to track students progress in the classroom. I would have to input data from the tests that they were taking in order for the teacher to track growth and understand the content that she needed to teach. Certain questions aligned with literature and some aligned with mechanics and she could track the growth of the student and then also track the classroom needs. Most of the students, in the seventh grade class still struggled a little but with reading comprehension and we knew this because of the data sets we had created. It made the classroom easier to navigate because then we could pinpoint the exact needs of the individual or the group. While this isn’t exactly what we did in class I think analyzing the data sets of progression can help teachers in the classroom. Although testing the students day one is not ideal, it may help give the teacher somewhere to start and then continue to track. It also doesn’t have to be an assessment it could be a series of assignments to track and have them do the same kind of assignments throughout the term to track. I would employ it the same test at different checkpoints during the year to measure the data sets and begin to understand the student’s achievements in the class. This test is not necessarily for a grade it is for measurement purposes more of a formative assessment to address over the course of the year. Also if I find one particular student struggling I know exactly what to give them to achieve more in the classroom.

Data points are helpful tool for organization of many items and materials. I think this is more of basic way of think about datasets, and I could have possibly misinterpreted the question, but this something could, once it’s set up, be an easy tool to use in the classroom. I think the set up would take a long time just like the data set we saw in the Journal but I creating data sets can help inform the teacher on what the students need. Create a team of teachers that use the same data sets and send them to other teachers to use as the student progresses through school that way the student growth because a data set and can show students too the growth they have made in school. This could be done easily once started but creating the data set would be the difficult part.

Defining DH: There’s Never One Right Answer Anyway

I believe that people, in general, like to define ideas, concepts, etc. When we define these things, it can help us to begin to understand them. We can talk about them. We can study them. The definition of Digital Humanities may not be a concern for those who are currently participating in the discipline; however, for the people who may be interested in Digital Humanities, the definition or lack there of could be so important.

Having to define Digital Humanities was a problem that I ran into when I told people I was taking this class. Everyone I told seemed really interested and wanted to know more about it. The problem was that I wasn’t really sure how to explain it; I barely had an idea of what the class would be like myself. I love technology, and I love reading and studying literature. I knew that they are combined some way in Digital Humanities, but I wasn’t sure what that looked like. I was invested enough to pursue it further, but I wonder how many people don’t pursue studying DH because they don’t know what it is.

There is the worry of limiting exploration of DH by defining it; however, I’d argue that it may be important to try to define it anyways. The definition of DH doesn’t have to be concrete and static. It can be a dynamic, fluid definition that allows for change and adaptation. We’re English majors; we don’t prescribe to the idea of one right answer anyways. There isn’t one way to read a novel. Why would there be only one way to define the discipline of DH. It is a field of study that is still  growing and shifting. That is the beauty in it. Everyone who participates in DH has the capability and possibility to shape the study of it all.

After gaining some more experience and background information about DH, I think I would define DH as the intersection of technology and humanities studies. DH asks the question: how can we use the tools and uniqueness of technology to expand our studies of humanities? DH pushes us to think of new and unique ways to present arguments and share research. The study of DH allows for more access to academic work and even more fun with it. The tools and projects that digital humanists are making bring humanities studies into the technological world. It allows for the possibility to expand the study of literature beyond the reading and writing that is currently the focus. Don’t get me wrong, the reading and writing are still so important; however, DH creates a space for the humanities disciplines to grow.

The space that DH creates is one that excites me. The more I learn about it the more excited I get. It would be a shame if someone was turned away from DH because they couldn’t find a good definition of it. While the fear of limiting the expansion of DH by defining it is valid, I think the bigger concern would be limiting the people who participate in DH by not offering at least some stable ground to stand on.

Here We Go!

I am so excited to start this course and the first of sorts to go through the course. I tend to be pretty tech savvy. I think about music a lot and characters from books. I think about the song “Alaska” by Sky Sailing (Adam Young aka Owl City) a lot and the thought of travel and movement throughout life and what home usually is. I read some books Transatlantic by Colum McCann and Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood and the movement caused within these novels and the idea of what home is as we move. The idea of movement intrigues me and moving the Humanities into a digital space seems like a good way to satisfy some of these movement cravings. I don’t really know what to expect from this course but I trust Sarah because at this point this is my fifth class with her and I find a lot of inspiration through her ideas and ventures. So here we go!

Embarking into Digital Space

To the students enrolled in ENG 395: Digital Humanities Playground, Welcome! You are about to embark upon a truly fresh learning experience in which you’ll be encouraged to think differently, ask a lot of questions, try out new ways of representing your ideas, and above all, play. Over the next 16 weeks, you will read deeply and broadly about the genesis of the Digital Humanities, its prominent debates, and its evolution into a trending field. You’ll explore existing DH projects, some of them large, some small, some famous, some fledgling. You’ll develop skills in visualization and non-linear narrative formation. You’ll grapple with concepts like distant reading, interface theory, and tagging as cultural, political, social critique. You’ll collaborate. You’ll build something.

Our course blog is not only a space for course policies and the schedule. It is your space for writing about what you’re learning, what challenges you’re facing in working digitally, and what ideas you’re developing. It is also your space for communicating with each other through comments about these processes. Digital Humanities practitioners believe in sharing their work and ideas out in the digital open, and in this spirit, I’ve kept this site open to the public. Much of what you do in this first-ever DH course at UNC will be helpful to students in the future, not just at UNC, but at many other institutions as DH in the classroom becomes more common. So, let us embark on our digital space journey and see where we end up!

Twitter hashtags for the course #uncodh #395dh