Digital Humanities and the Professional, or should it be personal?

(Explanation: These are a series of blog posts for my digital humanities class and need to be accessible until the end of the semester. The blog posts were (mostly) supposed to more casual. History of Midwifery is also my digital humanities final. I still haven’t decided if I were to continue to blog about building up this site.)

I still haven’t decided whether I will keep a blog or not for this graduate portfolio project. If I do, I would want to be more open, more personal about the process of creating a public history website. We always show a professional face in our work, but behind that facade, none of us are professional. Love, family, friends, passions – the things that matter in life – are not professional. In the work I am doing, US History, the paper that comes out of the discovery I made in the archives will not show me jumping up and down while stifling my yelp of surprise because I’m in a library. But that joy of discovery IS part of the history.

Professionalism is good in its place – we all like things to work efficiently and comfortably. But it isn’t our lives. And it certainly isn’t what’s happening when I can’t get the website to look the way it looks in my head.

So should I keep a personal blog, a simple research blog, or no blog at all? Right now, this blog is in response to my Digital Humanities course. I usually don’t talk about this side of me these days, so this will be fun.

What is my relationship to the digital? I have been on the internet since 1995. We dialed into Cyberhighway, a small local provider. At that time of slow modems that used your telephone line, there were no search engines, but there were link indexes and even printed internet guides. Good website design needed images to be less than 70 kb.

I am pretty good with image creation/editing and was pretty handy with HTML. I could even handle a database. I worked with a group of people to create a fan website for Ender’s Game called Philoticweb which had a forum, an encyclopedia, compendium, and a listing of all the different translations of the book. I kind of miss those days when website creation was so simple, but it is more powerful and more accessible now.

My husband is really into photography and computer graphics. He started a graphics tutorial business called Geekatplay, and in helping him I wrote several articles for 3D World, which led to me writing two books: Vue 7 From the Ground Up, and 3D Art Essentials.

Digital graphics are my husband’s passion. Writing is mine. I have two published short stories, both in online venues. Junk Drawer and The Tile Setters. Is online publishing part of Digital Humanities? I think so, even if it is a mundane manifestation.

The simple, early idea of being able to link together two different pieces of text that reside digitally inside two different servers across the world or in your own single computer, fundamentally changes the way we share information. An image we see on a computer is generated from specially coded text which describes each pixel. All the things I write use powerful word processing software that can so easily move around chunks of text because the computer can copy them, hold them in a temporary place, then put them back where I tell it to. So even creating a plain old essay is actually digital these days.

Still, I think Digital Humanities refers to the more powerful and creative ways we can present information, whether it be text, image, sound, object, or other information. I hardly know where those frontiers are right now, and I’m excited to learn.

Because I’m getting a certificate in Public History, I am creating a website aimed at a public audience rather than an annotated syllabus aimed at students. I’m hoping to be able to create something a bit more interesting than a bunch of articles and images collected into an online exhibit.

Technology is wonderful. My watch, phone, and computer are all connected to each other. I can even do exercise videos with my watch’s heartrate data displayed on the TV. I have a digital cutting machine for paper, fabric, vinyl etc and we have two 3D printers. I am definitely a technophile.

I’m pretty lucky to be able to pick up on technology quickly. Until I went back to school to pursue my own interest, my backup plan in case I lost my husband was to refresh my HTML, PHP, and database skills and get a job programming.

Even so, when I’m creating a website using some of these digital tools, you might find me growling unprofessionally at my computer.

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