I am taking Digital Humanities in the second semester of the first year of my graduate work in the history department at Michigan State University. Creating an online presence is a component of the course and each week we are to put our thoughts down in a blog post. Although blogging is unchartered territory for me, I always meant to start one. What better incentive than a requirement in a course? Some of us need that little nudge.

So, here is my first blog….Not sure what to say.

Hmmm…I guess I will start with a bit about myself and the digital world.

I am quite selective when it comes to new technology. Some would even call me a bit of a Luddite. I don’t carry a phone and have never owned a smart one. Yet, I sit in front of a computer nearly all the time. I never really liked to talk on the old-school telephone, either. It’s not the tech, but the social interaction. I like talking to people. In person.

I like the feel of old technologies, the click of a typewriter and the  heat of a vacuum tube, the elegance of crank windows in cars and manual transmissions, physically browsing the stacks at the library.  As recently as 2001 I handed in some papers from a typewriter. However, this was because I did not have a computer and could not make it to the computer lab. One of the best professors I ever had, Dr. Redwine at Grand Rapids Community College, wrote “How Quaint” in the margins. I wonder how that would be received now? “How extra”?

Still, I am not opposed to any technologies that would make my life better, and digital humanities is not just about inviting your “tweeps” to the MLA penthouse. What excites me the most about digital humanities (or whatever you want to call it) is , as Rachel Sagner and Anna Tione Levine point to, the “sympathetic research imagination” they foster. I like learning new things and the best way to learn them is from people doing them. The critical mass promoting democratic historical methods is creating a great space for graduate students where we can test out perspectives and others’ subjectivities while streamlining the data behind our own arguments.

I look forward to learning new methods, tools, and perspectives. Mostly, I want to learn how to better organize and retrieve the data I collect for my research. Once it is organized. I also want to make it freely shared. If there is one thing I hate about being a local historian, it is the protective nature many people have when it comes to their sources. Imagine how many interesting primary sources are sitting in people’s homes waiting for that book they are (maybe) going to write.

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  1. Melena

    Freely shared information is a big focus for me as well… mostly in terms of digitizing info. I’ve worked in several places where I’m constantly exposed to how much historic information exists but which is not publicly accessible (in museum collections and archives). As a museum studies student, particularly a student researching during the covid pandemic, I think there’s definitely an increasing need to focus on digitizing and sharing information for historical study. Excited to hear more of your thoughts on the digital humanities as a historian…

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