When our final project was first introduced, I didn’t think there was anyway we would even finish a small portion of it. There just didn’t seem to be enough time to put an entire project together using DH tools, and not to mention analyzing, which would’ve been hard had we not finished. Not to mention I had no idea what kind of “thing” we would come up with to analyze. Nonetheless, this class proved me wrong.
If I must be honest, I didn’t understand Digital Humanities at all until working on this project. Yes, we read a lot of articles about it and saw a few projects but I never really understood the point. It seemed like a bunch of work to put something together that maybe a few people will look at. The idea of DH is very interesting to me now, especially after contributing to our own project.
Working on this project taught me things I never really thought about until writing this reflection. I learned how to collaborate with not just my small group but a large group (the class) as a whole. Quite obviously, as this class states, I learned about different DH tools, data collection, research, analysis etc. but there were also aspects I took away that weren’t exactly limited to “DH” terms. After completing this project, I realized how crucial it is to collaborate with others and have a place where your group is able to locate and access everything you’re using. I think that’s an aspect my group hit right on the head. After we began our project and started saving the word clouds Voyant produced for us we realized how many files we were going to have in order to complete our project. We immediately created a Google Drive folder where we kept sharing our files as we all finished them so they were easy to locate in the future.
Looking back, I would’ve put more time in the data collection portion of it. After working with different tools and having to change our format well over a few times, I think if we had spent an extra hour focusing on the size and accuracy of our corpus, we would have saved time on reorganization in the long run. Despite the fact we had to change our format in order to use some tools, we finished our project. Through this, I learned that your corpus is crucial in a DH project and it’s important to know your tools well prior to using them (emphasis on the well). Had we spent more time on our corpus at the start, I think we could’ve created better visual aids to display our results and perform a more broad analysis of our research question. Another area I would alter or look into in the future would be our use of Voyant. After looking over our corpus at the end of our project I realized the mission statements were all different lengths. For example, Voyant would pull a word cloud of about 20-30 words from a short mission statement and it could be the entire statement, making it a bit inaccurate. I think this could’ve been prevented had we spent more time collecting and surveying our data, or if we had used another tool. That being said, I think it was crucial for us to provide visuals using just the top keywords (words used the most) to keep it somewhat accurate across all of the mission statements, no matter the length.
I loved experiencing what it’s like to work on a DH project. We learned a lot of things along the way. In reflection, I think it would’ve been helpful to learn more and ask more questions about the collaboration process of a DH project. It seems as though working with a large number of people can become difficult at times, as we experienced at the start. Even though our class isn’t very big, I think we made the right decision by breaking up into smaller groups. At the beginning of this project we were all having such a hard time agreeing on things and getting things done it only made sense to break it up according to our interests. I felt like we almost wasted a bunch of time. Because we broke up into smaller groups, we never really got to experience what it was like to collaborate with a larger group. Yes, we put all of our projects onto a website, but I didn’t know what kinds of things the other groups were doing until I read their blog posts or until their projects were up on the site. I don’t know if this is what a lot of DH projects are like, or if they work more together to complete them. I definitely think it would’ve been helpful to us to ask MATRIX and the DH library more about collaborating and completing these projects prior to working on our own. However, we didn’t know these things would come up while working on our own and it was a good learning experience to overcome the obstacles we faced.
For future projects, I now know to spend a lot of time in the data collection portion of a project in an attempt to create a more organized corpus. I know that collaboration is an important aspect in not every group project, but especially in DH projects, and I know that it’s important to have a common area among group members in order to save your work and resources so that they are accessible to every member.
Even though I would change some things about our project in order to make it easier and more accurate, I believe it served its purpose in making our research question come to life through visuals. I learned more than expected by working on this project and I’m happy with what we were able to complete. We did more than I originally thought we would, and learned a lot of lessons through the process. This project taught me the concepts and purposes of digital humanities more than anything else we did in the class. I hope to incorporate my learnings and create my own digital humanities projects in the future. Overall, it was a great learning experience.