When I first started my project at the Studio, I had no idea what to expect. I had some grand ideas of visualizing my project through a mapping program. I knew I wanted photos, I knew I wanted small descriptions of each statue, and I knew that the placement of these statues was of the utmost importance, which lead me to the notion of an interactive map. I have never done a digital project before and I did not have any prior experience with any of the tools I would be working with; I had never even used Excel before. I knew I would be challenged throughout the fellowship process, but I had no idea how adaptable the digital humanities would be to my work. I am so used to doing my research in an archive or through online databases, crafting some sort of argument, and writing a final paper. My time at the Studio this summer has shown me that this sort of traditionally rigorous research can be replicated and expanded upon through the digital humanities. No longer was I relying solely on crafting an argument through words alone, but I was creating and executing an argument through the creation of my map. The awareness that scholarly rigor can be reimagined through various pathways might be the most important thing that I have learned this summer.
In addition to these ideas, I feel that the Studio fellowship has helped me to better understand my own work. For me, the mapping aspect of my research was simply a pie in the sky, it was something I would love to try, but I never thought I would actually get the chance to reimagine my research so completely. A lot of my work relies on my own visual interpretation, so to be able to take these visuals and share them with my reader in a way that is both accessible and easy to navigate, is more than I could have hoped. This fellowship has helped me to understand the ways that academic research can live outside of the academy and really be enriched through community engagement.
After I finished the first iteration of my map, I wanted to share it with my friends and family to get some feedback on how user friendly it was and if it made sense in the larger context of my work. My sister and I have talked about my scholarship quite a bit, she is always asking how it is going and what sorts of things I am working on. We regularly talk about the details of my research and she has always told me that visuals would help me make my argument more clear. With that in mind, I finished a preliminary run of my map and I decided to show it to my sister and see what she thought of it. I gave her my laptop with the map on the screen and asked her to go through it and click on the coordinates and check it out. After about twenty minutes I asked her what she thought of it and she laughed and said, “your work makes way more sense now.” She noted that the interactivity of the map made her feel more invested and she was better able to make the connections that I had suggested when we first started talking about my scholarship after seeing the map. I have always wanted my work to engage a broader audience and I think through this fellowship and my newfound understandings of digital humanities, I have found better ways to do just that.
While at the Studio I have been able to shift my perspective and rediscover the passion I had for my topic by engaging new aspects of my work that I had not previously considered. This whole process has been incredibly invigorating and refreshing; being able to create without any sense of pressure or necessary expectation has made my work that much more fruitful. I hope to be able to share my project with a larger audience and I feel that the fellowship this summer has given me the tools to be able to do that.