Yesterday, I attended the Public Digital Humanities (DH) Capstone Symposium. The symposium represented the final step towards completing the Public Digital Humanities certificate. At the event, my colleagues discussed the digital projects they had worked on during the semester, as part of the capstone. Later, the audience, which consisted of members of the Digital Scholarship & Publishing Studio, the university, and the wider community, either offered comments, questions, or reflections on our digital work. For me, the experience was exciting. The symposium provided me with the opportunity to hear about the impressive digital projects of my colleagues who came from a range of disciplines, including History, Classics, Literary Translation, and Religious Studies. Moreover, because of the audience’s thoughtful and provoking questions to the panelists, I gained a better understanding of the challenges and advancements my colleagues had with their project during the semester, and I was able to reflect on my work and the overall direction I envision it going.
At the symposium, two important questions stood out, “What would you tell others about the capstone/certificate?” and “What did your digital work allow you to see that your research and writing did not?” As a student in the Education Policy and Leadership Department, with a particular disciplinary focus on the History of American Education, I found out about the certificate by chance. My involvement with the Colored Conventions Project – Iowa Satellite, a project that broadly examines the lives of African Americans in Iowa during the 19th century, exposed me to the important connection between digital tools and scholarship. After taking the course Digital Humanities Theory and Practice, which examined the intellectual landscape of digital humanities, along with the various tools and concepts associated with the field and meeting with individuals in the Studio about what the certificate entailed, I decided to complete the certificate.
The certificate and the completion of my capstone project have offered me a new lens through which I can explore my research and writing. When researching and writing, I become preoccupied with outlines, structure, sources, and arguments, all geared towards an academic audience. By using digital tools that support text-analysis, digital mapping, and visualization, my understanding of my research and writing becomes more nuanced. More specifically, my use of digital tools supports my interpretation, analysis, and presentation of scholarship in a manner that captivates me differently and can further engage groups of individuals outside of academia. Moreover, by completing the certificate and project which allowed me to choose from a range of courses, interact with individuals from the Studio, explore digital and scholarly conversations about digital humanities in academia, I feel better positioned to become a digital humanities scholar.
I am excited about my future work in digital humanities. I think the field pushes you, similar to other areas in academia, to want to know more and learn more about scholars in the field, new digital tools, and the intersections between your research and digital humanities. My capstone project has afforded me the time and support to begin to envision how I want digital humanities to function as part of my research and writing. As I move forward, I can say that the foundation that I have in this area has taught, challenged, and inspired me to continue to move forward.