At the end of my Capstone experience and the certificate program I’m looking back at two
semesters where I got to experience what it means to be engaged in the Digital Humanities,
and even – with the second half of the spring semester being affected by the necessary
Covid19 arrangements – what it means to do a Digital Humanities research project
In my first semester I largely found myself re-interrogating the kind of questions American
Studies asks in order to understand what different kind of questions I could ask in the Digital Humanities that would provide me with new avenues to my own research. I learned about the contemporary discourse in this discipline, about many inspiring DH projects and came to appreciate the significant value of having various experts at the Digital Studio at hand with whom I could talk through specific ideas, plans, concerns, and challenges related to my DH research process.
With the Covid-19 shutdown of campus, these resources were harder to make use of, since I
felt that some of my questions were so trifling, they were not worth cluttering Digital Studio
staff’s email accounts – especially not during these times. So, I found myself gradually less
pursuing actual results and outcomes for my project and increasingly starting to put more
effort and time into learning the digital tools that would enable me to run my DH project
more independently. Through online tutorials I trained myself in ArcGIS and started to learn Python for geospatial analysis. Going down this path brought as many moments of success, fascination and joy as well as moments of cluelessness and frustration. After months of trialand-error, I would say, I got to access the DH universe from a very interesting different angle where I would not have otherwise arrived at if somebody else had operated these programs for me. By interacting with these tools and watching other people systematically outlaying all the small tasks one could run with these programs, I gained a deeper understanding of what is possible and the computational spectrum I could situate my research questions in. I also discovered other useful programs and services that helped me work around more complex operations, for which I started to create a list to categorize all those tools for future projects.
Though, I cannot present any satisfactory results yet, I can say that due to the
circumstances, this Capstone experience has been a very interdisciplinary experience that
provided me with insights that I am sure will be especially valuable down the road.
I would also like to thank Tom and Leah and all the Studio staff for providing this welcoming, supportive and productive atmosphere that always felt exciting and inspiring to be in.
– Oanh Nguyen