Liftoff!

This website has been pretty much on the DL for the last several weeks since its birth at a digital humanities workshop at George Mason University.  Technically it’s been open for business on the internets while I’ve been playing around with it, learning Page Builder and amazing my friends and family with new vocab (like “widgitized”). Ideally it will be the one-stop catch-all for my professional activities, including teaching, research, and also as a link to the growing repository of photographs that I collect during my travels.  Although, of course, it remains pretty open to continued tinkering, it’s time to move on to other projects that are supposed to be the meat of my sabbatical, so for now I will say the site is ready for prime time (if not quite “done”).  I would be happy to hear your comments and suggestions!  Thanks for stopping by.

Fun with Google Books Ngram Viewer

Today we tried out a  number of data mining programs.  I like the term “data mining:” it seems an appropriate way to think about digging deep, with some goal in mind, finding raw glittery things that need to be handed off to a skilled person to consider, judge, cut, polish, and set.

Graphs can be really compelling, for they so swiftly and decisively draw conclusions from piles of data–in this case, books published from 19th to 20th centuries analyzed for the frequency with which words appear. They’re also dangerous, I know, for they are certainly light on nuance. But I guess that is the role of the scholar: to understand the context and ask the further questions to properly position data that appears so spiffy and commanding into a broader consideration—or, alternately, to just go ahead and use it as proof of the devastation brought to centuries of architectural tradition (beauty) with the advent of anti-aesthetic concepts (space).  Especially considering this graph, in which the lines cross at 1907–the very year that Peter Behrens was named design director for the A.E.G.!–I can maybe see how a person might be tempted to do that.

StoryMap: Thomas U. Walter in Europe, 1838


This cool product is the result of many years of research into Thomas U. Walter plugged into a very easy-to-use internet tool.

High-five! A Gigundo Week of Ginormous Discovery

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Let’s just pause a moment and recap what I accomplished this week:

1. set up a new website domain (you’re reading it!)
2. learned smarter ways to search for images on-line (Googlerama)
3. played with Zotero
4. elevated my Twitter game
5. wrestled with Omeka, furrowed my brows at Scalar and Drupal
6. thought about the lack of oral history in architecture
7. was not made to feel better about copyright issues
8. impressed myself with Thinglink and had ridiculous fun with Animoto (my husband, who teaches a woodshop-safety class at our university, requested something that would attract and hold the attention of freshman students)
9. had big fun annotating film clips on YouTube (even if they’re not as immediately pretty as other tools)
10. got dizzy over the thrill of Google Map Engine Light
11. totally rectified an 18th-century map of Philadelphia
12. spent a few hours making a very spiffy StoryMap for my architect
13. crashed and burned with the new install for Omeka

Overall, many more successes than failures–and even the latter have value for defining limits and maybe encouraging re-thinking about the learning (or trial-and-error process) overall.  While I am delighted that I can look back at having learned so much in really such a short amount of time, my work through the weekend did reveal some points of weakness.  First, not everything has really sunk in, and I am reminded how important it is to practice new skills over and over to make sure they are really truly learned, even after an initial success.  Second, as I tried to  build a little project to display my new skills, I found there were aspects of the project that weren’t yet served by my little skill set, or that there were still things that I just don’t know how to do, even if I can imagine them or have seen them working in some other online source.

I am starting week two trying to balance these two main impressions: 1. delight that I know so much cool stuff, and 2. anxiety that I won’t know everything I really need soon enough!

Bonus reflection available at Postcards from Sabbatical-land by clicking here

Thinglink: awkward name, cool tool

 

 

These are two quickly-made examples of annotated slides in Thinglink. In the ongoing issue of what digital tools mean for the humanities, I think Thinklink lands on the “show off” side of things–I don’t currently see this as a means for research, but as a way to repackage content for classes in a way that I think would be really engaging for students, this looks like it has lots of potential.

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