Digital Growing Pains

In our Digital Humanities class we are working on our final class projects in earnest. I decided to work with a partner on a project mapping text from The Travels of Sir John Mandeville. While I anticipated a learning curve for the new program we will be using, I didn’t realize the growing pains (albeit minor) I would experience in the preparatory phase of the project. Mainly, I underestimated the deceivingly simple search for the perfect map to use as the basis for my project. I assumed that once I had identified the historically appropriate antique map, we would be in business. I quickly found the map I wanted to use and got a digital copy, thinking I was done. However, as a novice DHer, I had underestimated the technical requirements of the software which necessitated a very high resolution map. Then, I began my search anew for the high resolution map at the library who owned a copy and was frustrated that it wasn’t available in high resolution. The solution, after a couple emails and advice, ended up being a simple constrained search on Google Images that revealed copyright-free high resolution maps. Looking back on my search at the very simple solution which could have originally taken me 5 minutes, I realized that my traditional scholarly mode got in the way. I was so focused on finding my map at a library, a “reputable” and scholarly source, that I ignored the easiest and most practical solution. I am not saying that we should ignore the sources we use, after all my map still has historical significance, but I learned that I have to be open to thinking differently about how I operate when it comes to DH. Just like a digital project is not the same as a printed book, the research may look different and have different avenues to explore. This simple little problem highlighted for me, yet again, that I need to be open to new methods and I need to reorient my thinking when working on a DH project- it is the same, but different, from my traditional research. Like in traditional research, you should expect twists and turns, but you should also enjoy and learn from the very experience of research and what it can teach you about your scholarship and yourself. Sometimes minor “growing pains” can turn into significant learning experiences.

  • Katie Gandy

    Thanks for sharing this info with us, April!  VERY helpful.