Monday, June 29, 2009

Digital Humanities: Where to Begin?

I was speaking with someone today with a MA in History, who was interested in getting involved with the digital humanities. She's keen to learn, but didn't know where to start.

My suggestion: take the best essay you think you've ever written and turn it into a webpage.

This will ground you in principles that will be forever useful as you progress to bigger and more complex projects, and it will give you a tangible 'deliverable' that you can be proud of. It is also something that you can teach yourself to do, with little instruction and a lot of experimentation.

Creating a simple website has many advantages. A lot of the advanced work you will do as a digital humanist will require you to work with webpages. This may involve dissecting pages from their source code, to extract content. You'd expect your surgeon to know what was connected to your knee bone; and I'd expect my digital humanist to know what was in my <:head> tag.

Also, markup, which is the language-type simple websites are written in, is much easier to learn than programming languages that use commands, such as JavaScript or Python.

To get started, see my previous post "Putting a History Essay Online".

What about the other digital humanists out there? What's the best first step for an aspiring student?


clioweb said...

Very nice first step! Can't go wrong with learning a little HTML and CSS, and putting your work online in some form.

I would also suggest starting a blog, registering a domain name, getting a Twitter account, and begin to build an online identity and participate in all of these great networked discussions. Its the same in spirit as your suggestion.

Adam Crymble said...

Good call on the blog. Especially if you're part of a class who all are starting one. Having all those extra in-links from your classmates will help you show up higher on search engines, and make you feel like you've got an audience while you get established.