Smithsonian Internship 7

Thanks to my digital humanities internship, I have gained hands-on experience as well as a few insights into this emergent and interdisciplinary area. First of all, I find digital humanities is a broad area that a small branch of it is worth deep research. Take mapping as example. Before the internship, I was complacent with Kepler gl, a mapping tool that can handle most geospatial work. However, when a real mapping project comes, I find it is only one of numerous options. Different mapping tools are designed to solve different problems and have unique features. After all, the web developers don’t make same products. It takes some time to study these mapping tools and find the perfect match for your project. For example, there are Google Maps, leaflet maps and mapbox maps. Besides ready-made tools, there are programming languages which enable you with greater customization freedom. So, which option you choose for your work really depends on the nature and scope of your project. Compared with the mapping work, this preliminary research of tools takes an equal amount of time. Similarly, this happens on other projects such as text analysis and network graphing. My academic training in digital humanities is a great stepping stone for my research on these technologies and I appreciate my internship experience to further my research skills and digital abilities.

Second, my research of tools and problem-solving experience in mapping make me wonder how much is out there in the field of digital public humanities which is simply not used to its full potential. Reasons are many: some resources have copyright, so they are not in the public domain or have limited access. Some resources are hidden in some corners or scattered everywhere in a website which require high skills to find them. And some databases have tech glitches which simply make it difficult to find your information even if you use keyword research. So, I find most useful information on computer science websites, such as Github and stackoverflow, where tech people around the world share information and solve problems for each other. Though digital humanities use some technology, it is an independent discipline and deserves its own platform of sources, research methods and theories and information sharing that focus on humanities projects, supported rather than dominated by computer science technologies. I envision a website or database that includes grant information, project proposals, academic research technology forums and examples of digital humanities projects. Just as web developers worldwide go to Github for information and problem solving, this website or database would serve as a good starting point of any person who is either interested in digital humanities or wants to further their knowledge. And most importantly, it should be easy to navigate.

Third, the internship makes me realize that analytical data skills are a must-have in this digital age, regardless of profession. Business needs it, museums need it, humanities need it, and science needs it. It’s not only for research purposes but also a great way to engage the public, as I am doing on the interactive maps in my internship. So, stimulated by this thought gained from the internship, I signed up for Python for data science courses, using the most popular programming language to process large datasets. I wonder if one day it there would be a course every college student needs to take, like current university core curriculum courses. I recommend digital humanities training programs include a coding course because I find it necessary in so many digital humanities projects. Ready-made tools are great but there is not a single that can fit all needs. The core of these tools is the programming language.



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