The Apologist

I just wanted to talk a little about some of my comments in class, or better my attitude and thoughts in the subject of the Digital Humanities.  

I want to defend the humanities.  I believe in the project of reading and writing and analyzing and in the project of qualitative reading and writing and expression.  I think the crisis in the humanities – which digital humanities is a quantitative-centered reaction to – is pretty real, and comes from our culture, here in the US anyways, de-valuing value judgements made by authorities or officials, and really valuing numbers.  Data.  Market-driven value.  My language and comments in class usually had me asking “Well, why would anyone pay for this [kind of work]?”  “What of value does this produce?”  And the traditional humanities, in this regard, these days, comes up short.  So how can we quantify humanities work, apply quantitative-style analysis to what was until now much more qualitative?  With computers.  Tack on that DH is NEW (which everyone likes) and we’ve maybe got something to sell to Provosts across the academic land (and something to publish, thank god).  I sympathize.  I really do.

But on the flip side, some of these tool do seem to me to be genuinely useful.  I just now saw what Concordance can do to a long text, like a super long poem – it can act like a super index that you have on hand as you read.  You can ask and find out if a thought or idea (word) exists in other sections.  You’d have to be smart enough to search for synonyms, but this would work.  It’d certainly make writing a paper on such a thing easier.  And certainly a bunch of this stuff skews closer to the social sciences, which is great!  Anyone who’s enjoyed a good table or graph on, say, The Atlantic, has to appreciate the new technologies that make interesting representations of data possible.

So, in the end, I can see that the kind of things we’ve been studying do have applications, and I also do want to continue to ask tough questions – like why should we care? and what would the Provost think?  Because these matter.  Students pay lots of money to go to college and get something we like to call an education and we’d better have something good to show them when they get here.

  

Bamboo Dirt 3 – Concordance

Hey Team.

So, the final writing / text program I’ll talk about is Concordance.  Apparently this tool will give you a list of words in a text in alphabetical order.  Their site has a pretty neat graphical image showing you how this looks.

concordance 1

 

I tried to upload a document to try this tool out, but I got this:

concordance 2

Concordance works with Concordance files.  Go fig.  So I went to their website to try to find some helpful-looking files to use.  But I got a little side-tracked with this:

concordance 3

This is a concordance of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience.  Presumably this was done with Concordance, the program.  And if I were studying this poem as an academic, this would indeed be a useful tool.  It lets me essentially jump right to any word in the text – like an index on steroids – and see if Blake had something to say about it.  Of course, the term that caught my eye was ale-house.  He had little to say on this subject in this poem, but, as you can see, his view was positive.  Revelatory!

Be safe everyone!

 

 

 

Bamboo Dirt 2 – Scrivener

Part two of our 3 part series.  

Scrivener.

Scrivener is a program that’s designed to help with long form writing.  If you were writing a novel, Scivener wants to be your main deal.  So saith the organization: “Scrivener is ring-binder, a scrapbook, a corkboard, an outliner and text editor all rolled into one.”  It also has a cute cork board look:

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There are some pretty advanced organizational features and the program even incorporates metadata.  What’s nice about a program like this is that it keeps a lot of things in one place, and those things can pop up much quicker than if you were to just keep them in files on your computer.  It’s a good tool to keep large projects organized.

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When you’re ready, you can even export text out to Word and other office-style programs.

I’m told that this program was initially a program for the Mac OSX that’s now also got a Windows version.  At least one person at my office has been using this program for her work for years and tells me she loves it.  I’ve played around with it a little, and it seems a little overwhelming, feature-wise, but even the Scrivener people admit that the user probably won’t use a whole lot of the functions.  Rather, they’ll use a handful and really appreciate them.

 

All in all, a good tool for serious writers to try out.

 

Bamboo Dirt 1 – Google Drive

Drive, folks.  Google re-named it’s suite Drive, and not ‘Docs’.  But it’s pretty much the same thing.

Along with something like Dropbox, I can’t think of a tool – I guess this counts as a DH tool – that I use more and which works so well.  Google Drive, if you have a Google account for mail and the like (I also use calendar for just about everything), is a great way to have documents, excel files, and just a bunch of your stuff available anywhere there’s a computer with internet access.  I suppose you wouldn’t want to put sensitive info up on this, as it technically belongs to Google – and can be seen by the NSA (but they can see everything, right?  Hi Team!  Nothing to see here!).  It’s an alternative to e-mailing yourself a paper you need to print out as you can upload documents – they do get converted into Google Drive docs, but these are compatible with Microsoft Office suite programs, so fret not.  

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Just like a computer in the cloud / ether / someone else’s server, you have files and folders and documents in them.

The other just essential aspect of Google Drive is the sharing thing.  You can share documents or even whole folders with multiple other Google users.  This makes collaboration super easy.  Each person can write and edit – and explain their reasoning with notes in the margins – whenever they have time.  To create a group presentation, say, you don’t really have to meet.  You can just do it all on Google Drive, each when she or he has time.

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Here you can see I’m sharing a presentation with three other people.  What’s also amazing, it that you can chat with all of the people working on a document within the interface of the document.  That floored me when I first discovered that feature.  

 

So, if you’re ok with having some information on the web – again, Hi NSA! – then Google Docs is a GREAT DH tool.  For sure.