Luna’s End of Term Reflection

Cheers to the end of Fall term! It was a strange one for everyone, but DHA work went along smoothly nevertheless. We actually had a fair number of tasks on our hands this term, some (like updates to the Public Memory of Myanmar collection) carrying over from last year, others from fresh projects or classes.

One rather short but nonetheless important project I want to highlight was a bit of work we did for AMST 256 (Walt Whitman’s New York). The assignment students were working on involved analysis of individual sections of Whitman’s Song of Myself. The professor asked if we could provide any resource for them that would allow them to understand usage of language throughout the text, so as to add more nuance to the students’ arguments about their respective sections.

Our solution to this was to partition digitized versions of the text into sections (using a Python script! ah, my CS major is coming in handy), then upload those files to make Voyant corpora. We passed the links from these to the professor, along with some instruction documents from a previous term. This made for text analysis tools that were accessible to the students and required very little input from the professor.

(Looking at Voyant statistics like…)

The reason I wanted to highlight this project is because we want to offer more support to English and related courses, and I think this one provides a very nice model. While much of DHA work is centered around long-term projects that heavily involve professors, this assignment was a good example of how it’s easiest to introduce DH tools to courses—and professors—when they come tailored for the students. Once it’s been introduced, there’s a hope that the professor—or future professors for the course—will better understand how the tools can be used, and know when it might be useful to come to us in the future, or even incorporate it on their own.

Stay tuned for more DHA involvement with English courses! Our goal for next term is to make a “what we can do for you” sheet for English professors, offering ideas for places where DH tools could be useful to their courses, and how we could assist them with the implementation.

See you all next term!

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