Practicum 14;

Dear future student,

So you’re interested in taking a digital humanities class, and you’re still not sure what it means to be a digital humanist? The easiest way to describe digital humanities involves the digital realm itself, but not in the way expected from a computer science class. You will encounter different tools and applications that explore digital media and computers from a perspective different than most other courses. If you’re a logic-oriented kind of person, then you’ll encounter how to inspect and discuss issues that don’t have that clean-cut, black and white answer you’d expect from a STEM class. If you’re an emotion-oriented person, then you’ll witness some of the more technical aspects behind the technology you encounter with a benign air every day (you won’t need the quadratic formula, for now). If you’re a bit of both, don’t worry. You’ll still need to do the work like everybody else.

But all jokes aside, some of the more important things I learned in this digital humanities class was how powerful and useful technology can be for people who aren’t involved with technology and computer science. As a creative writer and reader, tools like Voyant and Ngram Viewer allowed me to view a piece of writing from a perspective nobody could have imagined back in the ancient times of the early 2000s. I can literally look up how many times a book used a single word, like “said” or “pickle” to understand a trend in the writer’s work (and to feel less self-conscious about my own writing). Likewise, I also learned so much about the cost of digital media’s upkeep and preservation when dealing with more limited sources and objects, like whatever treasures are hidden in the War Letters Archive.

Some of the skills I learned in the class were pretty groundbreaking for me too, especially as someone who is always on an electronic device and never really bothered looking beneath its hood. A simple search can do wonders to find out the more technical aspects, but the class taught me how to think beyond Google and JStor.  Technology is always updating, evolving, and leaving a trail of waste behind in outdated hardware, so the skill to look at a laptop beyond a social media machine is definitely a useful skill for me and my personal interests. Other skills involve more job training aspects, such as the 3-minute lightning talks and the Grant Proposal final (which I am currently procrastinating on as I write this, don’t tell Dr. Remy 😉). Lastly, this is a trick that I already knew partly, but some people do not for whatever reason. Keyboard Commands exist, meaning you can push a few buttons on your computer, and a really useful action will occur, which may or may not save your day. When using a word document on a Mac, you can press Command + F (Control + F on PC) to find a certain word normal human eyes could never find on their own. Also, Command + Z (Control + Z on PC) is the redo button, so you can reclaim the essay you accidentally deleted in your word document, and you will never need to start over again. There are many many more commands that you should look up just to have that ease of mind. For example, I just found out about Command + M, which minimizes whatever window you’re currently using. See? Everyone is learning!

Nonetheless, my advice is to approach the class with a blank slate, clearing whatever preconceived notions you have about the word ‘digital’ along with the ’humanities’ aspect as well. As a newer field of study, digital humanities is still evolving, asking everyone that encounters it to be defined and understood in a new light. Since technology is becoming ever more present in our daily lives (while also leaving a greater cultural impact because everyone’s using it), digital humanities occupy an interesting space for everyone to explore and cater to their own interests. Some people may have trouble with its more abstract topics because the class focuses on ideas and uses tools that are not usually found in traditional classrooms (especially with an application like Zotero, which will literally change the world).  Sure, digital humanities is not an entirely concrete concept to study. But then again, are English classes entirely concrete? Can you hold whatever you learned from a History class in the palm of your hand? I guess all that depends on the e-reader collecting dust in the bathroom.


Ariel N. Banayan