How to combine Heritage and Culture in the Digital World.

I am a student of both Digital Humanities and Global Gallery Studies, which means that I have the ability to look through both the digital and the physical lens, seeing both sides of arguments that ask, ‘Why do we need to digitise everything?’, when the truth is, we don’t. If we went ahead of attempted to digitise every little thing from the past, then we would have excess of information that we don’t really need to tell the story of the past. Which is where the idea of curation comes in, in order to decide what should/shouldn’t be digitised. Which in turn opens a whole other debate as to who is qualified to decide what pieces of our history and culture should we hold onto and what should we erase? This is not a new debate by any means, but it is a growing question that we are still no where near close to finding the correct answer if there in fact is a straight answer. There are some places in Ireland that manage to combine the worlds of the Heritage/Cultural and the Digital World, such as the Beyond 2022 initiative set up my the Irish Government and Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and is a

‘an all-island and international collaboration. Working together, we will launch a Virtual Record Treasury for Irish history—an open-access, virtual reconstruction of the Record Treasury destroyed in 1922’.

(“Beyond 2022 | Ireland’s Virtual Record Treasury” 2019)

This initiative helps to complete and image of Irish History which was thought to have been destroyed in the fire. For someone like me, this is a perfect example of Digital Humanities in action, using technology and communities with the knowledge and skills needed  in order to salvage what data or records we have from that time.

One local example of this is Nano Nagle Place which is a heritage space in the centre of Cork City which is dedicated to the life of Nano Nagle and the work of the South Presentation convent. Nano Nagle herself was the founder of the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, otherwise known as the Presentation Sisters, Nagle also dedicated her life to the development of Catholic Education in Ireland (“The Story Of Nano Nagle – Nanonagle” 2019). The heritage centre details Nano’s life in Cork while also talking about the Order of the Presentation Sisters including records and photographs from when the school was in operation. They also use a mix of traditional and modern ways to tell the story of the convent from videos to digital maps highlighting Nano Nagle’s trips. The centre is considered to be highly innovative in its use of digital tools and other venues around the country are hoping to adopt similar systems in newer heritage sites, which is what makes Nano Nagle place so unique. While also showing how important and vital digital skills are in order to keep the heritage sector evolving to cater for the next generation of budding curators and historians.

What does Feminism have to do with Digital Humanities

I am a Feminist. In recent years this sentence has struck a chord with people and often can have negative connotations because of people’s views on what exactly being a feminist means. To me, being a feminist means being able to have a control in my own life in every aspects and having the chance to have just as many opportunities as men do. This is something that my mum has instilled in me since a very young age, hearing about certain ways in which she was treated differently because she was a women.

One of her favourite examples of took place 25 years ago after my parents got married and my mother had to get written permission from my father so that she could return to work. Bearing in mind that there was nothing physically wrong with my mother that would stop her going to work or that my Dad, as brilliant as he is, has no medical degree to diagnose a reason why she couldn’t go to work other than that she was now his wife.

This is not the only example I have been told over the years ( my mother was one of three children and was the only girl) but it is one that has stuck out in my mind just because it seems so crazy. Because of this, it isn’t hard to figure out where I got my can-do attitude and my urge to try and try things that are traditionally for boys comes from.

Which is why, I was so interested in the fact that there was a chapter in our Digital Humanities book entitled, “Problems with white feminism: intersectionality and digital humanities” by Jacqueline Wernimont and Elizabeth Losh. In the chapter what is mainly discussed is the lack of diversity in scholars of DH and how the beginning of this stems from the lack of women in Computer Science itself. One such quote says that;

“Carpentry and computer science have pernicious histories of excluding people of color by maintaining gatekeeping with unions and associations and through the definition of skilled labour itself, tendencies that digital humanities seems to be replicating.” 

To me, this is a sad thing as I have always thought that being a DH student meant innovation and breaking boundaries that were established years ago but perhaps I am too much of an optimist for this. However, this just makes me want to get involved in as many conversations about Digital Humanities as possible. And it seems like this is similar to the Feminism movement in a way as people do have misconceptions about it, and it is up to the students of DH to change the narrative. 

The Impact of Open Source Software on Data Visualisation

Data visualization is the process of displaying data/information in graphical charts, figures and bars.”(Techopedia.com)

As part of our presentation on Data Visualisation, I researched the relationship of Data Visualisation and Open Source software. For me, Data Visualisation is crucial for Digital Humanities as it allows researchers to show their research in a variety of different ways which can be seen as innovative and interactive for audiences.

In terms of e-commerce an example of digital visualisation is company Uber using digital visualisation to map the most popular destinations for people to order Ubers. Uber’s director of data visualisation Nicolas Garcia Belafonte has praised the use of software and explained why overuse that to track popular pickup and drop off points around the area.

“Personally, I’m a very big advocate for open source, so I think that open source can help the business in many other ways, and those ways are immediately more valuable than someone paying for this software.”

This brings up the notion of Open Source software and its uses. Webopedia defines open source as, “refers to a program in which the source code is available to the general public for use and/or modification from its original design free of charge, i.e., open. Open source code is typically created as a collaborative effort in which programmers improve upon the code and share the changes within the community.” For many having open source software is a dealbreaker and can often be more cost effective in the long run. There is a number of open source software that allows people to include some form of data visualisation in order for progress their research,  one of these software companies is is github.com which allows users to create a variety of digital visualisation projects using spatial maps and interactive materials.

One company has expanded into open source software as well as their original brand. E-Commerce company AirBnB has put money into data visualisation by creating their own tool called SuperSet which supports 30 kinds of visualisation techniques at the moment alone. But it is expected to grow over time.  Superset itself is also easy to use and is compatible with by programming languages compared to its competitors. This is a huge step forward for AirBnB as it expands its already innovative brand ethos. It also gives other companies something to work towards in terms of creating similar types of software in the future.

Data Visualisation and Open Source software are both an emerging and viable field in Digital Humanities. I found it extremely interesting to find out about certain companies using these software techniques in order to develop their company and its research policies. I also found the idea of people using the software in e-commerce intriguing, as it is often difficult to imagine other uses for Data Visualisation outside of the scholarly world seeing as the majority of the examples that we seen in the lecture environment are usually set in the scholarly world, so it is good to see the real world applications of this kind of software.

What is an Edition?

In a recent DH2001 lecture, we spoke about Digital Literary Studies and the concept of an Edition. In the lecture, Orla Murphy brought various versions of the Beowulf Transcript for us to look at and examine just how different these editions are. It reminded me of a quote by writer Neil Gaiman said when talking about his writing techniques.

Credit: The Verge

Gaiman himself, has re-written his novel American Gods a number of times, so much so that no two editions of the novel exist as with every new edition, Gaiman re-edits the book and changes certain things that he is unhappy with due to the fact that he wrote the book when he was much younger. Interestingly enough, Gaiman has recently published his own edition of Norse Mythology, in which he talks about his first account with the legends, through Marvel Comics with Thor, Loki and, of course, Asgard. He then went back and read an earlier version of the texts and now he has brought his own version of the tales to life, saying:

I’ve tried my best to retell these myths and stories as accurately as I can, and as interestingly as I can.

Gaiman, Neil (2017-02-06T22:58:59). Norse Mythology (Kindle Locations 102-103). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.

As an English student myself, I found this topic very interesting especially after reading chapter 13 in the Doing Digital Humanities textbook which examines how we can provide digital editions of books in order to protect them from decaying. As someone who is currently studying 19th Century American Literature, I am aware that some texts are now open access due to their copyright being expired on them, meaning that there is many free editions of texts like The Scarlet Letter, it would be interesting to examine different editions of a text like this and see just how different the versions are. As we covered in class, there are many different Digital Humanities projects that are based on this kind of study. One that I was familiar with since last year was the Blake Archive which I encountered during my module on Modern Literature with Professor Graham Allen. The archive itself holds the texts of Blake’s poetry along with the stunning artwork that went with the works in order to add to the story that Blake was telling. It also allows you to get an in-depth look at the images and to see the work that went into them. For me this is a fantastic use of Digital Humanities.

I don’t claim to know fully what Digital Humanities is all about just yet, but I do know that we are just tipping the ice-berg when it comes to examining the many areas that this subject covers, and I am very intrigued and interested in where we go from here in terms of areas of study.

 

 

 

 

Social Media, Millennials and the American Election

It’s been a few days since the American Election and it has taken me even longer to try and get my thoughts together in order to write an article about it. And yes, like many of you I was heartbroken with the result; but this is not a post ranting about the result because there is enough of them. No, this is an article about the young people who voted, and their impact on our future.

screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-12-29-33

To those of you who voted, congratulations! You have made your voice heard. And perhaps the result wasn’t the one you wanted, but apparently if it just up to you guys, Clinton could have won the election, and that makes me very hopeful for the future.

Source: Forbes/ NY Times
Source: Forbes/ NY Times

You went out with such fury and took to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to name a few and voiced your hopes and dreams of the future. You were more than likely inspired by personalities online like Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Lady Gaga in order to go out and vote for what you believe in, in the hope that your vote would change things. And in a way it did. By using your Social Media platforms to post about the election and going out to vote, you showed older generations that you are not to be taken for granted and that you do matter. We saw how hard you worked and how much you wanted the dream of a female president to become a reality.

But right now, the worst thing you can do is give up because that it what they want. So, what should you do? Get involved, stand up for what you believe in, educate yourself on other issues you are interested in and help to educate others so that one bit at a time we can help to change our world for the better!! Because as it is said in the Hunger Games series; “Hope. It is the only thing stronger than fear’ And right now I have hope in the young people, I only hope that you have the same feeling about yourselves.