My training as a social science scholar never considered the potential uses informatics could have in my scholarship. Consequently, even when I received some education regarding project management (particularly tied to administrative business), I never had any preparation for the complexities of collectively building “digital projects.” CHI fellowship has provided me with the tools to advance in the path of digital humanities in ways I was not expecting. In terms of visualization of my findings and of the practice of scholarly life, a world of possibilities is opening in front of me.
The first thing I have learned is related to the lifecycle of collective projects. Most of my training as a scholar departs from the assumption scholarship is a lone-wolf practice. You read, write, become a brilliant intellectual, and wait to see if luck and virtue take you to the immortals’ hall (Aristotle, Marx, Boas, Luxemburg, Beauvoir, Arendt, etc.). Working in digital humanities projects implies thinking on collective scholarship, implies building teams, and negotiating with others. Individual immortality may not be a driving force, but building accessible knowledge with others should be a beautiful possibility. At least it is for me.
CHI fellowship, at least the first half, is made of lectures and rapid development projects. Lectures provide critical information every scholar in Digital Humanities should know. Rapid development projects provide us with challenges we must overcome in teams, pushing us to deal with technical and collective decision issues. To date, I have done two rapid development challenges. The first one of those was to define a vision document. The idea was to describe a digital visualization project the team would present to a museum. The second one was to build a web page functioning as the vision document by itself (https://erodriguez742.github.io/datavisualization/).
The first development project was pretty easy (to imagine things is never complicated). But the second one implied a lot of learning while doing. My team and I had to come to terms with Git-hub, a widely known platform (that I did not know before earning my place in the CHI fellowship) hosting and making it easier to collectively code web pages and things I cannot even name at this stage. We also had to come to terms with working together from a distance. It was challenging and frustrating. My peers and I had to learn after many failures the logics of Git-hub’s main branch, forking, cloning, committing, and pulling requests.
I did not feel 100% comfortable with the second rapid development challenge’s final product, but I guess that is part of the point. Learning while doing implies failing and learning from it (even when failing only means not being up to your own expectations). We made a decent webpage borrowing a template from Start Bootstrap, and we learned a lot. Ezgui Karaoglu and Eric Rodriguez helped me understand the new universe I am getting to know. Now we all know how to visualize our ideas by borrowing the hard work of the fantastic community of open-source front-end frameworks.