This past Friday marked the beginning of the new semester and the phase of the fellowship in which our weekly meetings become more oriented to our individual projects. However, things are going to be slightly different this year. For my ‘21-’22 project, I spent the early weeks of developing the Stratford Memory Map sifting through the guidebooks and creating content for my website rather than working on any of the technical infrastructure. This year, Ethan has asked that we develop a detailed list of tasks that we need to complete as part of the project and prioritize the more technical aspects before content. His reasoning is that people tend to focus on the content and run out of time actually building their project, which is exactly what happened to me last year. Hopefully, with careful planning, things will be different this time around.
For this year’s project, I have divided my tasks into four main categories: website, map, topic modeling, and content. Under the website category I’ve included the tasks related to creating the general framework for each page including the header, navigation bar, and footer. For the map, I will need to create the base map in leaflet. Then, I will need to add pins for each of the various locations and a layer for each guidebook. As part of the topic modeling work, I will OCR the guidebooks, clean up the texts, run them through Voyant, and then use the data produced by the topic models to create data visualizations. Finally, the content category includes the essays for the narrative and methods pages as well as the contextualization on each of the individual sites pages. When going through this process of identifying the different tasks that needed to be done, I tried to be as detailed as possible. Yet, I can’t help but feel that I am missing something after I’ve added these tasks to the schedule I created. I’m guessing I’ll stumble along these forgotten tasks, I just hope it’s sooner rather than later.
I also created a schedule when planning my project last year, but all of my plans quickly went out the window. Looking back, I’m ashamed to admit that I only followed my planning document for the first two weeks. This year I’m hoping that I will be able to more closely follow the schedule I developed and start actively engaging with the workflow I’ve outlined. This week, I plan to start creating the framework for the website before jumping into the map (which I think that will be the most difficult part of this project). Since I’m simultaneously working on my dissertation, I’m hoping the narrative and methods section will be partially developed through my writing process outside of the fellowship. I’ve been working closely with MSU’s wonderful digital archivist Kate Topham who has been helping me figure out the OCR process and topic modeling, so some of my schedule may change up depending on her availability. In my previous job as a project manager for a digital humanities center I was used to developing work plans as part of grant proposals and was able to help project faculty and staff stay on track, but now that I’m having to do so for my own project I’m gaining a new perspective on the actualities of having to do all elements in the workflow on my own.
At the beginning of our meetings each week, we participate in an adapted version of scrum from the agile framework to try and keep us accountable as we work on our projects. For those that are unfamiliar, we are asked to quickly share what we did for the week, what we’re hoping to complete the following week, and anything that is standing in our way. Retrospectively, I’m realizing how much of my sharing for last year was focused on how frustrated I was with the guidebooks rather than using it as a time to ask for help on the technical side of things. I’m sure that was partly due to my “backwards” workflow. This year, I’m hoping to keep a diary of what I share during scrum alongside my schedule to try and track how well I’m following my work plan this year. As the semester continues, I’ll use these blogs as an opportunity to share the progress I make on the project, but also how well I’ve managed to follow through with the work plan I’ve outlined for myself.