Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Digital Humanities: Not So Scary After All

I can hardly believe I'm writing this post already. Not only does it mean that I'm back in Central New York and none of this term seems as though it's happened, but it means that I'm actually having to confront the fact that I am a completely changed historian.

I felt it was necessary to wait until the absolute last minute before writing this post so that I could give a complete image of what my first term at Western has done to me so far. What has this course done to me so far? I suppose it's done just what it's supposed to do. It's challenged every aspect of academia that I've ever known and it's hurled me forward into the future of the humanities - and indeed into a field that I find so mind-boggling and fascinating that I'm not quite sure what I would have done had I chosen to pursue an MA (or heaven-forbid, a PhD) in History. I've finally learned that that path is not for me. I just don't have the heart for the ivory tower - and it's OKAY!

I think that the field of public history is so important. I think that this course was important for me to take. I think that it's important that I'm blogging. It's wonderful. I also think it's very appropriate that I'm watching "Julie and Julia" right now (a fine example of how a blogging skeptic built a career off a tiny blog project). I was so hesitant at first - and I suppose I still am (a bit) because I feared that people would read this...and they would JUDGE ME...and maybe that's true, but again, it's OKAY! This blog is for self-reflection. Yes, I do hope that other eyes see these words and take something away - even if it's just a chuckle...but really, this is MY blog.

I love blogging now. I wish I had more time for it. I want to start a personal blog. I want to start a travel blog. I want to start an anonymous blog about my time in Canada and my observation of Canadians! Yes, these are projects for the future. Digital history has released blog-mania within my being!

One of the most fascinating things that I've learned from this course so far is that historians CAN work on teams - WE CAN! I've learned more from trying to figure things out with my 9+ classmates than I've ever learned from reading a textbook. The trials of creating a website and trying to find sources and speaking for the public and spending hours in the archives and working on teams to get a project done on time. We've done it together. These are mutual experiences. This is our web of colleagues and friends that will remain well into the future - and this is a field where that's extremely important. I have seen the light of collective intelligence!

The way I think about everything is slightly altered - not just history. I think most of that can be attributed to the discussion of our Digital History class, most of which (I will gladly admit) I spent with a headache just trying to follow the words that were coming out of my colleagues' mouths, let alone form my own opinions about them and then apply them to real-life situations. But what I'm realizing now - now that I'm outside the classroom and putting my melted mind under a magnifying glass - is that I really CAN apply what I've absorbed in class, and I DO. Sometimes I can't turn it off. Like I said, this whole experience has changed the way I think, in addition to the way I read, learn, and quite frankly, the way I speak! These are all good things.

I do have to admit, I'm slightly terrified about the second half of the digital history course: Interactive Exhibit Design. The only word I'm quasi-comfortable with there is EXHIBIT. I could, of course, drop it and go for the archiving course instead - but this year is for taking chances. I want to do something out of the ordinary, and if that involves feeling completely LOST for another term with programing and electronics whirling through my head, then so be it! It can only lead to a learning experience of the greatest kind: the kind where you learn from your epic failures and short-comings. I have no shame.


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