DHSI Recap

I am writing as I take the ferry from Victoria back to Seattle so tomorrow I will take a flight home.  The view is amazing layers—blue sky and wisps of clouds above angular snowy mountain peaks, above puffs of clouds, above the curves of piney hills shrouded in mist, above sails and trees dotting the shore, above glassy blue water.  

The week and the workshop/conference has gone quickly.  I’ve seen a lot, and have dipped into a menu of many digital tools, though very superficially.  Most seem like toys.  I can see some of the usefulness of visualizations—basically glorified graphs (some of which are very cool, and move, or can be manipulated to reveal more data)—in expressing results or getting people to understand data, or read a text in a different way, but we didn’t dive into ways of using digital tools to analyze data as much as I would have liked.  It seems as if the line between express and to analyze was blurred/ignored, but there is a key difference.  In the first case, we have the answers already but arrange them in a pretty way, and in the other, we find the answers, pretty or not.  There were a few light collocation tools, but many more databases and digital books, digital maps, and digital collections, either already made or tools to make them. 

In the course of it, I got one of the course T.A.s to write a python program for me that matches repeated lines of any length in a single plain text file.  It’s been quite handy already because I can put all the work by one author (or several for that matter) into a file and see all cases of repetition or self-plagiarism.  I went to an over-lunch crash course in python, just so I’m not terribly lost if I need to tweak the program or whatnot.  However, it turns out that python is pretty complex and I only got as far as making it say “hello world” (yes, with the space!) and making it add 2+2.  I’ve been considering taking a programming course because too often it seems like it comes down to this: I have a research question that I know in my heart of hearts is doable with technology, but I can’t find anybody who’s done it or the right tool to get the job done.  This is what happened with my Master’s thesis…and I ended up having Brian code Proppian functions into javascript for about a month (he tends to remind me of this when I ask him for help on a project as his “get out jail free” card).  So, maybe it would be a good idea to cash in that free community college class…when I have a free moment, that is.

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