Shifting & Merging

McKenzie Pass, Ore. Courtesy of Ryan Shattuck. Task Easy Blog 2013.

McKenzie Pass, Ore. Courtesy of Ryan Shattuck. Task Easy Blog 2013.

It has been exactly seven weeks since I moved to Bloomington, Indiana, yet I finally feel like I have arrived. Let me rewind, quick, and tell you a little about my background. During my last two years of undergrad at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), I spent my time working on as many Digital Humanities (DH) projects and jobs as I possibly could in the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities.

[DH is a difficult concept to define because everyone does it through various means, for various reasons. To me, it means using computational tools to analyze or build humanities projects. This way, we can find patterns we wouldn’t see through the naked eye, or display physical objects digitally for greater access.]

By day, I studied English and Computer Science, and by night, my fingers scurried over my keyboard encoding poems, letters, and aphorisms. I worked at the Walt Whitman Archive, on an image analysis project with two brilliant professors, on text analysis and digital archives projects with leading professors in the fields, and on my own little project analyzing a historical newspaper. My classmates and I, both undergraduate and graduate, constantly talked about DH, what it is, who does it, how it is done, the technologies we use do it and how that differs from others.

Discovering an existing group of people already doing the same work you do is like merging onto a packed interstate where everyone is travelling at 80 miles per hour in the same direction. The thrill, the overwhelming “I know I am in the right place” feeling.

I chose Indiana University (IU) for my Library and Information Science degrees because I knew it was a hub for DH projects. I have an unparalleled opportunity working with Dr. John Walsh and Dr. Noriko Hara, both prominent DH and Information Science scholars.

However, I am impatient. After travelling on the DH interstate, I expected every classmate I met at IU to wear a button proclaiming, “I heart DH, let’s collaborate.” I half expected my courses to start from where I left off in my previous education. The beginning of the semester forced me to take a step back, to realize that I was shifting to a new discipline, and that I needed the basics first. My classes are satisfying my library love, but I was still missing that extra-curricular technology aspect, outside of my work for Dr. Walsh.

Then, one random, serendipitous meeting in the library and I was “zero to eighty” instantly. I met those DH students and learned about projects, initiatives, and IU networking. They reaffirmed that the community for which I was searching existed.

Since then, I have found others in the community and continue those same DH who, what, how, why conversations. While individual research is important, we can reach a higher potential through collaboration, especially in the digital disciplines. I am continuing to learn the importance of reaching out and learning from others, which I don’t believe will cease once I graduate. (Will it?)

I assure you that my future posts will be more closely related to library technology and digital humanities tools, but frankly, I’m new here. While I could talk about the library and information theory I’m learning, I will spare you those library school memories, and keep you updated on new technologies as I learn them.

In the meantime, I’ll ask you to reflect and share your experience transitioning to library school or into a library career. How were you first introduced to library technology or digital humanities? Any nuggets of advice for us beginners?

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