Fifth Reflection (Tedi)

On beginnings: It’s curious to think of how I started my digital humanities journey, full of hope and trepidation. Big plans had yet to be narrowed into smaller ones. Six weeks seemed to be a lifetime. Coding was merely a well-practiced dance of fingers on a keyboard. Though I’ve tried to carry this eternal optimism through my digital humanities process, imagination has ripened into realism. What was one plausible has become what is feasible. This, however, has been far from discouraging. There’s something satisfying, toothsome even, about grounding your fathoming in reality. The process of making, doing, editing and discarding is so organic that even forsaken ideas have their place in the practice. I can conclusively say that my greatest lesson from my digital humanities journey has been learning reverence for process. Before, I feared that my ideas would morph; now I embrace their inevitable metamorphosis. I rejected challenge; now I encourage the opportunity to absorb a new skill, however troublesome its acquisition may be. I do not want initial perfection; I want evaluation, revision, consideration.

On becomings: This respect for process has been evident in the archaeological dig of finding my research question.  But every draft, discarded or revised, lead me closer to my real inquiry. Truly, it was a process of discovering what I wanted to study, what I felt compelled to research. After time, energy, and a stack of library books, I discovered a void in the collective discourse on representation in reality television, and felt viscerally obligated to fill it. Likely my favorite thing about the digital humanities program was the allowance to study what I wanted to study, and the following process of discovering what that was. Never before have I been truly passionate about my research—and this passion was the product of process. I am grateful to process, for preventing me from pursuing my original research question, a topic on which I’m considerably less passionate.

On beings: Frankly, I feel accomplished. I truly believe that my research has made me more compassionate, considerate, and perceptive; in turn, I am certain that I articulated my project in a unique way, colored by the lens of my life experience, saturated by my complicated relationship to disability. Delving so deeply into the potential complications of life with disability has made me consider the physical impediments that disabled people face in many spheres of life; I look around campus and often consider how accessible it is, or ruminate on why I’ve never seen a student in a wheelchair. And continually, now and forever, I will consider how to be a better advocate for the disabled community. How can I discuss disabled issues without imposing the able-bodied white savior complex (which hovers, omnipresent) on every subject I touch? How can I be a better listener? How can I echo their ideas? Should I be quiet in order to let others speak? How can I do so when so few are talking and none are listening?

In this process, I have learned both the tangible and the intangible, of equal value. I have learned respect for process, but I have also learned how to operate Scalar. I have learned how to narrow the scope of my research just as I have mastered the art of the lightning presentation.

In truth, I have a complicated relationship with humanities. In many ways, I am more inclined towards simply “H” than “DH”; more drawn to words on a page than a technological labyrinth of graphs and tweets and maps and timelines. I don’t reject these tools, but I am resigned to ambivalence towards them. Frankly, I dislike how digital humanities pushes the digital, even at the cost of detracting from a project’s meaning but injecting flirty visuals. I believe that digital humanities exist for those whose work would better from these digital tools, but many humanities works do, and should, exist independent of this field (a field which so many are hungry to define). I believe that digital humanities should exist for those who pursue it, but should not be forced like medicine down the throats of those who are content with humble, unflashy academia. Those who care to evolve, may. Other may be satisfied with just the “H” in “DH”.

I feel an overwhelming sensation of gratitude to my advisors, my peers, academia, and to Lafayette for allowing me to pursue a research passion in such a conducive and assistive setting. I will be forever grateful for the skills that I have acquired, forever thoughtful about my place in academia, forever considerate about how to rightly advocate for marginalized groups, and forever glad to have experienced such an incredible research opportunity so early in my college experience.

Fourth Reflection (Tedi)

With any great triumph comes numerous essential failures, and this week’s success has been no exception. Every setback seems monumental, while every achievement seems minimal. To balance the discouragement that inevitably comes with success-failure thinking, I’ve begun to consider how process is important, essential, to the finished project. I would learn so much less without my failures, without the useless nuggets of information I’ve now accumulated, without the tools I’ve mastered but ultimately won’t use.

This week, I voyaged into the world of coding, having previously never attempted this means of Internet communication. After an hour of frustration accumulating in a mental mini-tantrum of anguish, I resigned myself to watching arduous Python tutorials. I quickly found out that reading the instructions was a very good method of understanding how to use a product, and vowed to humble myself to technology more often than I do, in order to avoid tantrums future. Note to self: coding is not something intuitive. I can cut corners by shampooing and conditioning simultaneously to save time, by sleeping in my clothes for the next day, and by getting two meals out of Olive Garden by filling up on breadsticks and taking my entrée home. I cannot cut corners with coding.

Maybe that’s been my biggest lesson of this week: learning how to respect the process. Learning how to recognize when things will take time. Expecting things to be difficult but doing them anyway. Being comfortable learning something new, being bad at it, being okay with that frustration. Not giving up on a tool or a line of research just because it seems daunting. If you’re not learning something new, doing something wrong, or making yourself uncomfortable, then maybe you’re not researching properly. Or passionately. Because research should be both proper and passionate, in my opinion.

This week, I also learned that success is relative. After working for two hours, I managed to use Python to code a simple responsive bot, which would regurgitate simple questions like “What is your name?” and “What is your major?” and offer a response. The first person I excitedly showed my bot to was significantly less than impressed. I think that my simple exploit into coding elicited a pause, followed by, “That’s it?” Needless to say, this less than enthusiastic response brought me down a few notches. But that’s why success is relative. Maybe this person didn’t know that I had no experience in coding, or didn’t know I had worked so long on it, or maybe they were just downright underwhelmed. But I’m going to allow myself to take pride in the tiny successes prompted by hard work. I’m going to let myself take joy in the small advances when they come preceded by difficulties. Validation is a pretty decoration that I find myself often seeking, but I shouldn’t rely on others for motivation and praise. I will take my successes, big and little, and celebrate them without need or desire for substantiation or compliment.

Third Reflection (Tedi)

When it comes to equality, there seem to be two general, at-war schools of thought. One, that true equality will be achieved through erasure of individual identity—that there is equality in reducing every author and artist to their most basic identifier: human. Symptoms of this sort of thinking including espousing epigrams like, “I don’t see color” or “The only race that matters is the human race.” Its competing theory entails the opposite- that true equality is achieved through an acknowledgment of individualism by validating the variety of the human experience. People and their works are acknowledged within the sociocultural ecosystem of their birth. Instead of claiming “I don’t see color,” one might recognize another’s blackness and that their experience differs from the white experience, instead of invalidating this experience by diminishing it through erasure. Instead of ignoring our differences, we see them; instead of flattening the human experience, we give it dimension and color.

But how do these two theories of equality relate to digital humanities?

Before I embarked on my Digital Humanities journey, I liked the notion that Digital Humanities could be inclusive through anonymity. The computer would serve as the great equalizer, rejecting the biases and prejudices that commonly plague the humanities (and academia in general.) In Digital Humanities, the creator would be appraised by their scholarly work—gender, color, and creed aside. However, after some thoughtful reflection, research, and article-reading, I tend to stray from my original conclusion. I don’t want my project to be viewed void of context, a piece of creation born and then immediately divorced from its maker. I want my viewpoint, politics, and experience to be considered in duet with my work. My website was made by a white, able-bodied woman, upper-middle class, transposed from her Southern megalopolis into a tiny Northern town.  I don’t want to erase my authorship of this project; instead, I want to own it. I gravitate more towards acknowledgment over erasure, recognition over refusal.

In the articles I read, feminists addressed intersectionality instead of perpetuating white feminism (which is hardly feminism at all.) They attacked a “neutral point of view” as being deaf to the systemic biases against women, people of color, those in poverty, and the disabled. “Listen to us!” we want to scream, “Instead of ignoring us! Hear our experiences and recognize how they differ from your own.” Part of my responsibility as a disability studies researcher has been to not speak over the voices of a marginalized people, but to allow them to speak with autonomy (and I’m doing my best to do so, to avoid the tantalizing “savior complex” role that so many seem to revert to.) It is not my place to scoff at or deny someone’s experience of racism or ableism, in the same way that it is no one’s place to demean or belittle my experience as a woman. Good allyship ensures equality through representation, not repression, of identity.

Second Reflection (Tedi)

The more I research, the clearer my project becomes, the sharper its image. I feel as though my final project comes into focus the more I twist the lens. Not to say that at times I don’t lost sight of my project completely, because I do—yesterday, I spent an hour mining television episodes, collecting useless data. But my overall idea, my overall vision, is so much more vivid today than it was yesterday, or the day before that, or two weeks ago. And it’s exciting. Exciting to feel yourself fathom something and build it. Exciting to collect clues and solve a mystery. Sometimes my project is a hovering, enigmatic orb, and today more than I ever I feel closer towards grounding it, materializing it, and making it something.

I’m inspired by the injustice of it; conversations about race, class, queerness that somehow exclude disability. Disability is so often forced to rest dormant on the backburner of progressive agendas while shouldering the burden of everyday inequality. As I progress further into the literature behind modern disability theory, and disability in film and literature, I find myself driven to support greater media representation for the 1 in 5 Americans that labor under a disability.

I find myself wanting to treat these issues with both the delicacy and the weight they deserve. I seek to straddle the line between rightful outrage and sanctimonious preaching. I also want to avoid patronizing the disabled community; part of being a responsible ally is listening to how disabled people want to be represented instead of speaking over their voices. Though I’m not sure if ally is the correct word for my role, or my intended role; as someone who struggles with a disorder that fluctuates between normally dormant but occasionally debilitating, I find myself somewhere between community member and community ally. Am I an impassioned confederate or a detached researcher? What’s my place, and do I even deserve to have one?
In my research, it’s been surprisingly difficult (and disheartening) to find instances of disability represented on reality love and dating TV. Considering that around 19% of the American population lives with a non-severe or severe disability, such a void in representation seems like discrimination, regardless of intent. Still, I’ll continue to spend hours pouring over bizarre dating show after bizarre dating show, in the hopes of finding contestants that don’t conform to archetypal expectations of ability.

After perusing various digital projects online, one in particular struck me— “The Story of the Stuff.” The format was a web documentary, almost like an online book. The design features a clean and simple text-heavy format with accompanying illustrations. I really want to model my project after the design and flow of this web documentary. I want to do a text-based narrative with chapters featuring case studies. I’m even considering doing illustrations for the online project, to give it a cohesive and aesthetically pleasing feel. I’m excited for what is developing and what is to come, though I expect it won’t be entirely devoid of encumbering setbacks.

First Reflection (Tedi)

As I embark on this internship, I find myself holding high expectations for the upcoming weeks. In the interest of full disclosure, I have little experience conducting such immersive, in-depth research, so I’m excited to really seize a topic and embrace it. I expect (and hope) that I’ll discover something new in my studies. I expect to grow closer to my fellow scholars as we undertake this mission together, and I expect that I’ll learn from their differing perspectives and experiences, and hope that they’ll learn from mine in turn. I expect to be taught new techniques and methods (hopefully a bit of coding!) I expect that this experience will broaden my knowledge holistically, and not just on my topic of study.

My topic currently delves into instances of deviation from social norms by examining minority treatment on 21st century reality and dating television. I wanted to examine a low culture medium to see how such a commonly discarded phenomenon (reality TV) is still reflective of malignant cultural values. This topic is important to me for several reasons. First, I’m admittedly a somewhat closeted consumer of reality television myself. Simultaneously, I harbor an interest in modern social issues, like media visibility for minority populations. I wanted to examine these issues in the context of reality television in order to examine the intersection between pop culture and society. Reality television is so commonly discarded as unacademic waste; subsequently, many believe that there is nothing of intellectual value to be derived. I wanted to reject this notion by defending reality television as a admissible means of examining culture.

Throughout the project, I want to maintain a theme that places a critical lens over reality love and dating television. I would really like this critical lens to be an examination of age, race, ability, and sexual orientation. These are the main tenets of my project and I would like them to remain so. More flexible elements of my project include how I’m going to study these intersecting ideas. Currently, I imagine that I’ll examine instances of deviation and explore public reaction to such cases. An armless contestant on Bachelor in Paradise or a gay couple on Bachelor Australia come to mind. I also want to quantify these instances of deviation in a chart as well; for instance, a chart that illustrates the number of people of color on several relevant dating shows for the past 17 years. Perhaps a bar graph or pie chart would be the best way to graphically display this information. This part of my project, the accumulation and representation of data, is still flexible.

I can imagine encountering problems considering the scope of my project. I would consider limiting my project to one minority quadrant in order to slim my research, but I think a more comprehensive project would study several factions in order to draw multiple parallels as to varying minority treatments. I am also concerned that what I aim to study may not be quantifiable. I must find a scientific, empirical way to study what I want to study. Measuring how desirable the general public finds a certain person is not a realistic aim; examining public reaction to a certain instance is an academically permissible way to ascertain data. I hope that I can fathom my many questions into one arguable thesis.

When considering my time and resource constraints, I want to embrace a topic that is feasible. If the scope of my project is too large, or my ambitions too great, proper research will never be accomplished. A valuable resource for me will be the opinions and advice of my librarian associates and peers. I believe that this peer collaboration will be an essential component of me designing my project within my constraints. Sometimes, my fellows have a better idea of what is accomplishable than I do myself. If I feel as though my research may overextend the range of my resources, consulting with a friend or mentor should be greatly assistive.

I’m very excited to get started!