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.