Last Reflection

“Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.” Isaac Asimov

As reflect on the past six weeks, I think about home a lot. I love my topic not only because it is so close to home and I know first hand people who left home in search for better life, but also I am amazed what awaits those people on the other side. The decisions and challenges that a lot of them face reflect on their strength. I learned a lot about myself and the things I hold close in this process. By reading a lot about the refugee process, I appreciate that I have a place to call home, a luxury that a lot of refugees don’t have.

The process of conducting this research has been educational, challenging and frustrating at times. I wanted to do justice of the people I was studying and share their stories, so when I was stuck at some stages of my project, I felt I was falling short and not doing justice to my topic. Not only have I learned more of the history of my country, and how the rest of the world sees it, but also I reflected a lot on what I know about Somalia. I think about the stories of civil war that my mom and aunt would tell me when I was younger, and how that in a way shaped the way they see the world. My mom constantly reminds me to be grateful for the stability in our lives.

In this past year, as I got involved in Refugee Action and started this project, I am learning a lot about the evil in the world that forces so many people to flee home and leave everything that once felt familiar to them behind. Having the platform to educate myself about such issues, I feel it is my duty as a human being to at least educate myself about those issues. I plan to continue this process and contribute to this discourse as best as I can.

I am holding close to all the stories I read, and the people that I learned their stories and empathized with just by just reading about their lives. I want to leave behind my appreciation of this program to the next DH scholars who will find something they’re passionate about and commit themselves to learn more about it. I am grateful all for all of you for making this happen. It went fast, and I could not do without the help of each one of you. Thank you Sarah for all that you did for me this past year as my advisor and also in the last six weeks. You always feed me cookies or banana bread and I am going to miss that a lot.

“There is no denying that there is evil in this world but the light will always conquer the darkness.” Idowu Koyenikan

The Finale of Reflections

John Rodriguez

“You will take all you want from me
Oh, the innocence I lack
You will take all you want from me
But I will take it all back in the end”


I have love for my project, and the opportunity to do this work, because of the unexpected lessons I have learned about this country, music and myself through the duration of this program.

Firstly, I have always believed that change is possible. But this project has taught me that something greater than legislation has to change in order for equality. From Black Panthers to #BLACKLIVESMATTER, nothing has really changed but the time period. During Black Panther Era, activists complied with toning down their demand of complete overthrow of democracy for seeing more Black people in political positions; assuming that Black faces in high places would help stop Black death from government hands. However, still we are fighting and protesting for the same demands. I learned a while a go that the true definition of insanity is repeating something over and over again expecting a different result. And I wouldn’t say this experience made me a communist, but I have realized something greater than legislation has to change in order to make the greatest change.

From my experience of making beats and songs, I know that everything a person hears on a track is intentional; rarely anything is put randomly. Revisiting this album, but from a research perspective, opened my eyes to how deep an artist can go with their lyrics. One can tell their story, another’s story, or relay a message. After reading the historical ramifications of Black leaders using their influence to harm their people, and seeing Lamar’s struggle with complacency, I have vowed to use my privilege and power, as an academic student and artist, to never be complacent to injustices that occur back home and wherever. Not a lot of my brothers back home get the opportunity to research and gauge their interests, so I will make sure I always put on for them and myself.

Speaking of myself, working on this project has given me the chance delve deeper into my consciousness and analyze my own decisions. hooks’s novel Rock My Soul really opened up the conversation of what is self-esteem and how one knows their own mental state. It is intriguing how such a personal conversation is easier to hold with words on a page rather than with a person. Throughout my time hear I have also heard “the thing that makes you the most uncomfortable/scared, write that”. So, as a writer, I’ll hold myself to that and make more honest pieces.

The only thing I would change about my time here is that I wish I learned more about Sarah. Throughout your time of helping all of us, you’ve been able to see bits and pieces of our passions and interests. So far, I’ve been under the assumption that we would see each other face-to-face more over these years and that, then, I would have the chance to see your interests. But, what I have learned is that you are a great person that makes the absolute best out of what she’s given; thus, I am excited to see what is to come when you start helping others build their Digital Humanities programs. I already know I’m going to see the rest of you around campus so no need to get mushy like Daniel’s pasta.

“I’ll never lay down and die
For I am all that is love
All that is light
I’ll never compromise
For I was born of this world
To take back the night”


Final Reflection (Ben)

In addition to learning extensive information about the Sephardic Diaspora, the emergence of Sephardim, the conditions for medieval and early modern Jews in different regions and the various factors determining authorities attitudes them, this project also allowed me an opportunity to reflect on my role as a historian. Throughout my many weeks of researching, I found only a limited amount of primary sources from this area, illuminating the limits of historical reproduction. Most of the material I used was produced from a select group of well-off individuals and many remained anonymous. Thus, not just for my project but for all historical work it is important to represent the characters that I can but to also be cognizant of the majority whose stories gets lost through translation. These limits on history reassure my goal to make my project accessible to the public. By presenting these stories, I hope to teach the public about the events that occurred in this period but also to supply the grounds for them to recognize the limits and to reflect on the lost voices.

The field of Digital Humanities is not as straightforward as I initially predicted. The first few weeks we read a series of articles that attempted to define Digital Humanities as well as looked at one that  compiled Digital Humanists’ own definitions of the field. No two explanations were the same and some even pointed the frivolousness of attempting to agree on a definition. However, what revealed the variety and unpredictability of Digital Humanities was the diversity of our projects and our processes. Not only were all of our projects wholly unique, the course of action that we all took was one-of-a-kind as well. Even though multiple of us did mapping, we all approached it from different angles. Even when some us used the same digital tools, we ran into different problems and used them uniquely. The fact that we all, like the other digital humanists that presented at Bryn Mawr, have our own one-of-a-kind research topics makes it easy for us to have an affinity for that topic. Unlike traditional humanities research, there is more customization as a result of the digital component of the field; for this project there was an increased opportunity to create and to answer the question the way that I wanted. This sense of the project being even more original is why I have grown to appreciate not only my research question, but also my entire project, to a greater degree. In reflection, it was not just the questions that made our projects unique, but it was the way we approached them, the problems that we overcame, the choices that we made and the journey that we took over the past six weeks. I think that this path is what I really grew to appreciate. Looking back, it is knowing where I began, where I ended, and exactly what happened in between that allowed for the finished project that is most telling to me.

Knowing our my process is one thing, but being able to talk about it and explain it to others is another. This project, through the reflections, methodology and lit review sections of the paper, and presentation forced me to come to terms with all of the choices that I made. It forced me to be more conscious of every step in a way that other assignments do not. Furthermore, it forced me to be aware of how my research fits into academia more broadly. For the first time I reflected on how my work interacts with the larger community surrounding it.

This project was not just an exploration into one point in history. It was a meditation on history as a whole, on academics, and on my individual and unique thought process and approach to problems. In the end, the most exciting part of this endeavor is that the lessons learned here are only the beginning. Whether I continue to work on my map and website in the future remains up in the air, but the process the I underwent will continue to influence my forthcoming work. The critical thinking and the self-awareness that was required to create my own project from scratch will definitely prove useful in my academic, professional and personal life going forward.




The End, Beginning, and Middle- Last Reflection

“Every good story has a beginning, middle, and an end though not necessarily in that order. We are all great stories.”- Phil Kaye

Thinking about writing this reflection seems to the end of the beginning. Or maybe it’s the beginning of the end. Heck, it might even be middle of the beginning of the end. In this funny thing called life, who knows? This project has shaped me as a person and given me skills that I simply wouldn’t have had without it and the idea of reflecting upon these details seems to have a burden that might not be easily expressed in words.

The day I first uttered the words ‘city-building’ and ‘culture’ seems like a lifetime ago. I don’t think I would’ve seen the direction my project has taken me. From looking at hot dog stands in New York City, to thinking about doing research in Philadelphia, to finally deciding to focus on home, this project has been morphing ever since I started thinking about it. And I am truly glad to have accomplished what I did in six weeks. It’s not just the digital project, or the research paper- it is the combination of all the experiences that make up this beautiful thing called Digital Humanities Summer Scholars at Lafayette College. Much of what was learned can’t be seen on paper. In fact, most of it stays in our minds and hearts, not in the words we wrote. Who can explain the experience of being in a group of nine all striving for the same goal, all looking for success?

Personally, the project has definitely shaped my academic interests. I entered the program knowing that I probably wanted to go into graduate school sometime in my future, but not knowing specifically which masters or PhD program. For now, Urban Design and Infrastructure is what I’m planning to look at and it’s all thanks to this project.

It’s hard to think about what I would change in the experience of these six weeks. I think that there was a lot of things that were done well and some things that could’ve been better. In general, six weeks is simply not enough. The scope I had envisioned at the beginning of the project was doable, but considering I had no idea of the technical skills involved in creating the project (e.g. ArcMap and City Engine), it was simply impossible to do it all. A time frame of 8-10 weeks seems more appropriate. In fact, I don’t see why the project isn’t a part of, or funded by, the EXCEL program that the college has. It really is an incredible opportunity to do something self-led. In terms of writing the paper, I think that an annotative bibliography is important, but can be easily erased by having a first draft of the literature review in place of the bibliography. I also think that at the end of the project, drafts were too close in timing in order to be effective. Furthermore, I think I made a few mistakes in approaching the project’s content. I focused early on the tools I would be using, and not on the why. And although everything kind of (not really) worked out in the end, I didn’t create a very innovative, or inspiring, argument. Then again, research isn’t always inspiring? (life lesson learned?)

After a few weeks of consideration, I’m not sure that I will continue research on stratification specifically, even though it is a very interesting topic. Instead, there is a wide array of topics that have to do with urban planning and development that I haven’t looked at, even in Bogotá. I do want to think about publishing my article in an academic journal. I think it’s important that I go through that process, at least once- it gives almost invaluable experience. I am also interested in participating in INCUR and attending various conferences, as that is what I think I will be doing in the future anyways.

In our prompt for this final reflection, we were asked how we define Digital Humanities. To be honest, I think the water is even murkier now than it was at the beginning, especially after seeing all the different projects and ideas in a Bryn Marr conference we attended. So I don’t know if I have an answer. The closest I can get is simply a community that wants to be able to implement technical skills and tools to question human aspects of our reality. In the end, I don’t even think it’s worth defining. However, a debate I do want to see cleared up (at least in my mind) is the idea of whether scholars have to have a research question to implement Digital Humanities. I don’t think that you do, but all the programs I’ve seen seem to be geared towards that.

One important thing that I do want to mention is simply how grateful I am. Not only to the program director, Sarah, who has done a ton of work with helping us sort out the stories we want to tell, but also to my fellow Digital Humanities summer scholars. Many times, we don’t see the impact that we have on people, but as someone who is constantly looking at the ways in which people learn and interact with their environment, it has simply been a pleasure working and sharing time with you all.

Camilla, you’re seemingly endless drive sets standards and expectations for all those around you. You put a lot of work and dedication into what you do and I’m glad you weren’t discouraged by not finding the original sources you needed.

Maria, I’m glad you found narratives and stories that tell you a little bit more about yourself. I don’t know how many times you’ve had to say the word ‘migration’ in your presentations, but it’s truly remarkable. First migration, second migration, third migration…

Ben, I’m glad that there are people in the world that truly believe that events that happened more than 500 years old are interesting (that’s what history majors are all about, huh?). As our only rising senior, I hope you enjoy this last year at Lafayette.

Idil, I’m just glad we made it through using those digital tools. You take everything in with the calm and ease I wish I had and ended up with a project that seems to empower you, both as a women and as a scholar.

Jovante, keep on dancing. Don’t stop. It’s fascinating how dance and music prescribe both joy and an understanding on how we think about ourselves and others. Keep doing that type of research.

John, man oh man. You speak with so much passion when it comes to your topic. Sometimes you seem to lose yourself in the power of words, music, and especially, rap when talking about your project. That’s how you know you did something worthwhile.

Tedi (Theodora), I never once even thought about disabilities in the media, much less in romantic television shows. As you presented, it truly opened a new world of thoughts that I simply hadn’t been subjected to. Keep on eating mushy pasta.

Sarah, ah. I understand now why other summer scholars have kept the bond that you have created with them. Your continuing support is the only reason we get through the six weeks at all. Thank you for showing us an open mind and honest heart.


So, I guess I’m coming to the end of the beginning… or something like that. This has truly been a ride. And I feel like I should end this reflection the same way I started my digital humanities project: with a quote from Gabriel Garcia Marquez:

“We, the inventors of tales, who will believe anything, feel entitled to believe that it is not yet too late to engage in the creation of… a new and sweeping utopia of life, where no one will be able to decide for others how they die, where love will prove true and happiness be possible, and where the races condemned to one hundred years of solitude will have, at last and forever, a second opportunity on earth.”


Reflection 4

I realized that comparing the data to how women are displayed in the advertisements, I cannot make big generalizations about the motives behind creation of ads; therefore, I decided to keep my project as an observational study. Where I am struggling is finding high-quality images of poster ads in the 1940’s from reliable websites. I found a website that categorizes ads by industry and year; however, it is created by a person and not a reliable organization. I am meeting Ana tomorrow to see if she has any suggestions about which resources to use, so I think that will be helpful. I was not able to meet the professors due to summer time and professors not being in their office as often, but I am meeting one of them next week and e-mailing the other one my questions. Hopefully, that will help me settle my topic and what type of data I am using. Also, I decided that I want to focus on fashion, food & beverages and technology industries since they all have different audiences.

Another problem I am facing is finding the data on women’s occupations in the 1940’s. I wanted to compare the data to images in the 1940’s and 2010’s and then compare those two to each other; however, I don’t know if that is going to be feasible due to accessibility of older data. Skimming through internet, I found some data, but I need to look more deeply into it to see if it is trustworthy.

So far, I started playing with Tableau and I figured out how to make simple charts. I will try stepping into more complicated ones and we’ll see how that goes. I also need to figure out how to embed charts into websites like Scalar. I just created a Scalar book, but I haven’t decided on chapter names or anything else yet.

This week I will focus on going through the books I have left and taking notes, trying to create more complex charts on Tableau and find a more reliable website for advertisements from the 1940’s.

Reflection 4

My project came a long way from the beginning, and I am still figuring out where I am going with all the data I have and how best to use it. I narrowed down my topic a lot to the second migration of the Somali Refugees. I started looking at the refugee resettlement process of the Somali refugees from home to the US. That was going to be a lot of work and a big topic to finish in six weeks. I have been fortunate to find good information on the secondary migration of refugees in general also for Somali Refugees. I am finding out there is limit statistical data on the numbers of families moving to new places after the initial placement. Something very interesting about secondary migration is the freedom and agency it gives refugees after they come to the US. For that reason, some times it is hard to keep track their movement.

Because of that, I am not sure exactly what data I am going to use for my visual project. I am thinking using StoryMap JS to make narrative map of the movement and personal stories of specific refugees. We are already half way through our project, and it is nerve racking that I am still changing my tools and data set. This week I am working on establishing a draft of my project, so I can see what more data I need to collect.

I emailed Catherine Besteman, the anthropologist who wrote on the books I am reading; she is unfortunately out of office, so I was not able to hear back from her.However, I was able to meet with professor Smith who is helping me with this project. She helped me revise and make my thesis clearer. One of my teachers in high school is working at a resettlement agency in Chicago, and I asked her about what are the policies of secondary migration and if her agency keeps track the movement of refugees after their initial placement. She said, “Resettlement agencies tend to discourage outmigration [secondary migration] as time and money are spent on the refugees’ behalf prior to their arrival” and “refugees have freedom of movement in the US so it’s completely up to them where they move once they’re here.” She gave me couple websites to check for data too , so that has been something positive this week.


Reflection IV (john)

What kinds of questions have you not been able to answer? Where are you hitting snafus and snags? What are you going to try to do to surmount these challenges (it’s okay, too, if you don’t know! Feel free to express your anxieties and worries). Remember that learning happens when you don’t know all the answers from the beginning, and take heart, dear scholars!

I have not came across any complications that would hinder my construction of the project and paper. My only “worry” is finding a logical place to discuss Lamar’s and other thinker’s opinions on Obama. The only place in my paper that this discussion can logically occur is the section that discusses how systemic racism negatively affects the rich black population. Here, Lamar mentions how we should be sympathetic to Obama because he is an example of a Black man trying to do his best in a system that does not want Black people to succeed. However, Keeanga Taylor and Cornel West disagree by mentioning how we should be more critical of Obama because his policies harmed Black constituents while his rhetoric blamed his Black constituents. I believe this is an issue that will be solved when I start drafting the Literature Review. After typing out the preceding sections, I will find a way to seamlessly include this difference in my evidence into my paper.
In regards to the project, I was initially worried I would not have much media to input into Scalar. However, I found more music videos for the album, that I did not know existed, and found some interviews with Kendrick himself discussing his choices in making the piece. Currently I am figuring out how I want the video to be presented; as in do I want the whole part of the interview to play, or do I want to splice it up and distribute where needed? I would prefer to do the latter, but I fear that splicing the video would leave an awkward ending for the viewer; however, I would rather the audience see a piece of the interview that relates to the song, and not one that follows later in the track list.
I am confident in the evidence that I have so far. From here, all I have to do is prepare my paper and project while making sure that my paper can flow into my project seamlessly.

Reflection Four (Ben)

My project so far has been a series of experimentations to see what data would work both best for my research question and for the approach that i am trying to use. From the outset by project was too broad and I had to struggle to define many different aspects of my research in order in order to proceed.

Firs off I had to reflect on a more specific question that I would be attempting to answer through my project. I knew that I wanted to map the migration of Jewish population from Iberia to the Ottoman Empire after the Spanish Inquisition but I had to determine what my particular argument was within that topic. Furthermore, I had to resolve a logical reason to present my argument on a mapping visualization. In other words, I had to find the proper data set that would fit a mapping project and this meant finding specific dates and location that I could track linearly in order to display the Jewish migration significantly. Once I determined that a set of specific locations and dates would make up my data I set out to find these, however, this endeavor proved tougher than I originally imagined. Most secondary sources do not supply such information but discuss more broad trends and or ranges of years. As a result I searched through relevant secondary sources to find primary sources that contained the information I was looking for. The problem here is that most primary sources present either a specific date or a location, but rarely both. Also, if I attempt to limit my data to these primary the stories that I can tell in my mapping are limited as a result. Because of my data still being undefined I still cannot determine what digital tool I am going to use or even If I am going to stick with my original idea of mapping.

Despite this obstacle, my investigation into primary sources has resulted in me finding a possible alternative data set. Daña Gracia Mendes was Jewish woman who converted to Christianity in the face of the inquisition. She married a merchant and then proceed to travel throughout Europe. She is remembered as a Jew who overcame the adversity of religious intolerance and, despite technically converting, remained close to her Jewish heritage. Her journey takes her from Iberia to other locations in Europe including venice and finally ended up in Constantinople. Although her route and story are uncommon among most Jews of the time, I could use her travels as a basis to discuss larger trends of Jewish migration that started in Iberia and ended in the Ottoman Empire. Whether I stick to my original idea and moderately reconfigure my data or if I change to a somewhat different approach is still u

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.

Fourth Reflection (Camilla)

At this point in my research process, I have stumbled and tripped over hurdles while hitting many walls. I knew when I embarked on this mission that my research topic was more obscure and remote in terms of reach. I didn’t expect the data to fall into my hands or be laid out in front of me with a Google search; however, since then I have learned that much of the information I aimed to display and normalize in discourse was blocked from the grasp of Swedish researchers, and therefore, myself. I failed to locate the data I needed in order to understand the Sami population and different interpretations of Sami indigeneity. While I wanted to understand how indigenous identities progress and envelope different areas of life, different lifestyles, varying places, and different levels of connection, the task became impossible.

I sifted through several scholarly articles until I had finally drafted my plan: it felt strong, it felt clear, and it felt powerful. Finding out a few days later that my mission had come to a halt was indeed frustrating, but nevertheless I insisted that I was not a failure. In fact, I had come across a problem that I didn’t even know existed until then. I had found an erasure of indigenous identity by the Swedish government. While the motives pushing these policies that eliminate understanding of the Swedish Sami population have their reasons and logic, I now feel more than ever the need to unravel the rope that ties these forms of discussion out of reach. I like many digital humanists, had to take a direction based on the data I had available. While I didn’t get to choose my direction on my own, I would not have the perspective that I have acquired had it not been for taking the risk of eagerly engaging with search engines only to come out empty handed–well, empty handed in terms of what I originally hoped for, but full of information from everywhere else that became a challenging task in of itself.

At this moment, I have completed two timelines with details about different policies that have been in place over the past few hundred years alongside discussions based on other researchers and viewpoints, extending the research to compare with the effects of outsider categorization. I plan to create one more timeline and then upload them to a website. The next challenge is finding a theme that works with my idea of contrasting between Sami identity and knowledge and knowledge and definitions laid out by the state. Lacking data on population and identity in this indigenous culture, I want to create infographics and a project that describes the issues that I faced in my research in terms of the issues presented because of these barriers to understanding and knowledge. Without knowledge, one cannot take initiative to bring about change. Without understanding, these initiatives wouldn’t have any reason to be taken. The subject of indigenous cultural erasure and limitation [of rights] through categorization is not unique to the Sami, it is global. While I am researching a small indigenous population in Sweden, my project lies on a bigger scale.

I am confused and at a crossroads: I don’t know where I am going exactly, but I am still moving. I suppose that only these next few weeks (which are flying by way too fast) will tell me where I end up. I am lost and progressing at the same time, and it is a strange feeling. But if there is one thing that I am certain about, it is that my productive failure is a true example of how our losses, our failures, and our mistakes all play a role in getting us to our final destinations, they make us stronger, more capable, more eager to learn, and therefore, stronger scholars.