The Beginning of the End

As I reflect back on this process I feel nostalgic, but also excited for the future. I learned so many valuable things not only about my topic, but myself through this journey. I was challenged but I overcame, I was nervous but I persevered, and I was lost but then I found myself. Originally, when I was deciding on whether or not to apply to this internship I felt confused about digital humanities and was unsure if my topic and my science background could even be enveloped by this world. Nonetheless, here I am. I am moving forward and have worked hard on my project and dove head first into the world of digital humanities and it was an experience that I truly will hold dear to me. Looking back to where I began I was initially very nervous coming into this experience. I felt great anxiety because I am a science minded individual and for me I felt out of place surrounded by humanity majors. Many of my peers and the staff we worked with were well versed in not only beautiful and unique languages and cultures, but also spoke with such fluidity and elegance on their topics or specialties. This to me was intimidating at first. However, as the weeks went by and my project developed and became more clear I began to gain confidence. I was challenged by the technology I had to use, but I practiced and played around with the software until I could finally get it to perform the way I wanted. I was nervous that people would not like my project because it was science based, and everyone else’s was more humanities based. I became lost several times along the way, but eventually managed to regain my course with some soul searching, web browsing and a little help from my mentors (Sarah and Doc R). As this journey comes to a close I know it is not really the end, but actually the beginning. The beginning of my journey onward, out into the real world with a big problem to face. Tackling environmental issues is not an easy task and can become extremely depressing when things just seem to keep going from bad to worse. However, the skills I have learned in this course have added a whole new dimension to me as a future scientist and also, they have opened up new possibilities with how I can challenge and take on environmental problems. I began this journey googling endlessly what digital humanities actually meant and could not find an answer. I now know that digital humanities does not have just one answer, and does not simply encompass one field. It is a diverse, intriguing and welcoming community and the term can only be defined by each individual digital humanist and what it means to them.

Sarah’s Reflection

My scholars, here is something to read and think about, as you encounter frustrations that may feel like ends more than generative spaces.

Be capacious, allow room within yourselves for all that you do not know.

Love,

Sarah

“The word failure is imperfect. Once we begin to transform it, it ceases to be that any longer. The term is always slipping off the edges of our vision, not simply because it’s hard to see without wincing, but because once we are ready to talk about it, we often call the event something else — a learning experience, a trial, a reinvention — no longer the static concept of failure.

We thrive, in part, when we have purpose, when we still have more to do. The deliberate incomplete has long been a central part of creation myths themselves. In Navajo culture, some craftsmen and women sought imperfection, giving their textiles and ceramics an intended flaw called a “spirit line” so that there is a forward thrust, a reason to continue making work. Nearly a quarter of twentieth century Navajo rugs have these contrasting-color threads that run out from the inner pattern to just beyond the border that contains it; Navajo baskets and often pottery have an equivalent line called a “heart line” or a “spirit break.” The undone pattern is meant to give the weaver’s spirit a way out, to prevent it from getting trapped and reaching what we sense is an unnatural end.

There is an inevitable incompletion that comes with mastery. It occurs because the greater our proficiency, the more smooth our current path, the more clearly we may spot the mountain that hovers in our gaze. “What would you say increases with knowledge?” Jordan Elgrably once asked James Baldwin. “You learn how little you know,” Baldwin said.

It is as true of vision as it is of justice — distorted, flat, horizontal worlds become more full when we accept that the limit of vision is the way we see unfolding, infinite depth. Painted and printed images used to be just flat bands of color until the invention of perspectival construction and with it, the vanishing point — the void, nothing, the start of infinite possibility. Moving toward a reality that is just, collectively and for each of us individually, comes from a similar engagement with an inbuilt failure. A fuller vision comes from our ability to recognize the fallibility in our current and past forms of sight.

The moment we designate the used or maligned as a state with generative capacity, our reality expands. President John F. Kennedy once mentioned an old saying that success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan. Failure is an orphan until we give it a narrative. Then it is palatable because it comes in the context of story, as stars within a beloved constellation.

Once we reach a certain height we see how a rise often starts on a seemingly outworn foundation. . . .

When we take the long view, we value the arc of a rise not because of what we have achieved at that height, but because of what it tells us about our capacity, due to how improbable, indefinable, and imperceptible the rise remains.”

 

Read More through The Rise by Sarah Lewis, or here at Brainpickings.org:

Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Crucial Difference Between Success and Mastery

The Charming Setback(s)

The real thrill of an academic endeavor lies almost entirely in trying to scale the mammoth walls of conceptual and logistical impediments. If every nuance of a concept is simply accessible, not to be confused with a nuance that is explained simply,  the researcher’s adrenaline ceases to flow. The past week saw much brooding, for hours altogether, to construct cogent, detailed arguments in support of the founding thesis. In re-examining, reevaluating and intensely cross questioning my own argument, the frailty of it became more evident than ever. There is a strange sense of achievement in locating the fragility of one’s own argument, I learnt. It’s thrilling. Discovering a flaw in the conceptual machinery of one’s work, besides being rewarding in the longer run, is much like an adrenaline shot, dramatizing the proceedings that one could otherwise mistakenly consider ‘boring.’

At the technological end, unprecedentedly, there has been much progress. The “elusive first crush” is beginning to confide into her suitor which is progress of a kind. I did however realize that the grandiose manifestation of the project that I have in mind seems unlikely to transpire into reality. But, the shape that my project might/will actually take is equally effective and inviting if not as seductive.

To the impediments and the thrill to/of overcoming them, and also to our imagination taking palpable shape, let’s raise a toast.

Reflection 4- Narrowing, Narrowing, Narrowing

Reflection 4- Narrowing, Narrowing, Narrowing

This week I have mainly been working on better forming my argument.  I realized that the main part of my project I was interested in conveying were the trends in the commercial synthesizer market from its conception until the present day and the sociocultural criticism that accompanies them.  Because of this, I want to put more effort into the timeline portion of my project and make it the main focus.  I have organized all the important events I want in each timeline and I am just filling in text from my research at this point.  Some timelines have a lot more information than others, however this is reflective of the varying levels of innovation and success for each type of technology.  I have been able to gather approximate success levels of each type of synthesizer for each time period from my sources.  However, it would be interesting if I could find economic data for the sales of each of the five types of popular synthesizers and make it into a line graph in some way.  I don’t know if such raw data like this is accessible, but I will try to find it after I finish the portions of my project I have already planned.  It has been very important to set deadlines for myself on which sections of the project I need to finish by a certain time.  I hoped to have the timeline and digital representations done by this Thursday, however, it looks like I will be able to have only the timeline portion finished by this Thursday and the digital representations finished by next Thursday.  Because of this, I have also decided to only work on sound samples that demonstrate the sonic character of each type of synthesizer by the end of the internship period and not full compositions.  The compositions can be easily added later by just embedding soundcloud links.  Despite not being on time to complete all the portions of the project I wanted to, I think this has helped me to narrow my focus and create more a more in-depth narrative in certain aspects.

Reflection Four — Supreme Court

After meeting with the research librarians, I realized that I still had a lot of groundwork to still do on my project. I think they were right when they said to not think about our research tools until we had some solid research done.

During our first meeting, I narrowed down my project even more. Now, I will be choosing three justices to perform a topic modeling analysis on their written opinions. Based on their Martin-Quinn scores and propensity for language, I’ve chosen Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Justice Anthony Kennedy and Justice Antonin Scalia. According to their scores, Sotomayor is the most liberal justice on the current Court. She usually writes her opinions in plain language. Kennedy is now known as the “swing justice,” and has a flair for drama in his writing. Scalia is the second most conservative (with Justice Clarence Thomas as the most conservative). Scalia is known as one of the founders of the originalist theories and without a doubt is known for his distinctive and biting opinion-writing style.

But, still, with all this research and the deadline for the project approaching fast, I had to seriously focus on my tools, as well. For most of the day today, I focused on getting my web scraper code to work. Right now, it works for nearly every case from 2009 on, the year Justice Sotomayor joined the Court. The opinions that don’t work can be copy and pasted off the Internet.

All in all, I think I’ve had a productive week and learned a lot, but I think the quickly approaching project deadline may make me need to simplify my project once more. It will certainly be a stressful end to the first session of the summer, but I look forward to the challenge.

Reflection 4

This past week has been eventful, to say the least. It was definitely very stressful. After being told by the other librarians that my research was not really interesting and that I needed more of a context for it, I had a mini-panic, and then went back to work trying to find that context. I decided on focusing in on the idea that one of the reasons why there are less traditional modes of activism on campus is because these political discussions are incorporated into our academic life through interactions with the faculty and events. From that point, I was able to re-research and I feel pretty good about the research/paper aspect of the whole situation. However, the stressful part comes in when I think about the project aspect. Because my topic has shifted, I’m not even sure topic modeling makes sense anymore, which makes all of the work I put into getting data that fits for cytoscape and the work I did using this project potentially completely useless. I’m also having trouble really nailing down what I want to do now in terms of visualization of data, and even exactly if the kind of data I am looking for is the best data I could be looking for. I do have ideas, but the fact a project draft is due on Thursday is daunting when I still don’t have a clear idea of what my project will look like with a topic change seemingly small, yet dramatic in terms of how it affects my project. The ideas I do have theoretically will not take too long to execute; I am just worried that they will not be enough to really get a great point across with a visualization.

Reflection 4

This past week has been frustrating and nervewracking. With all the upcoming deadlines, I am feeling the pressure of how little time we have left. Fortunately, it has also been a very reflective week as well and I am happy to have gotten past the hurdle of narrowing down my research question. A big source of frustration has been balancing the research aspect of the project with learning how to use the digital tools. While we were reminded that the research question is more important than the tools, I still feel that there has been an underestimation of how time consuming working with these tools can be, especially given the numerous ways in which we can choose to represent our data. While it felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders when I finished collected my data points, turning this data into an actual interactive map and timeline has been a challenge, but one that I am in the long haul for.

Overall, despite the pressure and frustration, I definitely already approached the journey with a sensitivity to time which has been helpful in giving me a strong start. However, I think narrowing down has made me feel as though a lot of my initial time spent researching has gone to waste. Ultimately, I have realized that the information I have been learning is already valuable to me regardless of the project and will continue to be a source of motivation moving forward.

Monumental Reflection, 4

The past week has been rough. I had spent a lot of time (nearly half of the duration of the project) researching monuments that I would not need, questions that were not essential.

However, as it turns out, my scope was far too ambitious and my question was far too broad to formulate a well-written, scholarly research paper. Therefore, I have narrowed my scope down from the entire post-Soviet Eastern Europe, to Bulgaria. At this point, I have also decided to tie the treatment of Communist monuments in Bulgaria to the governmental-imposed idea of a ”double liberation”, rooting my argument in several key components:

  • The separation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire as a clever governmental tool for depicting Russia as the liberator.
  • The idea of a national enemy as crucial for forming a national identity. The use of this ”first” liberation as a basis for the ”double liberation” idea: the sense of brotherhood between the Soviet and Bulgaria, enforced by strengthening the link between the Russian liberator and the Soviet liberator.
  • The connection of the two occurrences has been reinforced by building Soviet monuments near by monuments commemorating the Russo-Turkish War, or by symbolic places where historical battles took place.
  • The hypothesis that this “double liberation” is the reason why unlike many other post-Soviet states, the Bulgarian government has continuously worked in some ways towards protecting communist monuments, rather than destroying them. E.g. 1992 treaty of cooperation between Russia and Bulgaria, and Boyko Borissov’s encouragement of communist landmark restoration programs.
  • Despite the government’s support, there are still 3 different narratives of how society perceives Communist monuments (anti-fascist, nostalgic, and commercial), wherein the double liberation plays a crucial role in the nostalgic and commercial perception.

Therefore, my main research question has (so far) shifted to:

How has the idea of a Bulgarian “double liberation” influenced the state’s treatment of Soviet monuments?

I believe this to be a much more concise idea, because it is rooted in a historical argument.  Additionally, I can still use the mapping method in order to strengthen my point, by placing both Soviet and Russo-Turkish monuments in relation to each other, layering on basis such as: funding, commemoration, state’s treatment, society’s treatment.

Overall, after brainstorming for a few hours today, I have reached peace with the way this project is headed. A part of me fears potentially meeting with Prof. Sanborn because he could discourage me from everything that I just rebuilt from scratch… But another part of me knows that even if that happens, I have already learnt that rebuilding is not that bad, after all.

Reflection 4 – Setbacks, Setbacks, Setbacks

This past week has been extremely chaotic and overwhelming for me with my project. I bounced all over the place on ideas, and toyed with drastically changing my topic. However, the dust has finally settled and a clear vision of how I want to proceed has emerged. The setbacks I faced the past week were due to my thesis and research question not being clear enough. I realize now that I struggled with this so much because I wanted to solve and research all the problems instead of narrowing in on a more clear and concise focus. My new research question focuses in on the specific factors listed under “threats” on the IUCN red list for each of the top 5 countries with the most endangered species. Under this category I can then evaluate which of the top 2 factors are similar within Ecuador, United States, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Mexico. I am fascinated that these countries are the top 5 countries with the highest number of endangered species but more so I am shocked that the United States is within this group. It is the only developed country within the top 5. The other countries are developing nations and therefore I am not too surprised that they are experiencing a large loss of biodiversity. But the United States allocates a lot of money towards awareness and conservation for endangered species. So why are we so high on the list? Have we already caused so much irreparable damage that the programs and laws we have enacted have not even made a dent in helping our species? I find this to be fascinating when looking at it in comparison to the other countries. Ecuador did not surprise me too much because it is home to the Galapagos which contain one of the most threatened ecosystems within the world right now. I really am excited to delve deeper into these countries culture and examine the reasons why they have so many species listed. I have found many amazing articles that I need to go through more thoroughly to pull out more information and begin to analyze it. Hooray to finally forging ahead…!

Triumphs and Tribulations.

Iran’s political culture is a bottomless well, one can always delve a little deeper. The past week was spent mostly engaging with scholarly work pertaining Iranian politics. The outline for the paper finally took physical form. While drafting the detailed outline, the complexity of the issue returned with striking force. At one particular instance, when I was trying to appropriately phrase the founding concept of my thesis, I recollected, rejected and reevaluated words and concepts for about two hours. “Deep State, I think would work,” only to learn that the definition of the deep state does not entirely correspond with my conceptualization. This was only the slow beginning of a grilling two hour session, self quizzing and self critique rolled into one, wherein I struggled to denote a complex idea with one term. Eventually I succeeded. Struggle of the phrasal kind is not much trouble to me, the technological struggle is a different story however. News is not too bleak at the technological end. There seems to be one benign application that I have gotten my head around, it seems to offer almost everything to materialize my project from words into visualization.

Considering the triumphs and tribulations, I am finding the depths of the bottomless well that is Iran to be charming, and enticing.