It took nine days—or 54 classroom hours—of digital humanities immersion to finally take the preliminary steps in a digital component of my research project. The acquisition of skills (or really, tool know-how) paradoxically led me to shed most of my paradigm about working digitally. Over the last two weeks, I became so full of information and ideas that my only choice yesterday was to take one tiny step. So, around 2:45 yesterday afternoon I opened an Excel document, placed my cursor in the top left cell and typed “Last Name.” Yes, I need to build a data set. I realize now that I was not at a loss for where to start or what question to ask, I was in denial. I thought that compiling a basic data set with artists’ biographical information somehow did not count as research or was not essential. I realized that all along (this week and in the grander paradigm-constructing scheme), I had tacitly based my decisions about what digital methods and tools to implement on a vision or expectation of particular end products. After spending just one hour compiling tidy data about artists in my purview I found gaps in my research and questions I need to answer before moving forward. I realized I needed to get to “zero” before anything else could happen. And so yes, I had the “a-ha!” moment: it’s really not about the end, it is about the means. I knew this to be true for “traditional” research, but had not yet experienced it while testing any of the tools in the workshop. Data-entry is the tip of the digital iceberg. But inputting data brought clarity to my work. My motivation to continue exploring the range of methods has shifted from an abstract enthusiasm to a steadfast pursuit of what is necessary for me to accomplish the most sound scholarship.
Thank you CHNM. Onward!
Source: One datum at a time.