When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Such a phrase describes my research process prior to this internship. When embarking on a paper, I would frantically skim through documents, desperately writing any fact that could take up footnote space. It was inefficient and incoherent. Many a paper have come back marked “Too sporadic!”
Oddly enough, that same inefficiency and in-coherency works out spectacularly when exploring the digital. The problem wasn’t the shotgun approach, but that I failed to use the data properly. With each workshop, I found a better use to integrate my findings into a research question that made it relevant. As we discussed in a research question workshop, “If you can’t think of a research question, just stick a ‘how’ in front of your hypothesis.”
Using TimeMapper, that random assortment of data can show trends across a town, city or even continent. Digital museums can display disconnected data in an elegant manner. Text Analysis gives a graphical representation to the unseen nuances of speech (even if it is, in my opinion, mostly useless). And topic modellig manages to make a summary of all those random footnote facts that were completely unimportant before.
Now, I feel like I have the right toolset (or at least the beginnings of one) for my collection of oddball observations.
For this reason, I am incredibly excited to move on to the project phase of the internship. It’s finally time to put together a project that builds a consistent whole out of my data. Admittedly, I have only an inkling of an idea of how to put that together, but I do feel prepared! It just all comes down to whether I can pick the right tool and use it properly.