Pieces of the puzzle

In previous projects, my research process was centered around attempting to find a relationship between two variables, and while the relevant data surrounding those projects may have been direct or indirect measurements of human behavior, there was still an overwhelming desire to find numerical relationships rather than human relationships. The DSSF project differs as it is inherently human-centered and with this characteristic, our cohort has the option of exploring a research question in a variety of ways. But where do we start? — with so many possibilities, narrowing down a topic proves to be a challenge. Currently, I am reflecting on my “research superpower” once more and thinking about how my strengths and the strengths of my colleagues can contribute to a thought-provoking, dynamic project.

Digital humanities researcher, Trevor Owens, illuminated this research dilemma in his blog post, “Where to Start? On Research Questions in The Digital Humanities”. In this post, Owens states that the first step of any DH project is identifying the goals or inspiration for the project. Similarly, I am reflecting on what I would like to get out of this experience. On a personal level, I am hoping to learn more about the digital humanities and the intersections that it has with other disciplines. On a larger level, I am interested in further reinforcing the adage that to make a better future we must learn from the past. I look forward to exploring how students today may relate to the experiences of students in previous classes.

The other day, I really enjoyed meeting with my colleagues for an informal brainstorming session. During this meeting of less than a half-hour, we came up with a primary topic and a backup topic, along with potential methodology. We are all interested in using this current moment ranging from our experiences living during this pandemic to various social and political upheavals to inform our research topic. We are especially interested in how Amherst students, faculty, and administration in the past have dealt with national and global crises. While we are developing the targets of our inquiry, we imagine that our subjects will include natural disasters, conflicts, and socio-political upheavals. This research question could be explored using text analysis to reveal the language surrounding various crises, along with topic modeling to explore if different types of conflicts are associated with different styles of language.

I am excited to take the first steps of our research process and I cannot wait to see the pieces come together!

Owens, Trevor. “Where to Start? On Research Questions in the Digital Humanities.” Trevor Owens: User Centered Digital Memory, WordPress, 22 Aug. 2014. www.trevorowens.org/2014/08/where-to-start-on-research-questions-in-the-digital-humanities/

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