Since reading Trevor Owen’s blog post1in preparation for the first day of this fellowship, I have learned quite a bit more about digital humanities. In particular, the self-guided workshops have been very informative. While these workshops have allowed me to learn and explore about methodologies and techniques in the field, they have been very much focused on the specifics of conducting research and less about the bigger picture of the research process as a whole. A revisit to the blog post I read at the beginning of this fellowship will help me take a step back and think about our research questions as we begin developing our project.
This past week we also had a workshop and different learning types and personalities. As an introspective person, I am constantly reflecting on my choices and actions. I look at where I am in the present, what I’ve done to get there; this helps aid in my decisions on what actions to take in the future to get to a goal I have set for myself. Trevor Owens makes describes a similar process, except with research questions in the DH research process.
In his post, he explored the relationship between research questions and the project itself. Traditionally, we have generally been taught to focus on the results of a project. Many experiments are conducted with the goal of either proving or disproving a hypothesis. However, DH has helped me approach this conventional methodology from a different angle. Research questions are dynamic, constantly changing and evolving to fit what the researcher has found and learned. There is a bigger focus on the process itself, and is less occupied with producing a presentable end result.
In our project brainstorming session, the rest of the cohort and I were drawn to exploring the College during times of crisis. Of course, this a broad topic that holds many possibilities and can be approached in so many different ways. As I was searching through primary source databases, I originally wanted to find information about the College’s response to the 1918 Spanish influenza in order to compare it to the College’s response to COVID-19 over one hundred years later. Though I did not find a lot of information from my initial search, I did learn about many smaller outbreaks that occurred throughout Amherst history. With the college’s two-hundred year long history, I am confident we will find plenty of events that are worth documenting, possibly more than we originally imagined. But because of the short duration of this fellowship, we will likely have to make some difficult decisions about what to include in our final product.
1Owens, 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/