Tomorrow is the final day of “Building a Digital Portfolio,” and with it comes an opportunity for reflection. When I applied for the workshop, I carried several vaguely-defined projects in my head that sounded interesting, but I had no idea of how to pursue them. I attended Digital Humanities events on my campus with great enthusiasm, but wasn’t sure how to engage in meaningful conversations on the projects discussed.
At the end of the two weeks (and a lot of reading!), I feel confident about my working knowledge of the field and relevant vocabularies. As for my projects? It’s a somewhat more complicated story that is best explained by framing them as short, long-term, and intermittent projects.
In previous posts, I discussed the possibility of creating a map related to a dissertation chapter, and evaluated different platforms that might be able to support the project. Earlier this week, our session dedicated to mapping platforms helped me to identify what exactly I need my map to do, and how it might function within my larger project. This, however, opened a pandora’s box of questions with regard to the role of this digital tool in my dissertation. I began to wonder if every other chapter needed a corresponding tool, and how to remain consistent without becoming redundant.
As these questions were mounting, we read Paige Morgan’s essay “How to Get a Digital Humanities Project Off the Ground,” which advises against deciding hastily to incorporate a digital component into your dissertation. As a result, I’ve tabled the plan to incorporate the map into the bound version of the dissertation. However, there is still value in creating the map, which consists of a modest number of data points, and can help me to prove the chapter’s overarching argument. When I return home, I plan to begin locating historic maps of Los Angeles that I can use to overlay the generic map that CartoDB offers so as to more accurately represent the changes to the landscape of Watts between 1965-1967.
The idea that compelled me to apply to the workshop initially is a desire to build a database of Los Angeles artworks sited in public spaces (that don’t necessarily fall into the categories of “public” art or “street” art). This is a monumental task, and could constitute a dissertation project in its own right.
I’ve determined to call the task of building this database my “second book project,” which is a catch-all term I generally use to describe everything I’m interested in that can’t fit in my dissertation. However, after hearing Michelle Greet discuss the Transatlantic Encounters database and how it evolved in relation to her second book project, such an undertaking seems quite possible. Although I can’t dedicate a year to building the database right now, I know that I can start collecting data while researching my dissertation, and possibly even build relationships with some of the arts organizations I am writing about that have coordinated relevant projects.
In the midst of strategizing on the short and long-term, this year, I will be teaching two courses: a 70-student class on Chicana/o Art, and a 20-person course on U.S. Art and Visual Culture. In both of these classes, I plan to incorporate digital tools in various ways, and have begun reading about digital pedagogy.
For the Chicana/o Art class, I recently learned about El Museo Eduardo Carrillo, an online archive of works by an Eduardo Carrillo, an important Chicano artist who lived and worked in Santa Cruz and its related rotating exhibitions that features essays by key scholars in the field. In addition to creating an assignment that will invite my students to engage with these materials, I am also considering incorporating an image annotation assignment, as well as a “Wikipedia-editing” assignment that would be directed toward the lackluster “Chicano Art” entry after reading Adeline Koh’s piece featuring suggestions for introducing undergraduates to the digital humanities.
My U.S. Art and Visual Culture class initially planned to use Scalar as a platform for showcasing collaborative student projects, but am still considering what I want my students to take away from the course, and whether Scalar is the right platform for those objectives. Throughout both courses, however, I plan to blog about the process of introducing digital projects into my courses, so stay tuned!
All of this is to say that the workshop has left me with not only a new enthusiasm for my research and teaching, but the world of collaboration and conversation that exists within the digital humanities and digital art history. I not only feel as if I have found a community of scholars whose work resonates with my own, but that within this community, it is possible to contribute to the conversation in a variety of ways.