Digital Reflection

I took this class because I am interested in the digital humanities and especially, the digitization of archival sources. However, I saw the importance of gaining some knowledge of “doing history” digitally, especially as someone who studies European history with little to no access to those sources. Even though I had a beginner knowledge of how to work with a computer, along with some coding knowledge and photo editing software, I felt like this class opened up the possibilities on how to channel those skills into a historian’s craft. Once we saw how all of these skills can be transferable, I was more inclined to learn how to use these tools. Mapping data as a new means to analyze data had never occured to me before. Of course, historians gather data to analyze but I never thought that we could utilize raw data to plot points and create an argument from it. In that sense, using programs like Mapbox, or even google maps, changed my perspective on how to curate and use data differently.

My overall approach to history and historical methods has not altered but has become enhanced with the application of digital methods. Although many of these methods I had been taught to apply as a “normal” scholar, such as using online archives and using social media to link with other academics, I feel more comfortable applying a more digital approach to all my work. As we talked about in the beginning of the semester, information should be fully free and accessible and as historians that is what our work is about. The creation of websites, blogs and digital archives should be more commonplace than it is, instead there is secrecy, insularity and less accessibility to the public and other academics. Digital history can be the turning point within the history field, especially in a time where the world is moving more and more to digitization of everything. Museums and archives are digitizing whole collections, offering virtual tours and becoming accessible to anyone and everyone.

When I began research for my project I was ambitious: I wanted to trace the lines of information between Jacobin clubs throughout France and abroad in the eighteenth-century. Because of the time constraints and my own limitations, I narrowed it down to looking at the degree of radicalness in four prominent political clubs during the revolution. Within this there were limitations as well. The history of any one club that I studied was vast, prompting me to sift through many primary and secondary sources before curating my argument and evidentiary support. The vastness the French revolutionary historiography made my task a bit daunting. This, like my original proposal, could have easily been a thesis. Time constraints, time management and technological issues did hinder my progress but I feel like I came up with something semi-original and coherent. I did manage to “build” my own website and customize it to my liking while always keeping in mind my intended audience and its cohesiveness and readability, which is useful for future projects.

Overall, I learned a lot about what kind of historian I want to become. I have always used computers and believe that knowledge should be readily accessible. Incorporating digital history in the general field can and will open up new avenues of research and teaching. Hopefully, a digital methods class will soon become part of the core curriculum.

Going forward I will take what I learned and apply to my own work and encourage others to do the same.

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