Josh Westgard

About Josh Westgard

Grad Student in Information Management at UMD's iSchool, GA in Digital Stewardship at UMD Libraries, and aficianado of early medieval manuscripts.

A parting (sniff!) shot, in re DH ‘Types’, PoCoDH, etc.

Just in case this horse isn’t quite dead yet, a final post: this morning I had what seemed at the time like a ‘moment of clarity’ on the whole boundary debate. Whether I can now recreate it on this blog with the same degree of pellucidity that it had in my 5 a.m. inner monologue is doubtful, but I’m going to give it my best shot.

On Wednesday the point that I was trying, largely unsuccessfully I think, to bring across in our final discussion stems from a realization that I have made over the past year or so, namely that, to put it rather glibly, the humanities are long and life is short.  Yes, I know that there are big issues at stake for those who are struggling to forge an academic career in a time of shrinking budgets and large-scale adjunctification of the professorate, but I just don’t have the patience for, or see the value in, squabbling over territory.  I think there are really exciting things happening right now in the humanities around open, accessible, and processable information structures, things largely made possible by a growing spirit of collaboration among cultural heritage institutions, government agencies, universities, and even commercial (gasp!) technology companies — and to spend time carding people at the entrance seems like a colossal waste of time.  As someone who at one point poured a fair amount of himself into seeking a tenure-track academic job, I have come around to this viewpoint less easily and willingly than did Andrew Prescott (see:, but I think I largely share his view that the current debate seems rather parochial, and once you no longer have a dog in that fight, the fight starts to seem pretty boring.  It’s a bit like reading the comments section attached to articles on the Chronicle website — a little goes a very long way.

That having been said, reading comment flame-wars is often entertaining, and once in a while the products can even be useful. I actually liked Steven Ramsay’s type1/type2 piece ( — which I think goes a long way toward explaining the current shape (and frequent disconnects) of the DH field.  I am myself rather partial to building things too, and I like code, but that doesn’t mean that I would dismiss TransformDH or the Dark Side conference as mere “silliness” (as one commentator — not Ramsay — has done), though I think no one can deny that they are, in part at least, ‘silly’.  Does anyone think TransformDH is meant purely in earnest?  And powerful ideas are, by virtue of their potency, also easy to parody.  To say that Gravity’s Rainbow is often silly — indeed, it is one of the most hilarious books I’ve ever read — does nothing to detract from its greatness as a work of literature, nor from the power of its ideas.  It is also, just like Joyce or Hemingway, easy to make fun of.  Of course critical theory should be applied to DH — of course it should.  But it doesn’t follow from that that building something or winning and directing a grant cannot be equally valid scholarly achievements or that they are merely “managerial” (cf.  Anyone who thinks you can effectively manage a team of software developers without yourself knowing at least something about programming is kidding themselves, and anyway would we criticize the biochemist who wrote a grant to undertake groundbreaking medical research as a mere ‘manager’ who just got the funding to hire postdocs to do the real work?  Sure, there have been some poorly conceived and poorly executed DH grants.  No doubt there have been DH grants that got funds that could have been better spent elsewhere. There have also been more than a few bad pomo/poco monographs over the years. With any research project, funded or not, the proof is in the outcomes, not the method, the theory, the label, or in whose tent it was carried out.  Enough with the sour grapes!

PS: Having gotten that out of my system, I’m adding this postscript, mainly because the preceding phrase would be a very unfitting way to end this course, the spirit of which has been precisely the opposite!  Thanks to you all for a fabulous semester, and hope to see you on the Dark Side!

There’s no “there” there…

I couldn’t resist the Hunt for the Gay Planet, and while I appreciated the author’s sense of humor, in the end I think he/she must’ve lost interest in the project.  I don’t think I need to worry about spoiling it for anyone else, because there’s nothing to spoil.  The hunt consists of poking around on four different planets, three of which appear to be exactly the same.  As far as I can tell, there is no gay planet to be found (was that the point?), and in fact there’s no resolution to the story at all.  Really, there’s not much of anything to be found on any of the planets, other than an occasional mildly amusing turn of phrase.  All of this left me wondering if there isn’t some sort of puzzle that I’ve simply failed to crack, and I guess the joke will be on me if I’ve somehow missed the point completely.  Up until now, I’ve purposefully avoided reading anyone else’s posts for fear of spoiling the surprise.  Now I’m curious to see if anyone else managed to get anything more out of the Hunt than I did…

For those who like to tinker…

If you haven’t heard about the Raspberry Pi microcomputer (which retails for around $35), I thought this would be of interest. People use them to create all sorts of cool homebrewed tech projects: robots, home automation, etc.:

PS: The Pi was created as an inexpensive computer for schools in the UK, so there’s a “digital equity” angle to the project.  There’s a “what girls dig” (to paraphrase B. Nowviskie) angle too; see:

As a warm-up to Twine, I thought this neat little comic strip editor might be of interest: In short, it allows you to generate stick-figure comic strips using HTML-like markup. The only drawback right now: I don’t think the strips are very portable. To save your work, you need to create an account on github and copy your markup over to your own account. But you can freely edit/modify the sample on the page above to see how the whole thing works.

The Robert B. Morse Water Filtration Plant Site, Rt. 29 in Silver Spring


This gallery contains 7 photos.

At the intersection of the Northwest Branch creek and Route 29 in Silver Spring stands what remains of the Robert B. Morse Water Filtration Plant, which was in service from 1936-1962. The pumping stations are still standing, but most of … Continue reading

Installing Omeka in a Local Sandbox on a Mac (OS 10.8)

In case anyone should want to try installing Omeka on their local machine before tomorrow’s class, I put together these instructions for doing so on a Mac (to my knowledge it is possible to run a local Omeka installation on Linux and Mac systems, but not Windows).  These instructions were culled in part from the following page:

  1. Normally Omeka runs on a web server, but for testing it is possible to set up a local sandbox installation.  In order to do so, you first need to have working web server software and an SQL database on your computer.  These can be obtained by installing an *AMP (Apache/mysql/php) stack, such as LAMP, MAMP, or XAMPP. For running Omeka on the Mac, XAMPP is recommended and can be downloaded from here:
  2. Once you have XAMPP installed, download Omeka (the latest version is 2, but use 1.5 if you want to also test the Neatline plugin):
  3. Extract the downloaded Omeka folder and move it to /Applications/XAMPP/htdocs/ (this is the root folder of your local web server).
    [N.B. You will probably be prompted to authenticate as an admin user in order to move these files into the Applications folder.]
  4. Install ImageMagick by downloading the installer from ImageMagick is used by Omeka for processing images and creating thumbnails.
  5. Launch XAMPP, and using the “controls” window that will open, start the web server and mySQL.
  6. Open a web browser and go to the location ‘localhost’, where you’ll see the contents of your htdocs folder, which should be the XAMPP splash page.  Choose “english” and you’ll be taken to the main XAMPP control page.
  7. On the left, choose phpMyadmin. phpMyAdmin is software for managing mySQL databases on a web server (or in this case, on server software running locally).
  8. Within phpMyAdmin, click on the privileges tab –> Add new user with the following settings:
    • user name: omeka
    • host: Local
    • password: [choose a password]
  9. Under “Database for User,” make sure to check “create database with same name and grant all privileges.”
  10. Now, you will need to edit the following file: /Applications/XAMPP/htdocs/omeka-1.5.3/db.ini. This can be most easily accomplished through the command line (for example using an editor like vi), but it can also be done with a regular GUI text editor.  Change it so the file has the following settings:
    • host = “localhost”
    • username = “omeka”
    • password = [password you chose above]
    • dbname = “omeka”
    • prefix = “omeka_”
    • charset = “utf8″
    • ;port = “”
  11. In the browser, go to localhost/omeka-1.5.3/ and follow the prompts to configure and begin using your local Omeka site.

Bentham on Endian-ness

So, I had a devil of a time finding a page that looked remotely legible that hadn’t already been done by someone else. At first, I looked for something on the topic of “popery” which seemed quite timely, but I failed to locate any pages that looked manageable.  So in the end, I resorted to choosing JB/072/185/001, which looked to be a very nice and legible (and short) page, which I thought would be a good way to get started.  The one tricky bit — and I suspect the reason someone else hadn’t yet tackled it — is that it is written mostly in Latin.  Unfortunately, the page hasn’t proved to be as uniformly legible as I first thought, so I haven’t managed to decipher it all.  For now, I can report that it makes reference to Swift’s story of the battle between the Little-endians and the Big-endians (those who crack their eggs on the little or big ends, respectively).  Beyond that, there remain too many illegible words for me to put it all together just yet.  Stay tuned, and I will update this post when I have finished it!