From the under-theorized side of the room …

My name is Paul Evans, and I am currently a PhD candidate in the Medieval and Byzantine Studies program at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. I am also a graduate research assistant at UMD’s Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH), working as a Scala/Lift developer on MITH’s NEH-funded Active OCR project (

Before that, I had a number of previous academic and professional lives. My undergraduate degree was in the History of Medieval and Early Modern Europe. I then spent 23 years working in the computer industry, for the first ten years as a UNIX system administrator, and then as a manger, director and VP of IT.

My PhD dissertation is focused on the evolution of Gratian’s Decretum (c. 1140), the foundational text of medieval canon law. So I’m working on a traditional topic, using a traditional approach (think 19th century German textual scholarship, like the Monumenta Germaniae Historiae). My tools, however, are not traditional. I transcribe the texts from digitized images (still a manual process), encode the transcriptions in XML, and then write web applications in Java, Python or Scala that help me to visualize the variants. To see a sample, check out http://

Having read the other introductory blog posts, I feel under-qualified to discuss the critical-theoretical issues raised by the readings that the rest of you have engaged. I will limit myself to the issue of whether or not one has to know how to write code in order to be a DHer in good standing. As the person in the room with (I think) the most technical experience, I’m going to take the counter-intuitive position that the answer is “no” or at least “not much”. I think it’s more important to be able to tell a story that someone (yourself or someone else) can turn into code. To understand what I mean by “tell a story”, read Getting Real, a book on software development by 37 Signals, the people who brought you Basecamp.

I’m looking forward to the discussion tonight.




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