Over the past week, it came to my attention that I have not been doing a very good job of not panicking in this class. While I did suspect that Matt was not likely to assign a failing grade to the majority of the class for not having Paper Machines working by the end of the meeting (the stated assignment), I spent most of that session feeling miserably confused. I probably looked quite grumpy. (I apologize to anyone at whom I may have inadvertently frowned.) While conversing with classmates in the days that followed about this thing that felt like a disaster — I had after all (for the first time ever) failed to complete a pass/fail assignment — I started slowly realizing that I may not be as hopelessly behind the curve as I felt. From the start, I was uncertain what to make of the assertion that failure is a good part of DH work; I thought “That’s all very well if you’re trying to make something just because you want it, but what about when my grade/job depends on success?” I realize that I have not been a very active participant in class so far, but I think I figured out that my real problem may not be that I am technologically inept (though I am), but that I habitually operate under assumptions about good academic work that are entirely incompatible the way DH defines good work. It will not be easy to murder the little perfectionist angel/devil on my shoulder, but it will probably do me some good if I manage it.
So, moving on, I went in search of the reason I ever even considered signing up for this class. Last year, I attended a Digital Dialogues lecture by Mike Witmore (the director of the Folger Shakespeare Library) called “Shakespeare from the Waist Down.” I had seen flyers for other dialogues, but I didn’t think they applied to me (due to the technological ineptitude thing), but I was curious enough to go to this one because it mentioned Shakespeare in the title. I was astonished by the idea that something as simple as pronoun patterns could enable a computer to tell the difference between comedy, history, and tragedy, and that it could identify the late romances (a modern editorial categorization). The link to the podcast of that talk is here, if anyone wants to watch it: http://mith.umd.edu/digitaldialogues/mp3/dd_2012_02_21.mov.
I am also really looking forward to the Folger visit tonight. The Shakespeare Quartos Archive is the first thing we’ve studied that I’ve actually seen before! I don’t know exactly what I may do, but I hope to pursue it further. Collation and archiving seem the sorts of things I am most likely to use in the future, so I’m happy to be on somewhat more familiar territory! So, stay tuned; I promise I’ll have something more interesting to say soon.
(And maybe, someday, I’ll even figure out how to take screenshots!)