Reflecting: Learning TogetherBrainstorming, reflecting, exploring next possibilities is quite rich on this last day of #LAFDH workshop. I'm surrounded by smart folks.— Chris Phillips (@MobyProf) June 3, 2016
I asked folks to respond to five questions corresponding to our key learning goals for the workshop. What did we learn about DH? about coding and programming languages? about computers and what we can make them do? about the limitations of computational methods? and about one another? That last one tends to take folks by surprise, but I always include it in my list of learning outcomes when I am teaching, leading workshops, or doing any kind of similar activity.
Why else spend so much time in a room together if we don't see some value in learning about the others around us? In hands-on workshops like #lafdh, we often find that our colleagues are our richest resource for learning. The relationships we start and/or strengthen in such experiences can persist long after the memory of a few Powerpoint Slides or a Python demonstration fades too. We can keep learning from one another once we have come to know and trust our colleagues. Ryan & I probably had the most to learn about all the others in the workshop because we were the newcomers.
We had a great time coming to understand each person's areas of specialty, hearing about their work and their experience, and seeing how they were most comfortable reasoning their way through new challenges. We had a nice blend of approaches in that last regard. Some preferred a top-down approach, reasoning from principles to integrate details. Others preferred a more inductive way, diving into the details to make order from the patterns they found.
One thing I learned...
I had a few really valuable takeaways from this workshop that will illuminate my own scholarly work over the next few months. These came from the multiple opportunities I've had, along with Ryan, to explain what we have been doing to new audiences over the last few weeks. At #lafdh, we encountered an interdisciplinary group with a varying level of experience with DH. Half were library folks, and the other half were Humanities scholars and teachers, most from various areas in English Studies.
In response to the "what can we get computers to do" question, I realized that Ryan & I's work on "topoi mapping" - something that you can see working in both the Hedge-o-Matic and the Faciloscope - combines location-based and semantic analytic approaches in roughly equal measures to reliably locate "rhetorical moves." Combining the two gives us flexibility to correctly classify a language structure that we cannot reliably pin down to a certain number or type of words. Rhetorical moves are n-grams - chunks of text of undetermined length - that may exhibit some regularity of form in terms of their lexical components, but are highly variable nonetheless. You can do the same move with vastly different words, in other words (heh).
I'd never had a moment to distill our analytic approach into such a tight (if still a bit dense) form as that above. Nor had I tried to theorize from top to bottom - taking into account the specific transformation we perform on the texts we analyze - precisely what combination of steps we take to find something like a "hedge" in scientific writing. It came over the course of a day or so as one of those rare moments of clarity for me! I explained it out loud to the group and "tuned in" to what was coming out of my mouth with a sense of wonder. Ah ha! That's what we've been doing! So...look for more about that in a publication upcoming, I am sure.
|DH Planning Grid w/ "Master Trope" Questions|
I really hope our workshop participants found the final activity we did useful. Ryan & I walked them through a planning process that we think represents a good way to plan DH projects. Here's a peek at it.
On the X axis, we list actions that also correspond to common DH team roles: research(er), develop(er), and then the folks who think about the user experience that the team aims to facilitate. These can coincide in more than one person, of course, but they represent what are often distinct areas of interest, expertise, and work in any given interval of time on a project.
On the Y axis, we have the DH lifecycle I wrote about before. We'd spent the day before going through that with the participants in a hands-on way in an attempt to understand how DH work proceeds. Finally, below the grid, there is a prompt to go through and fill in the boxes in three passes. The first is to generate questions, the second is to generate to do list items, and the third is to plan desired outcomes.
In the grid above, I'm showing the guiding questions or "master tropes" for each of the DH activity roles. The researcher(s) ask "why" - why do the project? why do it this way? with these texts? etc. The developers ask "what" - what are we doing? with what? in what ways? And the user experience folks ask "who?" - who's looking at this? who needs to access it? who needs to understand it? All three share the all-important question: "how?" How shall we proceed? The researchers might ask how *should* we do it? The developers converge on how *will* we? while the user experience folks continually raise the question of how *can* we...?
|Planning grid with Outcomes for HoM highlighted|
I like to use this planning process with students as well as with project teams. Planning questions, activities, and outcomes is a good way to help all the team members feel some ownership with the project. Coming back to these decisions as the project progresses is also a good idea, because things change.
One thing folks are often pleasantly surprised by is the way each phase of the lifecycle produces valuable outcomes. The example grid here shows some for the conjecture/gather (i.e. theoretical) stage as well as the interpret results stage for the Hedge-o-Matic. That Ryan & I think of our work building applications as *primarily* theoretical in nature can come as a surprise for some. That it can also result in useful resources for folks who may or may not be interested in our theoretical work is a nice bonus!