Digital Humanities Reflection

Kyle Varnadoe

Digital humanities

Prof. Leslie Madsen-Brooks

Technology Reflection

I was most intrigued by how much technology relies upon games in aspects of storytelling and what goes into creating a virtual environment for gaming, as well as accuracy in historical interpretations.  Technology through History using games; this was described comprehensively by Bryan Alexander in his book The New Digital Storytelling and also by a new digital pen-pal of mine named Adam Chapman, who I’d describe as a younger generation’s version of a developing digital humanist.  I met Chapman on my digital humanist interview assignment and was enlightened by his field of research.  Problem-based storytelling in games, along with historical accuracy, is developing into one of the fastest forms of learning popular history.

There are certain characteristics that storytelling within a game has on the audience that other popular form of historical interpretations, such as film, don’t have.  The filming industry portraying historical events is often criticized for lacking in historical accuracy, portraying inconsistent accuracy in historical interpretation to the viewer.  One can argue that such assimilation to the viewer can be miss-leading, directing a discourse for historical interpretation.  Aside from documentaries, it’s a real bummer because I’m such a historical movie buff, but I often catch myself analyzing a movie as I watch it to find these misinterpretations.  They can be as tedious as German Shepherds in “Gladiator” or as overwhelmingly inaccurate as FDR standing up out of his wheel chair in Pearl Harbor.  These forms of skeptic analysis in historical film formats are conjunctive to the popular design of problem-solving based models in the storytelling of games.  I mean come on, who wants to watch a movie with someone who points out all the mistakes or refutes claims made by the film-makers, who cares?  I could only imagine how an early French film-artist may have felt when witnessing Joseph Goebbels accuracy in historical interpretations on film.  The difficulty behind historical narratives being used as a standard for applying accuracy to a story and relying upon both evidence of the past and the historical writing is the interpretations.  This new game based story-telling is a new opportunity to avoid past mistakes in historical interpretation, promoting more accurate forms of learning history.

Clearly what’s being sought after by historical researchers in connection to the gaming industry is a solution to the discourse of learning accurate history.  This was my favorite aspect of this course, what lays on the horizon for new potential careers and industries focused on History! I’m pursuing a degree in history and teaching, but I’m not sure that I want to teach yet, nor am I certain of what I truly know anymore sometimes.  It’s all so speculative and can sometimes be frustrating, when analyzing the past.  Bitter truths are sometimes hard to take in and those of us like Jack Nicholson saying to Tom Cruise “you can’t handle the truth,” acquire a mode of thinking that goes past the ideals of society to unveil the realities which we face today, my true struggle.  There are little things that frustrate me sometimes, that reveal a truth inside me, perhaps my human nature.  For instance, why the hell am I frustrated about cell phone reception and computer issues in a day and age when my parents would have killed for these conveniences in school? There’s a lesson in being the only student with a flip phone in this class, my stubbornness to adapt to new technology has been intimidating, especially amongst my peers who all have iphones and ipads, I feel Jurassic in my era sometimes.  More importantly it comes down to fear for me I believe.  I’m afraid there may be a motive for misinterpretation.  It’s true that many of these discoursed lessons are simply misinterpreted or embellished purely by accident, however if there’s one thing I know about real history, it comes with a heavy dose of sobering reality to those who find what they fear the most of it.


Alexander, Bryan. The New Digital Storytelling. Praeger, 2011. Print.

Chapman, Adam. “Privileging Form Over Content: Analysing Historical Videogames.”       Journal of Digital Humanities. Volume 1.2 (2012): n. page. Web. 10 Dec. 2012.

Digital Humanist Interview

I started off looking for a digital humanist locally in the Treasure Valley.  I found myself knocking on the door of the Idaho Digital Learning Academy and was assisted there with a curriculum brochure and a quick tour around the office.  Going off the title I assumed this may be a place I’d find myself a digital humanist locally, but it was more of a place for doing required curricular activities for graduating at high school and post high school credit levels.  The only real in-depth digital coursework they offer on the subject of  technology are Computer Applications and Digital Photography & Communications in High school levels as well as Web Design at the college prep level.  I persisted on sending out emails to expert references given in our class as well as outside sources.  In my hunt for finding a Digital Humanist to interview I came across two individuals whom are both highly qualified and have extensive professional research in digital technology and analysis.  One of my interviewees is a graduate student attending the University of Hull,  Mastering in Humanities-Media, Culture and Society. Adam Chapman is his name, he told me that his training wasn’t necessarily geared toward using GIS systems that historians usually use for research, instead he is heavily involved in the study of history incorporated with games, an informal yet appealing approach to Historical data analysis.  Informal in the sense that his extensive training is mainly being good at playing games, however he says “the ability to play games and use gaming technology requires some kind of training this is not in the formal sense and is training now shared by many many people!” It certainly seems appealing as far as the entertainment sector, but he assured me when I asked him “What’s a typical day like at work?” he said, ” Though many people think that studying historical games means that I get to play them all day, this is unfortunately not the case and the time spent playing to writing and researching is very small.” I asked him to give me his best advice for someone pursuing his field of study, he responded “For someone wishing to become an academic I would of course advise you to work hard, find a subject you like, remain open minded and yet critical. Also be creative in your thinking, being successful at the highest levels of education and as a professional academic relies on being able to come up with original ideas that fill a gap in current research.”  Soon to be Dr. Chapman also added on a more specific note to his own field of research, “For those wanting to study games I would advise you to play a lot!   As many different types of games as possible (including boards games etc).  Also read a lot of game studies work, there is lots of high quality stuff available on the internet for is an excellent place to start.”

My next Interview was none other than Professor Paul Fyfe, he’s an assistant professor of English and History of Text Technologies at Florida State University. Professor Fyfe had lots to say about the subject of Digital Humanities, My first question was, “What kind of technical training did he acquire to do your job?”, He answered “I took four years off between undergrad and grad school, in that time working various positions in the publishing industry. That included an editorial job at a new media company where I learned lots about the web, including HTML as well as back-end technologies for content management and distribution, and worked extensively with project managers and technicians. In grad school, I experimented as much as I could with instructional technology in my own classrooms, learning from our on-campus teaching resource center and from all the generous teachers who share their experiences online.I also worked for the Rossetti Archive where I learned TEI, XML, and XLST, as well as about archival standards for texts, images, and markup data. In all of these contexts, I learned crucial lessons about how to work with people, about how to translate priorities between different constituents, about how to manage expectations and time.” He seemed very enthusiastic about his work and his progress in the field of digital studies.  I’d asked Professor Fyfe if he’d been working on any projects currently. He said, “I’m starting a project on the trans-historical relations between media past and present called Victoria Telecom: Writing in the Age of Transmission. I aim to relocate the emergence of contemporary concerns about information overload, intellectual property, network hacking, and big data in Victorian precursors, while also insisting on their unique material contexts and impact on how written forms were conceived and transmitted. I have a graduate research assistant and two undergraduate research assistant working on different elements of this, including doing some preliminary text analysis of selected corpora, and some collation of versions of given texts using software like Juxta.”  The answer that Professor Fyfe gave me for my last question was the most informative for a student like myself interested in this field of work. “What would be some advice for a person pursuing a career in Digital Humanities?” I asked.  He said to “Start listening to the field conversations.  Learn the research interests, the advocacy commitments, and the turn-offs of the community. Learn also about the constituencies involved, from librarians to alternate academics to students and so on. Though there are jobs “in” digital humanities, the careers of digital humanists can be pretty diverse. Get a sense of all the possibilities. Also, start trying stuff for yourself, whether playing in sandboxes of recently released tools, tweaking your research workflow, learning a markup or programming language, installing new platforms on your own machines, getting involved in open conversations online. Seek out formal training if it’s around, but don’t wait for it either. “

Paul Fyfe
Sep 26

to me
Hi Kyle: just stumbled across a post that describes doing sentiment analysis on your class’s DH interviews. Small world. Anyway, I wound up seeing that your assignment was due on 9/19 and I didn’t get back to you until 9/23. I hope this didn’t cause you any trouble; I’d be glad to contact your teacher if it helps. Take care — Paul

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