Expertise

Expertise

What makes a digital humanities expert? I’m at a point in my research wherein I can understand what makes a digital project tick, but am not necessarily able to write code or build a database from the ground up. Expert level skills aren’t always necessary, but an understanding of what the experts are doing is.

Part of my reflecting this semester has been an assessment of my own technological literacy, with a focus on what software I know how to use, and a peek at what else is out there and just how far my own limits can and should be tested. I’ve expanded my knowledge thus far to low-level hacking, including child themes, CSS tweaks and hints at what Javascript and PHP have in store. I don’t know any programming languages, but I’m better able to understand what it means for a program to be written in Ruby or Perl, and how plug-ins work.

But what do I do with this information? I’m afraid my self-assessment has taken on a frantic tone. By mid-semester I was stressed about PHP and my love for GIS has launched a full-on obsession with maps. There’s so much technology to learn and so few semesters until I get launched into the real world to look for a permanent job that I often forget just how far I (and we as humans) have come in a short time.

This clip from 1994 brought it all into perspective.

The fact that there are communities of scholars who are committed to the best research methods possible (both analog and digital), and that we can teach art history from videos and not just dusty slide carousels, and that our resources can be shared and dispersed across times zones without paying postage are all pretty amazing. Let’s all take a minute over the holidays to be grateful that while the ivory tower may have a few cracks, at least it has wireless.

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