Finding Your Way Through the Obstacle Course of Code

Finding Your Way Through the Obstacle Course of Code

As Digital Fellows, we occasionally share our reflections on the process of exploring digital research here on Tagging the Tower. During the Digital Research Bootcamp we invited 35 interdisciplinary scholars to join us in that exploration, learning new skills and building community along the way. So what was it like for those who joined us for 28-hours of learning? In a series of guest posts, several #GCDRB participants will share their experiences. Below are the reflections of Julia Lipkins, an archivist and student in the MALS Program:

I recently participated in the inaugural Digital Research Bootcamp (DRB) at the GC. “Bootcamp” is an apt description for the rigorous 4-day workshop; from 10am to 5pm, huddled in the Science Center, 35 participants lived and breathed the command line.

The DRB was truly an interdisciplinary event; I met astronomers, historians, linguists and everything in between. Some of us were proficient in Javascript and R. Others, like myself, cowered in terror when the word “Unix” was mentioned. Luckily, we were in the very capable hands of the Digital Fellows and instructors from Software Carpentry. Each day, we were led through an obstacle course of coding exercises using Python, GIT and a variety of other applications. We learned how to clean messy data, write scripts, and most importantly, the cold hard truth about digital research, i.e. anyone can code.

At the end of the DRB, a few professors and Digital Fellows offered parting words of advice. Professor Matt Gold said, “The most important thing about digital projects is very often not the technology, but the people.” I couldn’t agree more. The digital research community at the GC is a unique resource for practical, technical (and emotional) support. If you are interested learning how to manipulate, visualize or simply make better use of your data, I would highly recommend reaching out. You’ll find novices and experts who will concur: fear not, you can code.

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