Finish as Complete. Finish as Polish

One of the topics we talked about in last week’s class was working with “focus” and what “done” might mean in a Digital Humanities project.

Digital Humanists Matthew G. Kirschenbaum and Bill Kretzschmar have written about “finishing” a digital project.  They comment that “the verb ‘to finish’ can mean to complete or something more like to polish or perfect.”  Kirschenbaum goes on to point out what meanings “finish” can have in a discipline that celebrates a visible, ongoing process and being open-ended, being changeable: “We partake in what Julia Flanders has aptly called the culture of the perpetual prototype: the demo, the proof-of-concept, the alpha and beta version. Building things is fun….”  Fun, yes, but how do we recognize when we’re approaching a finished project.   When we just stop?  When we run out of time and data?  When we conclude, that is, when we evolve to a different understanding of the data?  When the data inspires us to ask new questions?  When the data brings us to a point that we become aware of an alternative audience or to a changed purpose for telling a narrative?

Your thoughtful weekly posts show this process of curating understanding and of working with “knowing”.   You’ve noted “tangible progress”, “warm, fuzzy feelings”, “disjointed research”, “dramatic twists”, “insights”, “thoughts”, etc.  Mark has wisely referred to your websites before as a “process portfolio”.

Week 10 Checklist

As we approach the end of the semester and this iteration of NAPLA, we’d like you to continue to “finish” by having these items polished by class on Thursday (see the note after the list):

  • Convert all URLs in your blog posts to links as well as those on your course project website.
  • Research should be approaching completion.
  • Scanned images should be approaching completion (scanned please, not shot from a 45 degree angle with a cell phone and uncropped).
  • Drafts of text for webpages should be approaching completion and be upload to course project websites.
  • Oral interviews should be approaching completion.
  • Upload the digital files of interviews to Soundcloud or Audacity and edit the files.
  • Post the audio file on your blog by Thursday morning.
  • Post ‘documentation” for your audio files in a consistent place (e.g., in the bibliography, in a smaller font under the posted audio file, etc.).  Who’s being interviewed, who conducted the interview, city/state for the interview, date/time, etc.  You’re creating an archive.
  • Audio file headers: what are your titles?  are you displaying selected quotes from the interviews?
  • Audio file images: what do you want your audience to look at as they listen to the file?  Head shot? Image of your college?  Sliding scanned images from a related yearbook?
  • Listen to some of the team’s interviews and take notes in preparation for debriefing and discussion of how the websites are taking shape.

Note after the list:  Okay, yes we usually ask that you have these posted by Thursday morning.  On the one hand, that’s great if you’ve got them there by Thursday morning at the latest.  On the other hand, I’ll be “in transit” (read: in airports) during Thursday’s class and it’s not likely that I’ll be joining you from 30,000 feet up in the air.  If you could have the better part of this week’s checklist done by Wednesday midnight (11.59 pm), that would be appreciated.  I can review your pages and have comments prepared for Mark to share with you during Thursday’s class.

As always, Mark and I are available to meet with you on Tuesday between 2 to 4 pm to discuss any aspects of your projects or the upcoming presentation of your NAPLA websites.

Work Cited

Kirschenbaum, Matthew G.  “Done: Finishing Projects in the Digital Humanities”.  DHQ (2009) 3:2.

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