DH UVA Collaboration

DCI Students Visit UVA’s Scholars’ Lab

On two different days during winter term, students in DCI 393, the capstone course for the Digital Culture and Information minor, visited the Scholars’ Lab at the University of Virginia. The students, Katherine Dau ‘19 and MaKayla Lorick ‘19, were joined by Professors Brooks and Bufkin, who teach DCI 393, and Kellie Harra, DH Post-Baccalaureate Fellow. The visitors participated in three different workshops both days, taught by graduate students who were instructed to develop a session that incorporated DH tools into their respective research discipline. These graduate students study a wide range of fields, from History and Art History to Urban and Environmental Planning, and integrated the DH tools into their own work. This made for interesting discussions with helpful background information coming from the graduate students as they related the workshop activities to their own research. Since we don’t have the space to describe in detail all of the workshops we participated in, I’ve included a summary of two of the workshops that I found to be especially interesting.

The first was a workshop by Chris Whitehead on social networks and network analysis. Chris was a 2018-2019 Praxis Fellow at the Scholars’ Lab, with a research focus on the history of Native peoples. In particular, he looked into the kinship ties that bound or separated Native and European peoples in New France, New England, and New York during the 17th and 18th century. The audience quickly became involved in this workshop. Chris explained some of the concepts involved in a network, and then asked us to create our own network that connected the various members of the audience. After throwing out a few different ideas, Chris stopped us so we could discuss some of the things we had realized in our conversations: first, there are different variables that could be used to make a network, but we needed to identify the ones that would be most relevant in creating useful information; and second, that we should develop a method to identify not only connections, but the strength of those relationships. In the end, we decided that the three different types of string Chris had provided us with could be used to represent the frequency of contact between two people, thereby showing the strength of their connection. By the time we had finished tossing rolls of string across the table, down the table, and to our neighbors, we were able to see the relationship of all the audience members to one another. It was interesting to see how the group from W&L connected with the group from UVA and who the key people were, according to the network, in making connections between the two groups.

The second workshop I found to be intriguing covered digital editing and transcription and was taught by Catherine Addington. Catherine has been at the Scholars’ Lab for two years, first as the Makerspace Technologist from 2017-2018, and then as a Praxis Fellow during the 2018-2019 year. She studies colonial Spanish America, with a focus on transcription and the earlier editing of indigenous and Catholic religious texts by Spanish writers. Like with Chris’s workshop, Catherine quickly engaged the audience by beginning the workshop with a question: “How would you transcribe the first lines of the Declaration of Independence?” This was followed by a task: take out a piece of paper, phone, laptop, or anything else you can write on and transcribe those lines. As we finished, it became clear that a seemingly simple task quickly led to more questions: Do you include the (slightly odd) capitalization shown in the original document? What about the punctuation? Spacing? Line breaks? As the workshop continued and we began looking at other documents, questions like “Is that smudge in the corner important?” began to emerge. These types of questions became more and more difficult to answer, but they can still be important to the transcription process. We learned about the different theories behind digital editing (are you trying to transcribe the document as a whole – when the spacing and that weird smudge might be important – or just the text from a document – when perhaps only the capitalization is necessary) and the importance of identifying the audience most likely to be using the transcription. From there, developing a standard based on the audience’s anticipated needs is key. Creating a set standard and plan at the beginning, before any of the work is actually completed, helps to keep things consistent and prevent case-by-case decision making while transcribing the document.

The workshops, all vastly different from each other, provided for an interesting and unique learning experience for the audience and visitors. Thank you to the Scholars’ Lab students and faculty who allowed DCI 393 to participate in and learn from the workshops. We enjoyed our visits to UVA and look forward to future collaborations with the Scholars’ Lab!

– Kellie Harra ’18, Digital Humanities Post-Baccalaureate Fellow

DCI DH Event on campus Undergraduate Fellows

Capstone Presentations and DCI Celebrations

Join us on April 2nd for capstone presentations from the students in DCI 393. Over the course of the semester they have worked to develop their own projects, which also include digital tools that are integrated into and essential to presenting their work. Katherine Dau ’19 will be presenting her project titled “The Atlantic Current” and MaKayla Lorick ‘19 will be presenting about “The Black General.”

We will also be coming together to celebrate the (almost complete) first school year of the DCI minor! If you are a DCI minor, taking any DCI classes, or are interested in learning more about DCI and the types of projects completed through DCI classes, we would love to have you come join us. We will have snacks!

DCI 393 Presentations and DCI Minor Celebration
Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019
Digital Humanities Workspace (Leyburn Library Level 2)

DH Event on campus

Recapping the Women and Technology Forum

The Rewriting the Code: Women and Technology initiative held a forum on March 1-2 at Washington and Lee University to bring together speakers from a variety of disciplines to talk about how their work intersects with technology. The six women spoke on everything from how technology can be used to tell stories to addressing the wage gap to the role technology has played in promoting social justice. Throughout the two days, many W&L students, faculty, and staff dropped in to hear from the speakers.

Chelsea Barabas delivers the keynote address at the Rewriting the Code: Women and Technology Forum
Photo Credit: Shelby Mack

The forum began with a keynote speech by Chelsea Barabas in the evening of March 1. Chelsea’s keynote, which was titled “Dodging Silver Bullets: Understanding the Role of Technology in Social Change,” covered some of the research she has done investigating algorithms purportedly created to help increase equality in the tech industry. She also discussed the pervasiveness of the idea that tech is meritocratic and therefore any disparity between the number of tech-focused workers of different genders or ethnicities is simply due to ability rather than bias. The keynote was well-attended by both W&L students and faculty and staff who stopped by Northen Auditorium to hear her speak. If you missed Chelsea’s keynote, you can watch the livestream or read more about her visit here.

Day two began with a welcome breakfast, allowing speakers, students, faculty, and staff to mingle together while enjoying a healthy breakfast. The day truly began a short while later, with the first panel titled “Technology and Social Justice.” The speakers on this panel included Chelsea Barabas, Sydney Boles, and Stephanie Stelter, and it was moderated by W&L accounting professor Megan Hess. The three speakers discussed topics including how their work fosters social change, the role of technology in creating that change, tech skills they feel would be useful for the audience to know, and ways that people can promote social justice even if their current job does not directly lead to social change.

The next panel, “Making History,” included Logan Jaffe, Stephanie Stillo, and Diana Williams. This one was moderated by W&L history professor Molly Michelmore and included conversations on how each speakers’ work engages with history, the current state of history in our culture today, and the ways technology can be used to connect people to history.

The two panels were followed by a networking lunch, during which students were able to sit and eat lunch with a speaker. This allowed smaller groups of students to have more intimate discussions with the speaker they were sitting with. Some W&L faculty and staff also joined in for the lunch, which helped to create discussions that covered a diverse range of topics.

After the lunch, attendees got to hear from all six speakers as they discussed “The Best Career Advice I’ve Ever Gotten.” The panel was moderated by Kellie Harra, Post-Baccalaureate Fellow in Digital Humanities at W&L. The speakers covered everything from the best career advice they had received (or wished they had received) to addressing the wage gap in the workplace to activities they do in their free time that help with relaxation to overcoming the intimidation of learning and using technology. The audience was especially involved during this panel, asking questions throughout.

The day finished off with a panel on “Technology and Storytelling” which involved Sydney Boles, Logan Jaffe, Stephanie Stelter, Stephanie Stillo, and Diana Williams, with W&L professor Toni Locy, from journalism and mass communications, as the moderator. During this panel, the speakers talked about who they consider their audience to be and how they make that decision, the process that leads to stories being told, and the hardest stories they’ve had to tell. Throughout these conversations, the use of technology was discussed in relation to the types of stories being told.

The forum came to a close on Sunday morning, March 3, with some of the speakers, plus a few students, faculty, and staff members attending a breakfast at Niko’s Grille in Lexington. This allowed for one final opportunity to review the discussions from the previous two days and learn more from the speakers about their life experiences.

Throughout the three days of the forum, students were actively involved in the conversations, frequently asking questions of the speakers. The synergy of the speakers also worked to create a fun yet serious atmosphere, where learning and reflection could take place. We are especially grateful for the willingness of the speakers to join us and for helping to make the forum an exceptional event.

Report on Rewriting the Code by Annie Echols ’21

Rewriting the Code is made possible by support from: Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Class of 1963 Lecture Fund, University Lectures Fund, Digital Humanities Cohort, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Dean of the College, Dean of the Williams School, Department of History, Department of Computer Science, Department of Journalism and Mass Communications, and University Library.

– Kellie Harra ’18, Digital Humanities Post-Baccalaureate Fellow

DCI Event on campus

Report from Women and Technology “Coding 101” Workshop

[Enjoy this guest post by Jenna Marvet ’21, who attended the Winter Workshops held as part of the Rewriting the Code: Women and Technology initiative.]

On February 9, a group of young women from across W&L gathered in the IQ Center to learn together at the “Coding 101” workshop. Using a presentation based on the Netflix original series The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Professors Mackenzie Brooks and Sydney Bufkin started with the basics, answering questions like “what is code?” and “how do I use Python?” After that, we were eager to get started coding for ourselves.

Beginning with the classic program printing “Hello, world!” many of the women wrote their first Python program on From there, we moved onto variables, arithmetic, and string methods. Then came our first challenge: write a Mad Libs program. The user would input four words: a verb, a noun, an adjective and a curse word. The program would insert those words into a customized story, and it was necessary that we use string methods to ensure the curse word was in all capital letters and the first letters in the sentences were capitalized. Proud of their work, many participants swapped laptops with their neighbors to show off their final product.

Following a delicious lunch, we moved onto loops and conditionals. We tried out for and while loops, as well as nesting conditionals. As a final challenge putting everything we had learned during the workshop together, we programmed a Potion-Curse-Incantation game with rules based off of Rock-Paper-Scissors. We were engrossed in our work, trying to figure out the most efficient and effective way to code the program.

As the workshop came to a close, we reflected on how much we had learned in such a short time. Many of the students had coded for the first time. The support from the other women, Professors Brooks and Bufkin, as well as visiting computer science students, gave us confidence to try.

– Jenna Marvet ’21

DH People Project Update

Seeing W&L from a New Position

For eight months I’ve held a new title, no longer “Student” at Washington and Lee but now “Digital Humanities Post-Baccalaureate Fellow” in the W&L Library. In this position, I’ve contributed to the development of a new initiative called Rewriting the Code: Women and Technology, aided in the promotion of W&L’s new Digital Culture and Information (DCI) minor, and explored the university’s decision to adopt coeducation in the mid-1980s.

Rewriting the Code is a cross-departmental, collaborative effort which aims to inspire women at W&L to pursue majors, careers, and interests at the intersection of technology and the humanities. We started with two fall workshops, one covering HTML/CSS and the other on Python. After receiving double the number of applicants (60!) as spots available, we decided to host a second round of these workshops during the beginning of winter term. Coming up, we will be hosting a forum that includes a keynote presentation on March 1 and panel discussions on various topics, plus a mentoring lunch, on March 2. I have spent a significant portion of my work time aiding in the planning and execution of these events.

My work for DCI has primarily involved encouraging students, through the use of social media, to sign up for DCI classes. The goal is to have some of these students declare the minor after trying out the classes. In both the fall and winter terms, we have seen most DCI classes nearly full or at maximum capacity (and a couple with long waitlists, too!). It is exciting to see the enthusiasm students, and especially the underclassmen, have for DCI classes and the valuable skills they get to learn.

Researching the coeducation decision has allowed me to explore the vast holdings of W&L’s Special Collections. I have learned that it is very easy to begin skimming through documents in a folder, realize it is unlikely I will find any information related to coeducation within those documents, but be so intrigued by what I’m reading that I continue looking through it anyway. Nonetheless, the (re)discoveries that are made related to coeducation as I search through our collections is exciting for me and the other staff members who work in Special Collections. Although this project still has considerably more work to be completed before my one-year appointment comes to an end, before I leave I expect to have a website created with digital facsimiles of a variety of different types of documents related to coeducation and the experience of women at W&L more generally.

So, what is a post-baccalaureate fellowship? These types of positions are typically open to graduating seniors or recent graduates (those who graduated within the past one to three years) and are relatively short in duration (one or two years). Post-baccalaureate fellowships provide a great transition for students and recent grads because they offer the opportunity to gain hands-on work experience as well as mentorship from colleagues. For myself in particular, I believe that this position has been able to provide me with valuable experience as I transition from college life to the working world. Although I worked over the summers while in college, I didn’t have the “traditional” W&L internships, especially before my senior year. Instead, during the summer of 2017, I helped my mother remodel our house and equestrian property before selling it later that year. In my spare time, I worked for the government, visiting farms in the area to talk to farmers and collect data about their crops and livestock. While I felt that I had a productive summer in my own way, the feedback I received in interviews during my senior year was often along the lines of, “It seems like you are capable of accomplishing many things, but we don’t have enough solid examples of your ability.” This position allows me to demonstrate my skills through the projects I’m completing. While I did have a work study position as a student, I have considerably more responsibility now, aiding in the planning, organizing, and promotion of our various events and other projects on campus. Unlike with my work study position, I am able to be a part of these projects from start to finish.

Further, this type of position also benefits current students who get to participate in the events that are occurring through my work. For example, Rewriting the Code is a brand new initiative this year, yet over 60 women will have been impacted in some way through the workshops we held. Even more will benefit once we hold the forum in March. The coeducation project is also involving students to research issues important to them. Currently, a student is aiding in the development of a background story and oral histories on Asians, Asian-Americans, and exchange students (with a focus on women) to add to our collective knowledge about the impact of coeducation.

I also have discovered this fellowship to be an easier transition to life after college, as I’m already in a place where I am comfortable. Although at times it feels strange being an employee at W&L while still having friends who are students, much of the culture that I became accustomed to as a student is the same. This has made it easier to focus on my work tasks without being concerned about adjusting to a new company culture.

Although I have yet to decide where my path will take me after this fellowship ends, I feel confident in the skills I’ve gained and demonstrated through my position. I’m also excited about the impact of my work, in particular with the Rewriting the Code initiative. In the future, I hope to see more opportunities for other students to have experiences similar to mine.

– Kellie Harra ’18, Digital Humanities Post-Baccalaureate Fellow