DH Undergraduate Fellows

Hello World! I’m Abdur ✌🏾

Hey everyone! My name is Abdur Khan and I’m a senior from Perrysburg, Ohio. I’m a French major, originally pre-med but I think it’s time to declare myself on the DH path instead.

When I came to W&L, I accidentally got into the habit of taking classes that connect really well with each other. One semester, my intro biology class was about drugs and how they act, and I also took a psychology class about psychoactive drugs. Another semester, genetics and biochemistry overlapped just as well. Last winter term, I took intro to programming and learned the basics of programming with Python, while for my French class, I learned the basics of HTML, CSS, and XML. This latest overlap is what really brought me to the digital humanities. I was aware of the field and I vaguely knew what it involved, and even had friends taking the intro course, but I never really realized what “digital humanities” really meant until I started exploring it for myself.

Lately, it seems like everything I do is centered around technology and computers. I worked at the ITS HelpDesk over the summer and worked with Professor McCormick on his Huon d’Auvergne project. I’ve never really thought about this but it was interesting working on two different aspects of technology. There was the hardware and the professional side at work, and during and after, I would work on the software and the academic side of things. There’s not as much overlap as you’d expect between the two sides, but having those experiences has been extremely valuable and I think they’re steadily pushing me towards a career in technology. My command of Python and knowledge of command line (hacking stuff) has already come in handy. I wrote a script in Python, with a lot of help from Brandon, that made my work with Prof. McCormick easier, and later wrote another code that simplified another process for us. Writing my own code that wasn’t for an assignment for a comp-sci lab was honestly exhilarating, as nerdy as that sounds. I can’t remember applying knowledge from a class and using it the same way for a practical solution, so doing that for the first time and now doing it on a regular basis makes things feel real in a way that being at college hasn’t before.

Getting so heavily involved in DH so fast makes me think that I should keep exploring the opportunities in this field. That’s why I applied for a DH fellowship and how I wound up writing an honors thesis that’s about half DH-based. I’m really excited to keep learning about the digital humanities and their applications and I’d like to see where they take me after graduation.

Announcement Undergraduate Fellows

Call for Participation: Undergraduate Fellowship Program

Call for Participation

DH @ WLU seeks applications for two Mellon Digital Humanities Undergraduate Fellows for the 2016-2017 academic year.

We’re looking for students who are curious about the ways that technology affects the world around them. You don’t have to be a software engineer to build a website or visualize data, but comfort around technology can set you apart in the job market or graduate school. The goal of this fellowship program is to give students the opportunity to develop technology skills and share what they’ve learned with others. This fellowship is broadly-defined and flexible to meet student skills and interests. Applicants without prior DH coursework are welcome to apply, but they will be encouraged to undertake a practicum project during the first semester of the fellowship to develop their technical skills in consultation with the digital humanities faculty.

Fellows will receive $10/hr and are expected to work 4-8 hours per week. Fellowships last one academic year but may be renewed. Fellows will report to Mackenzie Brooks, Assistant Professor and Digital Humanities Librarian.

Applicants should submit a statement of interest by May 31, 2016 to Mackenzie Brooks at

Position Description

Depending on their skills and interests, students will be expected to perform some the following:

  • Serve as lab assistants in DH courses with lab components or DH studio courses.
  • Staff the future DH Space (potentially after working hours) and serve as tutor/mentor for students seeking assistant on DH assignments.
  • Participate in outreach activities with and without DHAT/DHWG members (ex: visiting classes, connecting with student groups, presenting at conferences).
  • Contribute to the DH @ WLU blog on a regular basis.
  • Develop personal DH research projects or contribute to library DH projects.
  • Collaborate/mentor with other fellows or student groups on specific projects.


  • Willingness to engage with technology (prior experience not required).
  • Interest in humanities and social science-based research questions.
  • Comfort with independent research and skill development.

Statement of Interest

Your statement of interest should include the following in one page or less:

  • Your (prospective) major(s).
  • Your fall term schedule and availability.
  • What you hope to gain from this fellowship experience.
  • Your interest in digital humanities methodology, as it relates to your scholarship and your own skills/experience.

This fellowship program is made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Undergraduate Fellows Winter 2016

DH Project Update Undergraduate Fellows

Lasso-ing the Laisses: A Digital Journey Through Annotations, Javascript, and More!

Guest post by Sarah Schaffer ’16


Hi, my name is Sarah and I am a senior Business Administration major with a French minor. This past semester of independent study I worked with Professor McCormick on his current Huon d’Auvergne project. You may be wondering: “What is a business major doing here?” but in the spirit of a liberal arts college I’ve taken advantage of the wide variety of classes offered here. My journey with Digital Humanities began Winter 2015 when I registered for Professor McCormick’s class French 341: La Legende Arthurienne, which included a Digital Humanities lab. It was in this class that I became fascinated with TEI and how Digital Humanities have transformed our interactions with various works.

Before Digital Editions

The first step of research was to understand the importance of the work itself, before it becomes a digital edition. Through reading both the books Introduction to Manuscript Studies and On Editing Old French Texts, I began to better understand the work that Professor McCormick was doing. As someone without much background knowledge of historical manuscripts, it had never crossed my mind to consider even half the elements discussed. Each element, such as the writing support it’s written on, the manuscript errors, corrections made, and annotations, add to the way the document is understood and interpreted. Every new edition of the work needs to take into account the editor’s personality and what they chose to include or exclude. Each component plays such a huge role in editing and choosing what to display on the digital edition that is being presented. This makes choosing what to include even more important in the way that the text is being displayed and available for interpretation.

Theory of Digital Editions

As I moved from my readings about the physical documents themselves, Professor McCormick and I discussed Peter Robinson’s article “The Theory of Digital Editions.” Digital editions in their infancy tried to include everything, but quickly found that resources are limited which restricted what could be included. However, what digital editions can do is include a new level of involvement with the document between both the reader and the editor, something that is not possible with a printed document. Unlike a primary document or editorial text, a digital edition allows the reader “to see the text of the document construct itself, layer by layer, from blank page to fully written text” (Robinson 110). The article and discussion with Professor McCormick opened my eyes to the idea that the text-as-document is intimately linked to the text-as-work within the digital edition.

Putting Ideas Together

While learning about digital editions, I researched the different ways other digital editions included annotations, the platforms they used, and the way their works were displayed. I spent a large amount of time looking through various digital editions and searching through DIRT for tools we could use for the final website. We looked into using as an annotation tool, but it didn’t quite provide the functionality that we were looking for. Eventually after researching and working with various different platforms, we decided to build our own system, using Ruby on Rails. Instead of trying to tailor an already made platform to the project’s needs, creating a new system allowed for the upmost customization.


If I could look at different examples of digital editions and click through them all day, I would, but at some point I needed to come up with some ideas on my own. Based off of various other editions, understanding the history and theory of digital editions, and being aware of what Professor McCormick was looking for I got to work. The best way to begin prototyping is just sitting down with some blank sheets of paper and a pencil and draw out what to design. So, I got to work sketching out several ways the website could be organized. Once I had one or two ideas down, I found more ways to organize the various laisses and show functionality as well. A laisse is best defined as a narrative unit, similar to a stanza but varies in length. Each version of Huon d’Auvergne has a large number of laisses, which makes the organization and display of them even more important. Below you’ll see some basic prototypes created for the display of different versions of Huon d’Auvergne laisses and the annotations.
Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 9.56.27 AM


The final step of my project was to begin building the prototypes that I had created. Luckily, I’ve had some experience coding in Professor McCormick’s class before, as well as during some business classes so the task didn’t seem too daunting. I got to work on learning javascript and jQuery through the courses on Codecademy – a website I highly recommend if you’re trying to learn a new coding skill. Once I learned the basics, I did a quick review of HTML and CSS to prep myself for creating a mock-up website. I forgot how intimidating it is to stare at a blank text editor, but once I got started it didn’t seem nearly as daunting.

Gif of frustrated woman staring at laptop

I worked with basic text generated from Lorem Ipsum in order to more easily put my new coding skills to work. After setting up basic structural parts of the website to work with, I added some CSS styling. I then continued with the javascript portion of the website and worked through hiding and revealing the different laisses. I struggled with this part the most because it was such a new skill. Much like learning a foreign language, every new programming language takes time and effort to work through figuring out a solution.

Reflecting on the Semester

Overall, this past semester has been a great learning experience. Beyond the new skills that I learned, this opportunity allowed me to take my liberal arts education beyond the classroom and apply it to a really unique project It was an honor to work with Professor McCormick’s team and be a part of such an incredible project.

Work Cited:

Robinson, Peter. “Towards a Theory of Digital Editions.” The European Society for Textual Scholarship 10 (2013): 105-31. Web.

Undergraduate Fellows

Reflecting on the Fellowship  

The culmination of my time under the Mellon Digital Humanities Undergraduate Fellowship semester has been my website titled Refugees of Germany. This process has…

Given me space to design something from scratch (i.e. Ruby on Rails and Python). Not having studied computer science formally since high school, it has been incredibly formative to learn about the process of website design, and even get my feet wet in learning some code. In doing so, I was able to collaborate with friends in the computer science department who were extremely helpful in the structuring of the back end. I attribute my basic HTML and CSS familiarity and knowledge to a crash-course provided by Mackenzie and Brandon, and I was able to subsequently take advantage of
Codecademy, which I highly recommend to anyone trying to learn programming.

Allowed me to delve into the Syrian refugee crisis and better understand its history, magnitude, and implications. All of this was accomplished in the research that led to the creation of the digital timeline now featured on my website. Approaching my summer with this perspective is something that I can now reflect on as a crucial step in preparation for my time in Berlin.

Prepared a skeleton that will alleviate my work in Germany: I can wholly focus on conducting interviews, analyzing major themes, and representing these online. The weeks and months spent this semester have allowed me to accomplish the goal I set out for myself at the onset of the semester. I now have a container that I can fill with data I acquire this summer. The website can now serve as a platform for all of my research, and can be easily updated in real time!

Endowed me with respect for the power of images and storytelling via an online media. Reading and learning about the Syrian Civil War and the stories that accompany those who experienced it have had a profound impact on me. It has reinforced my motivation and endeavor to get to know those who have been personally affected by projecting their voices and stories, getting to know them better, and hearing their side of the story.

Humbled me with the recognition of the way the virtual can impact reality, and how we all can have an active part in telling history. Ultimately, what we experience through a website can fundamentally change how we behave and perceive reality. I believe that the information filtered through Western media has been incredibly one-sided and “self”-oriented. Hearing from both refugees and Germans on the ground and portraying those experiences on my website so that they are perceivable to all is a fascinating concept, and one that I believe to be increasingly important. We all have a role in telling our own history and understanding others’ histories as subjective truths.

Due to a technical glitch, the live site is no longer available. I have pasted below some screen shots including a brief glance at my summer’s work. Please feel free to contact me ( if you have any questions or would like to hear more!


Event on campus Project Update Undergraduate Fellows

A Whole New World: Digital Projects with a Global Perspective

A Whole New World

Thursday, April 7, 2016
Center for Global Learning
Room 211

Join us for project updates from three students conducting independent digital humanities research this term. In this poster presentation-style forum, students will present on the content of their research – 1920s Africa through Western eyes, the refugee crisis in Germany, and a Franco-Italian romance epic – as well as their methodology – HTML, CSS, PHP, Ruby on Rails, and Javascript. Refreshments provided.

Lions, Jungles, and Natives
Arlette Hernandez ’18
Mellon Digital Humanities Undergraduate Fellow

The Refugees of Germany
Matt Carl ‘17
Mellon Digital Humanities Undergraduate Fellow

Huon d’Auvergne Digital Edition
Sara Schaffer ‘16
Independent Study with Prof. Steve McCormick

This program is sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and a Dean of the College Cohort Grant.

Undergraduate Fellows

“What’s a ‘Digital Humanities’?”

If you would have told me a couple months ago that I would be building a website, I would’ve probably laughed. I have the utmost respect for people who work in computer programming, software, web-design, etc., but I also know my place as a scholar and that’s as an essay-writing, theory-reading, English major whose most creative project was a non-fiction short story about her mom’s best friend.  A few months ago I would’ve probably asked you, “What’s a ‘digital humanities’?”

All this is to say, my experience on this project has definitely opened my eyes. While I still love traditional humanities methodology, there is something really compelling about the Digital Humanities–for me, probably the idea of projects rather than papers, and the possibility of sharing ideas at a level beyond you and your professor or you and your classmates.

My project is nowhere near being done, but considering what I started with–an empty page painted by a theme I didn’t really care for–I’ve come a long way. My main focus so far has been on appearance and functionality, involving heavy manipulation of codes I had never even heard of before. I’ve been working closely with my supervisors to change a lot of the elements that make me unhappy and I’ve learned a lot about what elements work for web design and which don’t. I’ve also been picking up on the coding language. Now, things that would’ve taken me several days to accomplish only take a couple of hours.

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 12.10.29 PM

This is an example of a page I’ve been working on. A few months ago, I wouldn’t have put much thought into what it takes to achieve this. I would have taken it for granted. To get to this point took hours of digitizing files, cropping and straightening images, transcribing captions, fiddling with the CSS, playing around with the PHP, and countless trials and errors. And then of course there was the occasional aggressive sip of water and the $1.50 investment in stress-relief chocolate from the library vending machine.

I think the biggest take away has been the realization that it’s one thing to want something for your website, but it’s another thing to actually get it; and getting it involves some frustration, but even more importantly, determination. Almost anything is possible so long as you’re put the work in.

For the next couple of weeks, I’ll be working on getting the website looking and functioning the way I want. I think the goal is to get the general container looking as good as possible, then once that’s finished, I can focus on actually filling it up. Another goal is to start building the map. As I upload more and more photos onto my website, I’m going to start connecting them to different points and locations so that by the end, I’ll have at least one exhibit completed.

Undergraduate Fellows

Wikipedia: telling history in real-time

Wikipedia has always been one of those “off limit” online resources. For years, I have been discouraged in using it as a reputable source. In constructing the timeline of the refugee crisis, however, and understanding that any source is subjected to a bias from the individual who reports the information, I have found Wikipedia to be remarkably helpful and profound in its own unique right.

At the most fundamental level, history is a collection of information. An objective perspective of telling history would be to discover and relay the Truth of events transpired. While information itself certainly exists objectively, it is only through the subjective processes of human interaction and experience that Truth becomes information. At the point of translation from Truth to information, the objectivity of Truth is thus subjected to the unique experience or interaction of its observer. It is thus possible that a number of “true subjective truths” exist. History is the result of assigning information (i.e. subjective truths) meaning through a variety of media, thus compounding the nature of the subjectivity through which information is filtered.

Wikipedia is one of the most effective media in bridging together a vast network of information while simultaneously offering its own narrative with immediacy. In doing so, Wikipedia allows for quick access to information (whether “reputable” or not), and produces a story that accounts for many subjective truths. To me, this seems to be the most powerful tool that history has at its fingertips: a platform connecting a vast array of networks and experiences in real time.

In my research, Wikipedia’s citations have been extremely refreshing. The starting point in understanding a story perhaps starts with a literature search. Where does the non-journalist begin, however, as events transpire around the world? The Internet has allowed for the almost simultaneous transmission and communication of information. Thus, understanding historical events from a variety of perspectives is increasingly important. With a google search of “Syrian Refugee Crisis,” a browser ends up with these options. Selecting the Wikipedia story, one immediately has a variety of hyperlinked options, one of which directs the user to a timeline of the refugee crisis. From here, the course of events is plainly laid out. The short descriptions are layered with citations and hyperlinks connecting a variety of historical accounts.

Consider the day that is largely considered to have sparked protests that led to the Syrian Civil War: March 6, 2011. The Wikipedia page reads:

6 March, in the southern city of Daraa, fifteen[6] teenagers were arrested for writing “the people want the regime to fall”[7][6][8] on walls across the city. Supposedly the military police tortured them,[7][8] or had carried them handcuffed out of their classroom.[6]

Note that each statement is verified and linked to source(s) (6, 7, and/or 8), most of which derive from news agencies in the U.S. (e.g. NY Times or Washington Post) and around the world (e.g. Spiegel or BBC News). In considering Wikipedia’s narrative, one is forced to contemplate the validity of numerous other narratives. In the passage above, three different articles are used which have coinciding accounts of teenagers having been arrested by Syrian authorities and subsequently harmed on March 6, 2011. Ultimately, as I have emphasized in a previous discussion, in constructing my own narrative, I am less concerned with discrepancies in numbers and statistics, and am directing my efforts towards understanding what happened and what did not happen. What is striking to me about this historical account is that it was a group of teenagers standing up for a cause in which they fervently believed who incited an egregious civil war that has witnessed the greatest migration since the end of the second World War. This profound determination may never make its way into a history book.

Finally, while a major component of my experience in Germany will entail reflecting on the current sentiments of refugees and their transition to Germany, I am also interested in mapping the crisis. To do so, I intend to utilize a digital story mapping tool that I will employ on my website. This component of my project will likely be the final of this term before I leave for Germany.

Undergraduate Fellows


Working on my project the past weeks has been eye-opening in many respects. I found that operating within WordPress’s framework, my ideas were reduced and confined to preexisting templates and themes. I have since spent time learning the basics of HTML, CSS, and have collaborated with a good friend and computer science student at W&L, Mitch Olson, to begin the structuring of the website from “scratch.” Thus far, the website has been written in the web application framework Ruby on the Rails, however, we are in the process of transferring this into Python, a programming language with which Mitch and I are both more familiar.

In the meantime, I have begun my investigation of the history of the refugee crisis, focusing my attention primarily on the roots of the Syrian Civil War. The art of telling history is profound, and using the internet as a medium through which to tell history is of particular interest to me. I began my research by reviewing articles written during the start of the uprisings in Syria in March of 2011. By cross-referencing articles from major newspapers, I have begun to uncover events which are of great significance in the history of this crisis.

In piecing together the historical puzzle of the Syrian Civil War and the refugee crisis, I have been prompted to contemplate the purpose of my endeavor in telling this history. What is the purpose of history? In my initial approach, I gravitated towards a history of “truths”, or facts, and of numbers and figures as a means through which one can best tell a convincing story. I have come to realize, however, that objective truth in history is a moot point, in part because I concur that the only truths that exist are subjective and unique to each individual’s experience. Thus, I will tell a history of personal experience, focusing on occurrences rather than numbers, and using the the internet to unify different virtual media through which a viewer can begin to understand the reality of the transpired and transpiring events.

DH Undergraduate Fellows

Construction, Digitization, and Future Plans

A lot has happened since my last blog post. All of it progress, though some of it slow.

So far I have a developed a general appearance for my website, a semi-completed home page, a completely digitized diary, and a digitized photo album.

Before experimenting with the CSS, I drew sketches of how I wanted certain pages to look. In general, I wanted the website to follow a minimalist design that was also functional. I wanted the homepage to have a floating navigation bar with the title underneath in bold letters, a banner image, a short description of the project, and then boxes lining the bottom of the page which would take you to central parts of the website. The idea of the boxes was partially inspired by the Prism website developed by the Praxis team at the University of Virginia’s Scholars’ Lab.

Currently, I am using a simple black and white color scheme with shades of gray and navy. I think this structure sets up the color scheme for the photo albums and ensures viewability. Yet, as I continued to edit, I realized that while I got my colors right, other pieces of the puzzle were not quite falling into place. The specific layout I wanted for my homepage hindered the user experience of the rest of the website. Part of this is because I want a banner image on the top of the page that gives the user a sample of the collection. But when navigating the rest of the website, this image often gets in the way.

We fixed this problem by creating a separate HTML page that would house the homepage while the rest of the website would work with the same Omeka appearance, sans banner. Here is what the top of the page looks like so far.


Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 3.21.48 AM

Our next goal is to add an efficient navigation bar that lines the top of the page throughout the entire website.

Regarding the collection materials, I have scanned all 50 pages of the mother’s diary and cropped the photos. I have also scanned, straightened, and cropped the first photo album which consists of 96 black and white images.

The next step is to begin uploading the materials as items to Omeka. The individual photos will fall into their own collection and the same goes for the diary pages. However, thanks to a plugin called Scripto, the website will also give users the option to interact by transcribing the pages.

Moving forward, we plan to edit the webpage’s layout for the diary pages because the default Scripto structure is confusing. The ultimate goal is to produce a set-up similar to that of DIY History.
Furthermore, I am halfway done scanning the photos in the second album and should be able to upload those photos very soon.

Undergraduate Fellows

Piecing Together the Puzzle

Let me begin by announcing we have finally received the Hills family diaries that accompany the photograph albums! The father, Professor Hills, did not keep a journal, but his wife and daughter both kept diaries.

Moreover, since my last post, I’ve been working on sharpening my understanding of how I want my project to take shape. Particularly, I’ve been focused on a guiding argument and type of interface.

Colonialism still plays a huge role in my project, but I’ve also been considering ideas of regulation, objectification, voyeurism, and what Curtis Keim likes to refer to in his book Mistaking Africa: Curiosities and Inventions of the American Mind, the “Real Africa.” Specifically, I’m looking at the ways photography, film, and words, regulate our ideas of what we envision as the “Real Africa.” This Real Africa is a space rampant with tropes and stereotypes that make a spectacle of difference and deny Africans agency through practices of objectification. I want to show that even this collection of family vacation materials is not neutral. Rather, there is a particular function it serves in a broader social and historical context.

To articulate this point, there are several projects I want to incorporate into a larger exhibit. The webpage I am constructing uses Omeka as an interface, allowing me to separate my materials into a neutral collection with raw materials and a processed collection with an analysis of my findings. These are some of the main projects I aim to achieve:

  1. Digitization of materials (scanned photos, transcribed diary pages, mp4 files)
  2. An interactive map of the journey, tying the materials into a singular, cohesive, and visual narrative
  3. Trope mapping (which may take several shapes)
    1. Trope frequency through a word cloud
    2. The relationships between tropes with the inclusion of examples (picture a spider web map)
    3. Historical tracing of tropes and connections to hierarchy (how a history of colonialism has constructed Africa as a continent of different and singular representation)
  4. A virtual reconstruction of Africa as imagined by the Western eye

The fourth project I listed is very tentative and largely dependent on time constraints. However, I’m going to try to be as thorough as possible. I also want to make a point of demonstrating why exactly my project is important, so I will have a section discussing the consequences of misrepresentation.

I’m really excited about using Omeka, I think the layout will help streamline variation, pull everything together, and section it off in an accessible way. One of the Omeka based projects I’ve been admiring is Swarthmore College’s Black Liberation 1969 Archive. Finally, some of the software programs I’m looking at to help me create the individual projects are Neatline and Bocoup data visualization.