Towards digital humanities: testing out some coding

Binary code by Christiaan Colen used with permission under CC BY-SA 2.0

Binary code by Christiaan Colen used with permission under CC BY-SA 2.0

My brain has been in a whirl much of the past three days as I’ve been following the twitter stream coming out of a major Australian library conference (VALA 2016) going on in Melbourne. I had colleagues from my new workplace presenting four different papers, two of which were on projects that fall into my area of responsibility so I was very keen to see the back channel reaction (here and here) to these in particular. I was really excited for my colleagues and see a great future for these two projects and likely spin-offs from them over the next couple of years.

Of course, you’re always thinking about the next conference paper aren’t you? This week I’ve been immersing myself in digital humanities literature as we seek to find another audience to talk to and learn from about our projects. It was a huge thrill therefore, to have some advice from the floor for one of our projects from @wragge, aka Tim Sherratt, a self described digital historian, web tinkerer, cultural data hacker :


This got me thinking – what might we include in such a section? My first thought was to make a note to get advice from people who know more about this than we do (after all, my last venture into learning about coding didn’t really end well.) Or…… could we just start figuring it out by playing with the tools we have been reading and hearing about all week out of VALA?

So this afternoon I did just that. I dived in and created my own exhibition of ‘things’ from Trove using my very own API key. I’m still not entirely sure I completely understand what I just wrote there – but with some expert instructions (and let’s face it, the code already written, just waiting to be tweaked) from Sherratt, I had a happy hour experimenting and developing some examples. I even had a go at embedding it into wordpress, as a ‘show’ rather than ‘tell’ and it sort of worked, but not well enough. Needs some nutting out I think.

It’s pretty darn cool.