This course has taught me a lot. To begin with, I was not even sure what “Digital Humanities” was before I took this course. Now I know that in involves a lot of data, and cool interesting displays of that data. Obviously, we learned DH is much deeper than cool interactive images and numbers. I think the biggest takeaway I got was the level of intricacies in data collection and presentation. We read many good pieces about data. I found the readings about meta data to be most interesting to me. I also found learning about the various websites and tools that are used for different DH projects to be extremely helpful in my understanding of the concepts of digital humanities. I feel like I’ve gained knowledge of many different topics in digital humanities that I can go back and explore on my own time after the course is finished (which I can’t say I’ve had the same experience in many other classes). I already had a some interest in digital topics around computer science and the internet so combining that with the study of religion was very interesting. I really enjoyed all the little weird websites that do non-conventional things like the Ai art creator and writer. I also enjoyed doing the projects for this class because they allowed room for a bit of creativity which was something I was not expecting. Overall, this class has given me new interests and pushed me to think more critically about technology and its relationship with topics in religion.
When I first started this course, I truly didn’t know what to expect. I couldn’t really give a solid definition of digital humanities. I understood that this course would likely use digital tools to explore the field of religious studies. The first class text we worked with, Observe, Collect, Draw!, made me question my original thoughts on the digital part of the course. However, after our first few labs and exercises focusing on collecting data in creative and unique ways, I began to understand the importance of understanding data in any research as well as analyzing data in the traditional sense. It also became clear as we explored digital humanities through various projects, encoding, working with visualizations, and content management systems that data could be easily manipulated and was subjective and open to interpretation. Specifically, I learned that while data is important to studying the humanities and in religious studies, it also has its limitations and needs to be approached objectively and with accessibility and sensitivity of different culture groups in mind. Finally, it was only after I began work on my final essay that it all came together for me in connecting all of the digital skills I learned with research in religious studies.
So now digital humanities for me can be defined as the use of technology to theorize, research, report, and share information on different historical, cultural, religious, and social questions. Digital humanities in religious studies can be used to research how data was historically collected, how data is currently used, and challenge any personal bias of researchers when answering questions related to religious studies research. The technology I learned in this course will be extremely helpful in how I interpret not only academic research, but any digital information and visualizations I encounter on a daily basis.
Digital Humanities has been pretty cool this semester and it totally deviated from what I thought it was going to be. At the beginning of the semester, I was genuinely concerned about this class requiring a ton of coding and learning to use applications and software systems that frustrated me in high school when i initially tried to learn them. That was not the case. I had a pretty bad understanding of what DH really was until recently. I think that at least according to my own definition, Digital Humanities is a more advanced approach to the work that has been and is done in the field of religion for as long as its been around. Moreover, I would define Digital Humanities as a more tangible approach to understanding the complexities of academia through the presentation of data that seeks to better represent large quantities of data. I found that I learned all sorts of cool stuff about APIs and Big data, I furthered my ability to do effective research, and most importantly, I learned how to input the things I’ve gathered in my research and put them together in such a way that I would be able to provide some really cool visualizations (I think). The greatest way to argue that this fits into the study of religion is simply to look around the department here at the capstone. For example, the projects we focus on in this class are great examples as they’re directly related to religion. Even further, the department focuses on its podcast and the faculty are undoubtedly critical components of projects like The Religious Studies Project and others like Uncivil Religion which both rely heavily on material derived from the skills we’ve developed in DH this semester.
Digital Humanities in Religious Studies has not been what I expected, and not in a bad way either. I thought we would be looking at religions or the concepts and theories of religion through technology and how technology can help assist one in such an endeavor. Rather, it was a critical approach to the concept of data and data collection in relationship to academic scholarship as a whole (across the humanities and even beyond). I have never thought, and I am most people have not either, that data and categorization could be individualized to such a great degree; Meaning, throughout the course we have studied the concept of data as a whole and have seen the amount of work that goes in to collecting, categorizing, presenting and explaining data. The interesting aspect of the collecting, categorizing, etc. is that all of it is done by people, usually groups of people. This course has reminded me what it means for something to be “objective”, namely objectivity is a category one places something in order to use it in a certain manner within society. Nothing can be truly set apart from bias or perspective. For instance we read Marisa Elena Duarte & Miranda Belarde-Lewis work called Imagining: Creating Spaces for Indigenous Ontologies where we looked at how categorization from a colonial perspective has misrepresented the Indigenous population to one degree or another. It shows that one must not be overly confident in the resources and ideas the read, even in scholarship. There are structures in place which have been there for so long that many people cannot see it anymore. DH is trying to lift the veil of scholars and those who read them by revealing said structures and working to create a better field of scholarship for academia and the future as a whole.
For my final project I am exploring religious movies and how they are made. Mainly I am looking into who is making the movies, where they are filmed, and who is representing the characters. My question is “Are religious movies accurately portraying people of faith?”. I ask this question because representational ethics is highly debated topic in film and television, this mainly due to concerns of type casting roles instead of choosing actors accurate to the people they are playing. One place I am stuck at is creating a heat map of where the films are shot.
My research for my final project is over, and now I am deciding how how I want to dissect the data. I have been exploring what Voyant can do with texts, since that is going to be the main website I use for my project. I thought about going through each of Plato’s books in the Republic and see what words are the most used in each section individually to help me see if there is a pattern. I noticed when I looked at all of the books together in Voyant as a long text file, I saw that the word “true” was used very frequently. I thought about going through each book and mapping out which words are used most frequently with “true” and see if I could graph them on one of the cites we used several weeks ago. I am not set on this, but it is a very viable option.
I have all data and information for my essay about my Scots Irish ancestors. One of my research questions is who are Scots Irish. Scots Irish are Scottish who moved to Ireland by potato famine and left for America in 1717. One of the visualizations I will use in my Scots Irish essay is map about where Scots Irish lived in United States. I would use maps and pictures on Scalar that I have on Omeka.
The question I am looking at for my project is related to the development and decline of Ostia in the Roman period through the construction, modification, and either destruction or abandonment of buildings in the archaeological record. I am also looking at how building use changed throughout the centuries. In my data, there is a pattern of construction that begins in the 2nd century BCE and grows until the 2nd century CE but sharply declines in the 3rd century CE. During the 2nd through the 4th centuries CE, modifications and buildings being largely repurposed after something new was installed in it, like a hall used for commercial purposes that became a bakery, increased. In the 3rd century CE, several buildings were destroyed or abandoned. There is evidence of a few modifications from the 4th century through the 6th century, but the data is much smaller than in the 2nd and 3rd century. Some of the buildings like the Garden Houses were destroyed in an earthquake during 3rd century but there is evidence that people rebuilt or were still using the building above the destroyed layer in the 4th century.
Dates and the function of the building are always kind of challenging because date ranges can be so large that they sometimes span multiple centuries and for some of the buildings, archaeologists either don’t know what the building was used for or there are multiple debates about what a building was.
When approaching this project, I chose to research the religious distribution in the United States. I was not only interested in the current religious landscape, but I also wanted to look at the history of how the dominant religions came to be in our country as well as what trends were predicted in the future with respect to religious distribution. I found that there was quite a bit of data on the historical formation of religions in this country. There was also a fair amount of data that was available for the current religious landscape. Many of the resources I found featured data collected through public research institutes and independent analytics/polling companies. I was surprised to learn that a pattern has recently emerged where a larger percentage of the population considers themselves religiously unaffiliated as well as a decline in those who identify as Christian. Surprisingly, numbers for the other two dominant religions, Judaism and Islam have remained relatively consistent in a steady increase over time. I still struggle with the Flourish program; however, I have found using the Voyant-Tools has been much easier. I also have found Scalar to be user friendly. Here is a Voyant visualization I plan to use in my final project.
For this lab, I choose to visualize the screenplay “The Last Temptation of Christ”. This is a film from 1988, written by Paul Schrader. The visualization is showing the which words are the most used in the screenplay. The largest word signifies the most used, while the smallest word is the least used word. “Jesus” was the most used word with 725 uses. From what I could tell, “turns” is the least used and smallest with 31 uses. Since this is a screenplay, and I didn’t filter out any words, words like “cut”, “ext”,”int” are used frequently as sluglines, but don’t contribute to the story itself, but rather as directions for the filmmakers. Jesus makes sense as the most used word, seeing how Jesus is the main character, meaning his name is spoken a lot in dialogue and used as character headings.