When Did I Miss The Digital Humanities Boat?

Perhaps you are like me. You find yourself standing on the shore, scratching your head, wondering how the digital humanities boat could have left without your knowledge. Rest assured, if you are a college student in the humanities wondering when you should get on board, you should know that the ship has already set sail. Digital humanities, as defined by wikipedia is: “an area of scholarly activity at the intersection of computing or digital technologies and the disciplines of the humanities.” Recently I was required to read several articles about digital humanities for one of my history classes at Eastern Washington University. The old saying “the more you know the more you don’t know” certainly applies to what I experienced while learning about this rather complicated subject. However, one thing became crystal clear to me after reading these articles, if you are going to be a successful student, especially in the humanities, you had better get comfortable with using technology.

Perhaps ten years ago I first learned of the term “networking” from my stepdaughter. At the time she was recently graduating as an art major. Today she has a very successful photography business in Portland Oregon. One of the keys to her success is that she learned early on if you are going to become a successful photographer, your name needs to be out there in certain circles. You need to be connected. You need to be visible in your field. Fast forward to today and that concept is more important than ever. Today’s students, however, will need to work to build their “web presence,” which is a concept I had never heard before. It basically means how visible you are on the internet, what comes up when your name is searched.

So why should we care about “web presence. Miriam Posner, in the article Creating Your Web Presence: A Primer for Academics had this to say: “being visible on the Internet can benefit your scholarship, pedagogy, and even service.” The impression that I get from reading articles like Posner’s is that gone are the days of simply filling out an application, turning in your resume, and waiting for a call. She says that employers will do a google search to learn about their prospective employees. They will also check for you on social media. She even implies some employers have “search committees.” This is where a good web presence comes in. Posner makes several suggestions to give your on-line presence “a good spring cleaning,” as she puts it; you can fill out a Google profile page, check your facebook’s account privacy settings, and create an online profile on Academia.edu.. She says that a LinkedIn account is a must have. As well, she goes into detail about setting up RSS feeds “to stay on top of developments in your field.”

Another avenue for increasing one’s web presence is the use of social media platforms such as twitter. Liz Covart, in her article Twitter Strategies For Historians, states that twitter can be used “to increase awareness about history and your research and build your historian’s platform with twitter.” She goes on to explain how she uses a scheduling service that actually tweets for her. This is a service that she pays good money for. For myself, that seems right up there with paying money at a gas station for compressed air. However, I digress, the point is that platforms like twitter can be a great place to share information, collaborate, and connect with other historians. As well, a presence on twitter is often seen by potential employers.

Even though we may have missed the digital boat when it first sailed, there is good news. It is never too late to get on board. Up until a week ago, I had never tweeted, or posted a blog. Today I have my own twitter account and blog post. Not bad for a guy who never could correctly set the clock on my own VCR (that is a Videocassette Recorder for all you young folk). There are many ways that digital learning is impacting our education and our employment. The way we conduct research and share it with others, and the way employers learn about potential employees through their web presence and social media platforms are just a few of the changes that have been taking place. If you are a student thinking about a career that involves the digital humanities, my advice to you is, ALL ABOARD!

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