Our trip to Scholars’ Lab at UVA definitely helped me form a clearer picture of what we are trying to accomplish in this class. It was especially helpful in getting us to think about the specifics of what we want to do for out project. The people at Scholars’ Lab gave us different ideas to think about and made it clear that we need to pick one idea and focus on that. Also that we cannot answer everything we would like to answer. We could focus on Ezra Pound and his relationships with editors of literary magazines or the probability of his alleged insanity. Or we could focus on his relationship with Tom Carter, or use the letters to look at life at W&L in the 1950s.
The trip also gave us things to think about that we might not have necessarily thought of ourselves, such as our intended audience. A project we created for W&L students would very different from a project we intended for a broader academic audience. This is something that could fundamentally change the project we decide to create, but it was not something I gave too much thought to before our visit to Scholars’ Lab.
The scope of our project is constrained by the time we have in the course, which is just four weeks (one of which is already over). The visit to Scholars’ Lab also helped out think about what is feasible and what is not based on the time constraints we are working under. For example, we realized that we probably could not digitize every letter exchanged between Ezra Pound and Tom Carter or interpret every letter in our project. The more feasible way to incorporate these letters and other materials (like Shenandoah) into our project is to think of a research question and use selected letters and materials we have to answer it.
This highlights the importance of research questions in digital humanities, especially with projects like the one we are creating in this course. A research questions is what will drive this project, and that is probably the case with most digital humanities projects. The research question helps narrow the scope of a project, which could easily become overwhelming with the amount of possibilities digital humanities provides. Instead of just a document or report, a digital humanities project can incorporate all different sorts of materials and link to other pages and projects and so a research question narrows the project to answering a certain question and makes it more comprehensible. This is true for our project and other digital humanities projects.