In common this week: Spring (break) into programming!

It has been fascinating to watch the activity on the Commons steadily over this semester as part of my work on this blog. In spite of the gravatars and the fact that many of the people who show up on the colleagues are colleagues, digital interfaces sometimes disguise the human work that’s being done here. Watching every week for what’s new and what people are doing has given me a sense of the way the Commons breathes, in a way. Right now it’s Spring Break at CUNY, so since mid-week or so last week, there’s been a slowing of work published. But we’re starting to see more, as people publish larger projects they’ve been pulling together over the break. It’s one of the many signs that social networks are, in fact, made up of people.

Perhaps in preparation for this week off, I noticed that quite a few people were talking about programming. Breaks are ideal times to work on that project that takes more time than is available during the relentless regular schedule. And, it makes sense that on a platform with the digital humanities in its ideological DNA, you’d have many participants interested in programming.

So this week, take a look at some of the programming resources folks are making available on the Commons (maybe you should try learning some code this week?) and also take a look at an easy, but effective, tool put together by one of the GC digital fellows using some simple code (inspiration!).

  • Rachel Rakov, a Computational Linguistics PhD student here at the GC, penned a wonderful and personal essay about how the perceptions of learning a program language are significant barriers to people learning.
  • The GC Digital Fellows as a program have been particularly supportive of people using Python, a language well suited to helping researchers parse data and create visualizations (good for STEM and the digital humanities). They routinely have events to introduce folks to Python but also have created an easy guide, in the tone Rakov suggests, for people who want to just dip a toe in the water for programming.
  • They’ve also compiled good lists of resources for those who are hoping to use their Spring Break (or any time) to learn to bend computational power to their will…
  • But what’s the use of all this without a flashy example? Patrick Smyth, a Digital Fellow, has put together a small app that allows you to see the impact of NEH grants in your neighborhood. Enter your zip code and adjust the distance radius to see grants in the neighborhood you select. It’s a good example of a way that data from a giant set can be quickly personalized for people. It makes a strong argument for the benefits of NEH grants while actually saying very little. It’s a personalized anecdote machine and has the side benefit of telling you about interesting projects in your neighborhood with which you can get involved or check out.

That’s all for this week. Next week I’ll be writing about Social Paper, the collaborative writing software developed for the Commons. We’ll have links to interesting in-process writing, but also discussion about how to use collaborative documents in class.

Until then,


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