How to Know What You Don’t Know

I have always been stubborn, with most things honestly, especially when it comes to trying to figure something out.  Surrender is not in my nature.  Nor is requesting help (which is almost as bad as surrendering).  But as I have grown, I have realized that not everything is in my skill set, and that yes, sometimes I do need a helping hand.

I am the go-to tech person in my family. In part because I understand technology, or at least more than my parents, also in part because I am more willing to offer help than my brothers.  I cannot say which reason is the bigger pull in asking me. This notion and the notion that I always end up figuring my way around a laptop, no matter how many hours, lulled me into a false idea that I truly understand computers.  I don’t.

Yes, I understand Word and yes, I can figure out how to get around random loopholes (occasionally), but once lines of number scan across the screen asking for input data sets and coding, my eyes go crossed. Especially with this class, I am realizing more and more that I don’t really know as much as I think I do.  Can I accomplish what I need?  Yes.  Can I reprogram my lap top for better or worse or do some type of data analysis?  No, not in the slightest.  But that doesn’t mean I am not willing to try, and mostly fail, to learn more.

But this class isn’t just coding, punching in letters and numbers until something appears, it is also the connection between computers and what we know as humanities.  Humanities is a strange word with a definition that varies depending on the area of study that the viewer is familiar with.  As an English major, I tend to look at humanities through the physical scripture that a cultural group leaves behind or those that influence later generations.  These physical scriptures are seen in the forms of books, thoughts and theories, as well as artistic works.  But as a communication minor, I also perceive humanities through the language and interactions one cultural group might have with another.  In this version of study, it is necessary to see how different members of a cultural group not only view and interact with each other but how they viewed members outside their culture.

The interesting thing with humanities now compared to earlier societies is the advancement of technology. Originally, only word of mouth could bring information back and forth, but now at the click of a button, information can be sent relatively anywhere.  Telephones, but more importantly computers have allowed for this spread of information, thoughts, ideas, arguments, to anyone with wifi.  This results in the communication between people who might otherwise never have spoken.  This new communication source puts older conversations about humanities on its head because one culture’s new ideas might not stay within that culture. With the modern quickness of communication, ideas can be sprung around losing its origin source creating one universal humanity.

This is not to say though that we as a world are a homogenous society, that is not true for 100’s of years if not ever.  Cultures are deep rooted in their societies and although they do morph with time and introductions of outside ideas and values, it is unlikely to see one universal truth. On that same note, not every cultural group is included in this communication sharing.  Many places still lack universal wifi or have an infrastructure that limits what information can be consumed and what can be exported.  This creates a power dynamic of those in the know and those out of it.  Just as those who have the physical access but lack the understanding on how to use the technology.

If I look back to my parents, there are so much they theoretically wouldn’t be able to access if someone had not shown them how to use a computer, or their cellphones.  But they also would not have realized what they were missing.  The same can be said with my own laptop and my lack of knowledge about the hard drive and coding.  I am ignorant to the possibilities one with the knowledge might be able to do, and I never would have known without taking this class.  This begs the question, what else are we missing just because we do not have the knowledge to know else wise?

Technology: the Terrifying Tool?

Image from Chungkong Art
“Three billion human lives ended on August 29, 1997. The survivors of the nuclear fire called the war Judgment Day. They lived only to face a new nightmare: the war against the Machines.”

 

It begins, as always, with video games.

Back in 2003, on my fifth birthday, my parents got me a small gaming device called a “Gameboy”, a product that has since become somewhat defunct due to those “cell-phones” everyone seems to carry around. Poor five-year-old David was absolutely terrified of the thing. I remember just staring at that vapid black screen three-inch screen, the empty blackness unsettling me. Strange that I didn’t view TVs the same way, which were far larger and more imposing in their emptiness. Perhaps it was my role as an active agent in the life of Mario, or Sonic, or whichever gaming mascot populated the gaming cartridge that concerned me so. TV was just TV, something you watched. But being launched into a virtual world where I controlled what happened to that jolly Italian plumber in red and blue? Far too anxiety-inducing for me. I refused to touch the device for months, out of fear that Mario would die for good, or, even worse, that it would explode in my hands! Since then, I’ve maintained a healthy distance from any technology whatsoever, out of fear of its spontaneous combustion in my hands.

… Is that the future we face with “technology”?

Of course it sounds ridiculous to retroactively compare the worries of an anxiety-ridden child to fifteen years down the line, when technology has become such an intrinsic part of my own daily routine. Wake up, use the facilities, check email. Second on my to-do list. I’m sure this is replicated by the vast majority of the college campus. We need to be connected because everyone else is connected, and if you aren’t connected, then you’re going to get behind, you’re going to miss out on opportunities. Keeping my finger on the pulse of what is happening on campus and beyond has allowed me to stay in touch with our ever-changing world. As a humanities major with a vested interest in pop culture, it’s of vital importance. Our technology has become a massive fruit tree, where you can reach out and pluck whatever glob of knowledge you’d like to.

My knowledge of computer functions has always been of a fairly moderate level. I can usually cruise through a series of systems directories and find a file, or solve some basic computer issues (it usually helps to just turn it off and on again). I’d like to learn the mechanical aspects of my computers as well as how it functions in the humanities.

My computer has always been the device through which I experience whatever sort of medium I want. It’s a vessel that carries me from a place of ignorance to a place of knowledge. I discovered ambient and post-rock music because I was trying to find something that wasn’t distracting while I studied; I’ve found strange or off-kilter films from talking on discussion forums with people across the continent; I’ve connected with absolute strangers thanks to our mutual interests, sometimes those connections forming into long-lasting friendships.

I’ve grown somewhat attached to my past computers over the years. I like to view them as that friend who constantly supplies you with fun new materials or topics that pique your interest. So, of course, I give them all names (it makes it much harder to scrap the tech once it slows down). Russell, my weather-beaten, warhorse of a laptop, has saved me from however many sticky situations in my college career. I don’t view it (him?) as just a tool; it seems nobler than that, more elevated.

Sometimes, people say that we shouldn’t give names to our technology, that it’s only just a piece of metal and machinery. Well, yes of course it’s just a piece of technology; but so is a car, a house, a spatula, a microwave, even a book. We ought to be more appreciative of the things that we vitally rely on, to consider the amount of time, effort, and resources that was put into things that we take for granted. I took a class with the unmatched Dr. Ken Cooper last semester (the excellent “Conversations: Renewable Futures”) that discussed at length our inability to fully respect the things we consume. After all, our first instinct after we consume something is not “What happens to it now?” but “What will I get next?” Computers don’t really seem to be going anywhere, so perhaps it’s time to stop being so blasé in how we produce and consume them.

I was afraid of the Gameboy because I didn’t understand it; it was something unfamiliar, something that required self-assertion and independence to run. People are afraid of technology because it’s something that offers the possibility of human interaction without the flesh and blood involved, it’s something alien. But I don’t want to sit around and be afraid of a three-inch screen anymore. If this is going to be a part of our world, then I’d like to know how to use it, I’d like to teach other people that it isn’t just something to be afraid of, but something to embrace, to study, to realize the opportunities it gives us.

So guess you could say I like to maintain my respect for technology. After all, you never know when it will explode.

Using Computers to Join the Conversation

As a young adult in our technology-driven society who is constantly within reach of my phone and or laptop, and is able to easily use both to accomplish my daily needs, I came into this course thinking that I was highly proficient in the use of computers and technology. After the past few weeks, I have come to realize that I was wrong: there is a lot that I do not know about computers. While I had previously only used my computer to type documents for school such as papers and notes, along with using Google Chrome and occasionally Excel, English 340 has opened me up to an entire world of computing that I did not know existed. At first, using applications like Atom and Virtual Box was a daunting task to me, but working with both applications has gradually increased my comfort with these types of computational tools. I now realize that there is so much I have to learn about computers, and I’m excited to see the difference in my skills from now to the end of the semester.

Going beyond my relationship with my computer to examine the relationship between computers and humanities, I’d like to first define humanities. Humanities are the study of human culture and society, and in academic disciples include the study of languages, literature, philosophy, the arts, and other subjects that examine the human race. Coming into the course, when I thought about humanities and computers, the first thing that came to my mind was the use of computers in conducting research about literature. When I read the title of the class, “Literature Study in a Digital Age,” I assumed the digital part of the course would be doing research on computers about the texts we read. I thought we would mostly be writing research papers and pictured myself using search browsers such as Jstor and Google Scholar. I thought (and still do think) that computers are very useful in the field of humanities because they give people the ability to spread information on a very large scale: if I search a database like Jstor, I can find literature and scholarly articles from all over the world, as well as from many years ago. In this way, technology has a power to connect people from different places and times. Although places such as libraries gave people access to research before computers were widespread, online databases give people access to much more information than a library can hold. Digital humanities also provides a platform for less established writers, researchers, and scholars to share thoughts, ideas, and scholarly work. Instead of having to publish work in a traditional manner, platforms like blogging sites (including WordPress, the one I am using now), allow writers and thinkers to discuss humanities on a less formal basis. This leads me to a point that has been at the center of my academic career at Geneseo: having a “conversation” in English and the humanities. In high school, I wrote papers in which I summarized ideas I read in literature or in scholarly articles. Once I got to college, I was introduced to the idea of joining a conversation in literature, or the “they say, I say,” format, in which I was taught to summarize an argument I read about in a text in order to set up my own unique argument or ideas. Computers and technology give people like me a platform to share our “I say,” and join the conversation about humanities. While if computers did not exist, I could still write about texts and distribute it to others, my work would not reach nearly as large of an audience as it can through online platforms such as blogs.

These are some preexisting ideas I had about the relationship between computers and humanities, but after the first month of English 340 I have realized that there is so much more for me to learn. Before entering the class, I had never heard of coding, markdown, or plain text files. I’m excited to continue to learn how to use this knowledge in my study of the humanities. In our last class, we used Python to examine word choice in texts. Using a tool to see how many “z’s” or “e’s” were in Thoreau’s Walden was not something I could have previously imagined being able to do. I’m ready to continue to learn new ways to analyze text using digital resources and new computer tools to strengthen my ability to use technology to understand literature.

Better Understanding my Computer and the Humanities

In beginning this course, I honestly did not know what to expect. In reading the course description when I initially signed up, I believed I would be creating and running a blog around some readings we would be doing in class. In reading through the syllabus the day before our first class, I quickly realized it would be different than I expected. I believed that we would be covering how those who study the humanities were able to digitize a collection and how they collaborated through new technology. I imagined the class to be us studying how others were using technology instead of us actually being the ones doing it.

The humanities was a strange area for technology to be integrated, in my opinion. When I thought about the humanities, I found myself imagining a large library full of texts and a scholar hunched over a novel. This is may have been the case at one point but it certainly has changed since then. The humanities require collaboration. Humans have always had a need to work together since the dawn of time. Through collaboration, humans built the first civilizations and began to establish a way of life that seems familiar to us today. Most humans today cannot connect with nomads or hunting/gathering societies. We find our roots in Mesopotamia and Egypt in civilizations that have a structure similar to our own.

In studying the humanities, we look back on these early civilizations for answers regarding our beginnings. We want to understand how this all came to be. Well maybe only those who have chosen the study of humanity care about that question; every day people probably have other things on their minds. But regardless, there is a need to know. I believe the reason Google became such a mainstay in our lives is because people want to know. In a under a minute, I could be looking up the works of Rodgers and Hammerstein on my phone and reading about the cultural impact of the musical *Oklahoma.* Humans are constantly seeking answers to all of life’s mysteries or even the most basic questions.

This is why I now understand why technology is so important to the study of the humanities. We want to know and connect with others who share that same interest in the subject. Through collaboration, discoveries are being made with those who live across the ocean. The integration of technology has made it easier for ideas to spread and for new understandings of old texts.

In coming into the course, I saw myself as some sort of advanced novice. I was relatively able to figure out problems with my computer or how to set up programs on my machine through the process of trial and error or just flat out googling the problem. I wasn’t able to understand how to code or read binary but I was able to make something happen somehow.

Technology was a friend to me but it often left me confused and annoyed. I once lost a file for a paper that was due and I lost my mind. I was so upset that laid in bed and cried for a whole afternoon. Of course it was discouraging and I may have overreacted but once I calmed down, I went on a search for the file. The problem was that the auto-recovery feature for Word was saving the files to an obscure folder deep in my hardware. Tracking it down meant going into the containers of Microsoft Word and almost digging it out. Looking back on the incident, I am almost glad that I lost the paper. It was a short one and it hadn’t impacted my grade too much when I turned it in late. It taught me how to find files that were almost hidden within my computer and taught me to be much better about saving my files.

I think that while I’m fairly decent with my computer that I’m weak in fully using it. I am barebones with it and only using it mainly surface level. I would like to expand my knowledge further and understand what processes are being done to make it run. I believe this would make me a better computer user and that I could properly aid my machine if it were to get stuck. I believe more people should have a similar want. Technology is a necessary tool in our modern world. Much of the world is ignorant to the technology because it has developed so rapidly and it is hard to keep up. But I still believe there should be a drive for most people to understand their machine a little bit better than what our current average is. This would make us all a bit smarter and would maybe aid in our relationship with technology.

On Comprehending my Computer, Humanity, and even Myself

Prior to taking this course, I had a close but toxic relationship with my computer. This peculiar bond was formed through my experiences as a dedicated yet struggling physics major in the first half of my college career. In my freshman and sophomore years, my homework sets were posted and completed online and often required the use and mastery of programming software such as Mathematica, MatLab, and even Python. My computer followed me wherever I went until the device started to feel almost like a vital extension of myself.

Though I was very familiar with the aforementioned software, I never felt as though I truly understood what I was doing and I depended heavily upon troubleshooting and resources like stack exchange and friends to complete assignments. Additionally, due to my insecurities regarding my mathematical abilities, I became extremely reliant upon Mathematica to solve math problems for me and lost even more confidence as a result of this dependence. While some would have considered me adept at technology, specifically computers, I felt as though I never really understood what I was doing or why I was either able or unable to do it.

In my sophomore year, I took Geneseo’s interdepartmental programming class where the primary programming language learned was Python. Despite the warmth of the instructor and the generous support they offered, my comfort level in Python nevertheless remained low. I knew the terms such as string, list, and variable, as well as the different commands. However, I found myself unable to apply this knowledge and complete problems assigned in Stepik, the course homework site. Though I had the tools needed to solve problems such as the infamous Caesar Cipher, I felt frustrated that I could not consolidate my knowledge and deduced that programming, and computer science in general, just were not for me.

Then, at the start of my junior year, I realized that while I harbor a great interest in and love for physics and the sciences at large, my true passion is for English and the humanities. So, I declared an English major and named physics as my minor. Initially, I believed that my transition to the English major would effectively divorce me from my computer and end my tumultuous reliance upon it. In my general education humanities course, I only ever needed my computer for writing essays which I would then print and effectively bring into the physical, instead of the digital, world.

Furthermore, I had always associated computing with physics and math since these subjects relied a great deal upon computers and technology whereas I perceived the humanities to be focused on the texts, ideas, and objects of past human civilizations. However, this perception soon changed as I began the English major and became involved in discussing literature in the modern era while blogging about said literature and its connections with the many issues that humanity faces now and with those it has arguably always faced. Moreover, my involvement in this course and my introduction to the term “Digital Humanities” has further challenged my previous beliefs by demonstrating exactly how the digital world interacts with the humanities and how each entity benefits from and is informed by the other. Specifically, reading James Gleick’s The Information has been particularly helpful in demonstrating the symbiotic relationship the digital world has and has had with the humanities. Most notably, Gleick’s superb storytelling ability, a skill one might refer to as a byproduct of studying the humanities, allows readers to better understand the development and evolution of digital computing and communication.

On the other hand, digital tools like computers are extremely helpful when it comes to studying, analyzing, and appreciating the humanities. In class, we have already seen how we can use Python to analyze the word choice, particularly the percent of unique words used, in Thoreau’s Walden. In this way, Python serves as a tool that can supplement other methods of literary analysis to provide readers with a more holistic understanding of Walden. Additionally, the internet, a large facet of the digital world, allows for the texts of the past to be not only preserved but shared on a larger scale than ever before thereby granting more people access to the ideas and objects regarded as facets of the humanities. Furthermore, the internet provides a platform for which greater quantities of diverse stories, art, culture may be shared and appreciated.

While this class has already substantially challenged my belief regarding the relationship between computers and the humanities it has also challenged beliefs I had about myself and my own capabilities. Where I once thought that computing completely evaded my ability, I know now that I am capable of further learning and of applying the knowledge I gained through my experiences as a physics major. I am dedicated to shifting my relationship with my computer from an antagonistic and negative one to a symbiotic and positive one through the experiences I will gather in English 340.

Thinking and Living with Computers: Making a Digital Humanist

I can remember a time when I believed computer science and the humanities represented what Stephen Jay Gould would call non-overlapping magesterium. In other words, the two fields emerged from completely different epistemic origins; they had little (if anything at all) to do with each other. This had to be true. I hated working with computers, I became easily frustrated doing so, and I felt inherently different from those of my peers who found computing so natural. The TI-84 on my trig class desk would taunt me for 40 minutes a day throughout all of 10th grade. Meanwhile, I felt at home in my literature and history classes. I loved books, both for their readability and their materiality. I enjoyed my copy of Grapes of Wrath for both the story and the pulpy pages themselves. Hence, I began to develop a sense that computers had simply no place in my humanist education and, likewise, it made sense that my STEM focused peers would have such a distaste for reading books. I can remember this time because it was not too long ago. In fact, it wasn’t until last semester that I uncovered the deeply human nature of the device on which type right now.

Working with Dr. Schacht last fall on a versioning project about W.B. Yeats’s later poetry not only made me more familiar with my computer; it granted me access to a whole new plane of thinking about language. Writing xml documents for this project in Atom and Oxygen created a discussion between my computer and Yeats’s manuscripts. In this way, computers can be Rosetta Stones, engaging different languages simultaneously to present new ways of expressing similar ideas. While I was never one for computer based assignments, this kind of work reminded me of the fun I would have translating Virgil and Catullus in high school Latin. Both demanded a delicacy and respect for the texts. Perhaps the most exciting prospect of this work, though, was the potential of expanding the accessibility of the humanist education.

There is a momentum to digital communication. Too often, books remain on shelves or in the backpacks of disinterested students. By bringing humanist work to the computer, the probability of it reaching more people skyrockets. With social platforms abound, people will run into more and more content that (hopefully) reflects their interests and the continuation of sharing can go on ad infinitum. The self-organizing aspect of some internet tools can be admittedly quite scary and I am not even remotely close to grasping the behind-the-scenes activity of this kind of communication. However, I see a very democratic potential in all of this. One of my main focuses in creating a digital version of Yeats’s poetry was bringing the text to those who couldn’t access the pricey and rare Cornell Manuscript Series. This semester of work got me excited to do more investigating with my computer and ultimately prompted me to take English 340 this spring.

After a few short months of learning more than I had in the previous 20 years, I feel much more comfortable with my computer. However, I recognize the limitlessness of such an endeavor and realize that I may never master these skills which, in a way, is why computing is so similar to the humanities. We don’t seek mastery of literature, rather we read in order to read more; there is no endpoint. Similarly, the reading we’ve done until now will help us in the reading we look forward to doing. In learning xml I didn’t learn all coding and all codes, but I did come to understand appreciate the symbolic nature of such languages and learning one has certainly made learning the next easier. There is a logic to this. It is no mistake that themes in both my English classes and my STEM classes here at Geneseo can find their beginnings in that one philosophy class I took freshman year: Introduction to logic.

It would be a fallacy to say that I am much more comfortable with computing only as a result my humanities classes. Sure, literature helped me step into the cold water of this new way of thinking, but thinking of the two as overlapping has given me the confidence to dive deeper. Thus, while I may not always understand my computer, I am now all the more excited to try and figure it out. What I once saw as a walled-off territory of inaccessible knowledge I now see as an horizon that beckons for further exploration.

 

My Machine and I

I had never considered that Digital Humanities can act as a link between computing and the study of human culture. I’ve developed an array of computation skills over my lifetime and they have helped me find a platform to express myself, and also see the ways that others have expressed themselves. Our machines provide a means for us to access any kind of information we choose; whether it be a paper, photograph, or a song. All of these materials that exist online have been created by an individual who intends to document their personal human thoughts, relations, and feelings, and I love producing and sharing the forms of documentation that I have personally created; whether it is posting a picture on Instagram, or sharing a short story that I wrote on my blog. It is powerful and meaningful to be able to contribute to the collection of culture that exists online and to add to the mediums that help us study the human experience through our past, previous, and future selves. I have now become aware that Humanities enables us to understand others through their languages, histories and cultures, and it adds a dimension of questioning and deep thinking as we attempt to decipher the world around us.
While I do not have much prior knowledge about computing, I know that computers are very effective tools for research, recreation, and socialization. Computers are machines that allow us to access a seemingly infinite amount of information, which is crucial for discovering and developing new ideas. This is an essential tool for students, including me, but the appeal of computers extends far beyond academics. Computers are taking over. Not literally, but they are so widely available in the United States that it is difficult to avoid incorporating them into daily life. I don’t remember a time in my life where I was without a computer, quite honestly. Computers provide numerous ways of relaxing because they harness the power to play movies, television shows, and video games (or e-books, which are totally better, just saying). Finally, through communication technology such as social media and messaging services, computers allow us to stay connected to friends and family all across the globe. When I miss my family and my friends, they are just one Skype call away. This would have been practically unthinkable one hundred years ago, but today, the ability to instantly interact with people hundreds or even thousands of miles away has become accepted as the norm. Plus, the role of computers is immensely important even beyond my daily life, as governments and corporations rely on the power of computers to perform many of their administrative functions.
As a college student, my computer fills a critical niche in my daily life. I consider my computer to be an extension of myself, and aside from the fact that I rarely go anywhere without it; I use it to send emails, complete assignments, and compile research. My machine allows me to easily gather all the information that I may need for an assignment, and many professors assign online only work. Having my own computer is a lifesaver, as I always have access to it, which makes it rare to have to rely on a library computer or a friend’s. I am very aware of the fact that if I were to lose this computer, I would lose a vital part of my everyday world. When I need to unwind on the weekend or after a long day of class, I immediately make a beeline for my computer. My friends are always available for FaceTime or iMessage and my favorite shows are always on Netflix. My computer feeds into my online shopping addiction, and I have gained so much appreciation for online ordering and Amazon since coming to Geneseo. Personally, I have taken many of the functions that my computer can perform for granted. It is easy to type a paper on Google Docs and use the italics and bold buttons. However, it takes time to learn how to use markdown language, and insert the same commands yourself. It seems simple enough to create a journal on Microsoft Word or Pages, but it is extraordinarily different to keep a journal in Atom, a plain text editor, where specific functions are no longer automatic. I am thoroughly enjoying learning more about the machine that does so much for me. I think it is fair to say that my computer is an absolutely essential component of my life, and while it’s something that I can survive without, its absence would make life a lot more difficult.

Videos and Video Games

One of the biggest reasons why I chose to take this course was out of pure interest. An English course focused on technology? Sign me up! I was mostly intrigued on the idea of how Humanities, and English specifically, contributed to aspect of technology. Growing up, I always saw English as merely the study of history through literature, with high school as the biggest offender; William Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe, and Charles Dickens were merely seen as names to recognize with the occasional passage or two that needed to be read. Naturally, coming to Geneseo as an English major, this perspective quickly changed as I began to understand what the study of literature actually entailed. Despite this, I kept the mentality that computers were in a whole other ballpark than English. In fact, some of my classes reinforced this idea, with nearly all of my professors banning technology during class time, and all of them requiring physical copies of the texts we planned to use, the separation of the humanities and technology became normalized for me.

Depending on your definition, I could either be very knowledgeable about my computing skills, or a complete novice. I was never particularly savvy with the inner workings of a computer or its base functions. The most complicated function I have been able to accomplish, previous to this course, was to use the command line to find and connect the Public Toshiba printers to my laptop so that I could print from anywhere. As someone who grew up playing video games, I am much more proficient in using software than anything else when it comes to using a computer. Perhaps one of my favorite things to do in a video game is to add a modification to it. All mods are made by the community of people who play the game and depending on the popularity of the game, there can sometimes be hundreds, if not thousands, of unique mods made by different people. A great example of this is a game from the popular series, ‘The Elder Scrolls’, Skyrim. This game, which is a fairly typical role playing game set in the standard fantasy setting. In this game there will be a variety of non-playable characters including, people, monsters, and animals. One such animal is the ever-so-famous mudcrab. As can be seen below, one of the many mods you can install takes the crab and make him seem much more…sophisticated.

The free time I spend on a computer includes things other than putting top hats and monocles on crabs. I new hobby of mine would include the usage of video editing software. One of my longtime dreams was to take certain aspects of my favorite media, such as a TV show or movie, and combine it with something else. The video below demonstrates exactly what it is that I had in mind. For context, what you see is entirely from a trailer for the previously mentioned Skyrim. The sounds, however, are all replaced and are instead from the cartoon show, “Ed, Edd, and Eddy.”

As I have mentioned before, I play a lot of video games. Some people have game consoles, however I play a majority of my games on a computer and so have become very attached to my laptop. I care for my laptop much in the same way that someone would feel towards a stuffed animal or an old blanket. It is for this reason that I am always hesitant to take my laptop out of my room, especially when it’s for a class. Having my laptop be damaged or stolen is a fear that always creeps into the back of my mind whenever it is in a place that isn’t deemed secure by me.

My Relationship with Computing

       Coming into this course was one of the first times I truly had no idea what to expect, but I was undoubtedly excited to see what was in store. Truthfully, the main basis for my decision to take this class was because I needed an English class for my major, it seemed particularly attractive being a Monday/Wednesday class, and Dr. Schacht had a high “RateMyProfessor.com” rating. I would liken my relationship with computing to my relationship with mathematics. In middle school and high school, I was never the biggest fan of math classes, simply because I found them to be the most difficult. Whenever I could not figure out a problem I would get unnecessarily stressed out. However, on the same token, whenever I did do well in my trigonometry, algebra, AP calculus classes, etc., it was an amazing feeling that made me want to keep learning and do more math problems. This is the same way I feel about computers. I don’t know how to do a lot of things with my computer, and previous to this class, I often didn’t try to learn, because it would stress me out when I inevitably couldn’t figure something out. But whenever something works for me in ENGL 340 and I’m on the right track, it makes me excited and eager to explore more new apps, networks, features, tricks, etc.

        The extent of my knowledge and capability with computing prior to this class was essentially just using the basic social media applications that most people have on their phones, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. As for the applications I had installed on my laptop prior to this class, I only had two other than those that are pre-installed: Spotify and Grammarly. As for coding, the earliest and only previous experience I had with it before taking this class was the copy and pasting of HTML code I would do to create the theme of my Tumblr in middle school.

       Now, it is only the fifth week of this class and I feel that I have learned so much and am still learning new things every day, specifically with the software applications Atom and VirtualBox. Before using Atom in this class, I had not only never heard of it before, but I had never really coded before, let alone know the differences between languages we’ve used in class like markdown and HTML. Another topic that I never thought much about before this class is the relationship between computing and the humanities. I always subconsciously considered the two mutually exclusive, and never really considered how each contributes to the other. I find it very interesting and new that this is the first English class I’ve taken at Geneseo where I’ve used my laptop for more than just to take notes, write papers, or look something up. Our work in class along with our reading of Gleick’s The Information has made the relationship between the humanities and computing much more apparent to me. I’ve learned that the digital aspect of “digital humanities” allows us to expand the power, accessibility, and speed of the things that are already being done in the humanities, such as preserving the past, analyzing texts, communication, etc. Computing is a prominent contributor to the preservation and the progression of the humanities, and I am eager to continue to learn and expand my knowledge of the digital humanities in this class.

Me and My Computer: A Toxic Relationship

As far as I’ve ever been concerned, computers and general technological work have been a source of constant struggle and frustration. The first computer I ever owned, at the ripe age of five, was a 1999 Dell Dimensional. Bought at a neighbor’s garage sale, this piece of machinery is probably in a museum now, regarded as the slowest and most nonfunctional computer in history. This computer (which was sans internet due to my parents’ legitimate fear for me and my two brothers surfing the web precariously), was used primarily for the applications: Microsoft Word and Paint. The fond memories I have of this technological masterpiece we dubbed the “Kid’s Computer” (because of it’s lack of operation and it’s primary users being myself and my two brothers), are predominantly comprised of me spending the entirety of my allotted thirty minutes hitting the side of the monitor, slamming on the keyboard, and screaming just about every bad word I knew to really let the computer know how I felt. As you can probably imagine, having this be the start to my relationship with computers was not especially beneficial, as well as super annoying to my poor parents.
To get an image of what this bad boy looked like

In the fourteen years following, I have learned little about computers. I have always tried to avoid extensive use of these elusive machines. For the most part, my computer’s sole operation has been for online shopping. This strategy worked well for me for a while, but proved to be incredibly difficult, and quite frankly very frustrating to maintain when I started college. In my first semester of collegiate education, my laptop was mainly used for Microsoft Word and Google. Microsoft Word to type up important papers, and Google when I didn’t know how to perform a certain function in Microsoft Word. Whenever I needed assistance beyond Google, I would contact a close friend of mine (who builds computers for fun) or bother the associates at Milne Library’s CIT Help Desk for hours.

It was in a physics lab when I realized I couldn’t keep up this inability, and truthfully, fear to use extensive computer functions forever. In this lab, we were required to enter several data sets into Microsoft Excel and produce multiple different graphs and tables. While our lab instructor did walk us through basically every step, the lesson was fast paced (assuming that most people of college-age have used Excel before, a fair assumption to make), and apparently easy for me to miss one step and become completely lost. I called the instructor over to my desk a total of eleven times that day. Eleven times. I asked myself the question, “Is it acceptable to cry during a lab out of confusion and frustration?” About an hour in, I found that my personal answer was indeed: yes. After this incident that I’ve deemed the “Excel Debacle”, I concluded that I needed help. I want to work as an English teacher after graduating college, and in today’s ever changing technological world, it is essential that I learn basic functionality with computers.

While browsing Geneseo’s course catalog for the 2019 Spring semester, I came across this class: ENGL 340: Lit & Lit Study in the Digital Age. I didn’t know quite what this meant but knew that it would most likely have something to do with computers. This fact, of course, intimidated me. However, having known Dr. Schacht from a previous course, I knew that his passion for technology and indefinite willingness to assist his students may just be exactly what I need in my journey to learning how to use my computer more efficiently.

Upon entering said course, I learned quickly that I would learn much more than basic computational functions. In fact, our introduction to this course was focused heavily upon the “digital aspect of the humanities”. My instinct was to question this. Being a life-long lover of the humanities, and self-proclaimed humanist, I was dumbfounded by the correlation between the digital age and the humanities. How could something with such a strong focus in before computers were even a thought harmonize with the digital world? Throughout the introductory weeks of this course, I have learned the basic association between these two elements. Humanists are essential to technology in order to give humanistic meaning to the mathematics and computing that works behind the scenes in computers. However, I am admittedly still unclear of the deeper meaning of the connection of these elements. Nevertheless, I am excited about the prospect of what this class, Lit and Lit in the Digital Age will teach me about both the inner workings of my computer, as well as the humanistic relationship to the digital age. Hopefully, after the conclusion of this course, Geneseo’s CIT employees will be seeing a lot less of me!