What I’ve Learned in ENGL 340

Looking back on the course of this semester, I honestly think that I have learned more new and interesting things in this class than I have in any other class I am taking. Taking this class definitely required me to work outside of my comfort zone in a way I have yet to within the English major, and in doing so, I have gained a lot of new knowledge and skills that I am very thankful for. Three new things I have learned that I would like to speak specifically about are how to use Atom and Virtual Box, specifics about the topic of copyright, and the relationship between technology and the humanities.

Firstly, as I mentioned in my first blog post, I never knew much about computers prior to this class, other than my use of social media apps like Facebook, Twitter, etc. Now, I know how to work both Virtual Box and Atom to an extent I never thought that I would. Specifically, I learned how to work in WordPress in Virtual Box. I learned how to edit an earlier text post I made by going to plug ins, then install, then activate. Next, I went back to my timeline spreadsheet in google docs, and then I grabbed the code from “Embedded” in the timeline website and pasted it in word press. Finally, when I clicked publish my timeline that I previously created appeared on my WordPress page. Here, I learned how to combine four different web applications or softwares (google drive, timeline, virtual box, word press), and then I used atom to update my journal documenting my experience. This is just one of the many things I learned about Virtual Box, including the many commands in the terminal window.

However, not only did I learn a great deal about technology and certain software applications, I also learned about a topic I previously knew little about, which is the topic of copyright and copyright laws. Prior to this class, I did not know about the law that an artist’s copyright on their work lasts until seventy years after they have passed. I also think the class discussion we had about the topic was very interesting and raised many points I had not thought of before, like the fact that even Shakespeare’s most famous works borrowed ideas and plot points from earlier stories. This conversation taught me very much about literature and its legacy and how copyright deals with that relationship, and that information will stay with me for a while.

Lastly, I have learned a lot about the relationship between technology and the humanities in this class. I have learned much more about this since my first blog post through our reading of Walden and our use of The Reader’s Thoreau website. Thoreau’s writing and experience at Walden pond emphasized for me that technology and the humanities are not mutually exclusive, as although he went to the pond to experience freedom and solitude and to write and read freely, he also used many tools to build the small home that he lived in, highlighting that technology exists in almost everything that we do. Also, a private website like The Reader’s Thoreau is really helpful and interesting for a reader, because it brings people together by letting one share their thoughts on what they are reading, while also being able to read what others from all around the world have to say. Here, technology is allowing for a book that was published over 160 years ago live on in a digital form, and I think that is really important.

In short, this class has made me much more open and eager to explore the countless activities, sites, tools, etc., my computer has to offer, as I was previously very shut off to computing and technology. All in all, I learned a wide variety of information in this class that has changed me for the better, and will stay with me for the rest of my years at Geneseo and beyond.

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.