Breaking New [Digital] Ground*

Although the computer and its inexhaustible tool, the Internet, have been consistently present throughout my life, I believe that I have not utilized it to its greatest potential in regards to my academic education in the disciplines of musicology and history. Instead, the computer has been a hobby or according to my parents a source of distraction. It has has guided me through social relationships, curious inquiries, countless discoveries, and of course entertainment. I remember experimenting with my father’s printer at the age of 5 to create various art projects on countless copies of the preprogrammed test pages (this joy revisited me during my sophomore year when my roommate printed out a test page on her new printer… and I may have hung it up on my wall until the Scotch® tape gave up). At the age of 10, I received my father’s old PC and stayed up to what I considered a late hour to instant message the freshly acquired screen names from classmates at school. A few years later around the age of 13, YouTube would introduce to me to recordings of legendary pianists performing the same pieces I was learning! This was a major discovery as I thought I was confined to the introduction performances by my piano teacher and the CD recordings she fed to her massive stereo system in her piano studio. Now near the end of my undergraduate career at the age of 21, I’ve come to the realization that I can directly apply all my previous digital experiences to my academic studies in musicology and history.

Michael Kramer’s course, Digitizing Folk Music History taught me how digital technologies might help to interpret history more meaningfully as they introduce important connections between history and issues of technology, culture, and politics in the modern world. Digital humanities has an extremely interdisciplinary nature with various definitions, approaches, and forms. Thus this WordPress blog will not attempt to construction a definition of a digital approach to musicological research but will be an exploration and at times an experimentation with the various ways digital tools, media, and technology help create and reshape the representation, sharing, and discussion of my musicological research.

Although the definition of digital humanities is a little muddy, I will briefly demonstrate a few digital tools and discuss how they will not only strengthen my musicology research’s agenda and content but make it interactive, engaging, and compelling.

  1. I can create lists at a press of a button. Buzzfeed and numerous other journalistic or semi-journalistic sites have perfected and gained immense popularity by taking Martin Luther’s idea to the Internet! There is something about lists that draws readers in especially on digital platforms.
  2. Objects such as images, sounds, and video can be embedded. This enables new kinds of engagement that can expand representation and analysis that is especially crucial with a study of music. Various musical performances in the form of sound or video files can be embedded support the musical analysis at hand.
    1. Objects like sound clips can be put into lists into what is called a playlist.
    2. Also a list within a list can be created at another press of a button.
  3. The creation of a website. Although this may seem to be an extremely obvious point as the reader is visiting and engaging with a website at the exact moment of reading this digitally produced text, is still has to be mentioned. The archive, search bar, and categorization of a website makes it an interactive space for information to be stored.
  4. Engagement with a digital platform. In this case I will be using the blog form that WordPress provides including any tools and plugins that I find useful. This will help me create various ways to digitally present information and content by having the platform mix around its data into another representation and form. For example this blog post form is possible through the engagement of the digital platform of WordPress.
  5. Digital word processing. This includes bold, italics, and inserting links. All these can be found throughout this post. I can emphasize key words as I have been doing throughout this list. Another important use is inserting links to references that will clarify meaning as I did with “test prints” above or linking to primary and secondary sources to make my bibliography easily accessible which I will do at the end of this post.
  6. Experimentation… this point is difficult to explain as it will evolve out of exploring various tools and perhaps using it in ways that are not originally intended. (The results will be blog posts that are categorized or “tagged” as experimentation.)
  7. Lastly comments will enable a human interaction mediated through digital interaction. Professors of any related or even unrelated discipline, musicologists, folk musicians, folklorists, folk amateurs, students, scholars, music buffs, etc can all contribute to the discussion. Comment sections such as ones on Facebook and YouTube have acted as makeshift discussion forums where various users can interact with others on the object they are commenting on.

*I am digitally breaking ground on my new blog!

Further Reading

Michael Kramer. “Winter 2016 Course Digitizing Folk Music.”

Dan Cohen. “Digital Humanities and Digital Humanities.”

Dan Cohen. “Introducing Digital Humanities Now.”

Digitalhumanities.com. What is Digital Humanities.

Samplereality.com. The Digital Humanities is Not About Building Its About Sharing.

Hello World.

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Author: melissacodd

Recent graduate of Northwestern University. Double major in Musicology and History. Interested in American and Latin American Folk music, Protest songs, Punk and DIY, Gender/Sexuality/Feminism, and music industry.

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