Episode 08 – Basic Training

13 June, 20076 comments

How can you learn technical skills such as web design, programming, and related methods and technologies for work in the digital humanities? We tackle that difficult question on this week’s show, while also covering the top IT issues that universities face (according to CIOs), transcribing books the new fashioned way, and analog and digital news about Abraham Lincoln.

Links mentioned on the podcast:

Your Archives
The Museum of Underwater Archaeology
Google PageRank: What do we really know about it
Is Computer Science an Outdated Term? from Wired Campus
Lincoln to Halleck from Footnote.com
What Al Wishes Abe Said
Top Ten IT Issues from Educause Review

Running time: 55:09

Download the .mp3.

Categorized under archives, digital humanities, programming

6 comments to “Episode 08 – Basic Training”

  1. Victoria’s cross? Digital Campus « : 14th June, 2007

    […] clipped from digitalcampus.tv […]

  2. Anon : 18th June, 2007

    [This message was sent to my email directly and I’m posting it here with the author’s consent. Because he offers some critique of the graduate program he was enrolled in, he asked to remain anonymous.–TMK]

    Hello There,

    I am a fan of the podcast and I wanted to chime in about your recent discussion about computer science grads and their role in the digital humanities.

    I currently work for [an American university] as a technology support manager. I myself am a computer science graduate. I got my BA in computer science back in 2003, however I had already been working as an instructional technologist since 1999.

    I entered the computer science program because I liked technology and what I could do with it. I liked to make programs that solved specific problems. This though was not the case with my education. I did learn a couple of useful languages (Java and C), however the great majority of the curriculum was not really a project/goal based curriculum. Most of the classes were tedious (and boring) classes about algorithm optimization, automatons, or other ‘little’ things.

    To use a car analogy, we spent more time looking at the anatomy of a spark plug than looking at how the whole car works. The only two classes that I really enjoyed were my user interface design class and my CS101 class where we coded (in Java) one project from for the whole semester the end goal was a small OS-like program.

    I brought some of my concerns up with my advisor, a computer science faculty member. I told him that I expected to learn more current languages, and work on projects that will not only teach me about data structures, but I would also learn a new language, and have experience in end-to-end project programming. His response (as you mentioned on the podcast) was that I was learning the basics of computer science and that with what I learn, I should be able to go out there and learn all the languages I want on my own.

    While it is possible to do this, I find it to be a collosal waste of time, and you don’t have the benefit of trial-and-error. For example, when I graduated I could pick up a book on Apple’s Obj-C, or Microsoft’s C# and teach myself the language – this is not difficult. The problem though is that employers expect you to know these before you graduate.

    As a consequence of this ‘focusing on the spark plug’ mentality, a lot of computer science graduates (including many from my graduating class), have no idea how to cope with end-to-end projects. I (and others) had the misfortune of employing such grads, only to find out that they do not know how to function outside of the realm of the spark-plug. We’ve asked them to do what should be considered basic things, like building a database for some Art History class, but they failed miserably!

    Conversely, I had a biology undergrad, someone who had never touched a database, and had never coded in PHP before, but he did phenomenally better at completing the projects that we had assigned to them!

    The major issue with computer science, in my opinion, seems to be that most programs are research oriented versus applied oriented. From what I’ve noticed, a lot of my classmates were encouraged to go on into grad-school to contribute more into the theoretical computer science field, rather than work toward more of an applied computer science work experience.

    No thought is given to project requirements, planning and execution. Most computer science graduates I’ve encountered want you to do all that planning for them, and then ask them to do a specific part. This reality really soured my computer science experience, to the point that I did not want to continue with a graduate degree in computer science.

    Anyway, those are my views and experiences with the subject.

    Keep up the great work!

  3. Clayfox » Trailing comments : 20th June, 2007

    […] why change what ain’t broke? Walking home, listening to a Digital Campus podcast (another fine offering from George Mason’s CHNM, oft-mentioned here), I heard about a little […]

  4. Susie : 6th August, 2007

    Dan and Co.,

    Just back from a long trip and catching up on podcasts. As always I love Digital Campus. Thank you especially for Episode 8 Basic Training — what you have said in this podcast is exactly what I often think about. One challenge I face is convincing people that digital humanities applications are just as important as science apps — they all use the same platforms, whether the commercial internet or high performance computing networks…all the web 2.0 tools and things like Zotero are useful to all researchers and practitioners, physicists and anthropologists alike. Humanists can be the hardest to convince — they just don’t see themselves using computational sciences in their work. If they could just see what they’re missing!

    In the July 2007 issue of GLORIAD Update, our newsletter, I wrote a short piece — that featured some of CHNM’s projects — on what I called Digital Hybrid Disciplines (back page) with some examples/links, including zotero and ECHO grants, and I compared the hurricane photo collection project to the Sloan Digital Sky Survey “SkyServer Challenges.” To me, the way SDSS asks amateurs and non-SDSS professionals to contribute to their astronomy database is the same exact thing as asking people to contribute their photos to the hurricane project, from a digital platform usability and citizen science perspective. You can find it here: http://www.gloriad.org — then click on link in left sidebar “Headlines” for the July issue. The article also will be posted to my blog soon: globalnetworks.wordpress.com

    Rather than write a really long comment here, I’ll move my thinking out loud over to my blog.

  5. Karin Dalziel : 29th August, 2007

    I, too, am catching up on the Digital Campus podcasts (not unrelated to my recent acquisition of an iPod). I found this topic very interesting because I work as an assistant at the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities in Nebraska and we have had several conversations about these issues.

    Here on our campus, we are lucky to have Stephen Ramsay and Will Thomas, who both teach courses that prepare digital humanists (not surprisingly, a lot of them end up working in the Center.)

    You can see a description of the classes here:


    Stephen has described his class as a geek boot camp for humanists (I’m probably misquoting him, hopefully he’ll correct me if I am.)

    I myself am a Master’s of Library Science student, and I’m currently in a class that teaches the basics of web technology- basic HTML and CSS, etc. But like you’ve said, I learned all this already, on my own, because I wanted to use it to do something.

    We have found that the hardest part in hiring students is finding those willing to pick up the skills needed- they definitely have to have the right mindset for it. Some just don’t have it, but when they do, it’s amazing to see how much they pick up over a very short period of time.

  6. IT Infrastructure: Where Do Teaching and Learning Fit In? « Hope Greenberg's Blog : 7th April, 2010

    […] little or nothing about teaching, or learning. This lack has not gone unnoticed. Educators such as historian Dan Cohen wonder how to bridge the apparent gap between IT infrastructure and educators while Geoffrey H. […]

Sorry, comments are closed.

Subscribe to Digital Campus Twitter logo Follow us on Twitter


One could spend hours listening to these witty, modern podcasts.

American Historical Association Today


Write Digital Campus at




Courtesy of