Down with Shibboleth (careful now).

I’ve spent the last two week acclimatising to my new role. This has meant walking tentatively into rooms filled with strange faces and asking: “Is this the Research Skills class?” (and fifty heads nodding back at you with expressions of sympathy and understanding) and getting my library card sorted and lots of books out (I learned the lessons of my academic past by downloading something pretty from Facebook as my library card picture, which has enabled me to (a) actually look identifiably like me on the card and (b) not to look like the villain Lo Pan from Big Trouble In Little China).

Of course, the major hurdle I’m having to get over is identifying what the digital humanities actually are – which might sound fairly obvious but is not actually something you can pin down very easily. Thankfully Melissa Terras’ excellent blog has been an amazing resource and I’ve been reading some very clearly written stuff from Schreibman, et al and Patrik Svensson.

What I’m finding increasingly wonderful is just how much of the writing on this topic is open source; I’ve only had to access Shibboleth a handful of times since I started my research two weeks ago, thus fulfilling one of the basic tenets of the digital humanities, that everything is easily accessible to everyone and not to just academics. Coming from an undergraduate degree of over a decade ago when the only use I ever seemed to put my PC to was a perfunctory game of Patience and to email rubbish to my friends (the days of Lolcats being but a distant, glorious moment in a yet unimagined future), it’s wonderful and also a little bit frightening as to how reliant I now am on my laptop for my academic needs. 

I’ve now got two rather smug-looking pages of bibliography and a thousand words of prose down on paper (I should say screen) just for a starter, and I’m shutting down Word feeling quite content. Admittedly I wasn’t feeling quite so magnanimous at half 10 this morning, when the laptop decided to turn itself off right in the middle of my eloquent ramblings (I felt almost viscerally the sensation Coleridge must have had when the Person from Porlock knocked on his door). I’m off this evening for tea and cake; not quite feeding on honey-dew and drinking the milk of Paradise, but probably as near as I’m like to get tonight. 

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