Bursary Reports 2019


Lena Zlock

Mst Candidate, Modern Languages, University of Oxford

Workshop: Applied Data Analysis

I was deeply grateful to receive a bursary to attend the Applied Data Analysis workshop. The course took us through the life cycle of a digital humanities project: from tidying data, to modelling, visualising, and finally communicating your work. This is a daunting task for just one week. My coursemates and I were thus doubly fortunate to have learned from Giovanni Colavizza and Matteo Romanello. Giovanni and Matteo emphasized the importance of leading one’s research with a humanistic question. Like quicksand, one can quickly lose sight of why they began to use digital tools in the first place.


Our instructors showed us how to translate these humanistic questions into Python syntax. After this week, I stand in awe of the thousand tiny mechanisms that power our technology. What made the course run was the GitHub repository that Giovanni and Matteo set up. Each day, we worked through examples on Jupyter notebooks. It was a meticulous approach to dissecting each bit of code, and understanding why it mattered. But do not be mistaken: this was not a computer science class. We moved between the questions we wanted to pose to the data, and the code we needed to do so, with examples like British Library collections, and Venetian apprenticeship records.


I discovered that Python and humanities go together like Enlightenment philosophies and coffee. As if this were not enough, Giovanni and Matteo took time to discuss our own projects with us individually. These were productive sessions for me as I nailed down a preliminary model for my database of Voltaire’s library. They took me through the nuances of linking tables, and showed how one’s model should be reflective of one’s research questions. I am, above all, grateful for the confidence that Drs Colavizza and Romanello instilled in me: to go forth and realise my work in the digital sphere.

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