June 2019 marked my first time attending the Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI) in Victoria, B.C. It was also my first time visiting Victoria, my first time taking a week-long technical course about a coding language, and my first DH related conference! It was an incredible experience – here’s what I learned.
What is DHSI?
The website says that DHSI is “A time of intensive coursework, seminars, and lectures” where participants “share ideas and methods, and develop expertise in using advanced technologies.” When I asked my friend about DHSI, she described it as the friendliest, nerdiest summer camp for digital humanities scholars. And she was right.
When I first arrived at DHSI, I was incredibly early. Like, six hours too early to register or get access to my room. So I found a place on campus to sit and read.
I’d joined a group in a cluster unit, so I got to meet my roommates on Sunday when I arrived. One of my roommates had previously attended, so she showed me the ropes – we walked down to the closest grocery store together and picked up a few things for the week. The cluster unit wasn’t anything great, but it was really nice to have roommates and meet people right away.
The opening Welcome and Orientation Monday morning felt exactly like being at summer camp – or what I remember from the two-weeks I spent at nature camp in my childhood. About half the attendees were new to DHSI and the returning attendees were incredibly welcoming, friendly and helpful to all us first-timers.
Following the Orientation, we all walked to our classrooms to begin our week-long courses. Walking towards mine, I met someone else who happened to be going to my class – Lindsey – and we sat together, had meals together, explored town together all week. We were both in the course Web APIs with Python, and we were both newer to programming, so it was nice to have a friend who understood the struggle!
Lindsey and I crossed off all the DHSI picture ops – fern, deer, raven, and bunny. Here are my favourites:
Web APIs with Python
We had four instructors for the week, and each instructor took us through one portion of the course. It was great to have so many instructors around to help if you got stuck on something or, like me, had to re-install certain programs to get them to work properly.
Here are the top things I learned during the course:
- How to navigate the command line
- Making requests with cURL
- Introduction to Python
- How to process API data with requests
- How to visualize data with Jupyter Notebooks
- How to create a Twitterbot
Exploring campus and Victoria
DHSI is organized so that there’s some kind of social activity happening almost every evening. One of the best tips I received was to pace yourself and make sure you don’t overdo it! On Monday, Lindsey and I attended the Institute Lecture by Jacqueline Wernimont on “Sex and Numbers: Pleasure, Reproduction, and Digital Biopower” and then the opening reception. After the reception, we headed down to Cadboro Bay beach with my roommates Morgan and Hunter.
On Tuesday, we attended the Newcomer’s Gathering and got to meet some interesting people. After the gathering, Lindsey and I went walking through the Mystic Vale – a beautiful trail on campus.
On Wednesday, Lindsey and I headed down towards the beach, had dinner at a pub and watched the Raptors game.
On Thursday, Lindsey, Morgan and I took the bus into Victoria to go exploring. We went to Munro’s Books, walked around town, and then had dinner at a nice pub.
Friday was our final day of classes, and Lindsey was heading back home that day. We went to the final talk of the week by Matt Gold: “Thinking Through DH: Proposals for Digital Humanities Pedagogy”. Then we attended the Joint Reception – E-Poetry and Poster/Demo session. Then it was time for Lindsey to head out to catch the ferry.
My roommates all had other plans, so I took a quiet night to myself. I walked across campus to see Finnerty Gardens.
Then I walked through the Mystic Vale for awhile but quickly got scared and went back . After all, there are cougars, wolves, and bears on Victoria Island.
All in all, it was an incredible, inspiring, and very tiring week! I can’t wait to go back again next year.