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IMG_3155JUST got the final results for my MA in Digital Arts & Humanities at University College, Cork — which is what I’ve been at since the summer of 2014 — I got First Class Honours!, with which, I need hardly say, I’m thrilled (final results posted earlier this week, graduation ceremony will be in the spring of 2016).

I started back at college at the beginning of last September and handed in my final piece of work (my dissertation) September just gone. As I’ve been going along I’ve charted my progress on this blog (sort of); however I did not want it becoming all choked up with geeky college stuff either, so I kept my chronicling on a close leash, mixing it up with other general interest items.

For the record, the following are the main college-related posts on the Wordkern Archive…

Back to School, 2 September 2014

Mid-term Reports, October 2014

The Code of Beauty and the Beauty of Code, 11 November 2014,

The labours of Fartov and Belcher, 19 November 2014

Open Street Mapping (Skibbereen), 16 February 2015

On Timelines, 23 April 2015

In the first term, the Winter Semester (September to December 2014), I took four modules…

DH6001 Communities of DH Practice

DH6004 Conceptual Introduction to DH

DH6012 Editing Skills

CS6103 Audio & Sound Engineering

And in the second term, the Spring Semester (January to April 2015), I took five…

DH6003 Digital Humanities Institute

DH6005 History & Theory of Digital Arts

DH6008 Databases

DH6010 Tools & Methodologies

DH6014 Digital Skills

All of which constituted ‘Part 1’ of the degree. I got first class honours in five of these modules and, additionally, first class honours for Part 2 of my degree, Part 2 being the dissertation.

For this part of my degree (Part 2) I put together a website on the early work of the historian and textual scholar John O’Donovan (1806-61) — ‘the little Master’* — best known for his edition of Annála Ríoghachta Éireann [Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland] (1848–51), the so-called ‘Annals of the Four Masters’.

*Full-grown John O’Donovan was but 5 feet and 2 inches — i.e. 157 centimetres.

IMG_3067In particular I focused on his first published works, a series of penny journal contributions (specifically to the Dublin Penny Journal in 1832 and 1833), building a website to present reproductions of them and (in my dissertation) putting this work in context (i.e. John O’Donovan’s work) — which is to say, Ireland between the Act of Union and the launch of The Nation, the years when the first Industrial Revolution really took off (the Dublin Penny Journal was produced using the first steam-powered printing press in Ireland, for example, and, of course, more broadly, the penny press and mass literacy represents a sociological and communications revolution on a par with our own present-day digital revolution). The dissertation titled ‘The John O’Donovan Archive: Materials for a Portrait in the Digital Age’; the website is at http://www.johnodonovanarchive.org/.

Over the past year or so I’ve rarely told someone what I was doing without being asked “What is ‘Digital Art & Humanities’ anyway?”. I’m not sure I ever answered this question satisfactorily but, at least as far as I’m concerned, it’s about using digital tools and methodologies to do history, or literary studies, or archaeology, or sociology, or art, or whatever you’re having yourself in the areas of arts & humanities. So, for example, one girl in our group modelled 3-D representations of medieval Irish monuments (unbelievably detailed reproductions, very often better than the originals, at least for study purposes), another person built a digital art gallery in which he exhibited his own gif-art creations (gif = graphics interchange format, as in the sort of thing you see below)

As I say, for me, for my area of interest, it’s about using digital tools to do historical research and, afterwards, using timelines, websites, geolocation software, interactive documentaries etcet to present the results of such research, i.e. presenting information in some of the many ways that are now available to us in this App Age (i.e. other than solely by way of old school books and monographs and journal articles and so forth). Therefore, in addition to presenting the texts of O’Donovan’s penny journal items (in the early 1840s O’Donovan also wrote for the Irish Penny Journal), I will also reproduce a selection of O’Donovan’s Ordnance Survey letters and notebooks — throughout the 1830s O’Donovan worked as a names expert with the Irish Ordnance Survey.

One thing I certainly want to do when I get to the Ordnance Survey stuff is map data relating to John O’Donovan’s Ordnance Survey field trips temporally and geographically such that one can identify where and when O’Donovan was in Galway, say, or Cork or wherever (being able to zoom in all the way to town and/or townland), or take a time-period — May through September 1836, say — and see where he was at that time, the data-points mapped by reference to OS correspondence and notebooks (maybe even plotting the data on the original Irish Ordnance Survey sheets from the 1830s and 40s, if I get permission to reproduce them). My model for this part of the project is what the Yale Photogrammar project have done with the photographic material created by the United States Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information, where one can see exactly where each of the photographers worked, and when —  http://photogrammar.yale.edu/map/.

All of which is but prep-work for the next phase of the project which is to produce a drama-documentary on the Life & Times of John O’Donovan in which everything the John O’Donovan character says is taken from his written works, his letters and penny journal essays and notebooks and the like, my model/inspiration for which is Painted with Words (2010), the wonderful portrait of Vincent van Gogh produced by Alan Yentob (with Benedict Cumberbatch as Vincent).

Thus it will be obvious that what I’ve done with the John O’Donovan Archive for my MA is but a scoping exercise; I anticipate I will be working on this material for some time to come — this work (this subject area), being my next Big Thing (i.e. following the postcards book).

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