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DH Reflection Critical Essay

Digital Humanities Critical Essay
Monique Barrow
Marist College
ENG 392 Digital Humanities
Dr. Dighton
December 10, 2020
The research question that my group and I aim to answer for our group project is: Why
does looking at Donald Trump’s rhetoric important? It is this question that prompted us to make
a project that tries to find an answer or at least, come up with some compelling conclusions to
this question. We feel that that this is an important question to ask as we have seen the impact
the Donald Trump’s rhetoric has played throughout his presidency and how its consequences
for the country. It is important to see the words and phrases he uses as we have seen how
many in the country have taken a hold of his rhetoric and have been using it in demeaning
ways. The goal of this project is to see the words and phares that Trump has used and see the
trends and patterns that these words have created and how they affect Americans and the
issues that he addresses. It is a big goal that we have set ourselves up for, but I think it is a goal
that many would like to see given how Trump has changed up American politics.
Before we dive into our research question and the goals of this project, we had to
familiarize ourselves with not only understadning how a digital humanities project is created, but
what is digital humanities. Digital Humanities is best understood covering a variety of activities,
“from online preservation and digital mapping to data mining and the use of geographic
information systems” (Cohen). It differs from humanities as DH uses these digital tools to
enhance their studies and find new data that they would not be able to have gained within
traditional humanities. Also, with DH, this allows enormous amounts of work to be done quicker
as opposed to traditional humanities (Cohen). Also, in DH there is a strong emphasis to work
together in groups where in traditional humanities, you are a solitary worker trying to process
your data and research. The biggest advantage of digital humanities is that there is more of a
focus on trying to represent minority groups, as throughout the years traditional humanities has
tend to not shine a light on them. With DH, with the tools they provide, more research can be
done to get more representation for them.
The most important advantage that DH has over traditional humanities is power. In
traditional humanities, generally the people who run the projects and determine who determines
what should be covered are majority group, which are white men. Because of that, there has not
been many projects that have focused on underrepresented groups and if there have been,
there is a good chance that these projects have been done by people or institutions who have
all the power and have different views and values on the issue (D’Ignazio and Klein). With digital
humanities, even though there have been cases where those kinds of people are still able to
make projects that reflect their views and values and not the minorities they are trying to
represent, those in underrepresented groups have been able to fight back and make projects
represent their views and beliefs (D’Ignazio and Klein). This was shown in our power chapter
reading in Week 2. There was one map that was done by people of power who wanted to
ensure systematic segregation and secure white wealth; in the other map, it was done by
people n the neighborhood who wanted the public to know the truth and fight for power from the
powerful institution. As shown, the first map was people who wanted to keep their power while
the second map was from people who were contesting for power (D’Ignazio and Klein).
Because of DH, the black neighborhood was able to fight the heard and recognize and get the
power they deserved.
With the knowledge we have gained about what digital humanities is, we then figured out
what would be, which is to analyze Trump’s rhetoric. To achieve our goal of analyzing Trump’s
rhetoric, we needed to focus on some issues that Trump has addressed to better understand
the rhetoric that he has used. We decided to focus on immigration, race, and gender issues. We
choose these issues because they were all important to us and we knew that Trump had lots to
say about these issues. We decided to use the debates from the 2016 and 2020 Presidential
Debate as we are aware that his rhetoric used in debates is always thought provoking and many
of the words and phrases that Trump uses have generally come from the debates. We found
transcripts online and we used those to analyze his rhetoric. Even though this project focuses
on Trump’s rhetoric, it is equally important to analyze his candidate’s rhetoric as they too have
words and phrases that need to be looked at. Looking at their rhetoric could also allow us to see
if perhaps they said something that was thought provoking; analyzing them would also help us
understand their rhetoric and see how it bounces off Trump. Also looking at his candidate’s
speech in the debates will also help our audience better understand Trump’s speech as well
with the contrast they will provide.
To analyze the debates in 2016 and 2020, we used Voyant, which is a digital tool that
looks word frequency. How Voyant works is you can put any text into the website and hit reveal.
Once you do that, the tools will reveal many secrets about the text that you could never catch
with the human eye such as word frequency and the top phrases used. This is one of the
benefits of this digital tool as it was able to process the whole transcript of the debate with a
click of a button. However, it does not interpret the results, which is something that this digital
tool cannot do due to the limitations of the computer (Walsh). Despite the limitation, we still used
it because we know it will help at looking at rhetoric from both candidates as we can see the
words that they used the most as well as seeing the phrases that stand out to Voyant. Using this
tool, it allowed us to see the top words and phrases the were said in the debates. We needed to
take out stock words such as it, that, and like to be more accurate with the top words that were
coming up. Using Voyant is helpful for our audience because looking at these words and
phrases can help them can a sense of what was important to the candidates. It also helps them
as there is a relationship between these top words and the candidates; it can show them what
are the priorities of these candidates.
We also made a timeline for the project which highlights events that have been since
Trump announced his presidency back in 2015 to the 2020 Presidential Election. We wanted to
create a visual to has the major events that have happened during the period you will be able to
truly see what has happened. Also, with the timeline, it will help our audience understand that
the some of the rhetoric that Trump uses reflect some of the events that has transpired and with
the timeline, they can see what events Trump is referring to. For example, on our timeline we
included when Trump first announced his “Muslim Ban” and a description of what his intentions.
We were able to reflect back to both final debated in 2016 and 2020 when Clinton and Biden
respectively reminded everyone that Trump wanted this to happen. With the timeline tool, this
will help give our project a better understanding of the rhetoric that us being used.
We are also using TAGS to achieve our goal. TAGS will assist our audience as they can
look at the tweets that we collected that focused on certain phrases that Trump has said during
the debates. Social Media has become an important media base and since many of our
audience uses social media, it is important for us to analyze it. For example, we have a TAGS
sheet that focuses on Trump’s use of “Nasty Woman”. We used TAGS to collect tweets that
contain that phrase to see what twitter users were using the phrase. TAGS helped us with our
goals because we see the impact that this phrase had on those on Twitter but it also shows how
influential Trump’s rhetoric is as many use this phrase to describe women that are against
Trump. Even though we analyzed these TAGS sheets and gathered information ourselves,
these TAGS sheets can allow anyone, including our audience, to access them and see our
results and perhaps use them for their own research and conclusions.
To showcase our data tools and the research we have obtained, we used Wordpress to
make a website to showcase the hard work we have done. On our website, we have a links for
our own analysis page, TAGS, and our timeline. There, you can see our research and data that
we have collected and the analysis that we done. We also have a link where anyone can
comment on our research and data since this is an open site and we want to hear from other
about the work we have done. We hope that many people can comment as we want to hear
what they think and how we can improve on this project and we hope to take these comments in
the future with us. In addition, we also have an about page where we state who we are and
what this project means to us. We also have embedded our links to our respective pages so all
viewers must do is click the link and it will bring you to our page.
For this project, our intended audience is young voters as we know that they are more
suspectable to listen to biased news sources or to listen to their friends and family for political
information. We want the audience to look at our project and make their own thoughts and
observations on the candidates and not listen to others, especially on Donald Trump. Although
the young voter base is our intended audience, I will admit that perhaps the audience we may
have been targeted is scholars and students familiar with digital humanities. Because we use
tools that are familiar to scholars and/or those in the DH world, it will perhaps be a little
confusing for those who do not have much knowledge on these tools, what our findings mean
and how they can impact their thinking on these candidates. Even though our actual project
might not target the young voter base as we have hoped, I am still confident that the
demographic can still look at our project and see that they should do their own research on
candidates and not just listen to their friends, family, and biased news sources.
I feel one our strengths on our project are our individual analysis pages on our website.
We all put in a lot of hard work to make sure that our thoughts and opinions on this project were
heard as this project meant a lot to us individually. Our pages contain the data we have created,
and it goes into detail what it means to us and how to can affect our intended audience. It also
provides those who read our pages a chance to think for themselves what this project could
mean to them and to get them thinking on how they should approach any political candidate.
I feel one of our weaknesses is that we could have done more analysis of texts,
especially texts that were done from Donald Trump. We could have done more texts such as his
State of Union address and his inauguration speech. We did discuss that perhaps we should
have included those speeches as well, but we ruled it out thinking we had enough to work on
with the debates. However, thinking back, we should have included those speeches as they
would have provided additional insight into Trump’s rhetoric. Although the debates are important
and have provided a good amount of insight into his rhetoric, the analysis of those speeches
would make his rhetoric clearer to understand.
One thing I learned about DH projects during this process is finding the data and
research that has already been done on the project idea you wish to pursue. For our project, it
was initially difficult to find any data and research that was done on Trump’s rhetoric
beforehand. It almost gave us the impression that no one did a DH project on this subject.
Eventually after finding the right resource, we were able to find some projects that focused on
Trump’s rhetoric and once that was done, we were able to move forward. It is important though
for any DH project to find any research and data on your topic as this will give you an idea of
what else you can cover on the topic that has not been done yet.
Reference List
Bailey, M. Z. (2011). All the Digital Humanists Are White, All the Nerds Are Men, but Some of
Us Are Brave. http://journalofdigitalhumanities.org/1-1/all-the-digital-humanists-are-whiteall-the-nerds-are-men-but-some-of-us-are-brave-by-moya-z-bailey/.
Cohen, P. (2010, November 16). Digital Keys for Unlocking the Humanities' Riches. The New
York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/17/arts/17digital.html?_r=0.
D'Ignazio, C., & Klein, L. F. (2020). The power chapter, Data feminism.
Walsh, B. How Computers Read Texts.