A Brief Reflection: Finding Meaning in an Academic Journal’s Entrance into the Digital Age

When browsing over the readings one particular week in my “Digital Approaches to Literature” course, I was both thrilled and surprised to see a link to Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society topic modeling site. Beyond this current course I am enrolled in, Signs and I have a longstanding relationship. I had the pleasure during my junior year of college to complete a 6-month co-op with Signs as their Editorial Intern. This co-op was transformative in a variety of ways – most notably in that it turned me on to the true complexities of feminist scholarship, ultimately pushing me to want to include this topic of study within my academic career. To be really frank – I never really knew (or maybe the better word here is acknowledged) that there was any space for the digital humanities for a printed journal like Signs. I suppose that, yes, there are online releases of the journal (if that is something we want to call “digital humanities” at its most basic level), but to see something as complex as online topic modeling being utilized is wonderful.

Signs is a journal now in its 46th year of publication. This topic modeling site was in celebration of its 40th anniversary. What I so appreciate about this site is the extraordinarily interactive nature of it. So clearly are the topics laid out for the viewer, and they are clickable to actually bring you to all the articles that relate to that given topic. Moreover, there is a comprehensive explanation about 1) what topic modeling is, 2) why it is important, and 3) how actual, feminist scholars make sense and meaning of these models – scholars outside of those who created it which is incredibly enlightening (and offers the site a much-appreciated form of ethos). I also really enjoyed reviewing their shared code via GitHub. I am not sure if this is common practice – to share code that is – though I suppose I might be looking in the wrong places on certain sites. Nevertheless, for a “digital humanities hopeful”, looking over these codes helps me to learn how I might craft successful scholarship myself.

I find myself very in a deep state of reflection after exploring this site. I am coming to terms with a former misconception that, upon clarification, might help to open doors to scholarship that I never considered. Signs is undoubtably helping to transform the narrative of feminist (as well as all gender and sexuality based) studies – it has been a global academic standard in the field for 46 years. What better way to better examine how our understanding have, will, or should change than to utilize technology in an effort to distantly read. The utilization of digital humanities – of code, of technological understandings and interpretations – is the way to a more informed future and is too often overlooked. I will now and forever be on the lookout for more ways in which we might utilize this way of understanding within academia and make this kind of scholarship accessible for all who seek to understand.

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