Welcome to the Canadian Environmental Humanities Page!
July 9, 2013 6:08 pm
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This website is the prototype for a digital commons where environmental humanists in Canada can exchange and create new research while integrating digital humanities tools. We will be presenting the beta version at the DEHN workshop in September, in order to obtain constructive criticism and feedback from participants. Click here to learn more about the project.
I am an undergraduate student at McGill interning for Prof. Stéfan Sinclair and Prof. Stephanie Posthumus of the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures. My work over the past weeks has been focused on the development of this CEH site. Initially, I performed a critical analysis of existing Environmental Humanities databases and portals (links to which can be found here). The aim of this exercise was to identify content and design strategies that we could incorporate into our platform. A distinction between the sites that became clear from the start was their dynamic versus static nature. Some offered platforms for discussion and dissemination of research projects, while others focused on providing information and material about the field. Below are the key points of the critical analysis, in terms of which aspects of existing websites we wanted to potentially adopt or adapt.
The next step for me was to learn the ins and outs of WordPress, the software that was chosen for the project. I created a mock website to discover how themes, plugins, pages and all of the other features worked. I was surprised by the user-friendliness of WordPress; to me, it’s a straightforward and fairly self-explanatory platform. All the problems I ran into were quickly resolved with the help of Professor Sinclair or online forums and WP documentation. Where the challenge came in was editing the HTML and CSS files. Seeing as I had no previous experience with these languages, I learned everything on the go. At this point, I feel that I have a solid grasp on the basics of HTML and CSS. However, what continues to surprise me is how a tiny forgotten semicolon or bracket can make a world of a difference in the page’s formatting.
Once I was comfortable with WordPress, it was time to begin creating the CEH website. I sketched different layout options for the homepage, as can be seen below. I manipulated the CSS files of different themes to see which one would best suit the selected layout. This turned out to be no easy feat. In the end, Professor Sinclair and I had to customize the CSS files of three different themes until we were finally able to recreate the selected homepage sketch.
In the meantime, I was also working on the creation of a Zotero collection of articles and books relating to the various sub-disciplines within the Environmental Humanities. This began with database searches on JSTOR, EBSCO and Érudit, among others. I initially focused on collecting general introductory-style articles about the Environmental Humanities, and then narrowed down my searches to more specific topics such as landscape, activism, animal studies, etc. Currently, I am adding new items from the bibliographies that are being sent in by researchers participating in the upcoming workshop. Our Resources page is continuously being updated with new citations.
In order to display the Zotero collection and create a member directory on the site, I have been using the Zotpress and Connections plug-ins. Both were initially challenging to work with, but have ultimately proven to be helpful for the People and Resource pages. We are currently working on adding more filtering options on the Resources page, as well as a self-add option on the People page.
All suggestions and feedback are welcome!