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June 27, 2012

Welcome to PH2!

Miriam Posner

We’re so excited to launch the Programming Historian 2! This newest version is updated and fine-tuned, but it also reflects a different, more distributed and inclusive way of thinking about teaching code. In addition to a solid set of core Python tutorials, we’re soliciting material from our friends around the web — all of which will be peer-reviewed and credited. You’ll be able to use the tutorials sequentially, but you should also be able to “fork” the lessons, following paths that suit your interests and the needs of your project.

What you see now should look pretty familiar if you’ve used the original Programming Historian. Our core set of tutorials leads you through the basics of Python, from opening documents to scraping the web to analyzing a body of text. We’ve got a fresh new look, thanks to Jeremy Boggs. As the site grows, you’ll see more tutorials, and you’ll have the opportunity to give feedback and contribute your own ideas.

I’m personally really excited to be involved with PH2 (as the community manager). As a scholar myself, I’m keenly aware of the ways that digital tools and resources have changed the way we do our work. Increasingly, we’re dealing not with piles of index cards, but with folder after folder of digital files — not to mention the nagging knowledge that new sources are appearing all the time. This landscape of data can be overwhelming, to put it mildly. We always knew that to be a scholar was to fish in a sea of data, but the proliferation of digital sources makes the limits of our time and attention painfully clear.

So PH2 comes along at the right time. Programming can help us find order, patterns, gaps, and surprises in our sources. It can help us manage and sort through our data. It can’t do the analysis or close reading — that will always be our job — but it can help us see things we may not have noticed otherwise. To program is not to abandon the humanistic values that drew us to our work, but to see what happens when we combine the ambiguity and complexity native to the humanities with the machine logic of programming.

I’m also excited to be involved with PH2 because it’s important to me that coding feel open and accessible to everyone, not just the people who self-identify as geeks or techies. Programming is too much fun to leave to professionals. You can do this, even if you don’t think of yourself as technical, and it’s my firm hope that you feel welcomed and well-supported as you work through these lessons.

So dig in, get your hands dirty, and let us know how we can improve the site. Tell us what confuses you and how we can improve the experience. In using this resource, you’re joining a community of scholar-programmers, and we couldn’t be happier to welcome you.

About the author

Miriam Posner is the digital humanities program coordinator at the University of California, Los Angeles.