Skip to main content

My Journey with Web Technology

I was in graduate school when the internet was first becoming widely used by the general public. Since I am naturally curious about how things work (a trait I inherited from my father, I began teaching myself about HTML and the rudiments of website design in my spare time. Eventually, I developed and published the University of Iowa Department of Classics' first web site (thanks to the Internet Archive's WayBack Machine for preserving those first attempts 😀).

Those first experiences led to my appointment as the Webmaster for the Classical Association of the Middle West and South (2002–2009). Among the other features that I implemented, I added internet commerce capabilities so that they could handle membership dues and conference registrations electronically. After that, I moved on to become the Information Architect for the Society for Classical Studies (2011–present). During these years of working for non-profit professional organizations, the standards and practices for web development underwent major changes. I went from managing a collection of static HTML pages to working with dynamic content management systems like ExpressionEngine and Drupal, along with all of their accompanying technologies (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP, JavaScript, CSS, etc.).

Over time, my interests in teaching and scholarship coalesced with my knowledge and use of technology. I was an early adopter of digital tools and methods for enhancing the learning experience in my courses, but my first experience teaching fully online didn't occur until COVID-19 made it necessary. Although I adapted quickly to making short instructional videos and using both synchronous and asynchronous teaching methods, I discovered that I still prefer working with students in person. That doesn't mean that I will revert to teaching entirely in person. Rather, I plan to continue using technology where it is both appropriate and effective.

As for scholarship, I began working at the intersection of traditional philology and the emerging field of digital humanities. In addition to the web technology that I was already comfortable using, I learned about Natural Language Processing, Linked Open Data, text manipulation, and a variety of other ways of working with information. Before I knew it, I was working daily with not only Latin and Greek, but also XML, Python, JavaScript, and other computer languages.

All of that put me in a good position to become the director of the Digital Latin Library, a collaborative effort of the Society for Classical Studies, the Medieval Academy of America, and the Renaissance Society of America. In that capacity, I led a team of colleagues to secure funding (nearly $2 million over five years) from the Mellon Foundation to support the development of a resource for finding and publishing texts in Latin from all eras. During that period of funding, we developed a data model for digital critical editions of Latin texts, experimental applications for visualizing digital critical editions, the framework for a finding aid for existing editions of Latin texts, a platform for publishing peer-reviewed digital editions, an authentication system for those editions, and an interactive reading room.

Photo by Philipp Katzenberger on Unsplash

Filed under