“Whosoever floggeth a shoggoth loggeth off.”* I was sitting in front of a dumb terminal in the new computer science lab at Rice University. The year was probably 1983, and my friends in comp sci/math sci were helping an academ newbie learn to type her papers in the word processor that was available on the mainframe for us non-SE types between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. They had shown me how to log on, type the correct commands at the flashing prompt, and now that I was finished with my session, they instructed me to type “Flog a shoggoth.” Which prompted the above response.
I had neither read nor heard of shoggoths or H.P. Lovecraft before that day almost thirty years ago, though as a longtime fan of Star Trek I liked the idea of using a computer. Since entering Rice in 1980, I had typed all of my papers on electric typewriters, which represented a considerable upgrade from my mother’s 1950s vintage manual typewriter that I had used in high school. In my first post-college job, I parlayed my word processing experience into a position that was a step beyond data entry, and I moved up to a secretarial position where my computer skills scored me the opportunity to learn WordPerfect and serve as an expert on the program for my fellow medical secretaries. By 1987, I had entered graduate school, and in the following year, I bought my first PC, with two 5-1/4-inch floppy drives. I bought my first Mac when I took a teaching position at Wheaton College in Massachusetts in 1992.
The college was switching over from bitnet at that point, and I had many opportunities to think about the best ways to use technology in the classroom. Having trained as an analog historian at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, I was becoming a digital professor at a residential liberal arts college. Following the breadcrumbs on the teaching and technology trail led to my learning XML/TEI in 2004, and my students began to transcribe and encode primary sources that fall.
Six years later, I am far from the first or only historian to turn to blogging. Having come to digital history through exposure to the generous and long-standing digital humanities community, I think I might have something to contribute to the growing discussion about the application of digital methodologies to historical inquiry.
This blog will address topics in digital history and digital humanities, including my current project in which I am writing introductory essays for transcriptions of letters, pocket diaries, and a travel journal written by Eliza Baylies Wheaton, who was the primary force behind the founding of Wheaton Female Seminary in 1834. My plan is to post at least weekly.
Flog a shoggoth.
*My discomfort with the reference to flogging and the implicit evocation of slavery is affirmed by Elizabeth Bear’s Hugo Award-winning “Shoggoths in Bloom” (2008).
Elizabeth Bear, “Shoggoths in Bloom.” Asimov’s (2008). http://www.elizabethbear.com/shoggoths.html, accessed 3/20/10 1:30 PM.
H.P. Lovecraft, At the Mountains of Madness (1931). In The Annotated H.P. Lovecraft, annotated and with an introduction by S.T. Joshi. New York: Dell, 1997.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoggoth, accessed 10/31/08 and 3/20/10 1:23 PM.