Ava learns Python (and tells you all about it)

For my digital project I would like to blog by experience learning and applying Python to historical research and projects. The final product will consist of two things: a digital blog detailing my experiences and methods of learning enough python that will allow me to complete a brief analysis of my dataset. The data set I plan to use is the text of all of the state of the union addresses. This data set already exists in CSV which would allow me to perform any number tasks to visualize and analyze the data. Since I do not need to create my own data set, I will have time to focus on learning python and updating the blog with my progress.

The data set I selected can be found at here from Kaggle, an online community of data and computer scientists. The site allows you to upload your own data sets, or browse for sets that someone else has posted. The site also allows you to practice running your own codes with selected data.

How am I actually going to learn python? I think the best place to start is The Programming Historian. The website is entirely free and provides peer review lessons on how to learn things like Python. The lessons are organized by difficulty and topic. I know I would need to start at the very beginning since I don’t have any experience with Python. Once I have a basic grasp on that I plan on working through several sets of lessons and hopefully by the end of my experience I will be able to apply what I’ve learned to the data set I’ve selected.

My goal for this project is to chronicle my own story learning how to use more advanced digital tools to analyze history. I want to show people how to use these digital tools in the discipline of history. I’m someone who has very little experience with coding and no experience with Python. I figure if I can do it then so can other historians. The result of this project will be less focused on product and more on the journey. The final component will be me posting a practicum using my selected data set as an example.

At the end of this project, I hope finish with a grasp on how to use and apply python into my own historical work. This is a skill I see myself using in my own research, particularly with online and digitized material.


3 Replies to “Ava learns Python (and tells you all about it)”

  1. I really like your project as it shows the interdisciplinary nature of history. When people think of historians, writing and curation are some of the first things that come to mind. However, with us living in such a digital world, historians also need to learn how to use digital resources, such as Python, to communicate their findings. I think this is such an interesting project that will be helpful for many historians out there!

  2. Hi Ava,

    As we discussed in class, I think this is a really great idea for a project. Setting the goal of picking up some python skills is itself valuable and admirable. Along with that, using the guides on the Programing Historian is a great idea too. Another resource I have heard folks really rave about is Automate the Boring Stuff, which I believe you can read entirely online here (https://automatetheboringstuff.com/#toc ). So that might be another useful resource.

    You haven’t talked about the audience for your blog or exactly how you are going to set it up, but I think there is a good chance that the folks working on the Programing Historian will be interested in this and potentially other history grad students who are interested in learning to code. All that said, I also understand that your main goal with this project is to support your own learning process, so it makes sense that you are going to focus more on your learning and on writing up your posts than on trying to do outreach about the blog itself. Looking forward to seeing how your project develops!

  3. Ava,

    I am honestly a bit inspired by you taking this leap and taking on the challenge of something that is very relevant to a lot of humanities work but is not often advertised as such. Learning a skill like this could open a lot of avenues that might not have even seemed like options before! I am quite excited to follow your journey and you are honestly inspiring me to want to develop some hard “digital” skills because as we have seen in class so far, these kinds of skills can provide historians with invaluable tools for their historical analysis journeys.

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