When I first started this project, I didn’t know what to expect. I had recently become a fan of digital humanities when I joined the course, so I was excited for whatever was coming my way. But nothing could have prepared me from the analysis I was to do through this project.
The project, Linguistic Landscapes of Beirut, required me to go out to the streets of Beirut and take pictures of any instant of langiage or language contact. This slowly became my favourite and least favourite part of the project. On the one hand, it made me focus on sign language in Lebanon for the first time — something I don’t think I would have ever done otherwise — but on the other, it was often times uncomfortable to take pictures of people’s shops and such without asking for permission. But I soon realised that I’d have to do more than just take pictures, that my research would lead me to conducting interviews with various people, which is why I had to put my anxieties aside and locate myself physically with the project. I went where the research led me, and the experience was one I’ll value as I move forward with my degree.
The project also taught me a thing o two about quantitative over qualitative analysis; distanced readings of my data. I tried to understand what story my data was trying to convey overall without having to delve into each and every record — and that’s a layer of analysis I’ve never had to deal with, one I think I will carry with me as I approach future papers and projects.
I initially took random photos around Hamra and where I live in Mar Youssef (Dawra), but then decided I wanted to tap into my knowledge of the Armenian community and tackle Burj Hammoud. I wanted to understand why it was that Bourj Hammoud was the first place people thought of when they tried to guess where an Armenian lived, and what it was exactly about the area that was so Armenian.
What I found (or didn’t find) astounded me. There was, in fact, a lot of bilingual and trilingual signs that included Armenian, but barely any Armenian-only signs. That said, losing the main argument I was going to make — that Armenian identity is somehow preserved by sogn language in Burj Hammoud (BH) — led me to an even more interesting (to me, anyway) analysis, thus proving that a researcher must always evaluate and reevaluate his/her data, for there is always something to find or another angle to look at the topic from.