Welcoming Mike Jean: Q&A with our new Lead Developer!

Mike Jean headshot
Posted April 14, 2021

Welcoming Mike Jean: Q&A with our new Lead Developer!

First, welcome to the DH Lab! What drew you to apply for this particular position in this particular program?

Thanks! I come to this role with professional backgrounds both in the humanities and software development. I applied to the position because I saw a unique opportunity to bring those two disciplines together. Five years ago, I transitioned from Classics to software development as a kind of hard break: I was easily able to apply many of the so-called soft skills I learned in academic study to my new discipline, but I wasn’t making use of my training in language, textual analysis, textual criticism, and teaching. In this position, I saw an opportunity to reactivate that training and, at the same time, to broaden my expertise in software development. From my very first conversation with the team, it was clear to me that this program offers a uniquely inclusive environment for learning, teaching, and advancing the humanities and that joining the team would allow me to learn from and work alongside a tremendously ambitious and talented group of people. That was a hard prospect to pass up!

You have a PhD in Classics from Ohio State. Can you talk about your background and interest in this field, as well as when your interest in Classics (or humanities in general) began to overlap with your interest in programming?

As a Classicist, I worked primarily in manuscript studies and textual criticism. For me, Classics and programming offered surprisingly similar challenges and areas for personal growth: Both require a deeply analytical foundation and a tremendous amount of language study. When I transitioned to software development, it was actually teaching the Classics that I missed most, so I'd love to return to that passion and to continue to explore how digital tooling can aid in the humanities classroom.

What are your thoughts on programming in the humanities? What do you see this blend of disciplines accomplishing, and how do you see yourself fitting into this field of study?

I think the humanities offer a tremendous diversity of subject material for the programmer, and correspondingly, computational techniques can offer strange and unexpected perspectives on humanistic datasets. I also think there's a huge opportunity to advance the use of digital tooling to teach the humanities. Much of my past work in software development dealt with software application front ends: I spent a lot of my time thinking about how a user consumes a piece of software and how they might even be delighted in doing so. I similarly most hope to advance the field of digital humanities by helping to create accessible––and even delightful––tooling for humanities teaching and research.

What are you most excited to do in the Lab?

Quite simply, I'm most excited to help others do their best work.