- Defining the Digital Humanities
- Readings & Responses Review
Readings for Next Week:
- Spinnuzi: Technical Communication in an Age of Distributed Work
- Lundin: Teaching with Wikis
- Rendahl & Breuch: Toward a Complexity of Online Learning
- Pan, et al: Instructor Made Videos as a Learner Scaffolding Tool
- [Powers: Creating Your First Website]
- Write a 300-500 word response to the above readings and bring a hard copy with you to class.
Three (or Eight) Ways of Defining the Digital Humanities
Even the relatively small collection of readings we read for today’s class give us some sense of the scope of work conducted under the name of “digital humanities” as well as at least three ways to define it as something more specific/robust than “the humanities + computers.” Here’s my tight five, based on these readings and a few texts cited within them:
- The Humanities with New Tools: As Kathleen Fitzpatrick suggests in here excellent 2011 review of the field, “The Humanities, Done Digitally,” at least in the early days of DG there was a split between how the endeavor was designed by the literary and cultural studies and rhetoric and composition studies wings of English Departments and related humanities fields. This distinction, usefully for us, might be understood in relation to methods/matter components of any disciplinary field (every discipline has its methods, it matter of study, and–this is what makes it “a discipline”–the combination of the two is unique from that of other disciplines). According to Fitzpatrick, the L & C wing of humanities departments tended to focus on the methods, creating early work in DH that deployed “digital technology in studying traditional humanities objects.”
- The Humanities with New Objects of Analysis: The other side of the methods/matter distinction, according to Fitzpatrick, was best exemplified by early DH work in rhetoric and composition, which tended to instead use “the method of contemporary humanities in studying digital objects.” This change in the subjects of analysis might also be seen in the piece by Wolff we read for today, which emphasized changes in the (interactive) domain of the humanities and its common genre (ecologie)s of study.
- The Latest Arrangement of the Relationship between the Humanities and the “Life” or Social Sciences. This argument was made in a piece we read by some jerk.
Also of interest in these pieces was their engagement with the ways in which DH work, despite requiring, in some cases, specialized media or computer skills, may be helping the humanities to (re-)embrace a certain populism, in at least two ways:
- DH Increase the Exposure of Humanities Scholarship and Teaching: As Kirschenbaum mentions near the end of his piece, “the digital humanities today is about a scholarship (and pedagogy) that is publicly visible in ways to which we are generally unaccustomed” insofar as it trends toward the creation of open-access online scholarship and the analysis of quotidian (rather than rarified or culturally elite) media.
- DH Emphasizes the Deskilling Process Involved in Contemporary Media Composition: DH scholarship has also been salutary in showing (mainly to academics) the lowering “ceiling” for access to working with new media technologies as either mechanisms of publication or object of analysis.
Finally, we might also consider how the readings for today (primarily via Conatser’s piece) demonstrate three common methods for integrating new media and technologies in (writing) instruction in the humanities:
- Do Something Normal in a Better Way: Conatser, for instance, takes up common writing instruction processes–embedding instructor comments and writer annotations, encouraging self-reflection and metacognition in the writing process–but does so via teaching students to draft work in XML.
- Teaching New (Necessary?) Skills in Communication and/or Composing: Are we reaching a time wherein students will be expected to know how to use XML the same way they are now expected to know how to use popular word processing programs? It may be difficult to tell, but the parallel between integrating experience in more advanced software skills might be usefully paralleled with earlier moments in which writing instruction dealt with this issue.
- Doing Something Weird: While Wolff warns us, at the end of his piece, about making sure the use of technology in a classroom is driven more by actual instructional needs as opposed to the desire to simply “try out” a new technology or media in a classroom, the kind of invention and experimentation process of doing the latter has (sometimes) led to effective practices in DH-oriented pedagogy.