DH scholarship at a liberal arts college

Rereading our postings and comments so far, I must admit that I expected more interest in humanities research and scholarship through digital methods than I have seen. Of course, our primary mission at a small liberal-arts college is good teaching, and research and scholarship belong in “category 2” (our college’s term for it). Also, I fully agree that the general academic movement towards undergraduate research moves our teaching towards research methods. But do we seek digital humanities research at our liberal-arts colleges?

Molly’s faculty-librarian collaboration post suggests that collaboration provides a potential avenue for digital research. I interpret John’s digital archives as resources not only for teaching, but also for professional-level research, particularly if those resources can be shaped according to particular lines of inquiry. Scholarly work is mentioned or referred to in marlowjm’s New DH Faculty, Amy’s Finding One’s Way in DH, Blake’s Music Composition/DH, and Christopher’s DHCommons postings, but few comments follow up on the scholarship aspects of those blogs.

I’m coming to THATCamp in part as a computer scientist seeking collaborative projects in DH research. When I have talked with humanists and others on my campus about their research, we almost always find some aspect of their scholarly work in which modern-day computational capabilities can be applied collaboratively to explore field-specific questions that were formerly impractical to pursue. As the digital scholarship laboratory at the University of Richmond (see also the recent New York Times article) suggests, small colleges can compete when DH methods are applied in new directions. I think some projects along the lines of Digging into Data are feasible at liberal arts colleges. It comes down to understanding a little more about what each discipline holds. Perhaps we can have such conversations at THATCamp.

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Will this help me keep my job, or lose it?

I’ve just finished rereading the postings and comments through yesterday morning, and I have four session topics to propose after seeing our group-generated body of work so far. I’ll make separate postings for them, since the group will probably want to consider them individually. Here’s the first one:

How will the academic rewards system treat work in the Digital Humanities, for purposes of tenure and promotion?

The question of academic recognition of computationally-assisted scholarly work arose indirectly in Molly’s post on librarian-faculty collaboration: how do think about each other’s work? I think of it when I see Ryan and Megan’s comments about developing evaluation practices for multimedia assignments. Will the value of that time investment be recognized by our peers? New DH faculty and their colleagues who must evaluate their work have the most to benefit from a consideration of this topic. Marlowjm’s questions in that post about recognition by administration and faculty and support by an IT department indicate the importance of knowing how DH efforts will be considered in faculty evaluation, and several comments on that post seem relevant to me. In Amy’s Finding one’s way, Michelle’s comment about “teaching the technology at the expense of teaching our subject area” has relevance to how our work might be evaluated by our peers, and Amy’s thought about taking an introductory computer science course herself raises the important issue of whether we can afford such time investments for training and education (particularly if a tenure clock is involved). Blake’s excellent example of assessing computer-assisted music composition indicates a substantial issue in all of our fields. If evaluating digital work challenges specialists in our disciplines, how can a small-college tenure-and-promotion committee know how to judge it’s value?

I am particularly aware of this issue, having been part of the expansion of a technologically intensive field (computer science) housed within related departments (of mathematics) at two SLACs. The more I read in these postings and comments about colleagues pouring time into learning new technologies, the more I want those pioneers to understand how that investment will be recognized and valued, so they can make wise choices. With some proactive steps, I’m hoping tenure and promotion guidelines can adjust for DH in a more timely manner than it did during the CS transition.

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Session Idea – Technology in a writing center

How can technology help students navigate the writing process? At the Vassar writing center (where I am a student consultant) we have been working on ways to better integrate technology into the way we interact with writers and collect data about how to improve our services. These data have provided us with interesting insights about who is using our services and what kind of writing our consultants are being asked to help with.

What are some tools and best practices that could be helpful to student writers? How can technology help us beter understand the needs of students in writing pedagogy?

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What’s Going Into Your Course(s)?

There’s maybe some overlap to other suggested sessions in my idea here, but…

My Digital Storytelling course, in particular, has been great to put together, but it feels like such a creature of my own brain that I would like to talk about it with others who are trying similar things; I’d like to know what’s working for others.  Are you developing one-stop digital humanities courses, or sequences of courses?  What are the constraints on you and your courses given the resources (or lack thereof) at your institutions?  What are you calling these courses?

(BTW, for what it’s worth, I’m defining “digital stoytelling” in something like the way it’s defined by Ball State’s Masters in Digital Storytelling program.  I don’t know if that’s the best or only way to name what I’m doing…)

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Interdepartmental Resource Sharing/Coordination; Interdisciplinary Minors

At Whitworth, faculty from English, communications and journalism, computer science, and art are all teaching courses that in some ways cross into the digital humanities by dealing with media studies or media production in some way.  The oldest of those courses are a group of film studies courses, housed in English.  The newest, my own Digital Storytelling (on new media writing) and Visual Narratives (addressing graphic novels and visual communication), are also housed in English.  That means it’s likely that my department is going to end up in a leadership role, more than likely, for any digital media/new media/emerging media initiative on campus.  I’m interested to hear about how other small schools are handling (or not) interdepartmental majors and minors dealing with emerging media.

I’m particularly interested in what arrangements other campuses are using to share and house equipment, and in any initiatives to create shared media labs or classrooms.  At smaller campuses, it’s easier to get to know (and like!) colleagues from a lot of different departments (in my experience, so far), and that’s good for coordinating efforts.  But to create something like a shared media lab or a shared pool of equipment still raises a lot of tricky coordination problems.  E.g.: What if we all contribute equal resources to maintaining our equipment and spaces, but English or communications hogs the equipment?  What if we all run our most new media-intensive courses in one semester (or one January-term) and create too much demand for our limited resources?  What if we build around present faculty members and then lose the key player for one department or another?  And maybe a question for another forum: How do we manage to keep the equipment and facilities up to date?

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Staying in the dorms

Just in case you haven’t stayed in a dorm since college, here’s some information for those of us who took the dorm option.  Thanks to Patrick Olejniczak of the Kress Inn & Bemis Conference Center.

  • The dorm room is configured with common space for the bathroom and living room for all four occupants.  You can get a private bedroom.  Please see the diagram layout
  • The dorm rooms include linens (towels and bedding) and wireless internet access but do not include private bathrooms, toiletries or televisions.
  • My advice: Don’t forget to bring all of your own toiletries and a hairdryer if you need one.


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Share Assignment Ideas for bootcamp, “Integrating Digital Humanities Projects into the Undergraduate Curriculum”

For the bootcamp, “Integrating Digital Humanities Projects into the Undergraduate Curriculum”, after we go through one example of integrating a project into a course, we will work in groups to practice this technique.  In order for this exercise to work, we need your help.  Please add your courses and projects to the wiki.  Your group will vote on which project they want to workshop–each group will use a checklist to brainstorm around creating assignments, assembling resources, and integrating DH research into undergraduate courses.  If you don’t have course or project, don’t worry–someone else will.  You’ll need to request access to the wiki if you haven’t already.  Just follow the wiki link and click the button for requesting access.


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Wiki for Bootcamp, Integrating Digital Humanities Projects into the Undergraduate Curriculum

If you’re planning to take part in the bootcamp, “Integrating Digital Humanities Projects into the Undergraduate Curriculum”, please join our wiki:  integratingdh.pbworks.com/w/page/40112677/FrontPage

To get access just follow the link above and click on the link to request access.  Once we we grant access you should get another message.  If you don’t hear from us, try contacting me directly gro.e1527493004ltin@1527493004sivad1527493004r1527493004 or via twitter @frostdavis.

You can also access readings for the workshop and share assignment ideas in advance in the wiki.

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Session Idea – Social Reading

This proposal is for a mix of question-asking and idea-sharing.

One of the fundamental tasks in many humanities classes is reading a text to discuss it with a group. Students are already bringing their own devices to class, and some campuses are starting to provide tablets or e-readers to students.

Is there an opportunity for technology to change how we do the very basic exercise of reading together?

What would be gained or lost with social reading?

What tools are available right now for successful social reading, and what would “successful social reading” look like to you?

For me, it means being able to read the text in my own way and then flip a switch or change a view to see how my colleagues have responded to the text, to which I can reply and contribute. People who read faster will see an update feed of the latest comments, and slower readers will only see comments relevant to the sections they’ve covered already. I don’t know of anything that fully captures this fuzzy ideal picture in my head.

Some social reading tools (to varying degrees) I am aware of include: GoodReads, LibraryThing, Amazon’s Kindle Public Notes, Kobo’s Reading Life, and Jeff Howe’s 1 Book 1 Twitter (#1book140) initiative.

What I hope to get out of such a session would be ideas for bringing social reading to the classroom in such a way that all readers can be included (whether they have a device or not) and adds an out-of-classroom dimension to the discussion of the work.



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Is There a Tech in This Class?*

I have often had students contribute to a class blog as a writing assignment. There are two things that I’m wrestling with. (Well, at least two things…)

Students are really nervous about using an unfamiliar technology at first, and then they figure out only so much as they have to. They don’t take advantage of the platform because they don’t want to invest the time to work out even little things, and I don’t want to require using the tools in a particular way because learning the tools isn’t an outcome I am particularly focused on. Should I focus on it more? Should learning to incorporate links and visual materials be a goal for these writing assignments? I’m worried that they will get hung up on the technicalities, and I want them to see the forest, not be blinded by trees.

Second, I ask students to post weekly. They always complain that they can’t think of ideas to write about. I tell them this is all about paying attention to the world around them and about invention, and they get that – but they still sit down to knock out the task at the last minute with a completely blank slate; few seem to really acquire the habit of paying attention and squirreling away those things that they might want to explore more thoroughly in writing. I think they are just busy, and they want to focus on getting each task out of the way rather than finding connections or letting things simmer on the back burner.

What I guess I am wondering is how do we get busy students who are conditioned to focus on grades that depend on products and tests to relax and play with technology – and with ideas? How can we reward them for playing?

*Yes, I’m riffing off Stanley Fish.

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