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Digital Pedagogies

digital pedagogiesThis image, shared from an article at teachthought.com, contends that the digital pedagogue is a particularly open minded individual posited toward inspirational expansion. I, myself, find that I engage with digital interfaces in my classroom and teaching. However, my range of motion therein is limited. That is to say, I know how to make assignments available to my students in a digital realm, but in some ways it ends there. This short quote highlights the principles of the digital humanities that scholars like Jesse Strommel contend are the strengths of a digital pedagogy model in the classroom.

This article highlights four of Strommel’s main points regarding the digital humanities and pedagogy:

1. It centers its practice on community and collaboration

2. Must remain open to diverse, international voices, and thus requires invention to reimagine the ways that communication and collaboration happen across cultural and political boundaries

3. Will not, cannot, be defined by a single voice but must gather a cacophony of voices

4. Must have use and application outside traditional institutions of education

These four principles show how digital pedagogy is less about technology, but more about what technology may have been teaching us since it has come to the forefront of our critical and social engagements in the digital age. This sense of community, openness, plurality, and use not only stands to shift the atmosphere of a classroom, but also aligns with the way we look at (and what we look for in) Literature.

Perhaps, the coolest tool we can gain from conversations surrounding the digital humanities is quite simply a pedagogical model that is both timely and timeless.

 

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Erik Champion: Digital Culturalist

Erik Champion’s WordPress site https://erikchampion.wordpress.com/ displays the form of a true digital humanist. Champion is the current professor of Cultural Visualization at Curtin University in Perth, Australia. His forthcoming work, Critical Gaming: Interactive History And Virtual Heritage focuses on game play and the digital humanities, as well as the intriguing idea of ‘critical play.’ A chapter by chapter rundown exists on the page of the same title https://erikchampion.wordpress.com/2015/01/15/looking-for-suitable-cover-image-critical-gaming-interactive-history-and-virtual-heritage/. Check out the Mindmap at the DH tab, and explore a PDF of Champion’s Doctoral thesis “Evaluating Cultural Learning in Virtual Environments.” Champion is major player in the European digital humanities field with an impressive list of work in the data visulization and digital culture areas. The work in screen warping and biofeedback are worth the visit.

The Trolling Edge

The ‘Web’ is a problematic non-space, this we all know. Or, if you don’t, spend a few minutes reading Youtube comments, another non-space where racial epithets and homophobic speech seem to breed and thrive. At times it appears as if some valve holding back the flow of all the petty self-reflective hate has been cranked wide open. Natalia Cecire tackles this space, and intellectual writing’s place there, in her “Everybody’s Authority,” naming the specific concern among analytical writers that their carefully wrought arguments mix with these comments. A proverbial statement goes as such, ‘when one argues with a fool, at a distance it becomes impossible to tell who’s who.’ And it doesn’t take scads of imaginative prowess to envision an academic hesitating to publish work, real work, and risk even sharing the slightest space with the ever-present storm of irresponsible language. Quoting Jodi Dean, Cecire notes the “[b]loggers’ ability to remove certain physical barriers to access” and the “confrontation with the intractability…of other, less arbitrary barriers” (Cecire 455).

 

Cecire is correct in bringing attention to yet another reason why…well, everyone, not just scholarly writers, should pause before publishing anything that’s separated from anyone at any time by a mouse click, thumb tap, or Enter key. If I, for instance, speak of race, or roll around the age old question of a Mark Twain’s, or Zadie Smith’s for that matter, use of those words that feel like knives in the ear canal, will some bodiless set of ten fingers take me for some Neo National Socialist shining light, because it doesn’t understand what I’m critiquing, how I’m critiquing it, or (stay with me) WHY I’m critiquing it?

 

As Cecire makes a clear, “the fantasy of a universal, context free civility…is ultimately unavailable to the semipublic intellectual” (458). So this is how it is. Just as freedom means risk in the physical world, so goes the non-space, revealing itself to be more and more like the flesh-and-blood world as it evolves. An upside exists. Somewhere, amidst the flow of never-ending 1’s and 0’s, we as opponents to the illness, the anti-knowledge of hatred and persecution, need to work to discover Cecire’s new “poetics” and move forward (458).

 

Works Cited

Cecire, Natalia. “Everybody’s Authority.’ PMLA 130.2 (2015): 453-458. Print.

Reassessing the Argumental Middle Ground

Recent discussion on the role of the academic is under dispute. Should they be more public? Should they be posting their latest work on Twitter and Facebook? Should academic work be more accessible? These questions do not come with an easy answer. However, there is a common trend that links a healthy number of the debates together: they remain in the middle ground.

James Mulholland addresses the topic of public engagement for academic intellectuals, demanding that “It is time for us to reassess what we mean by public scholarship.” In his argument, he explains that “popularizing research” is not the only way to make it more accessible, or more well-known. To support his claim, Mullholland gives a 2003 court case where decades of Queer Theory scholarship finally became useful to the public. Because we do not want thirty or more years to go by before our own academic works gets noticed, he states that “Humanists like myself are regularly forced to consider what the public wants … This is an important strategy that every academic should pursue” However, in the following paragraph of his article, Mullholland declares “But we must be allowed to resist this impulse, too.” Although a case can be made for both sides of the argument, Mullholland refuses to pick a side, and rather places himself in the middle, inevitably contradicting himself. If it is in fact time to “reassess” as he asserts, we need to be clear on exactly what modifications need to be made. In regards to only pursuing projects that the public wants, I feel as if there are a far too vast amount of topics that will forever remain hidden if we limit ourselves to the public scope. Just because something may not be popular, does not mean that it is not important.

Hua Hsu also discusses the work of academics and the question of whether or not their work should be more public and/or accessible. The first half of her article appears as if Hsu is an advocate of allowing intellectual work to become more open to the public through the internet and social media. However, nearing the end of the piece, the author writes, “All that said, there is something valuable about the academy’s fustiness … because it encourages the preservation of what makes scholarship a faintly utopian enterprise” (465). Thus, again we see another example of an argument that refuses to pick a side and remains in the middle instead. What can this trend mean? Perhaps, there are in fact, an equal amount of pros and cons to each side of the argument, thus, enabling the critic to remain too perplexed or frazzled to make an ultimate, concrete decision. Or rather, if a definite decision cannot be made, then maybe the need for a reassessment on public scholarship as Mllholland prescribes is not as vital as we may think it is.

Works Cited:

Hsu, Hua. “In the Context of Infinite Contexts.” PMLA 130.2 (2015): 461-466. Print.

Mullholland, James. “Academics: forget about the public engagement, stay in your ivory towers.” The Guardian. 10 Dec. 2015. Web. 12 Apr. 2016.

Public Intellectuals and Academia

The term “Public Intellectual” has been circulating around academia for quite some time, but what does a Public Intellectual do? A simple answer could be that it is an intellectual who addresses the public sphere. But, in what ways does an intellectual utilize a public domain? Hua Hsu asks “How does one address a public that is constantly shape- shifting, expanding, an infinite terrain overrun with opinion?” I pose a question asking what constitutes intellectual material and who is an Intellectual?

Hsu finds “Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads allow us to instantly share what we read and think about with thousands of friends and strangers. Every day millions of people online model intellectual engagement and critical scrutiny for all to see.” This kind of thinking proposes that all people have access to these platforms, so is someone without a degree discussing a novel an Intellectual? Can their opinion be useful? What if the discussion is about the weather and the author has credibility within their profession? This is where this kind of publicity gets complicated. The ease to access virtually anything on the internet deems suspicious to me. Who can I trust with intellectual conversation? Are the platforms in which Intellectuals post what distinguishes and Intellectual from an average writer? And, how does one categorize which platforms are to be trusted and unbiased?

Hsu gathers that the public sphere is ever changing and that adjusting to this shifting world is crucial. So is Hsu proposing academics adopt journalism? I don’t necessarily think so. I find that this public sphere of writing is just academia adjusting to the shifting world. What is problematic though, is how the Public Intellectual fits in with this shift. How do we keep ourselves as intellectuals? And again, what is intellectual material?

Works Cited

Hsu, Hua. “In the Context of Infinite Contexts.” PMLA 130.2: 2015. 461-466. Web.

hypterxt lib.pngNoah Eisen and Robert Rose find that literature can be analyzed in a hypertextual manner by studying meaning embedded in reoccurring words and phrases in a novel. The Hypertext Library includes many classic books such as Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, George Orwell’s 1984, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and even Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.The pair encourages readers to treat every work as its own link and to “click it to see where it leads.”

I choose to search how often the word “rain” and “snow” occurred in Frankenstein. Each word resulted in 15 matches in the text. “Weather” occurred 9 times. “Clouds” occurred 13 times. There’s so much more and I got a little carried away, but it does reveal interesting ideas presented in the novel.

Explore your own favorite novels http://hypertextlibrary.com/

Striving Toward (Academic) Ideals

Pulled between engagement with the public and the insularity of the academy, many scholars must now decide whether or not to write for more than just a small group of specialists. While Nicholas Kristof asserts in “Professors, We Need You!” that academia is an exclusive club that is now shrinking, thinkers like James Mulholland argue that “popularising research isn’t the only way to make a social impact” (1).  In reality, the universal, uncomplicated ideals surrounding public intellectualism may be nothing more than illusions.

Continue reading “Striving Toward (Academic) Ideals”

Visualizations for the Data Rich

This awesome tool takes visualization up a notch in sophistication. Palladio was designed by DHers at Stanford University and it allows complex data to be converted into maps, graphs, lists and galleries. The next time you’re working with big data sets, consider Palladio as a go to visualization tool.

Graduate Students: Semiprofessional Intellectuals

Evan Kindley’s article “Growing Up in Public: Academia, Journalism, and the New Public Intellectual” wrestles with the debate between relevance and accessibility that is contingent on the separation between “‘the public’ and ‘the academy’” and how a shift in the discourse, for Kindley, “provides an opportunity to help more people understand our activities as scholars and why they’re important” (468). I, myself, have recently found myself in a sort of internal struggle with this very problem. When I asked one of my mentors, “Does what we do matter?” with a genuine feeling of concern in my mind, and on my face. In turn, she shrugged and smiled. The short answer is this, it matters to us. But if we cannot share it with others, we run the risk of being obsolete. There is no real need to compete or argue over who might be better equipped to be a public intellectual, or even to redefine it. As Kindley notes, “[i]n the best case scenario, both sides are challenged to produce better work by adjusting to norms not native in their professions, thus raising the level of discourse of cultural criticism as a whole” (469). But is this just an intellectual utopian fantasy that we might never be able to actualize?

Of course, the space the public intellectual occupies is different than where the academic rests. The conventions of the academy challenge the academics ability to enter the public sphere reputably, and without stepping on anybody’s proverbial toes. More pressing for the academic in training, where, as Kindley notes, “public writing [is] not discouraged, but delayed: it [is] seen as a valuable activity, but one that ought to be pursued once one’s disciplinary bona fides were in order” (471). This is indeed a problem that us graduate students seem to face. When is the right time to bridge this gap? Are graduate students allowed to exist in both these spheres? More importantly, do they have the time and the means to do so? If the humanities academics want a more public presence, then shouldn’t that be incorporated alongside the traditional professionalization of academics in their graduate programs? We are the producers of the knowledge, the future of the disciplines, why would we hold our voices back?

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