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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.

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Not all Digital Pedagogy has to be Digital!

As an ENG 1100 instructor, I feel compelled to share my findings in a new assignment that I tested out on my students this semester. The experience is what follows:

Instead of forcing students to make your everyday, typical PowerPoint presentation for their class project, consider something that is more enjoyable, and engaging.

For an Academic Writing and Reading college classroom, students were given a class “theme” on the first day of class. For this class in particular, the theme was “Animal Aspects.” For their research paper, students chose their own issue within the animal world to research. Some students chose animal testing, poaching, endangered species, and dog fighting. After their research paper was complete, students were asked to participate in a class “Animal Expo Conference” as a substitute for PowerPoint presentation over their findings. For the Expo, students compiled the findings from their research paper into a professional looking pamphlet or brochure for the class. In addition, students made “expo items” similar to those you find at a real expo fair. Some students made topic related food, while others had business cards, wrist bands, and customized pencils to hand out to everyone.

On the day of the “Animal Expo Conference” each student set up their area and prepared a short synopsis of their research and their argument  as to why, for example, “dog fighting must stop.”

Students showed a much higher level of engagement for the project and admitted that they actually had fun.

So, next time you consider assigning your average, run-of-the-mill assignments, consider the alternatives!

Digital tools can be used for virtually everything–including bees. You heard right. Bee Lab is a project that uses a range of digital tools to help spread the word about bees and beekeeping. Although it might just seem like a hobby for some, beekeeping has become a serious endeavor for many environmental advocates, especially with the rapid decline of honeybees everywhere.

Open-source electronics, tracking systems, forums, and media releases are just some of the ways beekeepers are spreading the word. In reality, Bee Lab revolves around communication and media, connecting people–including the general public–with the science behind bees. This inspiring project is working to bridge the gap between sciences and humanities, all while working from a digital platform.

video game

Did you know there was such a thing as videogame criticism? Well, there totally is and it’s surprisingly fascinating even for someone who refuses to play anyone but Toad in Mario Cart and only dabbled into World of Warcraft during an awkward stage. But, videogames are a part of culture, so shouldn’t they be studied critically?

Ian Bogost is one humanist who studies videogames and even wrote a book called How to Talk About Videogames. Also published last year, Carly A. Kocurek produced Coin-Operated Americans: Rebooting Boyhood at the Video Game Arcade and Michael Clune wrote Gamelife, all discussing videogames in extensive detail. An even further form of criticism is Matt Margini’s article “How to Write About Videogames” published on Public Books (a platform I wrote about in my previous post) (I’ve been exploring this site all morning and I’m slightly obsessed because it’s awesome). Read more about this sort of research:

http://www.publicbooks.org/artmedia/how-to-write-about-videogames

Humanities professors have taken upon themselves a new wave of pedagogy. This, of course, being digital methods of teaching. A collaboration of universities from around the world have created a workshop for teachers who want to incorporate methods of teaching with digital outlets. Their webpage also doubles as a peer review journal for other Digital Humanists. They term Hybrid Pedagogy to explain their combination of critical and digital pedagogy and invite open discussion.

http://www.digitalpedagogylab.com/

Big Digital Deal

The Living New Deal https://livingnewdeal.org/, part of the Berkeley Digital Humanities Project, provides digital mapping for over 10,000 public works made possible by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s plan for American recovery from the Great Depression. The Living New Deal site offers views of art, architecture, and infrastructure that the second tier of Roosevelt’s legacy enabled. Interactive maps of Works Project Administration projects spread across the United States document the whereabouts of these post offices, water towers, public parks, and libraries that are probably unknown by many and in danger of being forgotten altogether. Sewer systems and streets, bridges and dams, are also a part of the many more practical facets of this set of laws and executive orders that made the U.S. government the single largest employer at the time. Many airports and national parks are a direct result of New Deal work incentives and projects. The site places an importance on the role the WPA played in the art world by sponsoring Willem De Koonig, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollack, and Milton Avery to name just a few. The Diego Rivera-inspired murals are worth the visit to The Living New Deal’s site, as you may also learn there that the New Deal is literally responsible for the ground beneath your feet.

*image of Rudolph Weisenborn’s “Contemporary Chicago” courtesy of glogster.com

Your Hometown Gone Historical

Since the revolution of the camera, photos have become a wonderful way to chronicle the progression of people or a location and to conjure up nostalgia. Yale University’s Photogrammar is a categorized collection of over 170,000 photographs taken between 1935 and 1945. The photos are organized by state and county on an interactive map and they offer a neat opportunity to peer into the past of your hometown. My home county had only one photo (the header for this post), but it was still neat to look backwards to an older time before diving back into the present.

 

Works Cited

Vachon, John. Grocery store, Ohio, Route 74. Digital image. Photogrammar. Yale, n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2016. <http://photogrammar.yale.edu/records/index.php?record=fsa1992000575/PP&gt;.

Robots Reading Vogue

Robots Reading Vogue is a collaborative project between arts librarian, Lindsay King and digital humanities lab affiliate Peter Leonard through the Yale Digital Humanities Lab. The large data mining project purports to be useful for disciplines from gender studies to computer science. The visual data represents various changes throughout the magazines history ranging from cover art to word co-occurance. Vogue‘s long and rich publication history (over a hundred years, according to the project’s website) provides a wealth of data to be selected and analyzed.

Since its inception, Robots Reading Vogue has worked several different inspiring projects like these awesome student projects!

 

Digital Humanities – Gone Postal

The Postal Service is accepted as a commonplace fact of modern day life (and even viewed as potentially on its way out). However, there once was a time when post offices were not nearly so common. The Geography of Post offers a fascinating visualization of when and where post offices operated. This is particularly interesting given that the Post Office opened nearly 14,000 new locations to meet demand between 1840-1900. Check out the Geography of Post to delve deeper into the Post Office’s storied past.

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