Genesis: General Education, Pedagogical Experiment, and Institutional Change
Boston University, United States of America
In fall 2018, Boston University began implementing a new general education curriculum across its schools and colleges. Rather than prescribe a particular slate of courses, this curriculum requires students to develop certain essential intellectual capacities. Several of these capacities — including digital/multimedia expression, quantitative reasoning, and a five-part intellectual toolkit — can be fostered by bringing digital humanities tools and methods into the classroom.
In our presentation, we will report on a two-part project designed to fulfill the digital/multimedia expression requirement and the learning outcomes of the university’s Core Curriculum, a decades-old program in which students explore classic works in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Part one of our project is an instance of a new course being piloted in Spring 2019, in which students engage deeply with a single text from the Core Reading List and create a digital remediation. Part two is a website on which this remediation -- as well as projects from other sections focusing on other Core texts -- will be collected as the beginning of an online library of student work, with current and future students as the primary audience.
These intersecting projects have raised pedagogical, organizational, technical, and ethical questions new to our institution, if not the field. Briefly describing the local history and current state of DH support infrastructure building, we will outline:
* how a senior lecturer and digital scholarship librarian went about creating and co-teaching the course, building on and departing from similar teaching done elsewhere;
* our work with staff, students, and colleagues at a neighboring institution to introduce basic DH pedagogy into a large foundational program with a daunting variety of academic interests represented;
* and our collaboration with the IT division and individuals from outside the university to create the bones of a website for housing spring semester projects and to plan the larger web development project with an eye toward sustainability.
This work coincides with large-scale changes at BU Libraries (new leadership, a strategic planning process getting under way) and with conversations about what a solid DH support infrastructure might look like. Both efforts are relatively new in practice, though informed by years of advocacy. We’ll touch on how we’ve approached working in the midst of significant institutional change rife with both possibility and uncertainty, offering some tricks we’ve found that have helped us keep going.
We will weave into our presentation the ways in which recent field discussions of pedagogy, DH infrastructure building, and librarianship have informed our work. We’ll discuss the relationship between student work and digital scholarly editions, present the results of this multifold experiment, and describe the support and the challenges we’ve encountered. In particular as regards challenges, we will address our approach to presenting a canonical Western text — in our case, the Book of Genesis — while being mindful of its ideological uses and interpretations over time. We will hope to get feedback from a variety of conference attendees: undergraduate instructors, librarians who teach, students, and higher ed administrators.
The Risky Mediation of Archivists: Teaching DH on Digitized Archives
Lorain County Community College, United States of America
My presentation demonstrates the political presence of archivists in both past and present in preserving historic documents, by introducing my teaching experience with DH tools. In my African American Literature class for the last two years, students have explored the history of Black Ohioans through first-hand research on archive, interview, digitized documents, and DH tools. Their outcomes reveal that they not only see (supposedly invisible and nameless) archivists’ intervention in preserving the past but also find themselves archivists who attempt to (re)invent the past through DH tools. Without naively upholding the unachievable claim on “objectivity,” the students could interpret archive critically by visualizing the archivist who gave textual authority to preserved materials. In addition, in the process of publishing their studies online, the students envisioned themselves as digital archivists who are visible in investigating and shaping their findings, and further in reproducing them digitally.
By taking the students’ digital projects as case studies, this presentation aims at discussing the politics of digitizing the past as capta, especially with a focus on race and gender. For example, how do we let a silenced runaway female slave speak of her story by visualizing her presence in the white-male-dominant document? What if our expectation for breaking her forced silence replace her unheard voice at the end, so that a digital project about her in fact legitimizes her silence once again? How does a digital archivist engage in activism against racism and sexism by not only preserving but also vitalizing the slave from the obscure records? This discussion can allow us to rethink how to conduct humanistic research on the political aspect of digitized materials, which often reveal archivists’ neglect of the racist and sexist practice on archive.
"So Near While Apart": Correspondence Editions as Critical Library Pedagogy and Digital Humanities Methodology
Rutgers University–New Brunswick
This paper describes two library-led text encoding projects involving correspondence collections. The first, a documentary edition of personal papers held by Peter Still, a former slave, was conceived as an independent research project involving the participation of two undergraduate research assistants; the second, based upon letters to and from the Rutgers College War Service Bureau (1917-1919), has been designed as a two-week text encoding unit in a proposed undergraduate course on digital humanities. These two projects, both featuring the letter as their object of study, are compared and contrasted as models of data and process, affording reflections on the overlapping concerns of the library instruction and digital humanities communities of practice. I propose viewing text encoding projects, particularly those that focus on lesser known creators or on life documents such as letters, as a means of accessing both critical library pedagogy and digital humanities methodology. By developing such projects, librarians address a number of collection and instruction related objectives of the library, while offering a valuable introduction to a set of methods that are of increasing importance to undergraduate education. Furthermore, these projects may be conducted at smaller scales, by reusing and adapting methods and software shared by the digital humanities community, thereby limiting reliance on institutional partners for technology and infrastructure support, which may not be forthcoming in under-resourced institutional contexts.
Lightning Talk: Centering Black DH Pedagogy in a First Year Seminar Course
Adelphi University, United States of America
This lightning talk presents a brief case study centered on designing and teaching a first year university seminar course on Black digital humanities at a PWI. Teaching traditional first year students with little-to-no exposure to Black Studies (the majority are STEM majors interested in the technology aspects of the course) required that this digital humanities course serve as a gateway into Black Studies for students interested in it who lacked the opportunity to study it previously (as well as students with no interest at the outset.) This course integrates humanities curricula into STEM education, so that issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion and engendering empathy (for example, consider current conversations around combatting algorithmic bias) are tackled by exposing students to diverse histories and stories.
Encoding Working Lives: Modelling an Undergraduate DH Research Project on Archival Moravian Ego-Documents
Bucknell University, United States of America
Funded by an institutional grant from the Mellon Foundation, a team of undergraduate students, faculty, and staff is researching the relationship between the pre- and early industrial revolution in Great Britain and the lives and belief systems of the working class populations who were members of the Moravian Church. The primary sources used are archival ego-documents from collections in London and Fulneck, Yorkshire.
Using a custom-built interactive digital platform that allows for the integrative searching of document metadata, the display of the digital image, and a transcription desk to create a digital text of the document, viewers can read the transcribed memoirs online and also create custom corpora to be further marked up. This collaborative research project significantly develops students’ intellectual training and investment in a DH project. The methodology employed for this investigation of Working Moravian Lives is based on TEI -encoding of specific entities within these ego-documents (people, places, institutions, emotions) in order to build up a personography, a gazetteer, and a sentiment dictionary of Early Modern English Evangelism. Such an encoding of entities allows the team to ask questions of the texts about the relationships between sentiment and work, sentiment and place, sentiment and people.
This paper explores two aspects of the DH project. First, how does changing the role of undergraduate students from hourly paid research assistants to collaborative researchers change motivation, investment, and critical DH inquiry into both the method and substance of the project? Initially, all three students were being paid hourly to do individual work (transcription, data analysis) vital to the overall project. However, with the institution of a more comprehensive research-team model, the students’ roles as researchers are redefined: they now have direct input into the project’s design, planning, discussion, and execution. Each student focuses on a particular aspect of the project in the expectation that she will ultimately develop her own research questions that can be pursued as part of the larger project. Through close mentorship, student collaborators learn new skills, such as TEI-compliant P5 XML entity markup, taxonomic and ontological development, and metadata management, as well as further transcription and project design.
Second, the entities marked up and extracted by the students are used to examine the relationship between work and emotion in the Moravian congregations of the West Riding of Yorkshire in the 18th century. Although historically, the Moravian Church in Great Britain, like the Methodist Church of the Wesleys, has been seen as consisting of primarily members of the working classes whose artisan and laborer skills were fundamentally transformed by the advent of large-scale production in the North of England (Yorkshire and Lancashire), there has been very little work to date on the English-language memoir collections in the UK. Thus, access to these Yorkshire “ego-documents” provides the research team with a treasure-trove of new material, written by the working class members of the church.