Educating Faculty: Confronting the Fear Factor of the Digital Humanities

As someone who has been using digital media (to qualify, rather erratically) in her research and teaching for many years, I am a bit of a lone wolf in an English Department that strictly adheres to traditional print culture in both scholarship and in the classroom. This session intends to pose a series of questions that will lead to some kind of action plan for dissolving fears and disdain of all things academic and digital.

My first question posed is: how can those of us who are digitally-oriented not only get support for e-projects and e-pedagogies (as Michael suggests in his proposal) that move beyond just a simple transference of media but move into the realm of re-conceiving what humanities can do in terms of methods and pedagogies? And what arguments can we make to persuade resistant faculty of the possibilities of digital media in their scholarship and teaching? How can we persuade faculty (especially in this age of budget cuts and education as instrumentalist rhetoric) that indeed some digital tools may offer to re-engage us with our subjects in novel and dynamic ways as well as energize our teaching?

Secondly, what digital programs and tools would best serve particular departments and/or disciplines as a whole? What tools can we bring to our departments via professional development workshops (taken for service credit) that would be most amenable and accessible to resistant faculty? Whether Omeka or Drupal for digital literary projects/archives or Mendeley/Zotero/Udini for research/data collecting.

Third, I’ve been thinking about starting a Digital Humanities Working Group or University-Wide Committee that could begin to think through implementing the digital in our work as scholars and teachers and to create sustainable collaborative relations with folks in library and computer science. I would like to hear from people who may be doing this and what they have learned and frankly whether this kind of college-wide effort is worth undertaking.


Categories: Collaboration, Digital Literacy, Research Methods, Session Proposal, Teaching |

About Doreen Piano

I took a computers and composition class in 1992 when I was studying creative writing as a grad student. The class was mind-blowing and I did a very cool multi-media project in the Mac program Hypercard. The next semester I did an independent study with the professor John Slatin (RIP) and tried to create a hypertext novel. Since then I have built websites, used wikis, and kept a blog for a few years at the beginning of the Gulf War (2003). As much as I feel conversant with strands of digital humanities and writing/computer studies, I don't feel completely literate. That doesn't stop me from introducing multi-media projects into my writing and graduate classes but I would like to learn a bit more about different software/programs to use for my own research--how to mediate an article for publication--to finding new tools for teaching.

5 Responses to Educating Faculty: Confronting the Fear Factor of the Digital Humanities

  1. Jeanne Pavy says:

    Great idea, Doreen. I think there are probably other lone wolves around that would be interested in the kind of campus working group you describe, to share knowledge (or at least enthusiasm and interest) as well as our (meager) resources, etc.
    I think one of the most compelling things about DH projects is their visibility to the larger community–the contribution you make to the discipline with your project is not hidden away but (hopefully) discoverable by other students and researchers. I think even more traditional scholars must find themselves using these digital tools and resources, and that is bound to change how they think of them, and to consider the possibility that they themselves can contribute to the development of these tools/resources.

  2. Doreen Piano says:

    Jeanne, Yes, absolutely, especially period scholars who could use big data tools to mine info. The idea of quantitative methods in English most likely sends shivers down some literary scholars’ backs but presenting not as a replacement of traditional criticism but another way of analyzing might be key.

  3. Vicki Mayer says:

    These are great orienting questions. A couple of things to add to the pot: I would really like to see a citywide DH group, if only to not continually reinvent wheels and have funding partners for grants. Also, everyone has mentioned open source programs, but my experience is that if you’re not a programmer, the learning curve is steeper and you still rely on people to fix the bugs that always crop up. Finally, there’s a great post based on a presentation I saw at HASTAC 2 weeks ago about the problem with silos in the humanities and the proprietary issues that are coming up with the database operators (Jstor, Muse, etc).

  4. Doreen Piano says:

    Vicki, that program Bibliopedia looks fascinating and I like the idea of x-institutional, citywide DH Group. Let’s do it but also make sure to see how and why participating in such a group should count for scholarly inquiry. Look forward to finally meeting you!

  5. Great. One of my favorite parts of THATCamp is the way they serve as great big data dumps as people share urls leading to sites, reports, etc. We can only accomplish so much in one day, so building on the momentum moving forward is important. Seeking city-wide as well as region-wide collaboration is one of the main reasons why USM and UNO sought to get the ball rolling. Thankfully, Baton Rouge and Hattiesburg will be contributing a great deal to the sessions as will the Clemson contingent and others who may not be located in New Orleans.

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