The Value of Supporting Scholars Interested in Digital Humanities

Last June 2016, I had the pleasure of attending the HILT workshop, Digital Pedagogy and Networked Learning. Lee Skallerup-Bessette and Amanda Licastro facilitated an engaging session exploring various tools for folks with a range of familiarity and comfort with digital pedagogies. Not only did we examine various digital timeline tools, we also discussed annotation tools including Hypothes.is and Genius.com, backwards course/assignment design, providing video feedback with screen capture software, and thinking about ways to use social media to conduct close readings of texts. The work I did regarding digital timeline tools including TimelineJS, informed an assignment (see Digital Timeline Group Project Guidelines and Rubric and Digital Timeline Group Project Digital Video Peer Evaluation) that I created for LIB/HRT/HST 319 Human Traffic and Trafficking. While I have not implemented annotation tools including using Google Docs for a basic method of annotating a text (using the suggesting and editing modes), I have found it extremely useful to have students use the annotations from Genius.com to deepen their examination of song lyrics. Students’ analyses of cultural productions allows them to rethink what academic texts are as popular culture is a rich source of information.

Funding from my university facilitated my attendance, and I think this is critical as universities begin to shift towards digital humanities as a priority. Supporting faculty and staff as they undergo professional development is key in order to encourage robust scholarship and innovative teaching practices. And, it’s imperative that digital scholarship is made legible because of the way in which tenure and promotion processes differ across institutions. The MLA and AHA provide guidelines for evaluating digital work.

This year I found myself co-facilitating a workshop, “Online Public Intellectual Work Through Social Media: Engagement Strategies and Pedagogical Practices,” with Krista Benson at DH@Guelph (#DHatGuelph2017). When we proposed the course, Krista and I were conscious about centering the experiences of marginalized scholars, who often find social media and public intellectual work particularly appealing. Part of this conversation including exploring how online activism has been blurring the lines between scholarly work and activism around race, indigeneity, and sexuality. Additionally, we reflected on how we teach social media and online engagement in classes, as well as the pedagogical opportunities offered by these digital humanities platforms. We analyzed how social media expands and limits conversations on issues concerning race, gender, sexuality, and diaspora. And, because of the way in which the course is structured, I deeply appreciated the peer-to-peer learning/teaching that occurred as we exchanged best practices for various tools where one of the participants may have a deeper knowledge due to their expertise. For instance, while we did not initially anticipate discussing how universities use Snapchat as part of outreach, it became part of our conversation Day One because of participant interest in learning more.

My engagement in spaces like DH@Guelph, HILT, and DHSI this year and the previous two years facilitated my ability to implement digital pedagogy within the classroom and think through research collaborations with community partners as part of the Kutsche Office of Local History projects. The conversations during workshops and outside of the classroom create opportunities to think through new ideas and rethink existing practices. These spaces are intellectually generative and offer individuals to make connections with people committed to creating accessible, digital projects. In many ways this is also why I enjoy attending sessions at conferences focusing on the way in scholars engage with digital humanities because I always walk away learning something new and gain a resource to share with colleagues and students.

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