Thanks for the response. I appreciate the commentary here on digital humanities and its intersections with Humanities. Whether or not it is a promotion campaign, i wonder if it isn't necessar to introduce those outside the Humanities that what we do has changed over the last half century. In studying new media, I occasionally get the question of whether or not what I do falls into the English department. To many outside the field, the perception remains that an English scholar studies literature and/or teaches writing, both in traditional (formalist or theoretical) ways. At the very least, DH means Humanities is in conversation outside of how programs are being underfunded and/or shut down.
I wonder how many digital humanists have found themselves being identified that way by others before they themselves saw it that way.
A very thoughtful piece on the fears and concerns over subjectivity and human-ness brought by the rapidly changing technological landscape that is increasing defining the work that academics do. What I find especially compelling about your post is the suggestion that these fears extend beyond the worry that teaching and learning technologies will render the professor obsolete by "stealing" the academic jobs. This narrative dominates critical discourse on technology and academia (see here and here). You indicate that there is a deeper level to the critical pushback against technological influence on academia that touches upon the question of what it means to be human. This inquiry is material, insofar as it signifies a distinction between the (obsolete?) humanist German Model of education and the contemporary version, which is global, technologically infused, and neoliberal. When the professor is "consumed" by students as an image fed into a computer during a Skype session, does that fundamentally alter what they are? What are the relationships between ontology, subjectivity, and capital in the age of digital humanities, online learning, and the ongoing demands for technological literacy? Must we retain our humanist notion of the professor, or would it behoove us to continue to interrogate it? Perhaps it is most beneficial to keep striving to use digital scholarship and innovation to our professional advantage, which involves practical solutions to work with the changes and not against them (I am thinking of Suzanne's new cyborg manifesto from earlier in this series). Are we simply seeing another instantiation of technophobic designation of technology as the "bad other?" I don't purport to offer answers/solutions to all of these questions, but I think that it would be productive to grapple with them. Thanks for evoking these philosophical concerns.
Thanks for the comment. In my ENGL 1102 course this semester, all three projects involved creating comics, but the final project asked students to actually create a comic. I specified that they had to use some combination of digital and paper technology, because I wanted them to investigate how those modes of production interact. (I chose not to post any examples of that project for practical reasons — I don't have access to the students' permission forms at the moment — but I will plan on posting some of them on my blog later.) Most of them used Bitstrips, although one adventurous group of students actually coded their own website from scratch.
I think the interaction between paper and digital technology is fascinating. My interest in this topic stems partly from a lecture that Julie Phillips Brown gave last semester on Brad Bouse and Amaranth Borsuk's Between Page and Screen, a paper book that is meant to be viewed on a webcam. My general feeling on this is that we need to be aware of the physical, material support of digital technologies, and that one way to do this is to think about the interaction between digital and low-tech modes of artistic creation.
My strongest connection to the digital humanities came in the classroom. Digital production as learning tool has continued to be a valuable asset to me. In a class I was working with while taking an independent study, students did a similar assignment, they remixed footage from existing film to create a trailer for a different genre. Students not only created great works, they showed their understanding of the formalistic and genre conventions better than any test. That project included a reflective essay on the choices they made in creating their remixes. I agree that the digital humanities is a powerful learning tool as well as scholarly tool.
Because the comic in the prezi is hand drawn, I wonder if lower technology based modes of production can be included in the digital humanities? In a class I taught in literature last year, I mixed digital projects (like meme creation exercises) with lower tech projects (hand drawing sets as explained in stage notes). My students enjoyed and claimed to have learned from both types of exercise and saw no big differentiation between high and low-tech activities.
I completely concur that SCMS is ready for some unconferencing & general rethinking of the conference structure. I was struck this year in comparison to MLA (my first), where a pre-conference THATCamp was an excellent start to the conference, along with other long-form pre-conference workshops that were really "working" rather than listening. Despite MLA being a much larger conference, it actually felt more intimate and contained, in large part because of these more thematically connected workshops.
This year's expansion of SCMS to 5 days of papers/workshops goes in the opposite direction, and everyone I know either came for only 3-4 days, and/or burned out after a few days. More interactive sessions and pre-conference activities would energize things for many, but only if the regular conference were compressed more - which would mean more people getting their panels/papers rejected. SCMS is a much more grad student presenting conference than many, so that would be a price to be paid for creating more unconferencing.
I think you bring up some great points as far as the lines between digital humanities and new media studies. I have felt a conflation of two in the past and that your observations here point to places where differentiation exists. Being a new media scholar does not automatically make one a digital humanist. I think that production is key in this conversation. How does theory as knowledge production play a part in criticizing and contextualizing digital projects? How does rhetoric play into these productions? I have never been to TILTS, but it does seem to be at one end of the spectrum where production is key. Many digital humanists do seem to be approaching the field with a more centered approach.
Thanks Amanda, this is a great post, and a really important contribution to this larger conversation. I've been in a postdoc for the last two years in which one of my primary jobs is to encourage and support faculty who are looking to develop technology-enhanced pedagogies and assignments. Often, I've found that getting faculty to see their students as "multimodal scholars" is a much easier sell than getting them to think of themselves in these terms (Millennials, "digital natives" and all). But it's an important step, and often one that opens their eyes to how technology might enhance their own research and scholarly communication.
I think it's also important for us to share these assignments (both how we've designed and refined them) and openly discuss what works and what doesn't. Even in this brief post, I love that you gave a sense of the guidelines for the class' twitter requirement and some of the results. This will help both those of us who are already trying to develop "multimodal students," and serve as incentive and support for those faculty who are reluctant to jump into the social media fray.
Thanks for the comment, Amanda, I think this is an issue many can relate to. I'm also headed into an English Department, so I am going to need to adapt a similar, "balanced" approach. What gives me hope, and is clearly reflected in this comment thread, is that I do think we're experiencing a sea change in media studies and related fields where there are enough junior faculty getting tenure who understand alternative modes of publishing and value public scholarship, enough senior faculty who are willing to go to bat to support junior faculty doing this work, and platforms like this one that are growing established and looking to play their part in supporting/legitimating this labor.
I vividly remember, a few weeks after starting my current postdoc position, hearing Kathleen Fitzpatrick state that doing DH often means doing twice the work for half the credit. I hope, like you, that we won't have to continue to cultivate dual CVs, especially when our work (like the best scholarly output) is most productive when it's troubling these binaries.
I agree! Most people I've talked to at SCMS have said that they wished there were more workshops, to allow for the free exchange of ideas that is not always possible with the traditional panel format. Even when panelists diligently try to stay within the suggested time frame of 20 minutes per paper, tech issues and late starts to panels means that there is rarely time for a good Q & A after a panel. I'd like to see more workshop-style presentations at SCMS in the future.
Though I do have one quibble with your account above—I find that most presenters at SCMS do use some kind of visual aids—either clips or a power point or something of that nature. Have you had a different experience?
Thanks for a great post!
I see a lot of connections between your argument here and the argument that Miram Posner made earlier in this survey. She sees the way that theory can complicate the digital. She argues theory complicates digital humanities in a good way. Cultural informatics seems to have the same ability to complicate assumptions within digital humanities from a cultural perspective. I will have to spend some time getting to know more about cultural informatics.