Posted by: emilysuzanneclark | March 17, 2015

Adventures in #digitalhumanities, Part 2

Adventures in #digitalhumanities, Part 1 is here.

Back in early February, I tweeted out to the academic Twitterverse for helpful readings in #digitalhumanities. This question was prompted by the new faculty working group in #dh here at Gonzaga that is sponsored by the Dean of the College of A&S and completely overseen by interested faculty. In particular, we’re interested in what #dh can bring to the classroom. What kind of innovations in pedagogy can #dh bring us?

The responses I got from Twitter were so great in number that Storify was the only way to organize them. The recommendation that I have found most helpful so far is Ryan Cordell‘s “How Not to Teach Digital Humanities.” One of his big pieces of advice is to start small. That seems so simple, yet it’s also a big relief. I don’t have to throw myself in the deep end and hope I can swim through the vast world of #dh and the interwebz. It’s okay to start small.

This has got me brainstorming about what small and easy #dh style assignments I could bring to my classes. What about creating a database as a group that is transcriptions of 19th century newspaper articles that focus on a particular theme/event. Then that database could be used for final papers based on the interesting things they find. Say the topic for the class-colaborated database is the Ghost Dance. Do you students notice regional trends? Do they notice frequent words/vocab used by the journalists? Do they notice trends based on the Native American tribe in question (Lakota vs Arapaho)? What if the database focused Christian Science/Mary Baker Eddy? Or focused on Spiritualism and seances? Or Hoodoo? As an American religious historian, I can already guess some of the trends, or I’ve read a secondary source on it. But for the students, this would be a way to discover those trends on their own through the use of a small #dh project they created. Or maybe that’s too big of a start. Now I’ve got more questions, and many of them center on what programs are out there for us to use. What can we create? I’m excited that I have more questions. This is a good place to start. Now I just got to find the time to read and start creating.

In Adventures in Digital Humanities, Part 1, I used “I have no idea what I’m doing” computer dog to describe my knowledge of #dh. Though it was a reference to when I took over web maintenance for the Journal of Southern Religion, it felt (still feels?) applicable. But perhaps I’ve upgraded. To pull from one of my favorite movies, What About Bob?, I’m all about baby steps right now. #babystepstodh

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