historian, author, film producer

Category: Teaching (page 1 of 1)

Reading list for graduate seminar in digital humanities (Fall 2014)

It’s time to work on syllabi for Fall courses, order books, and prepare readings. With the DH2014 Conference in full swing I am thinking about assignments for my graduate seminar: “Interdisciplinary Readings Seminar in Digital Humanities.” This course is the foundation seminar for our Graduate Certificate in Digital Humanities at the University of Nebraska. My colleague Steve Ramsay taught the course last fall, and I taught the course in 2012.

Based in part on the Multi-Lingualism and Multi-Culturalism Committee at DH2014, I have required an essay assignment that asks students to engage through social media with one or more scholars or working groups outside of the U.S. and publishing in a language other than English. I’ll have more to post on the particulars of that assignment soon. In the meantime the course will include the following readings (all are tentative, of course, until the syllabus is finalized and I will post my syllabus for comments and suggestions soon):

Adams, Henry. The Education of Henry Adams: An Autobiography (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1918)

Ayers, Edward L. “The Pasts and Futures of Digital History,” Virginia Center for Digital History, (http://www.vcdh.virginia.edu/PastsFutures.html)

——–. “Does Digital Scholarship Have a Future?” EDUCAUSE review, August 2013.

Borgman, Christine. “The Digital Future is Now: A Call to Action for the Humanities,” Digital Humanities Quarterly (2009).

Bush, Vannevar. “As We May Think,” Atlantic Monthly (July 1945).

Natalia Cecire, “When Digital Humanities Was in Vogue,” Journal of Digital Humanities, 2011

Ethington, Philip J. “Los Angeles and the Problem of Urban Historical Knowledege,” American Historical Review (2000).

Gibson, William. Neuromancer. New York: Penguin, 1984.

Habermas, Jurgen. “Science and Technology as ‘Ideology’,” in Toward a Rational Society: Student Protest, Science, and Politics (Boston: Beacon Press, 1970).

Haraway, Donna. “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century,” Socialist Review (1985).

Heidegger, Martin. The Question Concerning Technology, and Other Essays. New York: Garland Publishing, 1977

Koh, Adeline and Roopika Risam, #DHPoco: Postcolonial Digital Humanities, Comics.

Latour, Bruno. An Inquiry in the Modes of Existence: An Anthropology of the Moderns. Harvard University Press, 2014.

Lanier, Jaron. “Digital Maoism: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism,” Edge (May 2006).

——–. You are Not a Gadget: a manifesto. New York: Vintage, 2010.

Licklider, J.C.R. “Man-Computer Symbiosis,” IRE Transactions on Human Factors in Electronics (March 1960).

Lunenfeld et al. “The Digital Humanities Manifesto 2.0” (UCLA, 2009).

Mahoney, Timothy R. “Gilded Age Plains City: Spatial Narratives,” Center for Digital Research in the Humanities (2009).

Manovich, Lev. Software Takes Command. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013.

McPherson, Tressie. “‘Who the Fuck Do You Think You Are?’ Academic Engagement, Microcelebrity and Digital Sociology from the Far Left of the Matrix of Domination,” (2012)

Michel, Jean-Baptiste et al. “Quantitative Analysis of Culture Using Millions of Digitized Books,” Science Vol. 331 (14 January 2011).

McCarty, Willard. “Humanities Computing,” Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science (2003).

McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1964.

Moretti, Franco. Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for a Literary History. Verso, 2007.

Murray, Janet. Inventing the Medium: Principles of Interaction Design as a Cultural Practice. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2011.

Ramsay, Stephen. “Toward an Algorithmic Criticism,” Literary and Linguistic Computing 18.2 (2003): 167-174.

Staley, David. “Historical Visualizations,” in Journal of the Association for History and Computing Vol. 3 No. 3 (November 2000)

Thomas, William G. III, and Edward L. Ayers, “The Differences Slavery Made: Two Communities in the American Civil War,” American Historical Review, December 2003.(http://www2.vcdh.virginia.edu/AHR/)

Turing, A. M. “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” Mind 49 (1950).

Turkle, Sherry. “Constructions and Reconstructions of the Self in Virtual Reality,” Mind, Culture, and Activity Vol. 1, No. 3 (Summer 1994).

White, Richard. “What is Spatial History?” (working paper, Spatial History Project, 2010)

Unsworth, John. “What is Humanities Computing and What is Not?” (2002)

Zittrain, Jonathan. The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010.

selected readings from Debates in the Digital Humanities online and the Blackwell’s Companion to Digital Humanities online

Interview posted by “The Junto” on The History Harvest

Sara Georgini at “The Junto” (a group blog of early American historians) has posted an interview with Patrick Jones and me on “Spring at The History Harvest.” The planning for The History Harvest is moving briskly and our interview focuses on where we are headed with the project in the coming months. Other questions include how we came up with the idea for the project, how it has changed our ideas about teaching, what our goals of “community-based” history are, and what technical and aesthetic challenges we face in developing The History Harvest digital project online. Great questions from The Junto! For our answers visit “The Junto” blog.

History Harvest Blitz Week, April 8-12, 2013

We are going to hold a “virtual” brainstorming session for all interested parties in the History Harvest this spring April 8 through April 12, culminating on that Friday April 12 with a NITLE seminar that Patrick Jones and I will lead (soon to be announced). We hope the blitz suggestions we receive will help shape future grant proposals and the project’s next steps.

The goal is to open our broader History Harvest idea out through social media for participation and feedback. We see this as kind of open strategic planning for the HH project. While we are glad to encourage everyone who leaps in and runs their own harvests (undoubtedly a good thing in the community), we are seeking ideas about a federated approach to this form of experiential learning and how to develop the cyberinfrastructure to support it. 

We are looking for participation and suggestions not only from fellow historians (who may have seen our piece in Perspectives on History) but also from the Digital Humanities community and the broader community of K-12 educators, education researchers, and state humanities councils and partners. But we believe the platform for doing that will need to be completely different. So, during the upcoming “The History Harvest Blitz Week” on Twitter, Google Hangout, and other social media we will take suggestions and explain our project broadly. We will be capturing the suggestions and twitter stream for later reference and use.

To keep matters interesting each day of the blitz week, we will be releasing student produced work, including a short video introducing The History Harvest, and we hope to have a series of community radio “interstitials” for “The History Harvest Moment” that indicate what students can do and focus on one object/story from a harvest.

The MOOC Bubble: where do we go from here?

At long last, a year into the MOOC frenzy, here comes Thomas Friedman with an oped in yesterday’s New York Times, Revolution Hits the Universities. This breathlessly enthusiastic endorsement from Mr. Friedman (The World is Flat) should mark the high tide of the MOOC craze, and for all of us, I hope, the beginning of a more reasonable discussion of these new courses and the future of higher education. With Friedman’s late entry, perhaps we can safely say the MOOC bubble is about to burst.

One reason this seems likely is that his high profile piece in The New York Times elicited barely a whimper from the digital humanities community. Friedman’s oped came on a day in which the twitter stream among digital humanities lit up over MOOCs, but not one of these scholars paid attention to Friedman’s pandering sycophancy. Instead, the real issues came up in Cathy Davidson’s “Why MOOCs Are Not a BandAid For Higher Education’s Budgetary Woes,”  “Spy v. Spy: A Response to the Chronicle of Higher Education”, and “If We Profs Don’t Reform Higher Education, We’ll Be Re-Formed (and we won’t like it).” (see #highered, #MOOC)

Friedman’s piece was just one of a string of “disruptive” “transformative” “revolutionary” flavored assessments about how MOOCs will “reinvent” the future of higher education. To get a sense of the panic MOOCs have brought on, we only need to look to the other side of the pond yesterday and see the Times Education Section‘s report on Cambridge University’s chancellor fretting that MOOCs will transform “the nature of higher education.” (“V-c warns of massive threat posed by MOOCs”)

Because of his public audience, Friedman certainly gets attention. His piece generated over 285 comments before the day was over. But it seems that the hard, serious questions about how to transform higher education with technology are taking place in the digital humanities twittersphere and other similar venues. Ryan Cordell at Northeastern (@ryancordell), Cathy Davidson at HASTAC (@CathyNDavidson), Adeline Koh at Duke (@adelinekoh), Siva Vaidhyanathan at the University of Virginia (@sivavaid), and Edward L. Ayers at Richmond (forthcoming piece on a “more radical online revolution”) among many others in digital humanities are writing thoughtful and fascinating pieces on the real changes underway in higher education–in teaching and learning using technology, of which MOOCs are a part but perhaps not necessarily the most important.

I could not ignore Friedman however. He does at least two things in yesterday’s piece that are very troubling. The first is his hook-line-and-sinker acceptance of Coursera’s sugary story that an autistic student and his parents appreciated the MOOC environment. Friedman and Coursera imply that the MOOC environment could transform opportunities for special needs students. But neither he nor Coursera seem willing to admit that such technologies could be used to exclude or profoundly limit access.

Before going further I should say that my youngest daughter has Down syndrome and so while I do not doubt that this autistic student found great value in the MOOC experience (and applaud that), I want to point out the subtle manipulation of those with disabilities at work in Friedman’s piece. He uses this story in the service of another agenda without any apparent concern for the implications. This sort of scenario occurs daily in the life of my daughter, and it has been discussed among parents of children with special needs regularly from Michael Berube’s brilliant and inspired Life as We Know It to yesterday’s thoughtful New York Times piece by George Estreich “A child with Down syndrome keeps his place at the table.” The frightening and retrograde idea that people with special needs can be set apart (to be special somewhere else) should be seen for what it is–exclusionary. The trade offs are vastly unequal: instead of school, here is an online link; instead of a professor, here is a video, instead of a place at the table, another table is set. Will the MOOCs mean less diversity in our institutions of higher learning? Perhaps. Does Coursera or any current MOOC provider seek to serve students with special needs in any real or meaningful way? Probably not–so why does Friedman bring it up? Why does Coursera offer this particular story to him? It makes those who do not confront the daily challenges of navigating the world with disabilities feel good about something they otherwise might find vaguely threatening–a revolution in higher education. It desensitizes us, however perversely, to the very issue we should be more alert to in this drama: access and equal opportunity.

Second, one of the real issues of concern is that privately capitalized corporations running MOOCs through consortia of elite institutions, as presently described by Friedman, might flatten the landscape of higher education in ways that limit, rather than expand, access to quality instruction. In the name of efficiency public higher education might be stripped of resources. Using the technology to appear accessible, the elite institutions secure their positions by placing the real engagement on campus ever further from the reach of other students. Across the broad second and third tier of institutions, students might find fewer pathways, not more, into the system of higher education, as all sorts of courses are cut from campuses. Then these courses would only be available virtually, “at scale.”

What is needed in this discussion, as Cathy Davidson, Siva Vaidhyanathan, and others in digital humanities so clearly recognize, is first and foremost to acknowledge the wider scope of online  research and practice which the MOOC bubble has obscured. To the amazement of the digital humanities scholars who have been thinking about and building mechanisms to teach more effectively using technology for over fifteen years, the current MOOC model appears to be a puzzling throwback, like suggesting we all take up closed circuit television or organize correspondence courses.

In an episode of Seinfeld, Jerry assesses Kramer and Newman’s never-ending game of Risk as “a game of world domination being played by two guys who can barely run their own lives.” The character and tenor of MOOCs–their potential for realigning credit hours and their hundreds of thousands of “students”–might remind us of the game of Risk, and perhaps some of the leaders involved could appear to be a little bit like Kramer and Newman.

In higher education at the moment we find it difficult to see beyond the next budget cut, the next course enrollment battle, the next assessment strategy. But the debate over MOOCs in our departments and disciplines suggests a much broader opportunity and challenge before us:  in the humanities we need to begin building pedagogy for the digital age. We have seen rapid growth in the availability of digital archives and digital projects, yet our classroom practices have changed little. Students are confronted with millions of digital texts, yet they need skills to navigate the World Wide Web and numerous proprietary databases. They need the disciplinary habits of mind in the humanities to interpret and evaluate digital information, yet they are given few opportunities to participate in the creation of new knowledge. Imagine if we reorganized our classroom experience both in large lecture courses and more intensive seminars to create less anonymity and more dynamic learning, to allow students truly to participate in a “community of scholars.” We will be doing precisely this in The History Harvest course soon–at least we are in the planning stages now for a MOOC-like distributed course next year with participating classes from other colleges, after my colleague Patrick Jones has run the first set of very successful History Harvest courses.

The vast changes in our classrooms and information technology have led to fundamental questions about our higher education enterprise, ones we should be asking. Why go to college when information is at your fingertips? What will we do with ten million books digitized online and searchable? What is a lecture course for? How can we use technology more effectively? The emergence of the MOOC offers another opportunity, one that humanities and STEM faculty should embrace. But the justifications Coursera and Friedman have offered ring hollow and the unrestrained hyperbole about the “reinvention” of higher education could have the reverse effect of shutting down experimentation with MOOCs, just when we need it most. That would be a shame.