Weekly Roundup

ACERT presentation at Hunter College. Photo Credit: Jessie Daniels @JessieNYC

JITP Roundup: “Why Failure Matters”, a Lunchtime Presentation for ACERT

ACERT presentation at Hunter College. Photo Credit: Jessie Daniels @JessieNYC

Photo Credit: Jessie Daniels @JessieNYC

On October 27th 2016, the Academic Center for Excellence in Research and Teaching (ACERT) at Hunter College held a lunchtime seminar entitled “Why Failure Matters: Editors from CUNY’s Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy on Learning from ‘Teaching Fails.” The Managing Editor of JITP, Laura W. Kane, introduced the aims and editorial guidelines of the journal, and discussed how the journal operates through a collaborative effort between 23 faculty members, graduate students, and academic staff at CUNY and other institutions.

Also joining the lunch was Sarah Ruth Jacobs, the editor of the journal’s Teaching Fails section. The Teaching Fails section provides an opportunity for faculty members from all disciplines to reflect on the ways in which their use of technology in the classroom fell short of their expectations. These failures can help instructors gain insight and improve in their future class plans. For example, in her Teaching Fails piece, Professor Karen Gregory reflected on how her public-facing course inadvertently failed in giving students a private space for assignments and online discussion.

As part of the session, attendees were asked to reflect on how their uses of technology had failed in the classroom. One insight that came out of this discussion was how it was important when introducing a new technology to students to explain not just “the how” but “the why:”  why the technology is necessary and the ways in which it benefits students. When students don’t understand the motivation for learning a new technology, they are less engaged and willing. Attendees also reflected on how students need a lot of time and detailed instruction in order to properly use new technologies in their assignments; that is, the myth of the “digital native” who perfectly implements technologies can be a faulty line of thinking.

You can read more about the presentation on the ACERT blog. Details about our Teaching Fails section can be found on our sections of the journal page. We encourage submissions about ideas that didn’t work in the classroom – assignments that didn’t work out, readings that none of your students understood – that may help others to fail better. Questions about our Teaching Fails section should be sent to teaching.fails@jitpedagogy.org

A stack of rolled drawings, viewed in profile.

Roundup: Community, Scholarship, and Digital Archives

Each Roundup, a member of the JITP Editorial Collective assembles and shares the news items, ongoing discussions, and upcoming events of interest to us (and hopefully you). This week’s installment is edited by Anne Donlon.

Reminder: Submissions for short, blog-length sections in The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy are open year-round on a rolling basis. If you would like to share a teaching fail, an opinion, a project blueprint, a tech tool, an assignment, or a review of a book or event, please see the short section submission guidelines.

I find myself re-reading Jerry Watts’s Open Letter to My Students and Anyone Else seeking a way to get unstuck. He first sent it out via the Africana Studies listserv at CUNY in 2010 and it was published soon after in the Graduate Center Advocate. Since his death from a stroke a few weeks ago, the letter has recirculated and was republished in Warscapes. Jerry was a mentor from my first days of graduate school, a member of my dissertation committee, and a person I expected to be in my life for a long time to come. As I struggle through processing the loss while trying to keep up with work I’ve committed to, I keep returning to Jerry’s letter for guidance, mostly ruminating on “The reasons why we become stuck are numerous and vary in complexities […] IN THE MEANTIME HOWEVER, WE NEED TO GET SOME WORK DONE!!!” I’m living in that balance between exploring the psychic roots of my relative stuck-ness and the more urgent directive to get down to the real intellectual work.

Jerry’s commentary on navigating academia and sustaining the life of the mind transcends discipline, and I’ve tried to suggest some through lines below for digital humanities and digital libraries. Thinking about his role as an advisor (formal and informal) to so many black students at the Graduate Center, and his scholarship on black intellectuals, I’m thinking about how to work for digital humanities that sustain scholars of color, refuse racism, and address intellectual questions that affect African American life. The demands of black student activists, initiatives to archive student activism such as this new project at Princeton, and this compilation of Chicago police disciplinary information suggest some recent contributions to this conversation.

“Any and all graduate students need support communities”

While the following resources won’t provide every kind of support a person needs, I’ve found they are good places to find community and learn about current digital humanities goings-on.

  • The Digital Humanities on Slack offers a venue to pose questions, ask for help, and share lessons learned. I’ve learned about a number of tools, publications, and DH projects in the few weeks I’ve been a member.
  • The just-launched Digital Library Federation Digital Library Pedagogy group promises to be a meeting place to ask for help and share knowledge. The group will host a #DLFteach Twitter chat on January 12, 2016, at 8 PM EST.

Newsletters offer a way to “plug in” to various conversations happening in online fora and on the ground conferences, helpfully curated by knowledgeable colleagues and arriving to your inbox.

  • I learned about Miriam Posner’s newsletter on the DH Slack. If you want incisive information about projects and tools arriving in your inbox, you can subscribe or browse the archive of previous newsletters. Miriam Posner’s students’ DH101 projects were also making appearances on my social media feeds this week, which are worth checking out for a model of assignment design as well as impressive examples of undergraduate student DH work.
  • I also recently learned about the HASTAC newsletter, which sends monthly updates about HASTAC initiatives, upcoming events, projects that have launched, as well as upcoming opportunities for employment, publication, or presentations.
  • I’ve been subscribed to the MIT Hyperstudio newsletter for a while. It includes links to recent publications, upcoming conferences, jobs, and publication opportunities, as well as recently launched project.

“the productive/creative scholar must immerse himself/herself in a body of literature”

Jerry was a seriously well- and widely-read scholar. I aspire to the scholarly immersion he urged in his letter (and embodied in his life). Instead, lately, my own immersion takes the form of fifty browser tabs open for days at a time. You may have a better system for managing your readings (feel free to add your tips in the comments), or undertaking immersive study, but in the mean time here are some recent readings I’ve found thought provoking:

I have also had a cluster of readings related to digital archives at hand. I realized, while attending Modernist Studies’ Association conference in November, that despite being on the Digital Archives team at the Rose Library, I am not always sure what “digital archives” means. In the archives world, I understood it to mean born-digital material (for instance, the contents of Alice Walker’s hard drives) or digitized materials belonging to a certain collection–photographs, digitized videotapes or records, or texts digitized for access in the reading room, and, when possible, to a wider community, with deliberate standards for security, access, and preservation. However, I picked up that “digital archives” is a term used more loosely in humanities contexts, to mean, seemingly, any collection of digitized materials.

Trevor Owens shared a draft of a forthcoming book chapter on Digital Sources & Digital Archives; the section “What are Digital Archives?” offers some clarity on “what the term means in different contexts.” Charlotte Nunes led a post-conference workshop on Modernism & Digital Archives at MSA, and the participant-annotated google doc is a rich collection of links to digital collections, tools, projects, and readings related to digital archives. In a pre-conference workshop, Shawna Ross shared a helpful workflow, “Archive by Smartphone: From Book to OCR with ScannerPro and Google Drive,” for creating digital OCR-ed texts from physical paper materials.

For the longer term aspirations of being productive, creative, and immersed in scholarship, I’m eyeing the playlists for focusing and meditation app recommended in ProfHacker’s 2015 gift guide; working on a simple daily routine; growing trees on the Forest app; and making time for reading in quiet and solitude. Here’s to resolutions.

Upcoming events


The Marriage of the Digital Humanities and Alt-Ac Positions

Each week, a member of the JITP Editorial Collective assembles and shares the news items, ongoing discussions, and upcoming events of interest to us (and hopefully you). This week’s installment is edited by Sarah Ruth Jacobs.

Announcement: This is a reminder that submissions for short, blog-length sections in The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy are open year-round on a rolling basis. If you would like to share a teaching fail, an opinion, a project blueprint, a tech tool, an assignment, or a review of a book or event, please see the short section submission guidelines.

This year I am one of 20 fellows in the Modern Language Association’s Connected Academics Proseminar, an enrichment seminar for graduate students who are interested in pursuing alternative career paths.

As part of the seminar, participants complete career development and networking activities, including attending group visits at potential employment sites (a more detailed description of what the proseminar entails can be found here).

One of the observations that has come out of the proseminar thus far is how those who are most qualified for alt-ac jobs are those that have had the chance to take on administrative, alt-ac, and technology-related jobs during grad school. In fact, technology skills in particular seem to be high in demand in potential alternative positions for academics.

This makes sense when one considers that the rising profile of alt-ac jobs coincided with the rise of the digital humanities, as well as with the increasingly dire job prospects for new Phd recipients.

Google Trends shows how the popularity of the search term “digital humanities” continually rose since 2007:

Figure 1. Popularity of the Google search term “digital humanities,” where the level over time is relative to the highest part of the chart.

In comparison, the term alt-ac wasn’t coined until 2009, when, as Brenda Bethman and C. Shaun Longstreet note, a Twitter conversation between Bethany Nowviskie and Jason Rhody used “alt-ac” as shorthand for alternative academic (Nowviskie publicized the conversation here).

However, the notion of academics in non-traditional roles, just like the notion of digital applications for the humanities, preceded their popular terminology. Collin Brooke’s 2005 reflection on being “a technology specialist working in the humanities” would be a fine example.

Just as digital technology is opening up job opportunities across a number of different sectors, it is hardly surprising that academia is one area of tech growth.

In the spirit of alt-ac, I would like to use this roundup to bring attention to a few new and ongoing alt-ac opportunities and resources.

In addition to the MLA’s Connected Academics proseminar for current and recently-graduated doctoral students, the NEH is offering institutional grants for graduate schools to improve their alt-ac student and faculty outreach, or even to change the requirements for the degree to be more alt-ac friendly.

On Twitter, accounts with info on #altac job searches include @altacliberation, @MLAConnect, @VersatilePHD, and @humanistsatwork. Brenda Bethman has a list of resources, and Josh Boldt solicited and received a great list of websites at the bottom of his piece in Vitae.

For reflections, stories, and tips on pursuing alt-ac jobs, check out @altacadvisor, @BeyondAcademia, @Phdsatwork, @0ffthebench, and @GradSquare. MediaCommons also has articles on its #alt-academy site, where Brian Croxall‘s alt-ac guide serves as a great example.

Please tweet to @srujacobs if you would like to add to this list. Thanks!

Image of the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT) Logo.

Reflecting on Technology, Information, Society, the Digital Humanities, and Pedagogy

Each week, a member of the JITP Editorial Collective assembles and shares the news items, ongoing discussions, and upcoming events of interest to us (and hopefully you). This week’s installment is edited by Kimon Keramidas.


This week marked the five year and one-month anniversary of the first gathering of the group that would make up JITP’s editorial collective. Because of this I’ve been reflecting on how far we’ve come and where this journal fits within an evolving academic landscape where technology and the digital are having an increasing impact on the lives of faculty, staff, and students. From within the collective there is a sense of accomplishment. We’re on the way to publishing our eighth issue and continue to strive to find new ways to promote alternative forms of publication (still a daunting challenge) and facilitate discourse amongst like-minded scholars and pedagogues. But after leading a roundtable on the digital humanities at the gathering of the Society for the History of Technology’s (SHOT) Special Interest Group in Computers, Information and Society (SIGCIS) earlier this month, I was reminded that there are many places where the work we at the journal see as self-evident and a logical progression in the evolution of the academy has yet to penetrate and/or still meets significant resistance.

First, a little background for those who may be unaware of the origins of the journal. JITP developed out of a certificate program in interactive technology and pedagogy at the CUNY Graduate Center that has been in existence for more than a decade, and has deep roots in significant work accomplished by the American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning in digital public history. This work at CUNY predates the recent explosion of interest in digital humanities, and rather than focusing on the algorithmic analysis and visualization of literary corpora that has driven much DH work emphasizes a critical and theoretical awareness of how technology has impacted human endeavors throughout history.

This means that, much like SHOT, the journal’s lineage owes much to a social and cultural understanding of the history of technology and information. So, when I first attended SHOT’s annual conference and SIGCIS workshop in 2014 I thought I would find a technology-forward community committed to understanding how the tools they studied could best be deployed to improve academic work and the practice of teaching and learning. But, I in fact found the opposite as most of the SHOT community was not engaged actively in developing online communities and papers were structured and presented traditionally with read papers accompanied by Powerpoints. Nor was there significant backchannel chatter on social media or reflective posts online after the conference. I attended one panel where digital humanities was mentioned in the discussion, and as the conversation veered into the inevitable concerns over peer-review, a comment I made about post-publication peer review–which we use as a model for some short-form pieces on JITP–was quickly dismissed as a fleeting and unviable alternative. The orthodoxy of practice that acts as a barrier of entry to new inquiries into the potential use of interactive technology were apparent in the study of the history of technology, just as it still lingers in many sectors of English, history, art history, etc.

Things weren’t all bad, however, because what I found was that parts of the SHOT community were in fact engaged in questions concerning the digital humanities and interactive technology and pedagogy; they were just being very deliberate in their approach and uptake, because more than most they are keenly aware of the social, cultural, and economic ramifications of the introduction of technology into daily life both in and out of the academy. There has been a THATCamp at a previous annual gathering (although it has not been repeated since) and the SIGCIS community is more engaged and hopeful about the affordances of contemporary digital media to expand that group’s activity and constituency. With this in mind I organized a roundtable for the 2015 gathering that asked four historians of technology to discuss how SHOT and SIGCIS could more actively engage in the growing discourse surrounding digital humanities and provide it with a stronger base of history from which to understand the technologies being used to drive that movement. The resulting conversation between panelists and audience was telling. There was a combination of eagerness and apprehension as these scholars of technology, computation, and information were able to see the potentials of using these technologies but also recognized the intellectual and ideological pitfalls of using them without fully understanding them or championing them as saviors of the academy. We discussed algorithmic analysis, data visualization, internet culture, materiality of the virtual, and professionalization and were able to do so while avoiding the issues of copyright, tenure, and disciplinarity that usually bog down proceedings.

But, one thing I did not notice until after the panel was almost over was that we really had not broached the subject of alternative approaches to teaching and learning. It was only when a few of us were having a side conversation and were talking about how students handed in papers that we even touched upon the practice of teaching and learning. Where a minute before we were talking about Python web scraping, complex database queries, and chronographic visualizations, we were now back to “do you use email and print out your papers or do they post to Dropbox?” As Stephen Brier – a member of the JITP collective, founder of the CUNY ITP certificate program, and longtime ASHP/CML collaborator – has noted, “pedagogy is not totally ignored by DH’s growing cadre of practitioners; rather, teaching and learning are something of an afterthought for many DHers.”(1) This was the feeling I kind of left with after the roundtable. I was glad that SHOT and SIGCIS were starting to get invested in the digital humanities, as that community can definitely help historicize the too often sensationalized interest in this burgeoning sector of academic inquiry. But, as we have seen so often, in the march towards a greater understanding and implementing of these new technologies, the pedagogy once again was getting left behind.

So, looking back at five years of JITP I think we can say that we have accomplished a lot and we are encouraged by the near and long-term growth we see coming for the journal and the communities it serves. But, if my experiences earlier this month are any indication, there remain not just corners but entire swaths of the academy that have yet to engage with the possibilities that interactive technologies have to dramatically alter the experience of teaching and learning. One might wonder why after seventy years of modern computer programming, forty years of personal computing, and twenty years of the Internet there remains uncertainty and resistance about the potential for digital culture to impact educative practices, but the case remains that there is still work to be done and five years on JITP will continue to make whatever dents in can in the academic universe.


(1) Stephen Brier, “Where’s the Pedagogy? The Role of Teaching and Learning in the Digital Humanities,” in Debates in the Digital Humanities, ed. Matthew K. Gold (Minneapolis: Univ Of Minnesota Press, 2012), http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/8.

"Resource Development Kits for the ANT Project (1)" by Stephan Ridgway from Sydney, Australia - M-Audio MobilePre USB mixer and micsUploaded by shoulder-synth. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

This Week: Digital Pedagogy Institute Postmortem and a Podcast Potpourri

Each week, a member of the JITP Editorial Collective assembles and shares the news items, ongoing discussions, and upcoming events of interest to us (and hopefully you). This week’s installment is edited by Andrew Lucchesi


This week’s roundup is a bit of a grab bag.

First a quick report back on something I mentioned in my last weekly roundup. In August, I attended the first annual Digital Pedagogy Lab Summer Institute, hosted by Hybrid Pedagogy and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (among others). It was my first intensive digital humanities institute, and while I’m not sure I fully knew what I was getting myself into, I left with a bunch of tools and connections I’ll be glad to have going forward. You can check out the massive archive of resources generated from the various tracks at Praxis, Networks, and, the track I took, Identity. While you’re there, you might check out the new series of online courses being developed by the Digital Pedagogy Lab.

Next stop, podcasts. The world of academic podcasts is surprisingly vast, so I’ve selected out a few that are fairly young and perhaps attuned to some of our interests here at JITP. The advantage of digging into young podcasts is you can go back and listen to the archive of episodes pretty easily, and if you like them, subscribe for the new stuff as it comes out.

  • Masters of Text: Hosted by Ames Hawkins and Ryan Trauman, this podcasts aims to “foster discussion of alternative textual forms of scholarship, and to promote scholarship about alternative modes of textuality” (About). As of last week, they just posted their fourth episode, which explores the queer process Ames went through in translating a written text into an audio text.
  • HypridPod: Hosted by Chris Friend, this new podcast presents “the aural side” of the journal Hybrid Pedagogy. There are currently five episodes, the most recent features a stellar panel discussion on the topic of laptop policies in the classroom.
  • KairosCast: Hosted by Courtney Danforth and Harley Ferris, this podcast features interviews, tutorials, conference rundowns, and segments focused on topics relevant to the good folks at Kairos journal. They model great accessibility (a Kairos hallmark) by providing full transcripts for their episodes. Check out all six episodes up now.
  • From Students to scholars: a Graduate Center Peer Mentoring Podcast. This one’s a home-grown property developed this year by students in the CUNY Graduate Center. This podcasts aims at providing peer mentorship to grad students navigating the challenges of building professional identity, developing research projects, and surviving the turmoil of academia. The site just went live last week, and currently features three episodes for download.

Other quick highlights:

MLA members now get discounted attendance rates to the Digital Humanities Summer Institute.

CFP: Debates in the Digital Humanities 2017, Abstracts due November 2, 2015.

CFP: FemTechNet Distributed Open Collaborative Conference, Proposals due December 1, 2015.


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