Welcome to JITP Issue Two! We are especially excited to introduce the first installment of our Behind the Seams feature, in which the editors and authors reflect on the oft-hidden path from proposal to published piece. This feature centers on a recorded audio conversation—not an interview, but an open-ended discussion—built around observations and recollections of what stands out in the process of developing, editing and publishing an online article. In this inaugural edition, we spoke with Brian Beaton, author of “Other People’s Digital Tools: Adaptive Reuse, Cold War History, and the GSA’s Real Property Utilization and Disposal Website,” an article on his intentional “misreading” of a government property sales website as an archive of Cold War architecture.
Three themes emerged from our conversation that revealed patterns in the full set of articles constituting Issue Two. The first involves the value of such resistant readings. In “Wiki Wars: Conversation, Negotiation, and Collaboration in Online Spaces,” Jennifer Marlow describes how students’ “wars” over their understanding of common class content—overwriting, rewriting, and re-overwriting each others’ ideas and definitions in a class wiki—helped her (and her students) to understand the value of social constructivist learning. Although the infighting may at first seem a failure of social construction, in that the wiki page always showed the latest move in the debate rather than blending various contributions, Marlow chooses to focus instead on the wiki’s Page History as the product of the class’s collaboration, revealing the persistence with which they fought for their definitions in the midst of fighting over them. Like Beaton, she therefore demonstrates ways in which the failure (or “failure”) of technological innovations in the classroom can be the most productive moments in their use.
True, this can cause difficulties; but the second theme we noticed is the usefulness of difficulty in learning. By unsettling our default ways of seeing or interacting, challenges and mismatches between our expectations and what actually happens—like the unpredictable disappearance of certain entries from Beaton’s “archive,” or the overall difficulty in repurposing the resource—can bring those expectations and desires forward into consciousness, encouraging a more thoughtful design (or re-design). Moreover, as Ali Arya, Peggy Hartwick, Shawn Graham, and Nuket Nowlan suggest in their joint article “Collaborating through Space and Time in Educational Virtual Environments: 3 Case Studies,” this insight is not limited to design projects. They found that when immersed in a 3D Virtual Environment, students in a college-level language course held more spontaneous conversations in the target language; and though the authors don’t say so explicitly, we can’t help but wonder whether part of the exigency for their discussions was the useful difficulty of negotiating the 3D platform. Such conversations are also on display in the third case of the article, in which students in an archaeology course guide each other through an impressively interactive 3D virtual dig site. This dig site itself was made interestingly difficult to build by the constraints of the environment; we hope the authors’ innovative solution will save some time for readers who wish to emulate or extend their success.
All of these experiences with productive (or at least provocative) difficulty suggest to us that there is room for further exploration of the concept, especially in connection to Randy Bass and Heidi Elmendorf’s white paper “Designing for Difficulty: Social Pedagogies as a Framework for Course Design.” Their social pedagogies framework specifically calls on teachers to create opportunities for students to engage with difficulty and authenticity so that they will develop deepened and contextualized understanding. The playing out of the theme of difficulty in the pieces in this issue leads us to think that not only students, but teachers, too, can profitably acknowledge, engage with, and learn from difficulty, rather than avoiding it.
The third theme emerging from our peek Behind the Seams, which we will be interested to track through future issues, is the tendency for articles in our Issues section to line up with the other sections of JITP; the review process and “fitting” articles into our separate sections, it seems, has often caused those articles (and our sections) to shift in scope. Marlow’s article, for example, could be construed as an extended Teaching Fail submission; Beaton’s explicitly began its life as a Tool Tip before expanding in scope; and Marcus Schulzke’s article on “Using Video Games to Think About Distributive Justice” could well be seen as a beefed-up Review. Focusing on a recently developed life-sim game, Real Lives, Schulzke ponders the implications of assuming the roles of powerful characters on game players’ understandings of and complacency about power imbalances in the real world.
Seeing how the journal—and publication in the journal—helps to generate new ideas has been an exciting process for us. It is this sense of JITP as a creative and generative force in itself, rather than just a repository for static ideas and completed research, which led to the inclusion of “Behind the Seams” as a feature.
Our final article, by JITP’s own Kimon Keramidas, became two articles through the review process: after a full-length treatment of “Integrating Digital Media at the Programmatic and Institutional Level: Building a Humane Cyberinfrastructure at the Bard Graduate Center,” he also offers an “Afterword: The DML and the Digital Humanities.” In the former, Keramidas highlights the practical benefits of metacognitive reflection on both instruction and technology. “Digital media are new,” he writes, “and with newness comes apprehension. […] Clearly and repeatedly communicating an understanding of programmatic foundations can do much to assuage apprehension and uncertainty”—especially, as he makes clear elsewhere in the piece, when communicating with one individual at a time.
We’ve split off the afterword in anticipation of what we trust will be a lively and provocative discussion around the value of the Digital Humanities as a term of art within instructional technology and pedagogy—a value which Keramidas calls into question.
We hope that any or all of these pieces will strike some sparks. JITP should always be a place for live conversation and thinking and learning, not just for display or presentation. If you, as a reader, want to follow up on some point of an article that was exciting or provocative but not entirely fleshed out, to push the conversation in a new direction or draw a new connection, please use the comments sections! In an online journal, the final word is only the end of the first sally, and the conversation can continue even here within our pages.
Benjamin Miller, The Graduate Center, CUNY
Joseph Ugoretz, Macaulay Honors College, CUNY
Co-Editors, JITP Issue Two