Tagged digital literary studies

3

A Survey of Digital Humanities Programs

Abstract

The number of digital humanities programs has risen steadily since 2008, adding capacity to the field. But what kind of capacity, and in what areas? This paper presents a survey of DH programs in the Anglophone world (Australia, Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the United States), including degrees, certificates, and formalized minors, concentrations, and specializations. By analyzing the location, structure, and disciplinarity of these programs, we examine the larger picture of DH, at least insofar as it is represented to prospective students and cultivated through required coursework. We also explore the activities that make up these programs, which speak to the broader skills and methods at play in the field, as well as some important silences. These findings provide some empirical perspective on debates about teaching DH, particularly the attention paid to theory and critical reflection. Finally, we compare our results (where possible) to information on European programs to consider areas of similarity and difference, and sketch a broader picture of digital humanities.

Introduction

Much has been written of what lies inside (and outside) the digital humanities (DH). A fitting example might be the annual Day of DH, when hundreds of “DHers” (digital humanists) write about what they do and how they define the field (see https://twitter.com/dayofdh). Read enough of their stories and certain themes and patterns may emerge, but difference and pluralism will abound. More formal attempts to define the field are not hard to find—there is an entire anthology devoted to the subject (Terras, Nyhan, and Vanhoutte 2013)—and others have approached DH by studying its locations (Zorich 2008; Prescott 2016), its members (Grandjean 2014a, 2014b, 2015), their communication patterns (Ross et al. 2011; Quan-Haase, Martin, and McCay-Peet 2015), conference submissions (Weingart 2016), and so forth.

A small but important subset of research looks at teaching and learning as a lens through which to view the field. Existing studies have examined course syllabi (Terras 2006; Spiro 2011) and the development of specific programs and curricula (Rockwell 1999; Siemens 2001; Sinclair 2001; Unsworth 2001; Unsworth and Butler 2001; Drucker, Unsworth, and Laue 2002; Sinclair & Gouglas 2002; McCarty 2012; Smith 2014). In addition, there are pedagogical discussions about what should be taught in DH (Hockey 1986, 2001; Mahony & Pierazzo 2002; Clement 2012) and its broader relationship to technology, the humanities, and higher education (Brier 2012; Liu 2012; Waltzer 2012).

This study adds to the literature on teaching and learning by presenting a survey of existing degree and certificate programs in DH. While these programs are only part of the activities that make up the broader world of DH, they provide a formal view of training in the field and, by extension, of the field itself. Additionally, they reflect the public face of DH at their institutions, both to potential students and to faculty and administrators outside of DH. By studying the requirements of these programs (especially required coursework), we explore the activities that make up DH, at least to the extent that they are systematically taught and represented to students during admissions and recruitment, as well as where DH programs position themselves within and across the subject boundaries of their institutions. These activities speak to broader skills and methods at play in DH, as well as some important silences. They also provide an empirical perspective on pedagogical debates, particularly the attention paid to theory and critical reflection

Background

Melissa Terras (2006) was the first to point to the utility of education studies in approaching the digital humanities (or what she then called “humanities computing”). In the broadest sense, Terras distinguishes between subjects, which are usually associated with academic departments and defined by “a set of core theories and techniques to be taught” (230), and disciplines, which lack departmental status yet still have their own identities, cultural attributes, communities of practice, heroes, idols, and mythology. After analyzing four university courses in humanities computing, Terras examines other aspects of the community such as its associations, journals, discussion groups, and conference submissions. She concludes that humanities computing is a discipline, although not yet a subject: “the community exists, and functions, and has found a way to continue disseminating its knowledge and encouraging others into the community without the institutionalization of the subject” (242). Terras notes that humanities computing scholars, lacking prescribed activities, have freedom in developing their own research and career paths. She remains curious, however, about the “hidden curriculum” of the field at a time when few formal programs yet existed.

Following Terras, Lisa Spiro (2011) takes up this study of the “hidden curriculum” by collecting and analyzing 134 English-language syllabi from DH courses offered between 2006–2011. While some of these courses were offered in DH departments (16, 11.9%), most were drawn from other disciplines, including English, history, media studies, interdisciplinary studies, library and information science, computer science, rhetoric and composition, visual studies, communication, anthropology, and philosophy. Classics, linguistics, and other languages were missing. Spiro analyzes the assignments, readings, media types, key concepts, and technologies covered in these courses, finding (among other things) that DH courses often link theory to practice; involve collaborative work on projects; engage in social media such as blogging or Twitter; focus not only on text but also on video, audio, images, games, maps, simulation, and 3D modeling; and reflect contemporary issues such as data and databases, openness and copyright, networks and networking, and interaction. Finally, Spiro presents a list of terms she expected to see more often in these syllabi, including “argument,” “statistics,” “programming,” “representation,” “interpretation,” “accessibility,” “sustainability,” and “algorithmic.”

These two studies form the broad picture of DH education. More recent studies have taken up DH teaching and learning within particular contexts, such as community colleges (McGrail 2016), colleges of liberal arts and science (Alexander & Davis 2012; Buurma & Levine 2016), graduate education (Selisker 2016), libraries (Rosenblum, et al., 2016; Varner 2016; Vedantham & Porter 2016) and library and information science education (Senchyne 2016), and the public sphere (Brennan 2016; Hsu 2016). These accounts stress common structural challenges and opportunities across these contexts. In particular, many underscore assumptions made about and within DH, including access to technology, institutional resources, and background literacies. In addition, many activities in these contexts fall outside of formal degrees and programs or even classroom learning, demonstrating the variety of spaces in which DH may be taught and trained.

Other accounts have drawn the deep picture of DH education by examining the development of programs and courses at specific institutions, such as McMaster University (Rockwell 1999), University of Virginia (Unsworth 2001; Unsworth and Butler 2001; Drucker, Unsworth, and Laue 2002), University of Alberta (Sinclair & Gouglas 2002), King’s College London (McCarty 2012), and Wilfrid Laurier University (Smith 2014), among others. Abstracts from “The Humanities Computing Curriculum / The Computing Curriculum in the Arts and Humanities” Conference in 2001 contain references to various institutions (Siemens 2001), as does a subsequent report on the conference (Sinclair 2001). Not surprisingly, these accounts often focus on the histories and peculiarities of each institution, a “localization” that Knight (2011) regards as necessary in DH.

Our study takes a program-based approach to studying teaching and learning in DH. While formal programs represent only a portion of the entire DH curricula, they are important in several respects: First, they reflect intentional groupings of courses, concepts, skills, methods, techniques, and so on. As such, they purport to represent the field in its broadest strokes rather than more specialized portions of it (with the exception of programs offered in specific areas, such as book history and DH). Second, these programs, under the aegis of awarding institutions and larger accrediting bodies, are responsible for declaring explicit learning outcomes of their graduates, often including required courses. These requirements form one picture of what all DHers are expected to know upon graduation (at a certain level), and this changing spectrum of competencies presumably reflects corresponding changes in the field over time. Third, formal DH programs organize teaching, research, and professional development in the field; they are channels through which material and symbolic capital flow, making them responsible, in no small part, for shaping the field itself. Finally, these programs, their requirements, and coursework are one way—perhaps the primary way—in which prospective students encounter the field and make choices about whether to enroll in a DH program and, if so, which one. These programs are also consulted by faculty and administrators developing new programs at their own institutions, both for common competencies and for distinguishing features of particular programs.

In addition to helping define the field, a study of formal DH programs also contributes to the dialogue around pedagogy in the field. Hockey, for example, has long wondered whether programming should be taught (1986) and asks, “How far can the need for analytical and critical thinking in the humanities be reconciled with the practical orientation of much work in humanities computing?” (2001). Also skeptical of mere technological skills, Simon Mahony and Elena Pierazzo (2002) argue for teaching methodologies or “ways of thinking” in DH. Tanya Clement examines multiliteracies in DH (e.g., critical thinking, commitment, community, and play), which help to push the field beyond “training” to “a pursuit that enables all students to ask valuable and productive questions that make for ‘a life worth living’” (2012, 372).

Others have called on DH to engage more fully in critical reflection, especially in relation to technology and the role of the humanities in higher education. Alan Liu notes that much DH work has failed to consider “the relation of the whole digital juggernaut to the new world order,” eschewing even clichéd topics such as “the digital divide,” “surveillance,” “privacy,” and “copyright” (2012, 491). Steve Brier (2012) points out that teaching and learning are an afterthought to many DHers, a lacuna that misses the radical potential of DH for transforming teaching and professional development. Luke Walzer (2012) observes that DH has done little to help protect and reconceptualize the role of the humanities in higher education, long under threat from austerity measures and perceived uselessness in the neoliberal academy (Mowitt 2012).

These and other concerns point to longstanding questions about the proper balance of technological skills and critical reflection in DH. While a study of existing DH programs cannot address the value of critical reflection, it can report on the presence (or absence) of such reflection in required coursework and program outcomes. Thus, it is part of a critical reflection on the field as it stands now, how it is taught to current students, and how such training will shape the future of the field. It can also speak to common learning experiences within DH (e.g., fieldwork, capstones), as well as disciplinary connections, particularly in program electives. These findings, together with our more general findings about DH activities, give pause to consider what is represented in, emphasized by, and omitted from the field at its most explicit levels of educational training.

Methods

This study involved collection of data about DH programs, coding descriptions of programs and courses using a controlled vocabulary, and analysis and visualization.

Data Collection

We compiled a list of 37 DH programs active in 2015 (see Appendix A), drawn from listings in the field (UCLA Center for Digital Humanities 2015; Clement 2015), background literature, and web searches (e.g., “digital humanities masters”). In addition to degrees and certificates, we included minors and concentrations that have formal requirements and coursework, since these programs can be seen as co-issuing degrees with major areas of study and as inflecting those areas in significant ways. We did not include digital arts or emerging media programs in which humanities content was not the central focus of inquiry. In a few cases, the listings or literature mentioned programs that could not be found online, but we determined that these instances were not extant programs—some were initiatives or centers misdescribed, others were programs in planning or simply collections of courses with no formal requirements—and thus fell outside the scope of this study. We also asked for the names of additional programs at a conference presentation, in personal emails, and on Twitter. Because our sources and searches are all English-language, the list of programs we collected are all programs taught in Anglophone countries. This limits what we can say about global DH.

For each program, we made a PDF of the webpage on which its description appears, along with a plain text file of the description. We recorded the URL of each program and information about its title; description; institution; school, division, or department; level (graduate or undergraduate); type (degree or otherwise); year founded; curriculum (total credits, number and list of required and elective courses); and references to independent research, fieldwork, and final deliverables. After identifying any required courses for each program, we looked up descriptions of those courses in the institution’s course catalog and recorded them in a spreadsheet.

Coding and Intercoder Agreement

To analyze the topics covered by programs and required courses, we applied the Taxonomy of Digital Research Activities in the Humanities (TaDiRAH 2014a), which attempts to capture the “scholarly primitives” of the field (Perkins et al. 2014). Unsworth (2000) describes these primitives as “basic functions common to scholarly activities across disciplines, over time, and independent of theoretical orientation,” obvious enough to be “self-understood,” and his preliminary list includes ‘Discovering’, ‘Annotating’, ‘Comparing’, ‘Referring’, ‘Sampling’, ‘Illustrating’, and ‘Representing’.

We doubt that any word—or classification system—works in this way. Language is always a reflection of culture and society, and with that comes questions of power, discipline/ing, and field background. Moreover, term meaning shifts over time and across locations. Nevertheless, we believe classification schema can be useful in organizing and analyzing information, and that is the spirit in which we employ TaDiRAH here.

TaDiRAH is one of several classification schema in DH and is itself based on three prior sources: the arts-humanities.net taxonomy of DH projects, tools, centers, and other resources; the categories and tags originally used by the DiRT (Digital Research Tools) Directory (2014); and headings from “Doing Digital Humanities,” a Zotero bibliography of DH literature (2014) created by the Digital Research Infrastructure for Arts and Humanities (DARIAH). The TaDiRAH version used in this study (v. 0.5.1) also included two rounds of community feedback and subsequent revisions (Dombrowski and Perkins 2014). TaDiRAH’s controlled vocabulary terms are arranged into three broad categories: activities, objects, and techniques. Only activities terms were used in this study because the other terms lack definitions, making them subject to greater variance in interpretation. TaDiRAH contains forty activities terms organized into eight parent terms (‘Capture’, ‘Creation’, ‘Enrichment’, ‘Analysis’, ‘Interpretation’, ‘Storage’, ‘Dissemination’, and ‘Meta-Activities’).

TaDiRAH was built in conversation with a similar project at DARIAH called the Network for Digital Methods in the Arts and Humanities (NeDiMAH) and later incorporated into that project (2015). NeDiMAH’s Methods Ontology (NeMO) contains 160 activities terms organized into five broad categories (‘Acquiring’, ‘Communicating’, ‘Conceiving’, ‘Processing’, ‘Seeking’) and is often more granular than TaDiRAH (e.g., ‘Curating’, ‘Emulating’, ‘Migrating’, ‘Storing’, and ‘Versioning’ rather than simply ‘Preservation’). While NeMO may have other applications, we believe it is too large to be used in this study. There are many cases in which programs or even course descriptions are not as detailed as NeMO in their language, and even the forty-eight TaDiRAH terms proved difficult to apply because of their number and complexity. In addition, TaDiRAH has been applied in DARIAH’s DH Course Registry of European programs, permitting some comparisons between those programs and the ones studied here.

In this study, a term was applied to a program/course description whenever explicit evidence was found that students completing the program or course would be guaranteed to undertake the activities explicitly described in that term’s definition. In other words, we coded for minimum competencies that someone would have after completing a program or course. The narrowest term was applied whenever possible, and multiple terms could be applied to the same description (and, in most cases, were). For example, a reference to book digitization would be coded as ‘Imaging’:

Imaging refers to the capture of texts, images, artefacts or spatial formations using optical means of capture. Imaging can be made in 2D or 3D, using various means (light, laser, infrared, ultrasound). Imaging usually does not lead to the identification of discrete semantic or structural units in the data, such as words or musical notes, which is something DataRecognition accomplishes. Imaging also includes scanning and digital photography.

If there was further mention of OCR (optical character recognition), that would be coded as ‘DataRecognition’ and so on. To take another example, a reference to visualization and other forms of analysis would be coded both as ‘Visualization’ and as its parent term, ‘Analysis’, if no more specific child terms could be identified.

In some cases, descriptions would provide a broad list of activities happening somewhere across a program or course but not guaranteed for all students completing that program or course (e.g., “Through our practicum component, students can acquire hands-on experience with innovative tools for the computational analysis of cultural texts, and gain exposure to new methods for analyzing social movements and communities enabled by new media networks.”). In these cases, we looked for further evidence before applying a term to that description.

Students may also acquire specialty in a variety of areas, but this study is focused on what is learned in common by any student who completes a specific DH program or course; as such, we coded only cases of requirements and common experiences. For the same reason, we coded only required courses, not electives. Finally, we coded programs and required courses separately to analyze whether there was any difference in stated activities at these two levels.

To test intercoder agreement, we selected three program descriptions at random and applied TaDiRAH terms to each. In only a handful of cases did all three of us agree on our term assignments. We attribute this low level of agreement to the large number of activities terms in TaDiRAH, the complexity of program/course descriptions, questions of scope (whether to use a broader or narrower term), and general vagueness. For example, a program description might allude to work with texts at some point, yet not explicitly state text analysis until later, only once, when it is embedded in a list of other examples (e.g., GIS, text mining, network analysis), with a reference to sentiment analysis elsewhere. Since texts could involve digitization, publishing, or other activities, we would not code ‘Text analysis’ immediately, and we would only code it if students would were be guaranteed exposure to this such methods in the program. To complicate matters further, there is no single term for text analysis in TaDiRAH—it spans across four (‘Content analysis’, ‘Relational analysis’, ‘Structural analysis’, and ‘Stylistic analysis’)—and one coder might apply all four terms, another only some, and the third might use the parent term ‘Analysis’, which also includes spatial analysis, network analysis, and visualization.

Even after reviewing these examples and the definitions of specific TaDiRAH terms, we could not reach a high level of intercoder agreement. However, we did find comparing our term assignments to be useful, and we were able to reach consensus in discussion. Based on this experience, we decided that each of us would code every program/course description and then discuss our codings together until we reached a final agreement. Before starting our preliminary codings, we discussed our understanding of each TaDiRAH term (in case it had not come up already in the exercise). We reviewed our preliminary codings using a visualization showing whether one, two, or three coders applied a term to a program/course description. In an effort to reduce bias, especially framing effects (cognitive biases that result from the order in which information is presented), the visualization did not display who had coded which terms. If two coders agreed on a term, they explained their codings to the third and all three came to an agreement. If only one coder applied a term, the other two explained why they did not code for that term and all three came to an agreement. Put another way, we considered every term that anyone applied, and we considered it under the presumption that it would be applied until proven otherwise. Frequently, our discussions involved pointing to specific locations in the program/course descriptions and referencing TaDiRAH definitions or notes from previous meetings when interpretations were discussed.

In analyzing our final codings, we used absolute term frequencies (the number of times a term was applied in general) and weighted frequencies (a proxy for relative frequency and here a measure of individual programs and courses). To compute weighted frequencies, each of the eight parent terms were given a weight of 1, which was divided equally among their subterms. For example, the parent term ‘Dissemination’ has six subterms, so each of those were assigned an equal weight of one-sixth, whereas ‘Enrichment’ has three subterms, each assigned a weight of one-third. These weights were summed by area to show how much of an area (relatively speaking) is represented in program/course descriptions, regardless of area size. If all the subterms in an area are present, that entire area is present—just as it would be if we had applied only the broader term in the first place. These weighted frequencies are used only where programs are displayed individually.

Initially, we had thought about comparing differences in stated activities between programs and required courses. While we found some variations (e.g., a program would be coded for one area of activities but not its courses and vice versa), we also noticed cases in which the language used to describe programs was too vague to code for activities that were borne out in required course descriptions. For this reason and to be as inclusive as possible with our relatively conservative codings, we compared program and course data simultaneously in our final analysis. Future studies may address the way in which program descriptions connect to particular coursework, and articulating such connections may help reveal the ways in which DH is taught (in terms of pedagogy) rather than only its formal structure (as presented here).

Analysis and Visualization

In analyzing program data, we examined the overall character of each program (its title), its structure (whether it grants degrees and, if so, at what level), special requirements (independent study, final deliverables, fieldwork), and its location, both in terms of institutional structure (e.g., departments, labs, centers) and discipline(s). We intended to analyze more thoroughly the number of required courses as compared to electives, the variety of choice students have in electives, and the range of departments in which electives are offered. These comparisons proved difficult: even within an American context, institutions vary in their credit hours and the formality of their requirements (e.g., choosing from a menu of specific electives, as opposed to any course from a department or “with permission”). These inconsistencies multiply greatly in an international context, and so we did not undertake a quantitative study of the number or range of required and elective courses.

Program data and codings were visualized using the free software Tableau Public. All images included in this article are available in a public workbook at https://public.tableau.com/views/DigitalHumanitiesProgramsSurvey/Combined. As we discuss in the final section, we are also building a public-facing version of the data and visualizations, which may be updated by members of the DH community. Thus, the data presented here can and should change over time, making these results only a snapshot of DH in some locations at the present.

Anglophone Programs

The number of DH programs in Anglophone countries has risen sharply over time, beginning in 1991 and growing steadily by several programs each year since 2008 (see Figure 1). This growth speaks to increased capacity in the field, not just by means of centers, journals, conferences, and other professional infrastructure, but also through formal education. Since 2008, there has been a steady addition of several programs each year, and based on informal observation since our data collection ended, we believe this trend continues.

A bar chart showing the number of new Anglophone DH programs each year from 1991 to 2015. A line showing the cumulative total of programs increases sharply at 2008.
Figure 1. Digital humanities programs in our collected data by year established

Program Titles

Most of the programs in our collected data (22, 59%) are titled simply “Digital Humanities,” along with a few variations, such as “Book History and Digital Humanities” and “Digital Humanities Research” (see Figure 2). A handful of programs are named for particular areas of DH or related topics (e.g., “Digital Culture,” “Public Scholarship”), and only a fraction (3 programs, 8%) are called “Humanities Computing.” We did not investigate changes in program names over time, although this might be worthwhile in the future.

A stacked bar chart comparing the titles of Anglophone DH programs. The segments that make up each bar are color coded by degree type (e.g., doctoral, master’s, bachelor’s, certificate, other).
Figure 2. Titles of digital humanities programs in our collected data

Structure

Less than half of DH programs in our collected data grant degrees: some at the level of bachelor’s (8%), most at the level of master’s (22%), and some at the doctoral (8%) level (Figure 3). The majority of DH programs are certificates, minors, specializations, and concentrations—certificates being much more common at the graduate level and nearly one-third of all programs in our collected data. The handful of doctoral programs are all located in the UK and Ireland.

A stacked bar chart showing the number of Anglophone DH programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The segments that make up each bar are color coded by degree type (e.g., doctoral, master’s, bachelor’s, certificate, other).
Figure 3. Digital humanities programs in our collected data (by degree and level)

 

In addition to degree-granting status, we also examined special requirements for the 37 DH programs in our study. Half of those programs require some form of independent research (see Figure 4). All doctoral programs require such research; most master’s programs do as well. Again, we only looked for cases of explicit requirements; it seems likely that research of some variety is conducted within all the programs analyzed here. However, we focus this study on explicit statements of academic activity in order to separate the assumptions of practitioners of DH about its activities from what appears in public-facing descriptions of the field.
Half of DH programs in our collected data require a final deliverable, referred to variously as a capstone, dissertation, portfolio, or thesis (see Figure 5). Again, discrepancies between written and unwritten expectations in degree programs abound—and are certainly not limited to DH—and some programs may have not explicitly stated this requirement, so deliverables may be undercounted. That said, most graduate programs require some kind of final deliverable, and most undergraduate and non-degree-granting programs (e.g., minors, specializations) do not.

Finally, about one-quarter of programs require fieldwork, often in the form of an internship (see Figure 6). This fieldwork requirement is spread across degree types and levels.

A stacked bar chart showing whether Anglophone DH programs require independent research as a part of their degree requirements. The segments that make up each bar are color coded by degree type (e.g., doctoral, master’s, bachelor’s, certificate, other).
Figure 4. Independent research requirements of digital humanities programs in our collected data

 

A stacked bar chart showing the final deliverable requirement (dissertation, portfolio, etc.) of Anglophone DH programs. The segments that make up each bar are color coded by degree type (e.g., doctoral, master’s, bachelor’s, certificate, other).
Figure 5. Final deliverable required by digital humanities programs in our collected data

 

A stacked bar chart showing whether Anglophone DH programs require fieldwork as a part of their degree requirements. The segments that make up each bar are color coded by degree type (e.g., doctoral, master’s, bachelor’s, certificate, other).
Figure 6. Fieldwork requirements of digital humanities programs in our collected data

 

Location and Disciplinarity

About one-third of the DH programs in our dataset are offered outside of academic schools/departments (in centers, initiatives, and, in one case, jointly with the library), and most issue from colleges/schools of arts and humanities (see Figure 7). Although much DH work occurs outside of traditional departments (Zorich 2008), formal training in Anglophone countries remains tied to them. Most DH concentrations and specializations are located within English departments, evidence for Kirschenbaum’s claim that DH’s “professional apparatus…is probably more rooted in English than any other departmental home” (2010, 55).

A bar chart showing location of Anglophone DH programs within an institution (college/school, center, department. etc.)
Figure 7. Institutional location of digital humanities programs in our collected data

The elective courses of DH programs span myriad departments and disciplines. The familiar humanities departments are well represented (art history, classics, history, philosophy, religion, and various languages), along with computer science, design, media, and technology. Several programs include electives drawn from education departments and information and library science. More surprising departments (and courses) include anthropology (“Anthropological Knowledge in the Museum”), geography (“Urban GIS”), political science (“New Media and Politics”), psychology (“Affective Interaction”), sociology (“Social and Historical Study of Information, Software, and Networks”), even criminology (“Cyber Crime”).

The number of electives required by each program and the pool from which they may be drawn varies greatly among programs, and in some cases it is so open-ended that it is nearly impossible to document thoroughly. Some programs have no elective courses and focus only on shared, required coursework. Others list dozens of potential elective courses as suggestions, rather than an exhaustive list. Because course offerings, especially in cross-disciplinary areas, change from term to term and different courses may be offered under a single, general course listing such as “Special Topics,” the list of elective course we have collected is only a sample of the type of courses students in DH programs may take, and we do not analyze them quantitatively here.

Theory and Critical Reflection

To analyze the role of theory and critical reflection in DH programs, we focused our analysis on two TaDiRAH terms: ‘Theorizing’,

a method which aims to relate a number of elements or ideas into a coherent system based on some general principles and capable of explaining relevant phenomena or observations. Theorizing relies on techniques such as reasoning, abstract thinking, conceptualizing and defining. A theory may be implemented in the form of a model, or a model may give rise to formulating a theory.

and ‘Meta: GiveOverview’, which

refers to the activity of providing information which is relatively general or provides a historical or systematic overview of a given topic. Nevertheless, it can be aimed at experts or beginners in a field, subfield or specialty.

In most cases, we used ‘Meta: GiveOverview’ to code theoretical or historical introductions to DH itself, though any explicit mention of theory was coded (or also coded) as ‘Theorizing’. We found that all DH programs, whether in program descriptions or required courses, included some mention of theory or historical/systematic overview (see Figure 8).

A table of Anglophone institutions and DH programs showing whether researchers coded ‘Theory’ or ‘GiveOverview’ for the program or required course descriptions.
Figure 8. Theory and critical reflection in digital humanities programs in our collected data

Accordingly, we might say that each program, according to its local interpretation, engages in some type of theoretical or critical reflection. We cannot, of course, say much more about the character of this reflection, whether it is the type of critical reflection called for in the pedagogical literature, or how this reflection interfaces with the teaching of skills and techniques in these programs. We hope someone studies this aspect of programs, but it is also worth noting that only 6 of the 37 programs here were coded for ‘Teaching/Learning’ (see Figure 12). Presumably, most programs do not engage theoretically with issues of pedagogy or the relationship between DH and higher education, commensurate with Brier’s claim that these areas are often overlooked (2012). Such engagement may occur in elective courses or perhaps nowhere in these programs.

European Programs

All of the 37 programs discussed above are located in Anglophone countries, most of them in the United States (22 programs, 60%). We note that TaDiRAH, too, originates in this context, as does our English-language web searches for DH programs. While this data is certainly in dialogue with the many discussions of DH education cited above, it limits what we can say about DH from a global perspective. It is important to understand the various ways DH manifests around the globe, both to raise awareness of these approaches and to compare the ways in which DH education converges and diverges across these contexts. To that end, we gathered existing data on European programs by scraping DARIAH’s Digital Humanities Course Registry (DARIAH-EU 2014a) and consulting the European Association for Digital Humanities’ (EADH) education resources webpage (2016). This DARIAH/EADH data is not intended to stand in for the entirety of global DH, as it looks exclusively at European programs (and even then it is limited in interpretation by our own language barriers). DH is happening outside of this scope (e.g., Gil 2017), and we hope that future initiatives can expand the conversation about DH programs worldwide—possibly as part of our plans for data publication, which we address at the end of this article.

DARIAH’s database lists 102 degree programs, 77 of which were flagged in page markup as “outdated” with the note, “This record has not been revised for a year or longer.” While inspecting DARIAH data, we found 43 programs tagged with TaDiRAH terms, and we eliminated 17 entries that were duplicates, had broken URLs and could not be located through a web search, or appeared to be single courses or events rather than formal programs. We also updated information on a few programs (e.g., specializations classified as degrees). We then added 5 programs listed by EADH but not by DARIAH, for a grand total of 93 European DH programs (only 16 of which were listed jointly by both organizations). We refer to this dataset as “DARIAH/EADH data” in the remainder of this paper. A map of these locations is provided in Figure 9, and the full list of programs considered in this paper is given in Appendices.

A map of Europe showing the number of DH programs in each country, based on DARIAH/EADH listings.
Figure 9. Geographic location of programs in DARIAH/EADH data

 

The DARIAH/EADH data lists 93 programs spread across parts of Europe, with the highest concentration (33%) in Germany (see Table 1). We caution here and in subsequent discussions that DARIAH and EADH may not have applied the same criteria for including programs as we did in our data collection, so results are not directly comparable. Some programs in informatics or data asset management might have been ruled out using our data collection methods, which were focused on humanities content.

Table 1. Summary of programs included in our collected data and DARIAH/EADH data
Country Programs in our collected data
N (%)
Programs in DARIAH/EADH data
N (%)
Australia 1 (3%)
Austria 1 (1%)
Belgium 2 (2%)
Canada 6 (16%)
Croatia 3 (3%)
Finland 1 (1%)
France 8 (9%)
Germany 31 (33%)
Ireland 3 (8%) 4 (4%)
Italy 4 94%)
Netherlands 16 (17%)
Norway 1 (1%)
Portugal 1 (1%)
Spain 2 (2%)
Sweden 1 (1%)
Switzerland 6 (7%)
United Kingdom 5 (14%) 12 (13%)
United States 22 (60%)

Program Titles

A cursory examination of the DARIAH/EADH program title reveals more variety, including many programs in computer linguistics and informatics (see Appendix B). We did not analyze these titles further because of language barriers. And again, we caution that some of these programs might not have been included according to the criteria for our study, though the vast majority appear relevant.

Structure

Most programs in the DARIAH/EADH data are degree-granting at the level of master’s (61%) or bachelor’s (25%) (see Figure 10). While we are reasonably confident in these broad trends, we are skeptical of the exact totals for two reasons. In DARIAH’s Registry, we noticed several cases of specializations being labeled as degrees. Though we rectified these cases where possible, language barriers prevented us from more thoroughly researching each program—another challenge that a global study of DH would encounter. On the other hand, it’s also possible that non-degree programs were undercounted in general, given that the Registry was meant to list degrees and courses. Based on our inspection of each program, we do not believe these errors are widespread enough to change the general distribution of the data: more European programs issue degrees, mostly at the master’s level.

A stacked bar chart showing the number of European DH programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels, as listed by DARIAH/EADH. The segments that make up each bar are color coded by degree type (e.g., doctoral, master’s, bachelor’s, certificate, other).
Figure 10. Digital humanities programs (by degree and level, DARIAH/EADH data)

Location and Disciplinarity

Most European programs are also located in academic divisions called colleges, departments, faculties, or schools (see Figure 11), depending on country. Only a handful of programs are located in institutes, centres, or labs, even less frequently than in our collected data.

A bar chart showing location of European DH programs within an institution (college/department/faculty/school, centre, institute. etc.), as listed by DARIAH/EADH.
Figure 11. Institutional location of digital humanities programs (DARIAH/EADH data)

We did not analyze disciplinarity in the DARIAH/EADH data because the programs span various countries, education systems, and languages—things we could not feasibly study here. However, 43 programs in the DARIAH/EADH data were tagged with TaDiRAH terms, allowing for comparison with programs in our collected data. These speak to what happens in DH programs in Europe, even if their disciplinary boundaries vary.

DH Activities

To analyze the skills and methods at play in DH programs, we examined our TaDiRAH codings in terms of overall term frequency (see Figure 12) and weighted frequency across individual programs (see Figures 13 and 14). Several trends were apparent in our codings, as well as DARIAH-listed programs that were also tagged with TaDiRAH terms.

In our data on Anglophone programs of DH programs, analysis and meta-activities (e.g., ‘Community building’, ‘Project management’, ‘Teaching/Learning’) make up the largest share of activities, along with creation (e.g., ‘Designing’, ‘Programming’, ‘Writing’). This is apparent in absolute term frequencies (see Figure 12, excepting ‘Theorizing’ and ‘Meta: GiveOverview’) and in a heatmap comparison of programs (see Figure 13). Again, the heatmap used weighted frequencies to adjust for the fact that some areas have few terms, while others have more than double the smallest. It is worth noting that ‘Writing’ is one of the most frequent terms (11 programs), but this activity certainly occurs elsewhere and is probably undercounted because it was not explicitly mentioned in program descriptions. The same may be true for other activities.

A series of bar charts showing the number of times each TaDiRAH term appeared in the datasets. Terms are listed under their parent terms, and subtotals are given for each parent term. Data collected by researchers (Anglophone programs) are displayed in blue, and DARIAH data are displayed in orange.
Figure 12. TaDiRAH term coding frequency (grouped)

 

A heatmap of Anglophone DH programs and TaDiRAH parent terms. The saturation of each cell shows the number of times that terms within that parent term were coded for that particular program, whether in program descriptions or course descriptions.
Figure 13. Digital humanities programs in our collected data and their required courses (by area)

Many program specializations seem to follow from the flavor of DH at particular institutions (e.g. the graduate certificate at Stanford’s Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis, University of Iowa’s emphasis on public engagement), commensurate with Knight’s (2011) call for “localization” in DH.

In contrast with the most frequent terms, some terms were never applied to program/course descriptions in our data, including ‘Translation’, ‘Cleanup’, ‘Editing’, and ‘Identifying’. Enrichment and storage activities (e.g., ‘Archiving’, ‘Organizing’, ‘Preservation’) were generally sparse (only 1.9% of all codings), even after compensating for the fact that these areas have fewer terms. We suspect that these activities do occur in DH programs and courses—in fact, they are assumed in broader activities such as thematic research collections, content management systems, and even dissemination. Their lack of inclusion in program/course descriptions seems constituent with claims made by librarians that their expertise in technology, information organization, and scholarly communication is undervalued in the field, whether instrumentalized as part a service model that excludes them from the academic rewards of and critical decision-making in DH work (Muñoz 2013; Posner 2013) or devalued as a form of feminized labor (Shirazi 2014). Ironically, these abilities are regarded as qualifications for academic librarian positions and as marketable job skills for humanities students and, at the same time, as a lesser form of academic work, often referred to as faculty “service” (Nowviskie 2012; Sample 2013; Takats 2013). We suspect that many program descriptions replicate this disconnect by de-emphasizing some activities (e.g., storage, enrichment) over others (e.g., analysis, project management).

Generally, there seems to be less emphasis on content (‘Capture’, ‘Enrichment’, and ‘Storage’ terms) and more focus on platforms and tools (‘Analysis’ and ‘Meta-Activities’ terms) within programs in our collected data. In interpreting this disparity, we think it’s important to attend to the larger contexts surrounding education in various locations. The Anglophone programs we studied are mostly located in the United States, where “big data” drives many decisions, including those surrounding higher education. As boyd and Crawford note, this phenomenon rests on the interplay of technology, analysis, and “[m]ythology: the widespread belief that large data sets offer a higher form of intelligence and knowledge that can generate insights that were previously impossible, with the aura of truth, objectivity, and accuracy” (2013: 663). Within this context, programs advertising analysis, visualization, and project management may appear as more attractive to prospective students and supporting institutions, two important audiences of program webpages. This influence does not mean that such activities do not occur or are not important to DH, but it again turns attention to questions about the way in which these skills are developed and deployed and whether that occurs against a backdrop of critical reflection on methods and tools. How these broad program-level descriptions play out in the context of particular courses and instruction is beyond the scope of this program-level study, but we think that surfacing the way programs are described is an important first step to a deeper analysis of these questions.

When comparing our 37 programs to the 43 TaDiRAH-tagged European ones, several differences emerge—though we caution that these findings, in particular, may be less reliable than others presented here. In our study, we coded for guaranteed activities, explicit either in program descriptions or required course description. In DARIAH’s Registry, entries are submitted by users, who are given a link to another version of TaDiRAH (2014b) and instructed to code at least one activities keyword (DARIAH-EU 2014b). We do not know the criteria each submitter uses for applying terms, and it’s likely that intercoder agreement would be low in absence of pre-coordination. For example, programs in the Netherlands are noticeably sparser in their codings than programs elsewhere—perhaps submitted by the same coder, or coders with a shared understanding and different from the others (see Figure 14).

A heatmap of DH programs and TaDiRAH parent terms, as listed by DARIAH. The saturation of each cell shows the number of times that terms within that parent term were coded for that particular program.
Figure 14. Digital humanities programs (by area, TaDiRAH-tagged subset of DARIAH data)

We tried to compare directly our codings with DARIAH data by looking at five programs listed in common. Only one of these programs had TaDiRAH terms in DARIAH data: specifically, all eight top-level terms. When examining other programs, we found several tagged with more than half of the top-level terms and one tagged with 40 of 48 activities terms. These examples alone suggest that DARIAH data may be maximally inclusive in its TaDiRAH codings. Nevertheless, we can treat this crowdsourced data as reflective of broad trends in the area and compare them, generally, to those found in our study. Moreover, there does not appear to be any geographic or degree-based bias in the DARIAH data: the 43 tagged programs span ten different countries and both graduate and undergraduate offerings, degree and non-degree programs.

Comparing term frequencies in our collected data and DARIAH/EADH data (see Figure 12), it appears that enrichment, capture, and storage activities are more prevalent in European programs, while analysis and meta-activities are relatively less common (see Table 2). While both datasets have roughly the same number of programs (37 and 43, respectively), the DARIAH data has over twice as many terms as our study. For this reason, we computed a relative expression of difference by dividing the total percent of a TaDiRAH area in DARIAH data by the total percent in our study. Viewed this way, ‘Enrichment’ has over five times as many weighted codings in DARIAH as our study, followed by ‘Capture’ with over twice as many; ‘Analysis’, ‘Interpretation’, and ‘Meta-activities’ are less common. Thus, Anglophone and European programs appear to focus on different areas, within the limitations mentioned above and while still overlapping in most areas. This difference might be caused by the inclusion of more programs related to informatics, digital asset management, and communication in the DARIAH data than in our collected data, or the presence of more extensive cultural heritage materials, support for them, and integration into European programs. At a deeper level, this difference may reflect a different way of thinking or talking about DH or the histories of European programs, many of which were established before programs in our collected data.

Table 2. Summary of TaDiRAH term coding frequencies (grouped)
TaDiRAH parent term (includes subterms) In our collected data
N (%)
In DARIAH
N (%)
Factor of difference overall (weighted)
Capture 13 (6.1%) 73 (15.7%) 5.6 (2.55)
Creation 35 (16.5%) 74 (15.9%) 2.1 (0.96%)
Enrichment 4 (1.9%) 48 (10.3%) 12.0 (5.46)
Analysis 47 (22.2%) 77 (16.5%) 1.6 (0.75)
Interpretation 27 (12.7%) 40 (8.6%) 1.5 (0.67)
Storage 11 (5.2%) 43 (9.2%) 3.9 (1.78)
Dissemination 24 (11.3%) 63 (13.5%) 2.6 (1.19)
Meta-Activities 51 (24.1%) 48 (10.3%) 0.9 (0.43)

Reflections on TaDiRAH

Since TaDiRAH aims to be comprehensive of the field—even machine readable—we believe our challenges applying it may prove instructive to revising the taxonomy for wider application and for considering how DH is described more generally.
Most examples of hard-to-code language were technical (e.g., databases, content management systems, CSS, and XML) and blurred the lines between capture, creation, and storage and, at a narrower level, web development and programming. Given the rate at which technologies change, it may be difficult to come up with stable terms for DH. At the same time, we may need to recognize that some of the most ubiquitous technologies and platforms in the field (e.g., Omeka, WordPress) actually subsume over various activities and require myriad skills. This, in turn, might give attention to skills such as knowledge organization, which seem rarely taught or mentioned on an explicit basis.

A separate set of hard-to-code activities included gaming and user experience (UX). We suspect the list might grow as tangential fields intersect with DH. Arguably, UX falls under ‘Meta: Assessing’, but there are design and web development aspects of UX that distinguish it from other forms of assessment, aspects that probably belong better with ‘Creation’. Similarly, gaming might be encompassed by ‘Meta: Teaching/Learning’, which

involves one group of people interactively helping another group of people acquire and/or develop skills, competencies, and knowledge that lets them solve problems in a specific area of research,

but this broad definition omits distinctive aspects of gaming, such as play and enjoyment, that are central to the concept. Gaming and UX, much like the technical cases discussed earlier, draw on a range of different disciplines and methods, making them difficult to classify. Nevertheless, they appear in fieldwork and are even taught in certain programs/courses, making it important to represent them in the taxonomy of DH.

With these examples in mind and considering the constantly evolving nature of DH and the language that surrounds it, it is difficult and perhaps counterproductive to suggest any concrete changes to TaDiRAH that would better represent the activities involved in “doing DH.” We present these findings as an empirical representation of what DH in certain parts of the world looks like now, with the hope that it will garner critical reflection from DH practitioners and teachers about how the next generation of students perceives our field and the skills that are taught and valued within it.

Conclusion and Further Directions

Our survey of DH programs in the Anglophone world may be summarized by the following points.

  • The majority of Anglophone programs are not degree-granting; they are certificates, minors, specializations, and concentrations. By comparison, most European programs are degree-granting, often at the master’s level.
  • About half of Anglophone programs require some form of independent research, and half require a final deliverable, referred to variously as a capstone, dissertation, portfolio, or thesis. About one-quarter of programs require fieldwork, often in the form of an internship.
  • About one-third of Anglophone DH programs are offered outside of academic schools/departments (in centers, initiatives, and, in one case, jointly with the library). By comparison, most European programs are located in academic divisions; only a handful are offered in institutes, centres, or labs.
  • Analysis and meta-activities (e.g., community building, project management) make up the largest share of activities in Anglophone programs, along with creation (e.g., designing, programming, writing). By contrast, activities such as enrichment, capture, and storage seem more prevalent in European programs. Some of these areas may be over- or under-represented for various cultural reasons we’ve discussed above.

As with any survey, there may be things uncounted, undercounted, or miscounted, and we have tried to note these limitations throughout this article.

One immediate application of this data is a resource for prospective students and those planning and revising formal programs. At minimum, this data provides general information about these 37 programs, along with some indication of special areas of emphasis—a compliment to DARIAH/EADH data. As we discussed earlier, this list should be more inclusive of DH throughout the globe, and that probably requires an international team fluent in the various languages of the programs. Following our inspection of DARIAH’s Registry, we believe it’s difficult to control the accuracy of such data in a centralized way. To address both of these challenges, we believe that updates to this data are best managed by the DH community, and to that end, we have created a GitHub repository at https://github.com/dhprograms/data where updates can be forked and pulled into a master branch. This branch will be connected to Tableau Public for live versions of visualizations similar to the ones included here. Beyond this technical infrastructure, our next steps include outreach to the community to ensure that listings are updated and inclusive in ways that go beyond our resources in this study.

Second, there are possibilities for studying program change over time using the archive of program webpages and course descriptions generated by this study. Capture of program and course information in the future might allow exploration of the growth of the field as well as changes in its activities. We believe that a different taxonomy or classification system might prove useful here, as well as a different method of coding. These are active considerations as we build the GitHub repository. We also note that this study may induce some effect (hopefully positive) in the way that programs and courses are described, perhaps pushing them to be more explicit about the nature and extent of DH activities.

Finally, we hope this study gives the community pause to consider how DH is described and represented, and how it is taught. If there are common expectations not reflected here, perhaps DHers could be more explicit about how we, as a community, describe the activities that make up DH work, at least in building our taxonomies and describing our formal programs and required courses. Conversely, if there are activities that seem overrepresented here, we might consider why those activities are prized in the field (and which are not) and whether this is the picture we wish to present publicly. We might further consider this picture in relationship to the cultural and political-economic contexts in which DH actually exists. Are we engaging with these larger structures? Do the activities of the field reflect this? Is it found in our teaching and learning, and in the ways that we describe those?

Acknowledgements

We are grateful to Allison Piazza for collecting initial data about some programs, as well as Craig MacDonald for advice on statistical analysis and coding methods. Attendees at the inaugural Keystone Digital Humanities Conference at the University of Pennsylvania Libraries provided helpful feedback on the ideas presented here. JITP reviewers Stewart Varner and Kathi Berens were helpful interlocutors for this draft, as were anonymous reviewers of a DH2017 conference proposal based on this work.

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Appendix A

List of Digital Humanities Programs in our Collected Data

  • Minor (undergraduate) in Digital Humanities, Australian National University
  • Minor (undergraduate) in Digital Humanities & Technology, Brigham Young University
  • Minor (undergraduate) in Interactive Arts and Science, Brock University
  • BA in Interactive Arts and Science, Brock University
  • MA in Digital Humanities (Collaborative Master’s), Carleton University
  • MA (program track) in Digital Humanities, CUNY Graduate Center
  • Minor (undergraduate) in Digital Humanities, Farleigh Dickinson University
  • BS in Digital Humanities, Illinois Institute of Technology
  • MPhil/PhD in Digital Humanities Research, King’s College London
  • MA in Digital Humanities, King’s College London
  • BA in Digital Culture, King’s College London
  • MA in Digital Humanities, Loyola University Chicago
  • Certificate (graduate) in Digital Humanities, Michigan State University
  • Specialization (undergraduate) in Digital Humanities, Michigan State University
  • MA in Digital Humanities, National University of Ireland Maynooth
  • PhD in Digital Arts and Humanities, National University of Ireland Maynooth
  • Certificate (graduate) in Digital Humanities, North Carolina State University
  • Certificate (graduate) in Digital Humanities, Pratt Institute
  • Certificate in Digital Humanities, Rutgers University
  • Certificate (graduate) in Digital Humanities, Stanford University
  • Certificate (graduate) in Digital Humanities, Texas A&M University
  • Certificate (graduate) in Book History and Digital Humanities, Texas Tech University
  • MPhil in Digital Humanities and Culture, Trinity College Dublin
  • Certificate (graduate) in Digital Humanities, UCLA
  • Minor (undergraduate) in Digital Humanities, UCLA
  • MA/MSc in Digital Humanities, University College London
  • PhD in Digital Humanities, University College London
  • MA in Humanities Computing, University of Alberta
  • Specialization (undergraduate) in Literature & the Culture of Information, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Concentration (graduate) in Humanities Computing, University of Georgia
  • Concentration (undergraduate) in Humanities Computing, University of Georgia
  • Certificate (graduate) in Public Digital Humanities, University of Iowa
  • Certificate (graduate) in Digital Humanities, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Certificate (graduate) in Digital Humanities, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Certificate (graduate) in Digital Humanities, University of Victoria
  • Certificate (graduate) in Certificate in Public Scholarship, University of Washington
  • Minor (undergraduate) in Digital Humanities, Western University Canada

Appendix B

List of Programs in DARIAH/EADH Data

A table of European institutions and DH programs. For each program, the type (e.g., Bachelor’s, Master’s) is listed, as well as whether the program was listed by DARIAH, EADH, or both.
Figure 15: European institutions and DH programs

Appendix C

Data

In addition to creating a GitHub repository at https://github.com/dhprograms/data, we include the program data we collected and our term codings below. Since the GitHub data may be updated over time, these files serve as the version of record for the data and analysis presented in this article.

Data for “A Survey of Digital Humanities Programs”

About the Authors

Chris Alen Sula is Associate Professor and Coordinator of Digital Humanities and the MS in Data Analytics & Visualization at Pratt Institute School of Information. His research applies visualization to humanities datasets, as well as exploring the ethics of data and visualization. He received his PhD in Philosophy from the City University of New York with a doctoral certificate in Interactive Technology and Pedagogy.

S.E. Hackney is a PhD student in Library and Information Science at the University of Pittsburgh. Their research looks at the documentation practices of online communities, and how identity, ideology, and the body get represented through the governance of digital spaces. They received their MSLIS with an Advanced Certificate in Digital Humanities from Pratt Institute School of Information in 2016.

Phillip Cunningham has been a reference assistant and cataloger with the Amistad Research Center since 2015. He received a BA in History from Kansas State University and MSLIS from Pratt Institute. He has interned at the Schomburg Center’s Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division, the Gilder-Lehrman Institute for American History, and the Riley County (KS) Genealogical Society. His research has focused on local history, Kansas African-American history, and the use of digital humanities in public history.

Practicing Collaboration in Process and Product: A Response to “Digital Literary Pedagogy”

Kimon Keramidas and Amanda Licastro

Digital Literary Pedagogy: An Experiment in Process-Oriented Publishing

JITP, as well as the certificate program from which it sprang forth, has always focused on the principle that sound pedagogy is based on a praxis-based methodology of putting theories of teaching into practice. As such, we think a lot about process when considering the integration of technology into the classroom, and about the shifts, adaptations, and adjustments that occur during a class session, over the course of a semester and even throughout the duration of a pedagogue’s career. So, when Roger Whitson approached us with his innovative idea of integrating journal editors into his writing process in composing an article for our journal–as well as into the flow of his class–we were excited by the prospect of being able to engage with the project not only near its terminus point, but from its conception. It was even more exciting that the course he was teaching was about the role of technology in literature and that the class would be analyzing fundamental critiques that parallel those at the core of JITP’s mission.

The introduction of online writing spaces into the undergraduate classroom highlights two aspects of composition that have, in the age of print, been de-emphasized in academic writing: audience and design. When Roger invited us into his 19th Century Literature course at the University of Washington, it created an opportunity to experiment with pedagogical approaches to both of these challenges. On many levels this collaboration caused us–the editors, the professor, and the students–to consider how to formulate, support, and produce an assignment specifically designed for submission to an online academic journal. Typically, especially in lower-level literature courses, final projects are submitted to the professor alone, and are rarely manifested in fully digital environments. Similarly, as editors of an academic journal, we are seldom introduced at the beginning stages of a submission with input in the invention, implementation, and production of a piece. Nor do we, in our role as instructors, often find ourselves as deeply engaged in the course of a colleague, particularly one working at a different institution. Entering this project through a collaboration between three scholars from three different institutions, all at considerably different stages of our careers, brought a richness of diversity to the planning and execution of this experiment, making our conversations together, as with the students, dynamic and multidimensional. This was furthered by the fact that almost all of our interactions happened virtually–using Google Hangout–forcing us to negotiate different time zones, technical difficulties, and unanticipated disaster (hurricane Sandy devastated New York and New Jersey during this time). Within these sometimes challenging parameters, we worked as partners with a common goal: to shape a project that would break the boundaries of genre, medium, and authorship in journal publications, much as Roger was asking his students to analyze and challenge those same factors in their coursework.

Because the procedures and parameters that we followed over the course of the semester instilled a sense of collaborative construction, we decided that the work that would be done after the class ended should continue in that same spirit. So, just as Roger brought us into his class to expand upon the framework he designed and the students were executing, this piece provides an alternative explication of the process from our perspective and a focused response to some of the significant topics that Roger raises in “Digital Literary Pedagogy.” It is one of a number of instances in this project where we have tried to blur the traditional roles of authors and editors and expand that relationship beyond formal procedures to collaborative discursive interactions.

First Goal: Audience Awareness

In her report from the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) titled “Writing in the 21st Century,”  NCTE past president Kathleen Yancey writes, “With digital technology and, especially Web 2.0 is seems, writers are *everywhere*….In fact, in looking at all this composing, we might say that one of the biggest changes is the role of audience: writers are everywhere, yes, but so too are audiences” (2009, 4-5). Historically, technology has played an essential role in the dissemination of knowledge, and as Roger points out, with the availability of cheap paper in the 19th century this meant introducing published texts to the rising middle class. However, as Jay David Bolter (1991) and others have argued, forging a new readership is very difficult – the audience for a printed text is limited to those the publisher can successfully market toward – typically one that has disposable income and a high literacy level. In the 21st century, the ubiquity of the Internet allows anyone with access to “publish” written texts, but with this ease comes an obstructed understanding of audience. Who is reading what is published on blogs, social networking sites, and online periodicals?

The students in Roger’s class faced this quandary when composing their digital project. In the final class meeting we specifically asked the students how the introduction of a course blog changed the way the way they composed. As student Anne Boothman explains (see 13:00 in video of class conversation), as she wrote blog posts throughout the semester, she found that she altered her tone and form to address her audience. Boothman explains the change as driven by the desire to focus on clarity and brevity, so that her fellow classmates might find her writing more compelling. Anne, as an English major in a mixed discipline course, tactfully (albeit transparently) conveys the perceived need to “dumb-down” her writing, specifically saying she avoided technical terms when writing for her classmates.  This approach was successful for Anne; the class choose her work to feature on their final collaborative project that was designed as a submission to JITP.  Anne’s response strikes us as intuitive, yet problematic. As educators, we laud the use of online writing spaces, heralding the heightened awareness of audience they create, but what this example also highlights is the degree of inequality possible in these spaces. Ideally we want the work of bright, diligent students like Anne to raise the bar and as serve as a model for her peers, rather than diminish the quality of her work to appease a perceived culture of underachievement.  This leads us to wonder how an instructor could facilitate similar low-stakes public writing in a way that would acknowledge these inequities in order to learn from them.

While composition teachers have been utilizing peer review and workshops for decades, framing this work for submission to JITP enabled Roger to push this model further by enlisting students to play the roles essential to scholarly publishing.  This experience speaks directly to Yancey’s observations that students bring their familiarity with informal online spaces into the classroom: “In the case of the web, though, writers compose authentic texts in informal digitally networked contexts, but there isn’t a hierarchy of expert-apprentice, but rather a peer co-apprenticeship in which communicative knowledge is freely exchanged” (2009, 5). Roger supported the transfer of these skills by creating an environment where students evaluate, edit, and promote each other’s work, rather than surrendering directorial agency to the professor. The students functioned as an editorial collective, first selecting work as a group to analyze according to a system of their own design, then breaking out into four specialized roles: the authors of the selected pieces; those students who were assigned to edit individual submissions; the students who designed the digital space; and those who composed the introduction and section headings to aide in the user experience. Each of these groups were faced with the issue of audience in different and important ways within the context of the same assignment. For example, William Reed was able to meaningfully discuss design decisions such as the choice of WordPress theme and the multilayer image used in the header for their final project. Similarly, the group that composed the “About” page discussed their intentions to address a viewer who might come to the site without previous knowledge of this course, therefore contextualizing the project for an uninitiated audience. However, they had difficulty articulating who this audience could consist of, besides those of us present in the conversation. The students were clearly still writing primarily for their professor and did not readily envision a wider academic readership. As Roger says in the video, even if an assignment is designed so that students are writing for an outside audience, it can be difficult to integrate those goals into your pedagogy. This is an important moment of reflection for both the instructor and the students, one that we, as the audience for this piece, can learn from. We can teach students to design digital projects and compose multimodally, but what more can we do to support meaningful audience awareness?

Design and the Digital

As we’ve just mentioned, comprehensive digital projects such as the one Roger gave to his students aren’t solely written; they are also designed. In their book Digital_Humanities, Burdick, Baumann, Lunenfeld, Presner and Schnapp state that “contemporary Digital Humanities marks a move beyond a privileging of the textual, emphasizing graphical methods of knowledge production and organization, design as an integral component of research, transmedia crisscrossings, and an expanded concept of the sensorium of humanistic knowledge.”(2012, 122) As such, new modes of scholarship and literary practice must take into consideration not only what content is disseminated, but also how it will be viewed and what it looks like. User interface design, platform compatibility, screen sizes and mobile responsivensess are now integral to publication and have a profound impact on the delivery and accessibility of materials. So, when Roger had his students construct a web site for their final project and work together to not only populate a site with content, but also make design decisions about the look and behavior of their site, he was asking them to go beyond the conditions of a traditional term paper. Furthermore, he was asking them to deal with a more profound set of questions than many “digital” courses which have often only taken a single step forward, from the term paper to making posts within a predesigned content management system such as WordPress or Drupal (which he mentions in his paper).

The ramifications of this pedagogical decision are important to unpack fully in light of what it means to do digital literary studies or any work in the so-called “digital humanities.” Making students aware of the new impetus of design in digital writing is critical to understanding the implications of all media technologies, but it is particularly useful in defamiliarizing the design of the book. Because books are so deeply ingrained as a cultural mode, we often forget that they, too, are designed, and that the shape, layout, font and colors in a book are design decisions that while seemingly transparent, ultimately have an immense impact on the reader’s experience. Roger’s integration of the question of design in his course’s project work was particularly well- suited within the content base of the class, which was already considering the important role of changing printing technologies and the development of the book as a form in the nineteenth century. This common theme between content and project had the potential to provide a contextualizing foundation that could help overcome one of the biggest pedagogical problems teachers face when introducing experimental content and assignments: a lack of time.

The biggest balancing act that teachers such as Roger must contend with is how to integrate new modes of communication, composition, and collaboration and still cover the subject material that students are supposed to attain a mastery of. In this particular case, Roger rightly saw the potential of design issues to play an important role in the students’ experience of their project. He was even aware that, as was just mentioned above, the issues of designing a course site paralleled the conversations his students were already having in relation to the nineteenth century novel, lowering the barrier of entry into a conversation about contemporary media design. Nevertheless, finding the space to ask students to think about design in their project is a very different thing from carving out a class or two from a semester to incorporate sessions on specific web design practices and technologies. And that dedicated and focused time is what is necessary when incorporating these new technologies, because the ramifications of design in the digital realm are central and pervasive as well as complex enough to necessitate significant instruction and demonstration.

As Sharmila Pixy Ferris (2002) notes, in digital composition

the organization of the material must be visually appealing and must take advantage of the unique interactive features of the Web. … the cyber-writer often also must be editor and designer, considering issues of file structure, graphic design, and navigability. Writing becomes even more complex because the writer has little control over the paths readers will take through the hyperlinks.

When we visited the class the last time for the final presentation of the site, we both quickly noted a number of simple design enhancements that could have/should have been integrated into the site to take advantage of the multimediality and interactivity of the web as a publishing platform. In a post entitled “Are We All a Modern Prometheus?” (Goetz, 2012) there are numerous textual links to Wikipedia, but no visual cues to tell the story of the Prometheus myth, such as this image of the famous Peter Paul Rubens painting:

 Promethues Bound

Figure 1. Prometheus Bound, Peter Paul Rubens and Frans Snyders, 1618.

Similarly a post entitled “Modern Sherlock” (Stuckey, 2012) discussed scenes from the recent BBC series Sherlock and The Princess Bride but only provided a link to one, and in neither case embedded these easily accessible YouTube clips:

Figure 2. Vizzini death scene from The Princess Bride, 1987

Figure 3. A scene from “A Study in Pink”, Sherlock, BBC, 2012

The students also admitted to having selected a theme for their WordPress site that was responsive (meaning that it adapts to the screen size and platform of the browser it is being opened in) without having known that the theme had that characteristic. These are just a few simple design decisions that would have been easy to consider ahead of time or implement consciously in the construction of the site, and they fall into the complex set of design choices that Ferris sets out as mandatory considerations for a cyber-writer.

This all being said, this critique is not meant to denigrate the students’ work as subpar or not successful within the context of the many things that Roger had his class do during the semester. Rather, we wish to highlight how big a concern design is in digital composition and how important it is to frame design assignments with both conversation and practical instruction on the possibilities that the variety of platforms students use in projects like these have to offer. Even a template- and theme-driven tool such as WordPress can be greatly enhanced by a richer understanding of modular writing, non-linear reading as facilitated by hyperlinking and the integration of multimedia elements. To situate this squarely within Roger’s call for a new digital literary pedagogy, if we are to encourage new forms of publication as part of a historicization of literary forms, then that encouragement must be accompanied not only by a consideration of design and its implication on composition, but also by training students in design practice that they can implement critically within compositional frameworks. Where that fits within the already time-consuming demands of content mastery and class discussion is one of the biggest challenges in properly preparing students for the possibilities of digital media.

Conclusion

The questions considered here, mainly concerning audience and design awareness, address only two aspects of many that could be drawn out of this situated pedagogy. Thanks to Roger’s thoughtful course design, we are able to use this class as an example of digital pedagogy, teasing out elements which worked and those that beg further examination. JITP is dedicated to approaching teaching with the same careful critique we apply to traditional research, and this experiment gave us the opportunity to put this into practice.

This project also had a meta-awareness of audience and design. We hoped to target both the students in the course, as well as our readership in designing this experiment. One objective was to give these students a “real world” experience by expanding the boundaries of the classroom to include exposure to the processes involved in academic publishing as well as collaborative work that mirrors both academia and industry. Yet we also wanted to make this project transparent, encouraging students to reflect on their role in both the course and this publication venture. By constructing this project through the use of public facing sites and videos we are able to offer the entire process to you, the audience of this journal, for consideration as well. We think a great deal can be learned through sharing our teaching experiences in a holistic yet critical way, and hope the documentation of our discoveries help you share your digital pedagogical practices as well.

 

Bibliography

Bolter, J. David. 1991. Writing Space: The Computer, Hypertext, and the History of Writing. Hillsdale, N.J: L. Erlbaum Associates. OCLC 22310251.

Burdick, Anne, Johanna Drucker, Peter Lunenfeld, Todd Presner, and Jeffrey Schnapp. 2012. Digital_Humanities. The MIT Press. OCLC 793581385.

Ferris, Sharmila Pixy. 2002. “Writing Electronically: The Effects of Computers on Traditional Writing.” The Journal of Electronic Publishing 8 (1) (August). http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?    c=jep;view=text;rgn=main;idno=3336451.0008.104.

Goetz, Brian. 2012. “Are We All a Modern Prometheus?” The 19th Century British Novel. December 5. http://www.rogerwhitson.net/19thcenturyreading/are-we-all-a-modern-prometheus/.

Memorable Movie Death #3: Vizzini From Princess Bride. 2011. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_eZmEiyTo0&feature=youtube_gdata_player.

Stuckey, Colleen. 2012. “Modern Sherlock.” The 19th Century British Novel. December 5. http://www.rogerwhitson.net/19thcenturyreading/modern-sherlock/.

Which Bottle? – Sherlock – BBC. 2012. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huOwYyK5EHk&feature=youtube_gdata_player.

Yancey, Kathleen Blake. 2009. Writing in the 21st Century. National Council of Teachers of  English. http://www.ncte.org/library/NCTEFiles/Press/Yancey_final.pdf.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digital Literary Pedagogy: Teaching Technologies of Reading the Nineteenth-Century

Roger Whitson, Washington State University

Digital Literary Pedagogy: An Experiment in Process-Oriented Publishing

 

Digital pedagogy is at a crossroads. Many humanist scholars have begun experimenting with digital technology and reporting those experiments on Twitter, in blogs, and in journals like The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy. At the same time, our more traditional disciplinary structures limit the amount of critical reflection or pragmatic application those experiments have. Scholars in the field of Computers and Writing, Cheryl Ball for example, have criticized the digital humanities as being “uncritical of its teaching practices,” something she calls “paradoxical,” since DH is “mostly comprised of literary-critical scholars.” Yet these critics are unaware that their “discovery of teaching with technology is relatively new” (Ball 2013). Ball’s Spring 2013 “Logging On” column in Kairos calls most pedagogical sessions at the MLA, THATCamp, and HASTAC “boring,” especially since, unlike scholarly-article length pieces that situate themselves in a field, most digital humanities pieces on pedagogy have a “Here’s What I did in my Classroom” approach (Ball 2013). While I empathize with Ball’s argument that the digital humanities needs more critical reflections on technological pedagogy, I also think that her criticism is symptomatic of an academic institution that has not yet conceptualized the scholarly place for faster-paced conversations like those on blogs and Twitter.[1] Reports of classroom activities certainly have their place in the larger conversation about pedagogy, even if these conversations are not citing articles that have bearing on their understanding of digital practice. This article will show how a scholarly reflection based in actual classroom practice can provide an effective way of bridging Ball’s concerns with the experiences of actual students in my classroom, while doing so from the disciplinary standpoint of literary studies. My fundamental question: what can literary studies contribute to the interdisciplinary pedagogical issues surrounding digital media and online publication?

I decided to collaborate with JITP editors Kimon Keramidas and Amanda Licastro because I wanted to use the academic journal to drive questions of student publication and online participation in a literary studies course. Many DH-pedagogies emphasize the publication of student work. On his course websites, Brian Croxall regularly includes a section to his students titled “Why Blog?” and answers the question by arguing that “f we draw attention from the outside world, it will help us remember that college is not simply preparation for ‘the real world’ but that it is in fact a vital part of the ‘real’ world” (Croxall 2012). I agree with Croxall about the importance that students work have resonances beyond the classroom and the need for student work to make a difference. However much we publish student work online, the vast majority of that work is obscured by everything else that competes with it for reader attention. Most content produced on class websites goes unnoticed unless it is actively promoted by teachers or students, both of whom are often overworked or may not know the complexities of online communication. Posting a blog doesn’t have the same resonance as publishing a book did in the nineteenth century, and for this reason, we needed to explore in our course how editorial oversight might help to make work more noticeable.

I realized that The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy was a perfect choice for finding editors that were invested in the idea of a professional writing environment, but who also understood that the meaning of “professional” was changing rapidly as social media forces journals to rethink their mission and purpose. The need to have an academic “weight” to the material produced by my students and, at the same time, my desire to embrace new forms of scholarly communication in the student’s projects drove my idea that student publication might require a new role for the editor. In many cases, editors are seen outside of the pedagogical process or part of teaching students to become better peer-reviewers.[2] If students published at all, they either created blogs (that might or might not be visited and commented upon by outside readers) or wrote essays that were never intended to have an outside audience. I wanted my students to have an audience and carefully craft their work to be received, retweeted, and reposted by that audience. What if, I thought, I could bring editors in on the process from the beginning? What if editors could help me co-teach the course?

The introduction of digital content, especially guided by a journal dedicated to digital teaching, can contextualize and revitalize the teaching of literary reading. I call this complementary approach digital literary pedagogy: using digital technology to extend what we do in a literary survey class. While this approach can work in other humanities disciplines, particularly courses that examine textuality from a historical viewpoint, I emphasize how literary studies is particularly suited for a pragmatic approach to editorially-guided instruction combined with historical perspectives on editorial apparatuses. My course interweaves the concerns of composition with literary studies: by using technology and cultural research, I argue, we can historicize the emergence of new practices associated with digital media. I’m focusing specifically on literary studies in this article for two reasons. First, literary studies courses are filled with students who have no idea why books from centuries past have any relation to their lived experience. Second, a social media ecology is emerging in front of us that begs critical reflection, and our students do not yet have the tools to know what they are doing when they sign up for a Facebook account or post a blog. A course reflecting on the kinds of “publics” emerging now is urgently needed, and literary studies can use the anxieties over writing and reading in the past as a touchstone to explore how anxieties over social media can be addressed today.

The design of my fall 2012 course at Washington State University, ENGL 366: “The British Novel to 1900,” focused on providing a set of comparisons between two media revolutions: the expansion of middle-class reading and printing in the nineteenth century and the discourse surrounding digital media today.  As William St. Clair recounts in The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period, novel-writing and reading during the nineteenth century were associated with a newly-literate middle class. The phenomenon of middle-class readers transformed the literary marketplace, since poetry and novels had different funding models.  Whereas poetry was “supply pushed by authors and patrons,” “[n]ovels were demand-led by book purchasers, by commercial borrowers, and by readers” (St. Clair 2004, 176). The emergence of middle-class reading interfaces with a remarkable number of cultural issues defined by the period: the change in attitudes surrounding the literary merit of novels by different classes, the role of the novel in defining specific forms of subjectivity, and the rise of professional writing and editing. For me, the historical question of writing as a profession is particularly important for defining a literary studies whose historical content can help illuminate technology since, as Paul Fyfe has observed, “the entire production-reception complex of popular literature seemed unprecedented, unpredictable, and immense” in a similar way as digital content overwhelms contemporary users (2009, 2).

I found that it was helpful for students to understand, for example, that authors like Jane Austen and Edmund Burke incorporated anxieties about novel reading with much the same tone as Nicholas Carr uses when he asks “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”[3] Austen’s Northanger Abbey is famous for an ambivalent approach to novels and novel-reading. On the one hand, it was clear to my students that the heroine Catherine Morland’s obsession with Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho keeps her from reading Shakespeare and Milton, and thus memorizing lines that could be used to prove she is cultured and more able to attract rich suitors. My student Tyler Andrews noticed Austen’s criticism “that life can be the same as fiction, with danger around every corner” by emphasizing Catherine’s narration of her quite commonplace life. “Catherine,” Andrews observes, “mention[s] a robbery-free ride to Bath, and […] assume[s] the best in everyone” (Andrews 2012). On the other hand, my students found Austen’s famous rant against the literary critics of her day very compelling. In the section, Austen sees “almost a general wish of decrying the capacity and undervaluing the labor of the novelist, and of slighting the performances which have only genius, wit, and taste to recommend them. ‘I am no novel reader;’ ‘I seldom look into novels;’ ‘Do not imagine that I often read novels;’ ‘it is really very well for a novel,’ such is the common cant” (Austen 1903, 35-6). The students grew to understand how a social-realist approach to writing in the nineteenth century emerged out of Austen’s and other authors’ ambivalence toward novel-reading.[4] The relationship between this ambivalence and the development of the novel is made in the work of Richard Altick and Patrick Brantlinger, who formed the intellectual core of my course.[5]

Reading the Nineteenth Century Aloud

It was useful for me to complicate my students’ notions of reading with those from the critics and authors of the nineteenth century. Many critics have noted the period’s communal reading practices, including the public readings Dickens gave at the end of his life and the common practice of reading aloud to one’s family.[6] Charles Kent attended the readings and wrote about the audience’s breathlessness upon hearing Dickens’s voice “– the words he was about to speak being so thorough well remembered by the majority before their utterance that, often, the rippling of a smile over a thousand faces simultaneously anticipated the laughter which an instant afterwards greeted the words themselves when they were articulated” (Kent 1872, 20). We read Kent’s book Charles Dickens as a Reader along with Edward Cox’s 1878 guide to public reading, The Arts of Writing, Reading, and Speaking in Letters to a Law Student. Cox gives powerful and specific advice about topics as various as overcoming shyness when reading in front of an audience, affecting different voices and practicing different lines before a performance, and reading aloud when preparing for public speaking. He also examines acoustics, advising his readers to practice in the performance room before their event to make sure audiences can hear them. “If they [the audience] fail to do so,” Cox argues, “not only are the distant deprived of whatever pleasure you can give them, but there is sure to be restlessness among those who cannot hear which will disturb those of the audience within earshot and annoy you not a little” (Cox 1878, 183). The nineteenth-century readings by Kent and Cox inspired me to construct a project that asked my students to record oral reading performances of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey on Soundcloud and write about the experience.[7] Soundcloud is like many online audio distribution applications, except that it makes collaboration between different members extremely easy. The application also assigns each sound a specific URL and has a variety of different widgets that can be used to embed the file into websites. I wanted to have the students thinking about the presence of sound and its resonance both in the nineteenth-century and as an emergent mode of composition within our own digital media space, particularly in the rise of commercial services like Audible and open source community projects like Librivox. Jeff Rice, in “The Making of ka-knowledge: Digital Aurality,” uses both Marshall McLuhan and The Beastie Boys to show how aural modes of composition are central in digital media. These aural modalities, for Rice, depend less on a literate notion of topos for organization and more on aural conventions like rhyme, tonality, rhythm, and voice (Rice 2006).[8] I knew that the knowledge my students would gain from performing the novels in question would be very different from the knowledge gained in an argumentative paper. As such, the book by Brian Cox provided both a historical source and a theoretical guide for our new practice. My students were asked to demonstrate their interpretation of each character in the tonality they used to perform them. Each student picked an individual chapter of the novel, and were encouraged to distinguish the narrator from each of the characters, possibly add music, then edit the recording. They translated the topos often encapsulated in a thesis statement and supporting arguments into the speed in which they read the lines, the surprise or sarcasm in their voice when they performed a character, and the music they used to imply the overall feeling of a scene.

Devin Truchard was particularly good at dramatizing the different voices of the novel, powerfully affecting the naïve enthusiasm of Catherine, the gruff arrogance of John Thorpe, and the anxious loneliness of Mrs. Tilney. The voice he used for the narrator was low, and seemed a little more appropriate for an action movie than an Austen story. It worked well to highlight the darker tones of the novel, as well as Austen’s mocking attitude toward the Gothic. In his written reflection, Truchard writes revealingly about his struggle to differentiate characters with tonality: “Being able to swap to multiple female voices is something I have never tried before.” Truchard continues, “Being able to get at least one feminine voice was trouble enough, but applying a second voice was almost the death of me. I eventually decided to differentiate the two voices by how much strain I put in them” (Truchard 2012). It was quite interesting to see how using an audio project forced my students to write essays about the novel in ways that were unusual to them. Many of the written responses read more like Cox’s how-to manual, rather than the simple response they were accustomed to producing in most literature classes. They needed to know motivation, character, and plot in order to reproduce the characters in a compelling way, but they could not talk about these elements of the novel without mentioning how they impacted the aural elements of the character’s voices in the recording.

Jenna Walter, by contrast, did little to distinguish the voices of the characters, but she added extremely effective music and was clearly quite enthusiastic about the process. She also did a wonderful job syncing the tone of her narrator’s voice with the accompanying music. The connection between her voice and the music is particularly acute when she gets to Catherine’s “desponding tone,” upon noticing that the day might bring rain in Chapter 11 (Walter 2012). The full strings Walter added in the beginning are quickly replaced by a simple piano playing softly, underscoring the delicacy of the “few specks of rain” Catherine sees and the slight depression she feels when she thinks that no one will visit the pump room that day: the center of social activity at the beginning of Northanger Abbey. Walter’s voice betrays a more sincere approach to the novel than Truchard, and perhaps delineates a gender distinction in my class’s reception of its topic. Whereas the men in the course tended to see the conflicts of the novel as inconsequential and somewhat satirical, the women often either empathized with Catherine’s plight or were extremely harsh in their reactions. Walter compares Catherine’s despondence in the novel in which she “may not sleep well […] from all her crying” to “the Twilight series when Edward leaves Bella and she spends half the book in a fetal position, in a majorly depressed state of silence, or a seriously suicidal state.” Given that Walter describes Bella and Catherine as “overreact[ing] to their boy problems,” you can see that she takes the novel much more personally than Truchard seems to with his pseudo-mocking tone (Walter 2012).

The discussions emerging out of this project were often more interesting than the projects themselves. Students connected the physical experience of reproducing voices to gender issues and imagined their own subjectivity in relation to the male and female characters in the novel. Inasmuch as Truchard distinguished different female voices by using different amounts of “strain,” Emeri-Erin Callahan over-emphasized the arrogant masculinity of Mr. Thorpe as a way of articulating his difference from the female characters. Callahan describes “lower[ing] my voice, and [speaking] in a very short and direct manner. I wanted it to feel like he was aggressively asserting himself with every sentence he spoke” (Callahan 2012). She recounts in detail the way she varied the rapidity of her reading to create this effect. “I noticed that he [Thorpe] drove his attention away for a moment onto Mrs. Allen,” Callahan recounts, “asking how she was, and then voiced an additional question about the ball the night before, but before she could even respond he had already turned his focus onto Catherine telling her to hurry up” (Callahan 2012). The darker side of Mr. Thorpe’s dominance is much more pronounced in Callahan’s recording than the mock masculine tone used in Truchard or the sincere yet ultimately judgmental approach by Walter. Callahan “convey[ed] this act [Thorpe’s domination] by making the portion addressed to Mrs. Allen rushed and quiet before I immediately leapt back into talking to Catherine, as though my speech to Mrs. Allen never happened” (Callahan 2012). Callahan made it clear that she understood how speech could be used as a weapon, and she inserts this awareness into the texture of her recording.

The Soundcloud assignment was effective in my course because it highlighted a practice that was common in the nineteenth century, yet used digital technology to bring that practice into the present. Most of the students understood that reading for a computer recorder was quite different than reading for a live audience, but they also learned the importance of going back to old nineteenth century texts for advice. It showed them how critical interpretation could make a tangible difference in how a text is performed. Mark Sample has argued that having students read aloud in class allows them to “become voices in the classroom, authorities in the classroom, empowered to speak both during the reading, and even more critically, after the reading” (Sample 2011). I agree, but I also wanted to show my students how the practice of reading silently emerged only relatively recently. It is important to engage multiple modes of student engagement when dealing with a subject often seen by them as distant and dry. Asking them to incorporate their interpretations directly into a vocal reading practice empowers students to see how criticism can have a practical application in performance.

Editing the Nineteenth Century

I designed the Soundcloud assignment and the blog posts to get students creating as much multimodal content as possible that engaged with the readings of the course. We would then collaborate with Amanda and Kimon to promote the best content, design it as effectively for online users as possible, and create a final site that effectively presented the work of the semester. The readings of the semester shifted from issues of writing and reading to economic and editorial concerns. I found this portion of the course an opportune time to introduce students to the editorial and design practices of bookmakers during the nineteenth century.[9] We investigated Alexis Weedon’s argument about how print runs were initially based upon tokens of 250 that were used to mark the hourly rate owed to the two men who set up the press and ran the copies. “The print run was calculated as the number of such ‘tokens’ rather than by estimating sales,” Wheedon argues, “a practice that was wasteful and clearly untenable in the more competitive 1830s when steam printing challenged the old system” (Wheedon 2003, 12). Of course, such methods were also tied to the economic triumph of the novel as the literary form of the bourgeoisie, as we noted earlier with the work of William St. Clair and Patrick Ballinger. How might we reconsider design choices today if we understood that such choices are shaped by technological and historical affordances? I agree with Kristin Arola when she says that teachers “must (re)engage ourselves and our students with the rhetoric of the interface and thus the rhetoric of design” (Arola 2010, 7). This means, for me, that we should not only have students rhetorically analyze the assumptions of content management sites like WordPress and Drupal, but they also need to know how these assumptions work in a larger historical and cultural frame.[10] My final project would be framed around students editing the content produced during the semester and collaborating with real editors from JITP to make the work publishable. I wrote Sarah Ruth Jacobs of JITP in April 2012 to see if the journal would be interested in rethinking the role of student publication in the class, as well as reconceptualizing the role of the editor in teaching. In my email, I said that:

I’d like to incorporate editors from the journal into the final project. This may mean a session or two where editors Skype in and talk about scholarly editing, what it means, and how to make a “website” publishable. It may mean that we all (myself, editors, and the students) brainstorm during one of those sessions about what it means to publish a website. I’d like to use the project to reimagine the role of the scholarly publication in digital pedagogy – to see editors as part of a collaborative teaching experience. This in itself could be something we could both write about in a separate article, linked perhaps to the website, about having students publish and the role of the peer-reviewed journal in that process. I wanted to see if JITP would be interested in seeing this process as an opportunity for a different type of collaboration and work through what that may mean for my role as a teacher and your role as a publisher. (Whitson 2012)

The response from Sarah, Kimon, and Amanda was positive. Amanda responded that she wanted my perspective as a teacher to be a major part of what was finally produced.

[A]s we are focused on pedagogy, we would like this project to be framed by a narrative in order to reveal the process that led to the final product. We are envisioning a more “meta” submission that would include reflections from both you and your students and perhaps Kimon and me [Amanda]. The reason we are so interested in this proposal is because of its experimental nature, therefore we want to remain true to that goal throughout the creation and in the final deliverable. (Licastro 2012)

We met subsequently on Google Hangout and decided to have the editors virtually attend the class twice. The first meeting would introduce the journal and talk about some larger issues regarding editing and online publication. The final meeting would have students present their blog posts and projects and get pointed critiques by the editors, as well as give the students a chance to reflect on their experiences throughout the semester.

The first hangout meeting went quite well. Students were introduced to the ways Twitter, Facebook, and other social media are changing the methods scholars use to communicate to one another. We discussed how JITP occupied a middle-space between traditional scholarly publications and blogs. They also previewed their thoughts about the final project, where I asked them to curate blog posts produced throughout the semester, picking four of them for the final website. I asked the students to create at least one post per week, based upon a modified version of Mark Sample’s blogging assignment from his Spring 2011 graphic novel class (Sample 2013). That assignment divided students into four groups, and each group had a different stated purpose to their blogging. First Readers would post questions to the week’s reading by Monday night; Responders would respond to questions from the first readers and post their own by Wednesday night; Searchers would find some interesting resource on the web that related to class and discuss its relevance; finally, the Weekly Roundup group would bring the week to a close by reflecting on discussions happening in class and online. We had been producing posts since the first week of class, so by the later weeks we had quite a pool to choose from. Instead of grading them myself, I wanted the students to start practicing their own editorial skills, think about what makes online content successful, and pick out the best examples that fit those criteria from our class.

I tasked three students to survey the rest of the class about editorial criteria. The results of their survey found that clarity, content, evidence, and credentials were what most (55%) of the students saw as important criteria. Leech, Champion, and Martin excerpted some of the written responses to the survey in their presentation.

One group noted, “essays must be clear in order for readers to understand, otherwise they will lose interest and have no additional motive to finish reading the piece. If an author does not use evidence to support his/her claims, they lose credibility.” Another group came to a similar conclusion, arguing that “clarity and evidence work to organize the content into a readable form and support the validity of the essay. Credentials further support the author of the essay, which allow the audience to take the author seriously” (“JITP Form” 2012). The students did not choose the same criteria I would, but I feel the exercise gave them the opportunity to see how their thoughts about good work could be put into practice when choosing content to display on the site.

Students then chose the five submissions that best exemplified the determined criteria, and wrote short answers discussing how the submission fit. One student discussing Anne Boothman’s post noted that her piece was “fresh,” that it left “readers thinking and questioning their own feelings about the book’s ending,” and that it cited research to “support her claim” and “her academic opinion.” Another post by Bryant Goetz “demonstrated going beyond the given text and discussing sources that were used in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.” The author of Goetz’s review “thought it was pretty interesting how he linked to Wikipedia right in his article, demonstrating how online writing can reference other sources in different ways than essay writing.” In addition to Goetz and Boothman’s posts, the students picked Colleen Stuckey’s “The Modern Sherlock,” Deven Tokuno’s “Gossip Girl Jane Austen Style,” and Jenna Walter’s “Mary Braddon Drew Inspiration from Her Own Life?” I found that the posts were picked for very different reasons. Deven Tokuno’s analyzed the parallels between Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and the television program Gossip Girl, which fascinated several of the students who followed the show. Anne Boothman’s was favored because it included a good bit of research into the history of madness in the nineteenth century. Students appreciated the contemporary tone of Tokuno’s, while enjoying the applied research of historical documents in Boothman’s.

Surprisingly, the students seemed more interested in the written blog posts than any of the SoundCloud projects completed during the semester. None of the SoundCloud projects were promoted to the final website. In my mind, despite the large amount of time we spent in class discussing the historical differences between written, aural, visual, and non-verbal modalities, many of the students were uncomfortable articulating specific reasons for picking one non-textual artifact over another. The student reaction may be related to the relative lack of educational infrastructure at WSU devoted to analyzing and producing multimodal content in an academic or professional setting. Individual programs highlight multimodal writing, like the 355 course in our Digital Technology and Culture major titled “Multimodal Authoring: Exploring New Rhetorics,” but there are few resources for scholars or students outside of these courses who want to explore multimodality.[11] WSU has a University-wide “Junior Writing Program” that acts as “a mid-career diagnostic to determine if your writing abilities are ready to handle the challenges of your Writing-In-The-Major (M) courses and other upper division courses that assign writing” (“Junior Writing Portfolio” 2013). The program has been remarkably successful in encouraging writing across different majors, but is only now starting to conceptualize how multimodal and digital forms of writing might fit into its requirements. This has effects on many teachers who might otherwise assign multimodal projects, because such projects would not count in the current portfolio guidelines. The effects of student unease in my course underscores the fact that students in different regions of the country have very different needs when it comes to multimodal literacy, and simply giving them the chance to produce multimodal content in one course may not be enough if other courses and programs on campus continue to be dominated by print assumptions about communication. We spent some time reflecting on how this unexpected consequence put into relief our own historical context, that this same course might look very different five or ten years in the future.

The final part of the project asked students to create their own WordPress website designed to display the best blog posts, summarize the themes of the course, and discuss the major assignments. Students were divided into groups that worked on editing the chosen blog posts, writing an overview of the course, composing a piece on the themes and projects covered in the course, and designing the site itself. Students had to be able to articulate just how historical knowledge can impact current ideas and decisions, and they needed to be able to also present the case for learning about reading controversies in the nineteenth century. For example, the novel Frankenstein clearly associates a literary education with bestowing a certain amount of power on the titular scientist Victor Frankenstein. Students wondered whether literature would play such a central part if Frankenstein were written today. Of course, you only have to look at the reception of the character in film and television for the past hundred years to see that the association between the novel’s veneration of literary tradition and its attitude toward scientific innovation has been largely removed from the story.

The last  meeting with the JITP editors allowed my students to connect several of these questions to the larger issues in scholarly communication that concern the journal. Kimon and Amanda asked the design group why they didn’t incorporate more multimodal content. While the site design had a clean interface and visual cues that recalled my own site for the course, it relied largely on the written content that we produced over the semester. The designers did not create video or audio interviews with the authors chosen by the class, nor did they really spend much time considering what kinds of visual images could enhance the content in the posts. The editors also asked the students how collaborative forms of writing were integrated into the process of constructing the site. Much of the site content not devoted to posts or projects was collaboratively written in groups. The students found that the variation between individual and collaborative writing to reflect the writing situations they expected to encounter after graduating from college and getting a job. In all, the suggestions by Kimon and Amanda reflected what might occur in a multimodal composition course: design elements, writing processes, and rhetorical strategies informed much of the early conversation.

The final discussion between the editors and Anne Boothman, however, added a new dimension that was more clearly associated with the literary content of the course. As I mentioned earlier, Boothman had written a piece on the history of madness in the nineteenth century, with special attention paid to Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret. The editors were pleased that her writing led to research in WSU’s library surrounding the questions her reflections had provoked. Was madness always understood in the same way? Amanda’s questions regarding the visual representation of madness were particularly useful for the student and caused her to think more closely about the performance of madness in Braddon’s novel. For me, this conversation showed just how questions of communication and composition can quickly turn into fascinating reflections on culture and subjectivity. If, for example, Lady Audley had acted mad in accordance with the cultural understanding of insanity during Braddon’s lifetime, does this performance allow her to get away with murder? Audley’s performance of madness quickly opens questions regarding gender, the criminal system, even the history of sanity itself.

The Literary in Digital Literary Studies

Boothman’s contribution to the final talk with the JITP editors illustrates just how much digital pedagogy can learn from literary studies. Despite the new methodologies for analyzing texts that the digital humanities have developed, like distant reading and topic modeling, DH itself has little to say about the role of technology in shaping the lives of people throughout history. Students still need to understand how technologies like the novel impacted women, how the rise of women as professional writers challenged what people thought the novel could do, and how novels written by women inspired wider social movements that forever changed the world. And many of the historical issues encountered in a course like the one I designed have analogues in cultural situations students encounter today. For instance, Digital Book World reported on September 6, 2012 that Amazon Publishing Group is looking to market a new set of serialized novels. According to Jason Ashlock, these novels would be “like the serials of publishing generations past, readers can encounter a work of fiction in installments. In classic Dickensian fashion, the long story is fragmented and sold in episodes. A consumer pays one price one time, and each installment is delivered upon its release” (Ashlock 2012). The reference to Dickens is a powerful one, especially if read by students who just finished a twelve-week project reading Oliver Twist from the version of Bentley’s Miscellany found online (Bentley’s Miscellany 1837). Literary studies can show students how history, technology, and marketing collide to bring about a new narrative experience (that may not be so new).

My students also learned quite a bit about the process of writing, editing, and publishing, yet they did so from a perspective that made them aware of the cultural and technological changes which brought about many of the practices used in publishing today. Historicizing reading is important because it shows just how contingent many of our practices can be, while always also illustrating why they were used in the first place. Most importantly to me, however, the emphasis in my course on both the digital and the literary gave my students a sense of historicity that subverted the digital utopianism and apocalypticism so prevalent in our culture today. Students who are used to seeing their teachers lament the rise of Facebook are often shocked to see that something as seemingly innocent as the novel once inspired a similar amount of vitriol. As digital pedagogy can be used to introduce students to new modalities of communication and new skills that are transferrable to different kinds of career opportunities, so can literary studies give students in digital classrooms the ability to critically and historically analyze the culture emerging around them. For all of these reasons, and many others, we need more teachers in literary studies who are willing to experiment with new methodologies, embrace different forms of technology, and write critically reflective articles sharing their teaching with the rest of the discipline.

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[1] Hybrid Pedagogy, a publication that exists between a traditional journal and a social media ecosystem, offers a pretty powerful model. Further, Mark Sample, Katherine Fitzpatrick, and Barbara Fister’s discussion of “serial scholarship” is yet another. In a post about “Blogs as Serialized Scholarship,” Fitzpatrick discusses how the academic journal emerged during the Enlightenment as a formalized version of the letters scholars wrote to one another, often without the formal conclusion that exist in so many journal articles. “[W]hen a scholar with a blog writes a bit about some ideas-in-process,” Fitzpatrick notes, “receives some feedback in response, returns with further ideas, reiterates, and so on, we can glimpse again the seriality that has always been at the heart of scholarly production” (2013).
[2] I took a few ideas for the editorial portion of my own class from Cheryl Ball’s editorial approach to pedagogy. Her serialized article “Editorial Pedagogy” illustrates how she emphasizes editing and publishing throughout her scholarly identity. In her first entry in the series, she details how she “teach[es] apprentices to analyze genre ecologies, practice those genres with those contexts in mind, and set up multiple levels of revision feedback specific to the situations in which those genres would be received or evaluated” (Ball 2012). While her set up is useful for someone who also acts as the editor of a well-regarded composition journal (Kairos), I felt that inviting editors from JITP worked better in my specific situation.
[3] Paul Fyfe and Pamela Gilbert guided me through potential readings for the course and suggested some paths I could take in understanding reading practices during the Victorian period.
[4] Emily McCormack noted how “in Austen’s time, reading was not something to be praised. I mean women reading was almost scandalous, especially the types of novels that Catherine would read. But in today’s society, it seems as if the world would be overjoyed if more students picked up something as ridiculous as a Twilight novel. I like the contrast between these two worlds” (McCormack 2012).
[5] Of particular note is Patrick Brantlinger’s argument that novels grew more bourgeois from the period between 1800 and 1840. “That change,” Brantlinger suggests, “has less to do with new readers or the sheer increase of literacy than with, on the one hand, evangelical and utilitarian stress on reforming public morality and, on the other, the industrial and commercial restructuring of the ‘literary field,’ including printers, publishers, reviewers, booksellers, readers, and of course authors” (Brantlinger 1998, 12). See also Richard Altick’s foundational work The English Common Reader: A Social History of the Mass-Reading Public for further information about the history of book-reading in the nineteenth century.
[6] Maggie Lane has noted that novel reading for families was a common pasttime after dinner. “Most people,” Lane observes, “took it for granted that they must amuse one another during those last hours of the day. In Jane Austen’s own family there was often reading aloud” (Lane 1995, 50).
[7] Matthew Rubery briefly discusses his own reading aloud project in “Victorian Literature Out Loud: Digital Audio Resources for the Classroom.” Rubery writes that “[t]he use of podcasts […] can instill awareness of the ways in which media influence our understanding of literary texts while at the same time providing students with a free audiobook at the end of the semester” (Rubery 2009, 139). Similary, Susan Cook shares the success of her own oral reading project in which she “expurgated A Christmas Carol into a version that could be read in an hour, divided up the text into ‘roles’ – without transforming the text into a script – and arranged for the students to perform a reading for the Southern New Hampshire University community at the end of the semester” (Cook 2013).

[8] Rice sees the dislocation of topos in aural composition as its contribution to digital pedagogy:

What makes ka-knowledge valuable to any type of writing pedagogy concerned with technology and communication, is how it moves attention away from the dominant topos-themes of knowledge acquisition in terms of power (either empowerment or resistance to power structures) or the still prevalent topos concept of literacy. Ka-knowledge is the digital rhetorical practice of assemblage. Whether it is used for empowering the subject or forging a political or cultural position or acquiring financial stability and professional success is not relevant (though any one of these points may occur). What is important is the recognition of a different method of forming ideas and presenting such ideas. (Rice 2006, 277-8)

[9] Unfortunately, time and the reading demands of the course made it difficult to incorporate such readings into the schedule. If I teach the course again, I will be more direct about the importance of design and editing to the history of reading in the period. The letters of the second John Murray, Byron’s editor, would form an important aspect of the course, as would essays from Robert Morrison and Daniel S. Roberts’s collection Romanticism and Blackwood’s Magazine. Blackwood’s Magazine published original work from many of the authors in the nineteenth century including Coleridge, Percy Shelley, Thomas de Quincey, George Eliot, and Elizabeth Clementine Stedman.
[10] One example is the fact that WordPress sites are designed around the blog as an organizational device. It’s one thing to criticize the decision to design a management system around the blog; it’s another to see that choice within the larger cultural history of the blog as a means for disseminating information quickly, or, as I mentioned earlier, the blog as repeating the Enlightenment practice of exchanging letters between scholars. The much more open design of Drupal, organized as it is around endless and sometimes incompatible modules, offers another possibility. Historically, it would be useful to make an analogy between WordPress and Drupal on the one hand, and commercial printers and DIY-printmakers like William Blake on the other. While WordPress offers some design choices, users ultimately have to sacrifice control for ease of use like authors did with commercial printers in the nineteenth century. Drupal offers much more control, but to make a Drupal site you need to become skilled at hacking their modules. Blake, as the inventor of a technique called relief etching, where etchings were produced as a negative of the desired image, had much more control over his prints. Yet these prints were never adopted by the larger printing industry since they were difficult to reproduce quickly, nor was Blake’s work ever really commercially-viable as a mass produced product. See the work of Michael Phillips, Joseph Viscomi, Robert Essick, and Mei-Ying Sung for more information about Blake’s printing methods.
[11] The 2011 WSU course description for DTC 355 says that it investigates “[w]riting for new computer-based media; multimedia authoring project; examination of new rhetorics of information technology” (Details for DTC 355 Fall 2013, WSU Online 2013).

Digital Literary Pedagogy: An Experiment in Process-oriented Publishing

Roger Whitson, Kimon Keramidas, and Amanda Licastro

 

Digital Literary Pedagogy: An Experiment in Process-Oriented Publishing

What classroom roles do journal editors have in the digital age? Roger Whitson invited JITP editors Amanda Licastro and Kimon Keramidas into his class on “The Nineteenth-Century Novel” to explore how editors can supplement traditional classroom instruction and investigate the purpose of design and digital publishing in literary period courses. The course involved a history of reading and book-design in the nineteenth century, along with assignments that encouraged students to experience reading and writing in different modalities. Over the course of twenty months this project has resulted in a wide variety of content, both formal and informal. To display that process and those materials, the authors have designed this project in the form of the interactive timeline below, which gives the scope of the project as a whole. Included in the timeline are date markers of specific milestones and events that took place during the process but don’t link to any specific product, links to documents and multimedia elements created in the evolution of that process, and links to the final formal articles published in the journal.

 

 

In the timeline, the authors have presented the website Whitson made for his class; the site designed by the students for the final project; a final reflective Google Hangout between the JITP editors, Whitson, and his class; drafts of the authors’ work in progress on Google Docs; and links to the final written pieces for the journal. The two articles by Whitson, Keramidas and Licastro reflect on the process and products of this collaboration. Whitson’s “Digital Literary Pedagogy: Teaching Technologies of Reading the Nineteenth Century” explores the unique way literary studies can contribute to digital pedagogy by highlighting the historical and cultural contexts of editorial and publication practices in the nineteenth century and comparing them to similar media shifts occurring today on podcasts, in blogs, and on streaming video. Keramidas and Licastro’s “Practicing Collaboration in Process and Product: A Response to ‘Digital Literary Pedagogy’” frames the class from the perspective of journal editors who contributed to the teaching of the course and illustrates the complications of teaching students to combine audience awareness, multimedia design, and period-specific literary content. Together these separate elements reflect different stages and manifestations of the process of instruction, reflection and production that occur as teachers and students consider and execute the role of technology in pedagogy and publication.

 

About the Authors

Roger Whitson is Assistant Professor of English and Digital Technology and Culture at Washington State University. Most recently, he is the author (with Jason Whittaker) of William Blake and the Digital Humanities: Collaboration, Participation, and Social Media (Routledge 2012). He has written “How to Survive a Graduate Career,” published by Workplace: A Journal of Academic Labor; and “Altac and the Tenure-Track” for The Chronicle of Higher Education, as well as a number of pieces about Blake and the genre of steampunk. He is currently working on a special issue of Romantic Circles devoted to “Blake & Pedagogy” and a book theorizing steampunk within emergent practices of critical making, digital humanities, and alt-history.

Kimon Keramidas is Assistant Professor and Director of the Digital Media Lab at the Bard Graduate Center, where he is responsible for the development and implementation of digital media practices across academic programs and for the Focus Gallery project. Kimon also serves on the Editorial Collective of The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy and is Director of Digital Initiatives for the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center where he leads new initiatives in the integration of digital media in support of the center’s programs. Kimon’s academic research centers on two areas of study: the role of intellectual property in contemporary theatrical production and the sociocultural impact of interface design in personal computing. Kimon has had articles published in the journals Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy and Currents in Electronic Literacy, in the collections Objects of Exchange (co-authored with Aaron Glass), Theater und Medien: Theatre and the Media, and Studying the Event Film: The Lord of the Rings (co-authored with Henry Bial and Ryan Reynolds), and on the sites Profhacker and Mediacommons’s The New Everyday.

Amanda Licastro is a doctoral candidate in the English Program at the Graduate Center, CUNY and is an Instructional Technology Fellow at Macaulay Honors College. She is currently working on her dissertation, which focuses on student writing in online open spaces, and recently completed her certificate in Interactive Technology and Pedagogy through an independent study involving her work on the Writing Studies Tree. Amanda is also a co-director of the CUNY Digital Humanities Initiative and serves on the Editorial Collective of The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy.

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