This Week in Digital Humanities and Pedagogy

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

This week I am reporting the JITP weekly round-up from the HASTAC conference at Michigan State University (MSU). The ethos of HASTAC aligns with our mission at JITP: a teaching-centered approach to technology across the disciplines. Perhaps the best way get a sense of the interesting and diverse conversations at this conference would be to follow the #hastac2015 on Twitter, or check out visualizations of the activity at NodeXL and TAGSExplorer, or re-live it through the livestream. My TL:DR – HASTAC 2015 was critical and radical, while remaining vibrant and optimistic. If you are interested in using technology to enact change in higher education this conference is for you.

The 2015 HASTAC conference was innovative by design. Not only was it affordable for students to attend, it offered a variety of accommodation options, included food and beverages, and was held in a hotel run by students training in the field of hospitality and management at MSU (fun fact: my uncle was trained as a chef at the Kellogg Center). Furthermore, all of the keynote speakers were early career or alternative academic scholars. Kicking things off was the affable Scott B. Weingart (better known as @scott_bot), a Digital Humanities Specialist at Carnegie Mellon University who took us on a journey through the history of both the verbal and visual rhetoric of knowledge-making in order to explore disciplinary divides (see paper here and slides here). Dissolving disciplinary isolation in favor of collaboration across the academy became a common theme throughout the conference.

Now I can only responsibly report from the panels I attended, but I did interview others about their experience and can tell you that the overwhelming highlight for many people was that the “scholarly voices” of underrepresented groups were heard at HASTAC 2015. This was not a conference of superstars on panels that dominate the audience (leaving some panels empty while others are packed), but rather one of equity and disruptive distribution. This was certainly true of the first two panels I participated in – my own panel “Transforming the Dissertation: Models, Questions, and Next Steps,” which showcased innovative student work, and “Women of Color and Digital Feminism Pedagogy,” a presentation of feminist approaches to integrating digital tools into classroom practices. Both of these panels focused on what is learned through the process of creating non-traditional products, and served as models for student-centered learning. This emphasis was echoed in “Student-Centered Pedagogy and Technology: An Interactive Long Table Conversation,” which features CUNY’s own Futures Initiative project “Mapping the Future of Higher Education.”  Many people I interviewed at the ingenious “Birds of a Feather” dinner summarized this by saying that this conference broke down the false dichotomy between our research and teaching.

This brings me to the next theme of HASTAC 2015: building and making. This was exemplified in “Whithervanes: a neurotic, early worrying system THR_33 (Tea House for Robots)” the keynote given by artist duo Cezanne Charles and John Marshall of The three activist art installations Charles and Marshall presented were the most thoughtful, responsible, thorough displays of radical engagement I have ever seen, and I can only urge you to check this out for yourselves. I mean, headless chickens that track local reactions to media-induced fear online using raspberry-pi, open source software, and social media? Awesome. Building as a method of scholarship was also central to “Reimaging Scholarly Publishing,” which featured the launch of the Public Philosophy Journal, and the “Doing Digital Liberal Arts: Projects and Pedagogies on Student-centered Campuses” panel that featured a series of speakers describing the process of establishing digital humanities programs in liberal arts colleges. What I, and many people I interviewed, really appreciated in these presentations was the willingness to share both successes and failures – an ethos we share here at JITP.

Perhaps the most enlightening panel for me was “Work Flows: Ways of Reading & Collaborating in DH” which featured three brilliant projects that aim to improve the way we work and teach. First up was Alice Horning’s study on student reading and citation practices in higher ed, a sobering look at the intense work that needs to be done in our classrooms to improve student literacy rates. Following this was Michael Black’s ingenious use of topic modeling to study the open source code of Mozilla Firefox to investigate versioning practices and explicate how distant reading is an effective way to research code. I cannot wait until this study is available. And finally, a project I am incredibly excited about was Smiljana Antonigevic’s sneak preview of Penn State and George Mason’s new add-on to Zotero that addresses the workflow of a digital scholar. This study showcases the different ways scholars in the humanities and sciences use digital tools in various facets of our work, and hopes to provide a solution to address these gaps.

The closing keynote was a call to arms by Roopika Risam. In Across Two (Imperial) Cultures: A Ballad of Digital Humanities and the Global South  (#global #2cult) Risam guided us through the history of the “two cultures” in higher education – STEM fields versus the humanities – via a series of historical (ex. C.P. Snow, Matthew Arnold) and contemporary portrayals of this “crisis” in the media. Through giggle-inducing visuals of ponies and Taylor Swift videos, Risam delivered the serious message that the humanities should not turn to science to save our discipline, but rather that it is the humanist approach to quantifiable data that the digital humanities offers to our field – an approach that is necessary to address issues of inequality and social justice in these practices. Risam reminded us that being a public scholar can be a matter of life and death, and that the work of exposing the truth through social media can be heroic. And while Risam argued that DH is still a Western field, we can be the change we wish to see higher education.


Beta-test the new HASTAC website launching later this summer. This new site draws on the concept of a social networking sites with a FB like stream of news from those you follow.

Check out all the projects from HASTAC 2015

Apply to HASTAC 2016 in Arizona

Submit your HASTAC 2015 presentation to the next issue of JITP

Did we miss something? Send hot tips, cool CFPs, and warmly worded rants to


'This Week in Digital Humanities and Pedagogy' has 1 comment

  1. June 10, 2015 @ 8:20 am This Week in Digital Humanities and Pedagogy

    […] have also been catching up on HASTAC proceedings (featured in Amanda Licastro’s recent roundup for JITP). Roopika Risam posted the text of her closing plenary keynote, “Across (Two) […]


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