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Digital Humanities at Small Liberal Arts Colleges...

Digital Humanities at Small Liberal Arts Colleges

Digital methodologies and new media are changing the landscape of research and teaching in the humanities. Scholars can now computationally analyze entire corpora of texts or preserve and share materials through digital archives. Students can engage in authentic applied research linking literary texts to place or study Shakespeare in a virtual Globe Theater. Such developments collectively fall under the name “digital humanities,” which includes the humanities and humanistic social sciences and has largely been characterized by computing-intensive, collaborative, interdisciplinary projects at research institutions. Faculty, staff and students at small liberal arts colleges, however, are making significant contributions to the digital humanities, especially by engaging undergraduates both in and out of the classroom. Rebecca Frost Davis, Program Officer for the Humanities at the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE), will introduce the digital humanities landscape and share examples from small liberal arts colleges.



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  • Explosion of data -- Google’s former CEO, Eric Schmidt, says that every 2 days we create the same amount of information as we created from the dawn of civilization to 2003. I found an interesting analysis of this quote, but regardless of the exact numbers, the general trend is very clear.Exponential advances in computation storage and bandwidth: These shifts have led to cloud computing, GPU’s (graphics processors), machine learning that automatically processes vast amounts of content and usage patterns. Large-scale, deeply-connected problems. Grand challenges require an interdisciplinary, socio-technical (human process and technology) approach. As solutions are implemented, they change the problem.Ken O’Donnell, Associate Dean, Office of the Chancellor, California State University
  • Kirschenbaum traces origin of the term to the publication of Blackwell’s Companion to Digital Humanities in 2004  (Schreibman, Siemens, Unsworth), the creation of the Alliance for Digital Humanities Organizations in 2005, and the launch of the Digital Humanities Initiative (now the Office of Digital Humanities) at the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in 2006.  When did you first hear this term? In what context?Being a DHer means defining DH
  • Here are some of the reasons humanists are becoming digital humanists. Access—Homer multitext (for students, for public, students can play that role, this is humanities in new skin; note limitations of print edition)Manipulate data: LexomicsScholarly communication: Jack Daugherty, Jen RajchelTeaching & learning: TEI & close reading; but also authentic applied researchPublic impact: Digital Storytelling & mapping
  • Take it into Voyeur text visualization environment and see patterns, trends, unexpected information“the project explored the tools and infrastructure that will make it possible for the ‘ordinary working historian,’ not currently using these techniques, to integrate text mining and visualization into his or her day-to-day work.” (Data Mining with Criminal Intent)Deals with “nearly 200,000 trials held at the Old Bailey, London’s central criminal court, between 1674 and 1913”– 127 million words Integrates 2 of my favorite tools, Zotero (to organize and store) and Voyeur (to visualize and mine); also API to query Old Bailey data, search by gender, crime, date, punishmentCan also use this to talk about different aspects of humanities data: querying, managing, mining, visualizing, interpretingDo a search for religious offenses: can begin to do some filtering and see some patternsInteroperability itself a major accomplishment, since too often the data stands alone( generated press coverage in NYT (, Chronicle of Higher Ed, Science News ( impressions with cloud viewer”: prominence of words like popishUnderstand frequency with which certain terms are releasedUnfamiliar interface, but that can be a productive unfamiliarityDifferent interface from search results– get a sense of the whole, but then can understand word in context, how significant it is within the corpus and a particular workMine: text mining erotic language in EED’s poetry (Martha Nell Smith/ nora project)– “I knew that”– bringing to surface patterns
  • Matthews 1846 US-Mexico War Diary at Southwestern University
  • 4 colleges in NY, Camden, NJ, Virginia & Serbia explored significance of place in Whitman’s worksUniversities: –New York City College of Technology (CUNY), New York University, University of Mary Washington, and Rutgers University-Camden, plus Serbia“connect our classrooms to the world in exciting ways” (Matt Gold)“how social media can re-imagine the possibilities for sharing amongst and between students of a similar topic from a wide range of institutions.” (Jim Groom)

Mtholyoke Mtholyoke Presentation Transcript

  • What Does Digital HumanitiesMean for Teaching And Research at Small Liberal Arts Colleges? Rebecca Frost Davis Mt. Holyoke Digital Humanities Seminar February 17, 2012
  • Humanities at Risk“It is precisely that perceived lack of rigor andmeticulousness that causes critics of thehumanities to assume that they are inferiordisciplines and therefore expendable, especiallyduring state fiscal crises.” --Gary Olson, “How Not to Reform Humanities Scholarship,” Chronicle of Higher Education
  • Challenges & Opportunities for Liberal Education• John Seely Brown, NITLE Fellow 2011 – Explosion of data – Exponential advances in computation storage and bandwidth – Large-scale, deeply-connected problems• Ken O’Donnell – Assoc. Dean, Office of the Chancellor, California State University, Opening Forum, AAC&U – Produce systems thinkers that innovate – Teach ability to work in a team structure
  • Digital Literacy: An Agenda for the 21st Century“by “digital humanities” we mean learningabout, with, and through technology–makingit, thinking about it, including it in pedagogy andinstitutional transformation.” Cathy Davidson’s blog for her book, Now You See It an-agenda-for-the-21st-century/
  • Digital Humanities• 2004: Blackwell’s Companion to Digital Humanities (Schreibman, Siemens, Unsworth)• 2005: Alliance for Digital Humanities Organizations (ADHO)• 2006: Digital Humanities Initiative, now the Office of Digital Humanities (ODH), NEH• Kirschenbaum, Matthew G. “What Is Digital Humanities and What’s It Doing in English Departments?” ADE Bulletin 150 (2010).
  • DH and Liberal EducationAlexander & Davis.“Should Liberal ArtsCampuses Do DigitalHumanities? Process andProducts in the SmallCollege World.” InDebates in the DigitalHumanities, ed. MatthewK. Gold. Minneapolis:University of MinnesotaPress, 2012.
  • Why the Digital Humanities? Provide wide access to cultural information Enable us to manipulate that data: manage, mash up, mine, map, model Transform scholarly communication Enhance teaching and learning Make a public impact Slide courtesy of Lisa Spiro. Find out more: “Why the Digital Humanities?”
  • What kinds of impacts do these motivations have onresearch, teaching and learning at liberal arts colleges?
  • Proceedings of the Old Bailey•• A fully searchable edition of the largest body of texts detailing the lives of non-elite people ever published, containing 197,745 criminal trials held at Londons central criminal court.• Analysis tools:
  • Text Visualization Results“make it possible for the ‘ordinary working historian’… tointegrate text mining and visualization into his or her day-to-daywork” (Data Mining with Criminal Intent) (Slide courtesy of Lisa
  • New Forms of Argument: Digital ThoreauPaul Schacht, Prof. & Chair of English, SUNY-Geneseo
  • Open Peer Review:Writing History in the Digital Age (Slide courtesy of Lisa Spiro)
  • Lexomics, Wheaton College• Close reading & Distant Reading• Interdisciplinary: – Computer science – Statistics – Old English texts• Algorithms from genomics for stylistic analysis of corpora
  • Crowdsourcing
  • Teaching and Learning• Authentic, applied humanities research• Inquiry-guided learning• Problem-based learning• Produces – Systems thinkers who can integrate across disciplines – Ability to work in a team
  • Lexomics, Wheaton College• Connections – Integrative learning program• English-Computer Science Team-Teaching – Computing for Poets (Comp 131) – Connection (Computing and Texts)
  • Digital Humanities for Undergraduate Learning• NITLE Digital Scholarship Seminar, Friday, 2/17, 3 pm – Christopher Blackwell, Prof. of Classics, Furman University – Laura McGrane, Assoc. Prof. of English, Haverford College – Jennifer Rajchel, Digital Humanities Intern, Bryn Mawr College• Chris Blackwell & Tom Martin,“Technology, Collaboration, and Undergraduate Research.” Digital Humanities Quarterly 3, no. 1 (2009).
  • Students and DH• New Media• Critical readingJen Rajchel, Bryn Mawr College
  • Networked Classes•
  • Student Initiative• Re:Humanities 12 : March 29-30, Bryn Mawr, Haverford, & Swarthmore Colleges• Right to Research Coalition of Student Groups – – Nick Shockey, Trinity University
  • NITLE Digital Humanities