Blog Post

Anne Marie recommends: Digital Humanities Summer Institute

It's been four days since the conclusion of the DHSI Foundations course "Scholarscapes, Augmented Dissemination via Digital Methods" taught by James O'Sullivan from Penn State. As I reflect on the many rad tools I learned about and experimented with during the week, I know that my time at DHSI was invaluable for me as a citizen, writer, and scholar. That's why I can't recommend DHSI highly enough to other HASTAC Scholars. The wide range of course-offerings, from the foundational to the technically advanced, ensures there's something for every digital skill level.

While I can't speak for the other courses, what surprised me the most was the ongoing process of self-reflection in which our group was engaged. James O'Sullivan prompted discussion that forced us to consider the core concept behind "Digital Dissemination," which he identified as "Knowledge Mobilization." He led us to consider questions and complications such as: What, exactly, is "Knowledge Mobilization"? Do we want it? Why? How does the internet and the use of innovative digital technology serve this concept? More specifically, which technologies serve this concept? In what contexts? When should scholars, university instructors, writers, or artists set aside digital technology in favor of the 'analog'? That is, when is digital technology bad for "Knowledge Mobilization" or our group members' other goals? 

Addressing these and other issues alongside the more practical, hands-on elements of our course put each particular technology in a critical, intellectual, and even ethical context. And practice we did. From arguing for the necessity of a basic knowledge of HTML for understanding of the internet as a whole, to introducing us to Twine (http://twinery.org/), Scalar (http://scalar.usc.edu/), and Ibook (https://www.apple.com/ibooks/) as potential pedagogical or research tools, James O'Sullivan engaged our group in a lively, interactive tour of the Digital Humanities as they continue to evolve in the summer of 2015. And each of these technologies has its particular strengths and most relevant contexts. The storytelling tool Twine, for example, would be useful in engaging students in an interactive analysis of the way narratives are constructed. The more familiar, and oft-discussed in HASTAC, Scalar, lends itself more readily to research and scholarship, especially where a non-linear format would be useful. With its many platforms and the ease with which one can integrate various media, Ibook popularizes some of the strengths of Scalar, while remaining (by my estimation) somewhat more linked to traditional narrative form. 

While our group included librarians and tenured faculty already deeply familiar with the responsibilities of departmental chair, there were also many "rookies:" advanced and beginning graduate students. A key issue for us was the complexity of entering the professional world of the Academy in 2015, when the internet is both playground and workspace, with a nearly permanent record of both. A useful approach and unifying idea I drew from our group's discussion is the importance of establishing, maintaining, and directing others to view a self-reflective virtual life. While identity isn't unified, I still find it useful to critically consider and reconsider on one's online expression of its various aspects. As Dr. Christopher P. Long of Penn State (and soon to be Michigan State) suggested (virtually) to our group, underlying this self-reflection is a consideration of ethics—the way one's words and actions effect others, including individuals, communities, and environments. 

 

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