Blog Post

A Bold Experiment in Integrated Learning: A Meta-MOOC. You're invited.

In Spring 2013, we're going to be launching a bold, experimental collaborative learning experience, one of the boldest ever attempted.   Part of this will be face-to-face courses for Duke students, an undergraduate class taught by the distinguished behavioral economist Dan Ariely and digital learning expert Cathy Davidson ("Surprise Endings:  Social Science and Literature"), and, linked to it, a graduate class that Prof Davidson will be teaching in English and ISIS but available to anyone interested in teaching in a digital age.  The excitement comes from the open structure that means  we are hoping to be joined by anyone anywhere in the world, not for a conventional MOOC (Massive Online Open Learning) where talking heads tell you what they think but in a Meta-MOOC:  a class where we think about how we think, learn about how we learn, collaborate on new collaborative management practices, and together actually create a platform for colearning with a "massive" group of interested others worldwide.   This experiment is for anyone frustrated about MOOC's being billed as "revolutionary" learning when, too often, MOOCs simply are a video of the most conventional old-school form of teaching:  the lecture.  

That's fine for stage 1 at this very exciting time in the history of education--but we know far too much about how we learn in a digital age to stop there.   Now is the time for some introspection that puts students at the center of the experiment in the future of their education.   Now it is time to learn together about learning--from theorists of learning, from the constructionist lessons gleaned from twenty years of research at think tanks like the MIT Media Lab,  from MOOC research on human- and machine-learning, from the bold experiments of others (such as Howard Rheingold's "Peeragogy" class last year at UC Berkeley), by thinking about existing platforms, and thinking of new methods that consider learning motivation, learning passion, learning joy, and learning experimentation.  Mostly, now is a time to turn thinking into doing:  in this Meta-MOOC we will be making a MOOC together, a new and better one that addresses the big problems of contemporary MOOCs such as motivation, community, mentoring, practice, retention, application, critical thinking, and creative, iterative thinking.

This Meta-MOOC is a learning-by-doing attempt to figure out exciting new ways of enlivening learning, a conversation between face-to-face learners at a research university and learners worldwide who will bring many other experience and ideas to the conversation.   Will this work?  Yes.  Even if it doesn't.  We will all be learning together in an environment where experiment is both the course content and the course method, and where we will all have a great story to tell when it's over.




Here's the basics:  (1) I'm team-teaching an undergraduate class, "Surprise Endings:  Social Science and Literature," with one very distinguished and charismatic and deeply wonderful colleague (behavioral economist Dan Ariely).   (2) We're team-collaborating with three fabulous Teaching Assistants (one who has certification in teaching online courses, one who has working closely with Dan for several years on experiments and storytelling, and one who is working on a MFA and who has experience with production.   (3) We're also co-creating the formats, ideas, and the public online course content with about thirty undergraduates in the class.   (4) Duke Scholars in our new PhD Lab in Digital Knowledge will be participating in the mix, coming up with ideas, interjecting diversions and experiments, and, in other ways, learning from the learning by contributing to what we do and where we go. And (5) we are very lucky to have a team at the Franklin Center of dedicated, professional videographers who will be learning and teaching, teaching and learning from their vast experience in production and (6)  we will be working with HASTAC's excellent team in social networking and online networking to help both with programming and customizing tools and will helping to create a community for this colearning experiment.    Great learning takes a village. 

The method is student-directed: 

(1) The students will each week read social science papers addressing a classic area of inquiry about what makes us human along side a work of literature that addresses the same issue.   They will carry out a public, open, online conversation working back and forth between experiment and narrative, social science and art, science and story telling.  

(2) A group of six undergraduates will be the leaders of each unit.  They will work to generate the discussion, they will moderate this conversation and, at the end, will formulate a list of key interview questions, ranked by a leaderboard by the students in the class and, we hope, a large online community of colearners.  


(3) One or two of the students in that group will then, during our UStreamed class hour, be asking Dan and me ponted questions that arose from the online conversation before class.  Dan and I will not talk together first but will spontaneously answer and invite discussion.  Each of these will last for forty-five minutes.

(4) Now is where the fun begins.  We will next engage in a lively discussion about how to present and frame that material as a Webinar.  We'll extract juicy moments for YouTube.  Students will come up with intriguing discussion questions.  We'll talk about assessment, if this were actually a MOOC, and we'll try to make this live as here is where the real constructivist learning will happen, in this conversation about how you transform content (even the liveliest, freshest dialogue) into a learning experience.  "Hearing" and "Learning" are not the same thing.  We will be using interesting Web-based tools such as Mozilla's Popcorn to explore an array of new annotated, video and other formats. 

(5)  Outside of class the team will work to put up a unit by week's end--draft only, and will solicit feedback.  By the end of the course, they will put up an edited version.  But the whole process should be inspiring, experimental, fun.   To our knowledge, no one has ever really deconstructed the MOOC form as a learning experiment in quite this way before.  

(6)  The Duke students in the doctoral course will spend the term reading theories about learning, teaching, and making and be putting that into practice in working with the undergraduates.  We hope THAT is all public and online too.



Now . . . next step is see if anyone at Duke is interested in taking these very experimental courses...  To that end, here are the very long course descriptions, with lots of content that will change over the next weeks, put up for anyone at Duke in any major who is interested in the future of learning.


If you have suggestions for us, please use the COMMENTS section below. We'd love to hear from you.



English 890S, ISIS 890S:   Web Literacies, Digital Knowledge, and Digital Humanities: Theories, Methods, and Tools for Research and Teaching   (#LiteraciesLab)
A Course Offered in Conjunction with the Ph.D. Lab in Digital Knowledge

Instructor:  Cathy N. Davidson

Spring 2013
Tuesday 4:40-7:10
DESCRIPTION: For more information and a sample syllabus, see:
Like Garry Kasparov playing chess with Deep Blue, “Digital Knowledge, Digital Literacies, Digital Humanities” brings together the possibilities of the human and the machine for new forms of research and teaching.  Our emphasis will include theory and practice, the expressive and the constructive, the individual and the collective, immediacy and distance, humanities and the lab.  The premise of this class offered in conjunction with the new Ph.D. Lab in Digital Knowledge is that much on-line learning is now excellent (sometimes better at tailoring itself to individual learning styles than even good instructors, and certainly better than poor ones).  Given that, the 21st century classroom has to offer something more--something human, connected, vital, creative, ethical, practical, critical, and inspiring.  Additionally, we must find the best ways to reconceive of what it means to do research by  thinking about, with, and through our computational tools, networked communities, and  interconnected worlds.  In this very privileged and precious environment we call a “higher education,” we will explore all the forms of learning and thinking thatcannot be replicated by a computer alone--or by a professor alone in the traditional, hierarchical academic model.


The course begins with students constructing their own websites as a public representation (and ePortfolio) of their intellectual work in the course and also contributing to a collaborative, public site on which we will be partnering with students and professors at other universities. The course contends that we need both “hack” and “yack” (practice and theory), and that the humanities have special kinds of perspectives, skills, and talents necessary to an age characterized by new forms of information and communication technology. It is grounded in history, with an argument that contemporary educational institutions are the product of Taylorist  “scientific labor management” reconfigured as “scientific learning management” with the end of training workers for the Industrial Age.  It is based on theories of cognition, research in the science of attention and learning, and analyses of the digital architecture that pervades much of our lives outside of school but that has yet to transform the institutions of education (K-dissertation).  How we teach and how we learn have changed more radically in the last twenty years than our academic institutions, disciplines, academic reward systems,  classroom methods, and definitions of what constitutes an academic career.


The course is further premised on economic realism: sadly, and for a variety of systemic social reasons, the biggest driver of change in higher education at the moment is economic exigency, not intellectual creativity.  We will discuss the retrenchment in university support from state, national, and corporate sources; the devaluing of the humanities (and theoretical sciences) within the research hierarchy of the university; and the unwillingness of many in the humanities to rethink their mission and to reconsider what should be their centrality (in mandate and purpose) in the Information Age.


Since many Ph.D. students today will be teaching in classrooms with hundreds of students and with some hybrid online component, one focus of this course is how to see those situations as opportunities for collective learning, rather than simply “mills” for replicating tired, outmoded Industrial-age ideas.  An explicit aim of the course is to articulate and practice a new vision of the human and social sciences for a post-Taylorist era and students who were born after April 1993 (when the Mosaic 1.0 browser was made available to the public).  The course is based on a pragmatic (some would say optimistic) idea that, together, we can find the right tools, partners, and methods to transform higher education in ways meaningful to the present and, if we’re lucky, the future too.
The course will be offered in the Ph.D. Lab in Digital Knowledge.  It will also be “teamed” with English 390-5/ISIS 390, an undergraduate class (“Surprise Endings:  Social Science and Literature”) team-taught by behavioral economist Dan Ariely and Cathy Davidson.   The experiments in pedagogy and multimedia student-generated production in that undergraduate class will serve as a “pedagogical lab” for the doctoral students in English 890, ensuring “vertical” collaborations of faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates.  Doing will be as important as thinking about it, practice as important as theory, experiment as knowledge, context as content.  Every student in English 890S will leave the class with a website, an e-portfolio of projects, public online writing, multimedia and collaborative productions.  


Students will also develop a suite of new tools they can use in their own research as well as in practical teaching methods.  It is assumed that students in the class will have different levels of technical expertise, that some (but not all) will be working in the area of digital humanities, and that some will be pursuing traditional humanities professorial careers and others will be interested in “alt-ac possibilities. Students will also leave with a professional CV that records their ePublications and a cover letter that translates what we do in “21st Century Literacies” for traditional humanities audiences.  

READING LIST (evolving)

Anne Balsamo, Designing Culture: The Technological Imagination at Work
Yochai Benkler, Wealth of Networks

Tim Berners-Lee,Weaving the Web
Ian Bogost, How To Do Things with Video Games
danah boyd apophenia, “making connections where none previously existed”

James Boyle, The Public Domain:  Enclosing the Commons of the Mind
Chen, W. & Wellman, B. (2004) The global digital divide within and between countries. IT & Society, 1(7), 39-45
Cathy N. Davidson and David Theo Goldberg, The Future of Thinking:  Institutions in a Digital Age (free pdf download)
Cathy N. Davidson, Now You See It:  How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn (free copies provided)
John Dewey, Democracy and Education
Matthew K. Gold, ed., Debates in the Digital Humanities
Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Planned Obsolescence:  Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy
N. Katherine Hayles, How Do We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis  
Lisa Nakamura and  Peter Chow-White, Race After the Internet
Christopher Newfield, Ivy and Industry:  Business and the Making of the University, 1880-1980
Howard Rheingold, Net Smart:  How to Thrive on Line

Howard Rheingold and others:  Peeragogy Handbook:

Douglas Rushkoff, Program or Be Programmed
Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown, A New Culture of Learning:  Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change
Siva Vaidhyanathan, The Googlization of Everything
Barry Wellman, Connected Lives Project (articles, posts)
David Weinberger, Too Big To Know:  Rethinking Knowledge ...
Ian H. Witten, Data Mining:  Practical Machine Learning Tools and Techniques

Jonathan Zittrain, The Future of the Internet—and How to Stop It



English 390-5 (Special Topics in Genre) and ISIS 390*
“Surprise Endings: Social Science and Literature”
Spring 2013 Monday, 3:05-5:35 pm  (First class, Wed Jan 9, make up class for MLK day)
Garage, Smith Warehouse, Bay 4, 114 S. Buchanan

Professors: Dan Ariely (Fuqua, Economics, SSRI) and Cathy N. Davidson (English, Franklin Humanities Institute, PhD Lab in Digital Knowledge)

Teaching Assistants:  Amanda Starling Gould and Erin Allingham
Prerequisites: None.
Areas of knowledge:
ALP (Arts, Literature and Performance)
Among the courses coded ALP are many (but not all) courses in the arts (music, drama, dance, art and art history), in the various literatures of the world (whether taught in English or in a foreign language), and in literary theory.
SS (Social Sciences)
Among the courses designated SS are many (but not all) courses in cultural anthropology, economics, environmental sciences, linguistics, political science, psychology, public policy studies, sociology, and women's studies as well as various individual courses offered in other departments.
Modes of inquiry:
CCI (Cross-Cultural Inquiry)
STS (Science, Technology, and Society)  


Course Description

How do we know what we know?  How do we come to see that we often have a much higher opinion of ourselves--our motivations, our history, our beliefs--than we actually evince in everyday life?   In social science, especially in the field of behavioral economics, we can construct experiments that reveal how people actually respond in situations, as opposed to how they say or believe they respond.  That’s the “surprise” of experiments, revealing truths about ourselves that are otherwise invisible to us.  Professor Dan Ariely has called this the “predictably irrational” aspect of human nature, that we believe ourselves to be logical, rational actors but, quite predictably, we deceive ourselves about how rational we are.   One focus and function of the arts, through the ages, has been to dramatize the foibles, shortcomings, and blindspots of human nature.  Artists often tell the same stories about human behavior that can be revealed in experiments.  In poems, plays, short stories, novels, and movies, artists have time and time again exposed the inner workings of humans who are less than ideal and less than honest (with themselves or others).  The “surprise” of literature is the narrative ending which catches us short and makes us think or rethink our ideas about human nature.  Professor Davidson argues that these moments of disruption and distraction--when suddenly we are forced to see our own habits and behavior in a new way (“now you see it!”)--are a good opportunity to catch ourselves in our predictable irrationality.  When we are lucky or determined, we can even find ways  to minimize the negative consequences of (some) of our behaviors--through better practices, new methods, external regulation, and strategically diverse collaborative partnerships.

One way that we can have greater introspection and self-reflection about our own convictions is by having to explain our practices to someone else who may not share our assumptions. This is one reason that  “Surprise Endings” has a production component, with students in the course turning each unit into a public Webcast.  This method emphasizes the process of moving from personally thinking through an idea to making it convincing in practice--especially in collaboration with others.  Besides being an important workplace skill,  working together to make ideas public prompts what John Seely Brown calls “metacognition,” an ability to think about our thinking.   In literary and cultural criticism, this has been described as “defamiliarization” (being introspective about our own habits and reflexes).   

Course Methods
The class is limited to 30 students.  We will meet once a week for approximately three hours, with the final hour reserved to discuss production of the day’s class session into a public Webcast.  Students will sign up for one team in the first half of the class and one team in the second.     

For each of the ten units in the course, a team of six students will be in charge of leading an online or possibly face-to-face pre-class session to prepare for the actual class meeting.  This is sometimes called “flipping the classroom.”   The prompts for each online discussion might be:  1) What did you learn from the readings? 2) What questions do you have? 3) What would you like to know more about? 4) What questions do you have for Professors Ariely and Davidson?   Students will use a rating system on Wordpress to finalize a set of questions from all of those proposed in the online pre-class session. They will also record participation by all the other students (peer evaluation).  Participation in the pre-class, student-run conversations will be a key component of the final grade.  

The team will choose an on-air interviewer, and, for forty-five minutes to an hour, they will interview Profs Ariely and Davidson.  Their dialogue, involving the class members as well, will be videotaped and will be the starting point for the Webcast produced by the project team.   They will also record (peer evaluate) participation by all the other students.   

The last part of each class will be spent with the class talking together, off camera (or with some B-roll shot of the continuing discussions), about how the dialogue on the unit (as well as ideas that may have come up in the pre-class online discussion but not in the dialogue) can best be presented, captured, edited, augmented, and produced for a larger public.  What is the key story we want to tell?  Is there a compelling way we can make a surprise ending that will help our readers not only to learn about the material but to learn from the material?  What is the most important lesson from each unit that we want the larger public taking our non-credit MOOC to learn?  And what can we do to make a 45-60 minute segment as compelling, convincing, lively, and engaging as possible?  

The project team for that unit will then be responsible for producing such a segment. Think big.  Do you want to make an experiment, even an interactive one?  Or a documentary or an animation?  Do you want to bring in a magician or a juggler?   A rough cut will be shown to the class for feedback.  It can include any material at all.  A final cut will then be made public on a MOOC website, adhering to the most professional video standards as well as to all IP and copyright laws and relevant IRB and COPPA (if children are involved) regulations.    Finally, whether or not we turn this into an actual MOOC, the project leaders will be required to prepare supplementary material (in lieu of a conventional term paper in the course) for each segment:  additional resources, a full bibliography, suggested further readings.  They will also use an online survey tool for online multiple choice questions and will customize their own eRubric tool (a semi-automated, fully customizable tool) to establish criteria for what they would want students taking a MOOC to learn from their segment.

Students in English 390-5/ISIS 390 will have much assistance in the production of our MOOC.  In addition to two or three TA’s, the course will be working with doctoral students (in a separate course taught by Prof Davidson) as well as the twenty students in Duke's new PhD Lab in Digital Knowledge.  We will also have assistance from professional videographers at the John Hope Franklin Center at Duke and input from alums in in the media and communication business as well as from guest speakers visiting the class.  

Course Tools

Sakai Duke site--for copyrighted “reserve” materials from the library and grading
Wordpress--for class-specific (access limited only to our class) assigned materials, blogs, resources, multimedia archiving, wikis, rating systems.  This is also where students will post both their full class projects (compiled without regard to IP issues) as well as their final public posts (compliant with pertinent laws and rules surrounding IP, IRB, privacy, COPPA, and any other relevant laws about Internet publication)
Tumblr--for public access of papers, articles, videos, url’s, and annotated bibliography for the general public, to accompany our MOOC
eRubric--a customizable grading tool where students, together, can set the criteria for what counts as a high-quality product, and (possibly) use the eRubric to evaluate final projects together.
Twitter & Storify-- #  ?     #Dukesurprise    
Google Docs--for shared course notes, collaborative writing
MAC Video Editing Suite--available for use in the Smith Warehouse Franklin Humanities Institute


I.  Weekly Readings, weekly participation in the pre-class blog and face-to-face discussions in advance of the in-class dialogue; submission and rating of interview questions.   
2.  Full participation in two different group projects, with six people per group (different groups for each project).   The group will lead the week’s discussion, interviewing the profs,  and turning class content into a 45-60 minute Webcast.  The draft version (for class members only) can be as creative as possible.  The class will offer productive critique and the project team will edit and post a final public, IP compliant version posted with supplemental materials.  Students in the group will also use the eRubric tool to set the expectations for each member of the group and will work with the instructors and the TA’s toward helpful, constructive peer evaluation, feedback, and response based on the criteria designed by the group.  
3.  Each student will prepare an ‘artist statement’ which will explain the selection and presentation of elements used in the final project. If elements were omitted from the project due to copyright or technical in-expertise, for instance, the artist statement can highlight those elements, how they would have been used, and what they would have added to the project.
4.   Final screening and presentation to the class of all projects, including a reflection (written or audio) on what was learned, what is still to be learned, on the course content and your translation of the content into the public Webcast and potential MOOC.  

Course Topics
Wednesday, Jan 9:  Introduction to General Topic and Course Method
Begin with readings and a conversation about making knowledge in public, what it means to translate from the classroom to the larger world, the meaning of public knowledge and public culture, and the MOOC movement in higher education:   "Socially Mediated Publicness: An Introduction" by Nancy K. Baym, danah boyd Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Vol. 56, Iss. 3, 2012  Online:   For pedagogy, Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown, A New Culture of Learning:  Cultivating Imagination for a World of Constant Change.

Monday Jan 14:  Attention Blindness (Inattentional Blindness)
Beginning with Ulric Neisser’s classic gorilla experiment of the late 1970s, reprised by Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris as “the invisible gorilla,” we have had experimental evidence that by focusing attention on a particular object, we can miss just about everything else happening in the same place at the same time. Other experiments teach us that we have difficulty noticing change when we are fixated on certain constant elements (especially our own centrality to the action).  Magicians, pickpockets, gamblers, thieves, insurance adjusters, and trial lawyers have all known this.   In this unit, we’ll look at classic experiments in attention blindness and change blindness as well as some classic magic acts (and may bring in a professional magician), witness unreliability, and movies about classic cases of cons and double-cons that depend on self-absorption and its flipside self-deception.   Some literary theory on defamiliarization:  Victor Shklovsky "Art as Technique" (sometimes called "Art as Device");  Georg Simmel “The Stranger.”  Viewing of movies such as “The Sting,” the Oceans 11 movies, or “The Talented Mr. Ripley.”  

Jan 21:  Dr. Martin Luther King Day:  No classes

Jan 28: Self Control
As we see in the famous classical story of Ulysses and the Sirens, self control sometimes can be maintained successfully only when we’ve lashed ourselves to the mast, effectively forcing ourselves not to succumb to temptation.  This topic will focus on the  difficulties we have maintaining self control in the present even when we understand it is necessary in order to care for ourselves in the future (i.e. overeating, undersaving).  We will look at the  tricks we play on ourselves to make ourselves think we are doing better than we are (ex: hundred calorie snacks).  Movie:  Sid and Nancy;  Breaking Bad (Season 1, where Walt decides to be drug dealer rather than ask to borrow money from others for his chemo treatments).     The Wire, Season 5 episodes.  

Feb 4 : Identifiable Victim Effect
The identifiable victim effect occurs when we see one person suffering.  When an identifiable victim is present, we are compelled to act and help that person.  However, research has shown that when we see masses of people imperiled, we are less likely to respond.  Why?  We will look at social science experiments on this phenomenon as well as literary examples.  Literary examples might include Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, where individual and crowd behavior are constantly in conflict and interplay, especially motivated by race and class.  Another example is The Diary of Anne Frank, where one person’s story stands in as a synecdoche for genocide.   How do writers use the identifiable victim effect to evoke strong emotions and even encourage social responses and activism?     Also possible:  Franz Kafka, “The Hunger Artist”;   Arthur Miller, The Crucible; Primo Levi, Moments of Reprieve, Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem:  A Report on the Banality of Evil.

Feb 11 : Relativity
Another topic studied by social scientists is how people value things in relative terms rather than absolute terms.  How much are you willing to pay for a cup of coffee?  How do you decide how much an iPhone is worth? What factors change our valuations?   In literature, we often see these kinds of relative evaluations made, including in folk tales of wily con men, in Native American trickster literature, in slave narratives and immigrant literature (where “inside” and “outside” often include evaluation of net worth and value), and in stories such as  F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic “Diamond as Big as the Ritz” or Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.  Also: Parable of the 30 Talents,” “Jack and the Beanstalk”    

Feb 18: Defaults
Marketers and others learn quickly that consumers tend to make choices based on the path of least resistance.  For example, for organ donations, if you say “sign if you want to participate,” you guarantee low participation.   However, if you are asked to sign if you don’t want to participate, you ensure a larger percentage of potential organ donors.  This topic raises issues about how difficult is it to deviate from the status quo.  Readings:  “Amendment 1 to the North Carolina Constitution” (voting against, not for);  To Kill a Mockingbird

Feb 25 : Obedience,  Evil, and Resistance
[Note:  Dan may be at TED; Amanda will lead this class and include Augmented Reality Art Projects]
People are capable of tremendous evil if you put them in the right circumstances. This unit would look at experiments like the Milgram experiment (which has not been successfully replicated because of IRB restrictions).   However, a recent French TV program restaged parts of the experiment with similar results.  Why?  Sophie’s Choice might be a good reading on this.   Or Hunger Games.  

March 4:  Dishonesty
Research shows how lots of people can cheat a little bit, and then the boundaries of what actually constitutes cheating are not as clear.  Basically, they push the envelope more and more and justify what they are doing gradually.  This tendency allows people to misbehave and think of themselves as being upstanding citizens even while they are misbehaving.  This unity will consider the definition of cheating and look at classic examples of dishonesty (such as Dreiser’s Sister Carrie) and also at Karen Ho’s ethnography of Wall Street traders Liquidated.   Mark Twain, The Mysterious Stranger or Shakespeare, Othello

March 11:  Spring Break.  No Classes.

March 18:    Social Proof
If  lots of people say it’s good, it must be good.  Ex: “Liking” on Facebook.  This topic explores the herd mentality (a structure known at every university in America). We’ll also look at examples in  literature of people not doing what the herd wants them to do and paying the price.  This week, we will look at some classic discussions of heroism (Joseph Campbell, for example) as well as Margaret Atwood’s witty description of the hero in scientific literature in In Other Worlds (2011), and will look at some of her speculative fiction that features characters working against the herd. Readings:  "Facebook Can Motivate Users, and Friends of Users, to Political Action, Study Finds" Sept 2012, Chronicle of Higher Ed; online:   “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”

March 25:  Workshop Day
[Note this is Passover ; some students may be missing this class due to the religious holiday.]  No new reading.  Students will work in their project groups with TAs, RAs, doctoral students, and PhD Lab students, showcasing rough cuts of their work, refining ideas and presentations.

April 1:   Gender in the Marketplace
The social science research on decision making doesn’t show radical differences in men’s and women’s decision-making processes, yet it is clear that men and women occupy very different socio-economic roles in U.S. society.   Why?  Research on women’s performance suggests that women are far more likely to want to achieve excellence by “besting” other women than by achieving some specified standard of excellence.   Men, by contrast, tend to prefer to excel by being number 1, succeeding by competition, relative to their peers.  Research also suggests that women are especially reluctant  to put themselves into a situation of competition with other women and are also less willing than men to negotiate for better salaries or benefits in the workplace.   Several classic films about women dramatically show the competitive woman as the villain--ranging from “The Women” to “All About Eve” and current TV shows such as “Desperate Housewives,” “Mad Men,”  or “Smash” or reality-based shows from “Real Housewives” to “America’s Next Top Model.”  See also: Report on Google Search sexism: Google even has a 'disclaimer' for questionable (biased, bigoted) search results, e.g.

April 8: Race, Prejudice and Political Correctness
This topic begins with the University of Chicago experiment in which identical resumes were submitted in response to job openings with only changes in the applicants names, “Are Emily and Brendan More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?”  Employers may insist that they are not making racial but quality distinctions, yet this study found that, with only the proper names changed, “white sounding applicants” were fifty percent more likely to receive call-backs than were those with African American sounding names. A similar study was recently done at Yale comparing female/male names on applications for lab positions: "female applicants were rated lower than men on the measured scales of competence, hireability, and mentoring (whether the scientist would be willing to mentor this student). Both male and female scientists rated the female applicants lower." htttp://      A fascinating  and unexpected literary work on this subject is James McBride’s memoir The Color of Water:  A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother, a story of a white woman who “passes” for black. Also, for critical Linda Lopez McAlister (1999). ‘My Grandmother's Passing’ in Whiteness: Feminist Philosophical Reflections by C. Cuoma and K. Hall (eds). New York: Rowman and Littlefield.

April 15:   Workshop Day
No reading.  Students will work in groups and work on projects

April 22:  Showcase Marathon, Design-Critique Lab, Final Party   3:05 pm to Midnight?
In the final week, we will have design-critique sessions in which we view and review and offer feedback on all of the episodes.   Prior to this, see:   Choose a digital humanities project (we’ll supply examples) and evaluate using Brian Croxall’s cirteria.  Next, we will set up eRubric ( ) and come up with collective criteria that will help generate 1) possible project ideas 2) criteria for what students like/dislike about existing projects and how they might integrate those into their own projects 3) what the instructors will expect from the projects students produce and 4) the crowdsourced (class-sourced) grading rubric for their final projects.



Cathy & crew,

I'd love to be involved and I know several others here at UNC who would as well. I'll start spreading the word.

Any idea what the course size limit for the doctoral class will be? Those of us planning on inter institutional registration will get shut out if the class fills with Duke students before we can register (something like a week before it starts, I think).

A follow up question is if the class fills I wonder if there are parallel independent studies to be done, perhaps focused exclusively on ethnographically describing the process of the class. It may be difficult for class members to both participate and reflect on the process from a (observational) distance.


I'd like to echo Elliott's question on parallel independent studies - with a project this ambitious, there are bound to be lots of opportunities for collaboration! It would be awesome to be a part of this, especially from an analytics, data mining, and technological point of view.

I haven't been this excited about an experiment in a long time!  I can't wait to see what grows out of this!


Ahhhh!! I think I missed the opportunity to get a slot.  If there is space left, and if everyone else who registered as the 5 external aren't from UNC, I'd love to come and play.  If I missed the chance, I can't wait to see the reflections and public portions of the course.


Hi Elliott and Barry, I am limiting the class to 20 and am making five slots available to non-Duke students.  Two are taken.  If you are interested in registering for the course, write me at my Duke email and copy  You would make #3 and #4.   WELCOME!   It's going to be an incredible experience.  I am very excited.   NB:  I just added a revised course description here


If you are interested in registering for the course, Jade, write me and Anna asap with your info.   YOU have shown your dedication and have credit with us!   Plus, I think you'd be #5!