Tag Archives: digital humanities

2015 “Day of Digital Humanities”

dhYesterday was the official Day of DH because these people said so.

I spent part of the morning cleaning up my website but dedicated most of the day to making transitions to a class I’ve taught for 15 years, and which has shifted digital bit by bit, but this coming semester will take a few bigger steps toward that world.

I recorded the events of the day, or more accurately the thoughts of the day, here.

Planning to return to this intermittently through the summer, especially in context of thinking of new assignments/student work for the class.  But for now, back to editing the big project.

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Back to School

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It’s back-to-school day for my kids’ school district.  Just before 7 AM we put them on a big yellow bus and now I find myself in a less lively, but more sedate, household.  It’s time to really wrap up all the dinky summer projects, clean up the languishing blog sites, turn on my out-of-office message, relocate the surface of my desk, take part in one social activity on my campus (& try very hard to wish my colleagues well without gloating), and brace myself for the special mix of anxiety and excitement that will greet me tomorrow when I open up my manuscript files for the first time in months.

So today is sort of threshold day for my sabbatical, dividing the real work of writing, which starts tomorrow, from the diverse summer activities that now must come to a close.  England and Turkey seem a long time ago, but my memories of them are still strong, and I am certain that those experiences will continue to bubble up in the future.  The most immediate and identifiable change made by my summer opportunities is the digital humanities institute at GMU.  For the last weeks since my return from DH boot camp I have  spent most of my time working applying my new skills into building a website that gathers, promotes and facilitates my teaching and scholarship.  Although I anticipate continuing to tinker with it, I decided this week it was time to launch it into the world.  JhenniferAmundson.net is now ready for prime time, and I am delighted with the initial response I’ve received from colleagues, friends, and former students.   On the teaching side it really does promise some great new opportunities, especially with the integration of Google Maps and Thinglinks (in addition to being a great source for communication, and not to mention much, much prettier than Blackboard or eLearn).  On the scholarship side it is a fine digital closet; I suppose a next step in digital humanities is to start thinking digitally about research as it’s happening.

That shift may indeed take place as early as January, when I will be in Washington DC and starting a new project.  But for now, it’s back to the project that I began more years ago than I care to count, to finish that thing!  Finally!

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An Isolated Digital Immigrant Observes the Native Potential of her Children

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A common problem among people in my age bracket who have kids in my children’s’ age bracket is getting the little buggers off the screens and into the yard to “play” like we did in the olden days.  On the brighter side, although I regret their screen-obsession (an ironic assessment, I know, since I am of course reporting this via the laptop that I spend most of the day peering into), I wonder if it is an indication that theirs is the generation that will actually maximize the potentials of digital technology in a way that current grown-ups (and I use the term lightly to include the college students that I teach and who are supposed to be whiz-bang with the digital tech but just aren’t) just can’t.

I refrain from calling either of these groups “digital natives” since the concept is a slippery one, and not one that really indicates the kind of facility that it’s supposed to.  Through time the word “native” has often (and often unfairly) been linked to being backwards, unsophisticated, but I accept that use in this application.  In my experience, many (most?) so-called digital natives are downright uncivilized.  They diddle with social media and half-heartedly make use of the awesome power of the internet for what passes as research.

These are ideas that we bandied about in the digital humanities institute at GMU a few weeks ago, mostly in context of our own struggles, as “digital immigrants,” to catch up and keep up while expecting that the students we teach should cotton to these new methods–yet we rarely see them blazing the path we expect.  Digital projects also call for a completely different approach to working method, which is yet another a challenge added to the problem of just catching up.  Like other scholars in the humanities, historians traditionally work alone; reasearch and writing are solitary ventures.  But digital projects typically require a collaboration among different sorts of experts; the collaborative nature is really part of the deal, and might be, for some of us, a bigger hurdle than learning how to map and mine our data.

And that brings me back to my observations of my kids.  One of the most productive things they will have accomplished this summer is the creation of a back story–sort of the big mythology–of a world that a friend built on his server for a game that they play jointly, yet separately, scattered across town in their own homes.  These are a bunch of 14-year-old boys, who had linked up by Skype to talk through changes they were making to their shared Google Document.  Quality of the narrative aside, it really struck me to watch these boys easily make effective great use of several tools, collaboratively, in a highly creative effort which looked easy, fun, profitable and productive (relatively speaking).  At least a few of them, born into a digital world, are already over its low-fruit applications (one, when asked if he wanted to join Facebook, responded, “Why? It’s just a bunch of grown-ups talking about babies”).  Maybe it is this next group that will really start to harness the possibilities of the technology and grow up with the collaborative mentality that is such a stumbling block for old-timers like me.  I suppose time will tell.

Note: the image above of happy teens around a laptop is not mine, nor are any of those people my children.  The photo comes from an article on Preventionnet.com and it explains how use of social media among teens leads to alcoholism or something.

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