This resource is drawn from a talk I gave on 26 April 2018 at the University of Washington’s Simpson Center for the Humanities. It’s titled, “Locating Praxis in Digital Studies: Designing Courses for Graduate Students.” While the talk’s intended for the Department of English at UW, and I reviewed their course offerings when I wrote it, the material does its best to speak to a broader audience, namely graduate programs across the humanities that are considering digital studies as part of their curricula.
Here’s an outline for the talk and resource:
- Introduction and Context
- My Background and Biases
- The Aims of My Digital Studies Courses
- Some Possible Three-Course Sequences
The three-course sequences are presented in the areas of stewardship, computational analysis, design and communication, social justice and transformative media, digital methods, and prototyping. For each, I use “digital studies” instead of “digital humanities” or “The Digital Humanities” as a framework.
Locating Praxis in Digital Studies: Designing Courses for Graduate Students
Don’t teach skills. Teach competences. . . . Computers can do better things than that. – Sandy Stone (2007) at the European Graduate School
I’ve been asked by the Department of English at the University of Washington to: 1) outline what humanities graduate students need in terms of digital knowledge for the future, no matter what field they enter following graduation, and 2) speak to what a three-course, cross-disciplinary sequence in the foundations of digital humanities (DH) might look like.
Thanks to the Department of English for inviting me to speak on this topic, and to the Simpson Center for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for their support.
First, a disclosure of sorts . . .
My Background and Biases
- My academic background is mostly in “literary media” (a combination of science and technology studies, technoculture studies, multimodal composition and design, and research on 20th and 21st c. experimental literature and media). I do not, for instance, have a background in textual studies or humanities computing.
- I tend to run with a rather capacious definition of digital humanities (DH): a combination of technical competences in computing and/or new media with research in a humanities discipline. I also tend to accept Manovich’s five principles of new media (at least as a starting point): new media are modular, variable, automated, represented numerically, and transcoded (2001). And I frame the idea of technical work rather broadly, too: from encoding and programming to understanding how a given mechanism works or communicating how it affects social relations. I do not, for instance, believe that everyone (including everyone in digital humanities) should know how to code. At the same time, I admire work being done in creative and critical computing (Ford 2015; Parrish 2018), and I often program as part of my teaching and research.
- I try to avoid using the term, “DH.” It’s a label regularly assigned (occasionally after the fact) to existing research; and, to speak candidly, it “is a means and not an end” (Kirschenbaum 2012). I’m not particularly interested in the digital humanities as a term or field (including who or what “belongs”) (Bianco 2012). I’m interested in work that entwines technical stuff with experimental methods. Such work is usually collaborative and transdisciplinary, involving a shared problem or concern approached through a combination of different disciplines and distinct forms of expertise. It involves knowing what you don’t know and trusting others (in other areas of expertise) with whom you collaborate.
- I’m totally fine with prototypes. Digital projects do not need to be fully developed products or polished/useful tools made in labs or centers to be meaningful. Prototypes serve important cultural, pedagogical, and artistic functions. I also lean toward the conjectural or speculative dimensions of digital studies (that is, my work does not involve proving anything with quantification or computers). I prefer to treat computation and technologies as modes (not objects or means) of inquiry.
- I’m also totally fine with a slow-moving digital humanities (Berg and Seeber 2016). Although the word “digital” is frequently associated with “fast,” “light,” “fleeting,” and even “easy” (Kirschenbaum 2008), digital projects (especially collaborative ones) require a significant amount of time, labor, deliberation, and experimentation. They demand planning ten or even twenty years ahead, to account for matters of care and maintenance, not to mention changes in standards and technologies. Without significant institutional support, many projects also rely heavily on precarity (e.g., one-year positions, voluntary contributions, and grant cycles) as well as conspicuous boundaries between “service” (technical skills) and “research” (articles and monographs), making it difficult for many practitioners to become invested in the work or to envision (let alone act upon) a long-term future in digital initiatives. It is important, then, for projects to commit to people and cultures, not just gadgets and data (Posner 2014).
Where digital knowledge and course design are concerned, I’ve decided for today to approach both in the abstract: with detail, but without a specific setting or program in mind. A lot of what I’m going to say may apply to what you’re already doing at your institution (UW or elsewhere); however, my intent is to step away from the specificity of context and provide a resource that will allow us to first scan DH and its affordances for teaching and learning and then locate the praxis of digital studies where we wish. I’m sure, too, that I’ll miss or overlook something in the process. For example, I will not talk much about undergraduate education, which is crucial and also morphing alongside (or through) new media and digital studies. Nevertheless, some of this material could and probably should apply to undergraduate course design and instruction. At my institution (UVic), where we have five undergraduate courses in digital humanities (DHum), that is certainly the case. I will also not talk much about courses in the scholarship of teaching and learning, even though pedagogy is of course foundational to digital studies and graduate education.
When I say “praxis,” I’m referring to the enactment and diffraction of theory through situated knowledge (Haraway 1988), embodied practice (Hayles 1999), and “live” methods and prototyping (Back and Puwar 2012). From my perspective, the ideal teaching and learning situation (in the context of digital studies) is an entanglement of theory with practice, resulting in practitioner knowledge of, and responsibility for, where and why they habitually draw the boundaries or “cuts” between discourse and matter or concepts and actions (Barad 2007; Kember and Zylinska 2012). And I frequently use “digital studies” here (as opposed to digital humanities or the Digital Humanities) because some of the material, including methods and ostensible foundations, may not immediately appear to be unique to the humanities, invested (only) in DH, or taught only by humanities scholars or only in the humanities classroom.
The Aims of My Digital Studies Courses
With my own background and biases in mind, and with an orientation toward praxis and identifying what may be helpful for students to know, my digital studies courses (or more accurately, my courses involving digital studies) usually prompt students to:
- Identify and intervene in oppressive technologies (including matters of social justice, ethics, trust, and responsibility), while recognizing that “intervention” assumes various modes, from ideation and composition to implementation and community building;
- Understand design and development as forms of inquiry with palpable contexts of use (comparable to writing or even to moving through an archive);
- Approach projects from the middle (against hyperbolic rhetorics of innovation, novelty, and disruption as well as lone male inventor myths);
- Attend to the cultural, social, and aesthetic dimensions of how this becomes that (an ontology of memory, changes, and versions, not storage, originals, and copies);
- Bridge macro-, meso-, and micro-levels of interpretation (resisting the close/distant and critical/immersive binaries); and,
- Refine knowledge amidst an abundance of information and gadgets, including knowing when to logout or unplug, how to avoid scope creep, and why maintenance and carework are not lateral consequences of projects, but rather comprise their core.
But a lot of that doesn’t sound very “digital.” And I think that’s important for humanities work: an instance of digital studies that is culture first, technology second. That is, digital studies need not force some rupture between humanities and digital humanities, resort to digital humanities evangelism, or assume digital humanities will save academic programs, build new institutional units, or increase numbers and productivity (Koh 2015). Digital studies can instead recognize existing histories and methods within the humanities and then critique, reject, or change them where need be. For instance, the praxis of the above aims may be labeled or situated like so (with apologies for the conspicuous pith):
- Critical Technical Practice (Science and Technology Studies) (Agre 1997; Bardzell and Bardzell 2013; Noble 2018; Ratto 2011): Identify and intervene in oppressive technologies (including matters of social justice, ethics, trust, and responsibility), while recognizing that “intervention” assumes various modes, from ideation and composition to implementation and community building;
- Reflexive Iteration and Trial-and-Error Experimentation (Design Studies) (Balsamo 2011; Perner-Wilson 2011; Rosner 2018): Understand design and development as forms of inquiry with palpable contexts of use (comparable to writing or even to moving through an archive);
- Provenance and Documentation (History, Textual Studies, and Library and Information Studies) (Brown and Simpson 2015; Getty 2016; Marvin 1990; Millar 2002; Nowviskie 2013): Approach projects from the middle (against hyperbolic rhetorics of innovation and disruption as well as lone male inventor myths);
- Traversal and Transduction (Literary and Media Studies) (Chun 2011; Fuller 2005; Kress 2010; Moulthrop and Grigar 2017; Sterne 2003): Attend to the cultural, social, and aesthetic dimensions of how this becomes that (an ontology of memory, changes, and versions, not storage, originals, and copies);
- Articulation (Cultural Studies) (Grossberg 1992; Hall 1990; Morris 1990): Bridge macro-, meso-, and micro-levels of interpretation (resisting the close/distant and critique/immersion binaries); and,
- Minimal Computing (Labor Studies) (Gil 2015; Kirschenbaum 2009; Reed 2014; Risam 2018; Scholz 2013): Refine knowledge amidst an abundance of information and gadgets, including knowing when to logout or unplug, how to avoid scope creep, and why maintenance and carework are not lateral consequences of projects, but rather comprise their core. (I recognize that minimal computing is nowhere near as established as the other forms of praxis mentioned here. That said, with a GO::DH working group, I’ve done my best to outline what minimal computing may entail. It’s very much a work in progress.)
When I design, develop, and teach my own courses in/around digital studies (e.g., Digital Humanities 150, Technology and Society 200, English 466 (Cultural Studies), Digital Literary Studies 507, and Digital Literary Studies 508 at the University of Victoria), the above aims routinely return me to questions such as:
- In the contexts of teaching digital studies and DH, when does the content matter most? When does it influence methodology? And how does it determine or shape the method used? I ask these questions because DH courses are regularly framed as methods or skills courses. Must they be? When do particular content areas demand specific digital methods? When are methods courses too superficial or too likely to overwhelm both students and instructors?
- How technical should I get? What can be done without computers or programming? When, if ever, must some of the foundations involve the command line or code? I ask these questions because I’m truly conflicted: many humanities students regularly (and justifiably) ask why they should bother with code, and the practice of teaching and learning technical stuff can be time-consuming and frustrating, especially when you’re new to it. Thus, after many experiments with programming in the humanities classroom, I now tend to favor low-tech approaches in introductory and special topics courses (e.g., paper computers and unlearning the internet), which may then spark curiosity about more technical work. And yet I still quite like the idea of situating technical work (including programming) under the broader umbrella of writing and composition. After all, practitioners argue and experiment with code (not just use or instrumentalize it) (Parrish 2018).
- What do students already know? What do they care most about? How can I be more aware of these investments and this knowledge? I ask these questions because I think my courses should be relevant to student needs and interests, and they should speak to present-day issues and concerns even when they are grounded in historical materials. I also realize that students are learning more and more digital stuff in K-12 settings. In K-12, areas such as media studies are increasingly entwined with literature and language studies.
- Which approaches to teaching are most conducive to both social change and aesthetic experimentation? When and how should I get out of the way? I ask these questions because I want to give students room to test ideas and to learn and build on their own investments and backgrounds. Too often, digital studies courses begin with an assumption of lack (a banking model of education): “you don’t know this, and here’s how you should do it.” The thing is, there are millions of ways to approach a single problem or concern through digital methods and new media, and I believe it’s possible for instructors to simultaneously use their expertise and check their assumptions and privileges at the classroom door. I also enjoy teaching courses that encourage formal experimentation through, for example, a “toychest” approach (Liu 2013). Such courses teach competencies, not skills. And they can avoid implying that there’s one way to “do DH,” perform inquiry, or enact a technique.
- Do I even need to talk about “The Digital Humanities” (the field) to teach this material? For whom does is that label important? At this point, do students hear “Digital Humanities” and think, “Look! My prof just found the internet”? I ask this question because, again, I think DH is a means and not an end. And that’s ok. I can teach those means in the classroom; and, to do it, I probably don’t need to label the course “Digital Humanities.” My own preference is to design and teach digital studies in the contexts of media studies, literary studies, and cultural studies courses. This way, I can focus on content (e.g., indie games, contemporary American novels, or 19th c. technologies) while relying on field designations already familiar to many or most students, without the need to explain the Digital Humanities and its various histories and debates. This approach may also make more sense on student transcripts, require less administration, and be less divisive within faculties and departments. However, a lot, including the very definition of DH, depends on institutional context and even contexts across a single campus.
Some Possible Three-Course Sequences
Ultimately, the granularity of my responses to the questions above is entangled with the courses I am teaching, for whom, and to whom. Still, my experiences in engaging such questions lead me to imagine several three-course, cross-disciplinary sequences in the foundations of digital humanities. For the purposes of discussion (but not proscription), I’ve prototyped them below. Pardon the rough edges; and, to state the obvious, selection of content (e.g., collections, corpora, media, genres, histories, theories, and case studies) would dramatically affect each of these sequences. None of these sequences is an argument against content expertise. Instead, each is meant to provide a context for doing humanities-based work informed (and even transformed) by multiple disciplines, and perhaps by transdisciplinary concerns. Please also note that none of these sequences would even need the term “digital humanities” in their course titles, calendar descriptions, or the like. In fact, many, if not all, of them could bypass the word “digital,” too, in favor of terms such as media and mediation, which may more accurately attend to the issues at hand.
This sequence overlaps the Humanities with work mostly in Information Studies and Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums (GLAM).
- Digitization: This course introduces you to various 2D and 3D techniques for digitizing and remediating materials. Techniques may include plain text (ASCII), text and image editing (Sublime, Git, Photoshop), encoding (XML), transforming (XSLT), character recognition (Abbyy, Scan Tailor), photogrammetry (Autodesk), video and audio recording (Audacity, Audition, Premiere), cryptography, data modeling, 3D modeling (Rhino), and 2D and 3D scanning. Emphasis is placed on the affordances of digitization for humanities research as well as on remediation’s historical and cultural dimensions (Bolter and Grusin 1998; Porter 2013).
- Collections: This course introduces you to various techniques for collecting, preserving, and disseminating digital and digitized materials. Techniques may include cataloging, indexing, searching (Solr), metadata (Dublin Core), repositories (GitHub), infrastructure assessments, preservation, simulation (Unity), emulation (DOSBox), migration, digital editions (Ed.), repatriation, open access platforms (Mirador Viewer, Ten Thousand Rooms), and computer forensics (BitCurator). Emphasis is placed on stewarding humanities materials as well as stewardship as a social, cultural, and political activity (Bowker and Star 1999; Brown and Nicholas 2012).
- Exhibition: This course introduces you to various techniques for curating and exhibiting digital and digitized materials. Techniques may include interface and interaction design, narration, databases (SQL, PHP), licensing (Creative Commons), attribution, and content management (Scalar, Omeka, Mukurtu). Emphasis is placed on matters of access (including protocols) as well as on the cultural and political dimensions of curation (Christen 2015).
The benefits of this sequence include scaffolded preparation for fields in or related to stewardship and memory work in academic and non-academic occupations. Each course could attend to a variety of material particulars across media and methods as well as to the colonial dimensions of stewardship and/as expropriation. Generally speaking, this sequence could link stewardship to communication, culture, and social responsibility, and it could build upon and amplify existing collections in libraries at the hosting institution, in partnership with local communities, where applicable. Here, material from the Social Justice and Transformative Media sequence (below) could be meaningfully integrated into the “Digitization,” “Collections,” and “Exhibition” courses. This sequence could also shape the content and methods of MA and PhD projects, including dissertations (see, e.g., Visconti 2014). It requires some investment in the more technical dimensions of digital humanities, and it may benefit from co-teaching across, e.g., Libraries and the Humanities.
This sequence overlaps the Humanities with work mostly in Computer Science, the Social Sciences, and Information Studies.
- Processing: This course introduces you to using computers to process and interpret materials. Techniques may include pre-processing data (OCR, stemming, lemmatization), text editing (Git, Sublime), the command line (Bash), tables and spreadsheets, repositories (GitHub), programming (Python), statistics (R), diffing (Git), text mining/analysis (Paper Machines, Voyant), topic modeling (MALLET), computer vision (OpenCV), and machine learning (torch-rnn). Emphasis is placed on the editorial choices made during processing and also on understanding what can be achieved (and not achieved) through computational methods (Underwood 2015).
- Analysis: This course introduces you to analyzing data for the purposes of disseminating and publishing findings. Techniques may include macroanalysis (Jockers 2013), surface reading (Best and Marcus 2009), close reading (Culler 2010), cultural analytics (Piper 2016; Manovich et al. 2007), pattern recognition (Long and So 2016), distant listening (Clement 2013), cinemetrics (Kuhn et al. 2014), and algorhythmics (Miyazaki 2012). Emphasis is placed on combining qualitative and quantitative methods and also on bridging macro-, meso-, and micro-levels of interpretation.
The benefits of this sequence include semi-scaffolded preparation for data- and computation-oriented humanities work across academic and non-academic occupations (including areas such as “data journalism”) and an investment in conducting computational analysis without relying too heavily on tools and templates. While the “Analysis” course could in principle come first or last, “Processing” would in theory precede “Expression.” The three courses could (and probably should) be grounded in particular areas and methods, such as textual analysis, visual studies, sound studies, or cinema studies, to refine the aims and focus. “Processing” would benefit especially from material in the Stewardship sequence (above), “Expression” would benefit especially from material in the Design and Communication sequence (below), and “Analysis” would benefit especially from material in the Social Justice and Transformative Media sequence (below). Additionally, the results of many techniques at play in this sequence may be communicated in print or proto-print communications (see, e.g., MacArthur, Zellou, and Miller 2018). The sequence requires significant investment in the more technical dimensions of digital humanities (and thus could be a challenge for many Humanities faculty and staff), and it may benefit from co-teaching across, e.g., the Humanities and Computer Science, the Social Sciences, and/or Information Studies.
Design and Communication
This sequence overlaps the Humanities with work mostly in Fine Arts, Design, and Engineering.
- Design: This course introduces you to design’s role in the scholarly communication process. Techniques may include accessibility and assistive technologies (Hendren 2012) as well as graphic (Drucker and McVarish 2013), interface (Emerson 2014; Mak 2011), interaction (Ruecker 2015), adversarial (DiSalvo 2012), and speculative design (Dunne and Raby 2013). Emphasis is placed on cultural and critical inquiry through design practice.
- Experiments: This course surveys histories of experimental media and their relevance to present-day practices. Areas studied may include electronic literature (Hayles 2008), net art (Murray et al. 2012), manifestos (Caws 2001), design fiction (Sterling 2009), comics (Sousanis 2015), visualizations (Daniel and Loyer 2008), film (Mulvey 1975) documents (Gitelman 2014), zines (Radway 2011), book arts (Drucker 1995), indie games (Anthropy 2012), sound and performance art (Keeling and Kun 2012; Rodgers 2010; Taylor 2016), noise (Rose 1994), tactical media (Raley 2009), media archaeology (Huhtamo and Parikka 2011), and infrastructure studies (Mattern 2017; Parks and Starosielski 2015). Emphasis is placed on the importance of materiality, design, and media aesthetics to cultural, social, and political practices.
The benefits of this sequence include semi-scaffolded preparation for humanities-based design and communication fields involving academic and non-academic occupations. It could also foreground history and politics in the design and composition process, without requiring the courses to follow any particular order. Where applicable, it could (and probably should) be grounded in a particular area of practice, history, and cultural study, such as book history, game studies, writing studies, experimental media, or interface design. Areas like these would give the sequence more granularity and focus, especially since design and communication are quite broad. All three courses would benefit from material in the Social Justice and Transformative Media sequence (below), with some of the design dimensions of “Processing” and “Expression” (above) as well as the curatorial dimensions of the Stewardship sequence. The sequence requires some investment in the more technical dimensions of digital humanities, and it may benefit from co-teaching across, e.g., the Humanities and Design, Fine Arts, and/or Engineering.
Social Justice and Transformative Media
This sequence overlaps the Humanities with work mostly in the Social Sciences.
- Critical Technical Practice: This course introduces you to the fundamentals of critical technical practice and its entanglements with critical making, code, and design (Agre 1997; Bardzell and Bardzell 2013; Marino 2006; Ratto 2011). Techniques may include programming (Python, Processing), documentation (Git, GitHub), user/player testing, scenario prototyping, licensing (Creative Commons), hacking (Coleman 2013; Losh 2012; Ross 1990), glitching (Menkman 2009), algorithm audits (Sandvig et al. 2014), missing datasets (Onuoha 2016), micro_research and creative research (Howse 2010; Office of Creative Research 2017), minimal computing (Gil 2015), and labor assessments. Emphasis is placed on legacies of instrumentalism but also on technical practice as a reflective, diffractive, and political activity.
- Transformation: This course focuses on social and cultural transformation with and through experimental methods and radical media. Topics may include digital labor and attention economics (Beller 2006; Nakamura 2009; Scholz 2013), shadow work (Illich 1981), algocracy (Aneesh 2006), the general intellect (Dyer-Witheford 1999), decolonization and radical media (Ngũgĩ 1986; Tuck and Yang 2012), the space of flows and land as pedagogy (Castells 2013; Simpson 2014), #transformDH (Lothian and Phillips 2013), black code and black digital humanities (Gallon 2016; Johnson and Neal 2017), decolonial computing and archiving (Ali 2016; Cushman 2013), Afrofuturisms (Nelson 2002), Indigenous futures (Dillon 2012), informatics of domination (Haraway 1984), poetic operations (cárdenas 2016), technologies and/as reproductive labor (Federici 1974; Murphy 2012), feminist media praxis (Ada New Media; FemTechNet; McPherson 2018), disability and universal design (Hamraie 2017), colonialism and non-English programming (Nasser 2012), embodiment and framing (Sneha 2018), micro-history and 3D reconstruction (Sullivan, Nieves, and Snyder 2018), critical algorithm studies (Crawford 2016; Noble 2018), queer OS and computing (Blas 2007-12; Gaboury 2013; Keeling 2014), data and network sovereignty (Duarte 2017), archives and activism (Bracero History Archive 2018; Devor 2016; Women Who Rock 2011), neuroqueerness and communication (Yergeau 2017), data shed and security (Wernimont 2016; Soundararajan et al. 2018), DIY making (Anthropy 2012), and intersectional approaches to technologies and new media. Emphasis is placed on interventions (historical and present-day) in technologies and technocultures of oppression.
- Action Research: This workshop (or directed study) is an opportunity for you to develop, implement, and reflect on your own action research project, in collaboration with a community partner or internship program (where applicable) and with advising from a faculty member.
The benefits of this sequence include a semi-scaffolded approach to transformative media and justice work in academic and non-academic occupations. It could appeal to students who are already interested in cultural studies, science and technology studies, media studies, and/or critical theory but are unfamiliar with or skeptical of digital humanities. The sequence also affords some flexibility for both students and faculty. Given the range of possibilities, “Transformation” would probably manifest in ways analogous to special topics courses, with “Critical Technical Practice” building on material from Stewardship (above), Computational Analysis (above), and Design and Communication (above). “Critical Technical Practice” and “Transformation” could then be combined through the praxis-based orientation of “Action Research.” The sequence (especially “Critical Technical Practice”) requires some investment in the more technical dimensions of digital humanities, and it may benefit from co-teaching across, e.g., Social Sciences, Design, and Information Studies.
This sequence is anchored in Digital Humanities as a field. It is methods-forward.
- Remediating and Structuring: This course introduces you to the fundamentals of remediating materials and structuring data for interpretation in the humanities. Emphasis is placed on developing a working understanding of the various practices involved in stewardship and curation. Core materials draw from Experimental Methods in the Humanities (Columbia University), The Programming Historian, and Digital Humanities 101 (UCLA).
- Programming and Analysis: This course introduces you to the fundamentals of computer programming, data expression, and algorithmic analysis for interpretation in the humanities. Emphasis is placed on developing a working understanding of the practices involved in humanities-based computation. Core materials draw from Experimental Methods in the Humanities (Columbia University), The Programming Historian, and Digital Humanities 101 (UCLA).
- Design and Transformation: This course introduces you to the fundamentals of designing, communicating with, and transforming media in the humanities. Emphasis is placed on developing a working understanding of the practices and responsibilities involved in multimodal scholarly communication, especially as it relates to matters of ethics and social justice. Core materials draw from Experimental Methods in the Humanities (Columbia University), The Programming Historian, and Digital Humanities 101 (UCLA).
The benefits of this sequence include flexibility for students, faculty, and staff as well as for the content and methods offered. “Remediating and Structuring” is a condensed version of the Stewardship sequence (above), “Programming and Analysis” is a condensed version of the Computational Analysis sequence (above), and “Design and Transformation” is a condensed version of the Design and Communication and Social Justice and Transformative Media sequences (above). In principle, “Design and Transformation” could be offered first or last, with “Remediating and Structuring” preceding “Programming and Analysis.” The core materials (Experimental Methods, Programming Historian, and DH 101) could also be used in other sequences (above), and methods and topics from the Social Justice and Transformative Media sequence (above) could be integrated into every class in this sequence. The risk of this sequence is surveying too much material too quickly. It would also require a significant range of experience and expertise where faculty, students, and staff are concerned. The sequence requires significant investment in the more technical dimensions of digital humanities, and it may benefit from co-teaching across the disciplines.
This sequence is anchored in digital studies as a speculative or conjectural practice. It is content- and project-forward.
- Prototyping in the Humanities: This course surveys various prototyping techniques, from paper to scenario to video prototyping. Emphasis is placed on using these techniques to ask “what if” of humanities materials, to observe change and embodied experiences, and to trace and share lines of inquiry (Kraus 2009; Drucker and Nowviskie 2007; Rosner 2018). You will be asked to keep a design document or log throughout the course.
- Prototyping Pasts and Futures: This course introduces you to using experimental methods and multimodal composition to conjecture about pasts and futures. You will work with a combination of historical materials (collections, primary sources, data sets, editions) and speculative materials (fictions, designs, films, games), and you will compose with a variety of media. Emphasis is placed on prototyping as a form of negotiation and mode of iterative development (Kraus 2009; Drucker and Nowviskie 2007; Rosner 2018). You will be asked to keep a design document or log throughout the course.
- Project in Transformative Prototyping: This workshop (or directed study) is an opportunity for you to develop and implement a prototyping project from a previous seminar and examine and even test its social, cultural, and ethical dimensions in the process. It may be conducted in collaboration with a community partner or internship program (where applicable), with advising from a faculty member.
The benefits of this sequence include, again, flexibility for students, faculty, and staff as well as in the content. The sequence also lends itself to a focus on content and projects, with less emphasis on or assumptions about specific methods (see Digital Methods above). Given its orientation toward theories and concepts, it could morph alongside faculty and student interests, not to mention changes in scholarship. It could also spark experimental approaches to MA and PhD projects, including dissertations, and it could draw heavily on all of the above sequences, but especially the Design and Communication and Social Justice and Transformative Media sequences. It requires a minor to moderate investment in the more technical dimensions of digital humanities, and it could be taught from a low-tech perspective. It may benefit from co-teaching across the disciplines.
Thank you for your time.
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