Digital Humanities

Cultivating Prosumers: A Dispatch from Intro to DH

We are now three weeks into our intro to dh course! I appreciated this comment from my first blog post introducing the series:

“This is pretty exciting – I look forward to seeing how the course moves forward. I’m also very interested to hear what the students expect from the course, and how that lines up with what we expect them to expect from the course.”

It made me think of the engaging conversations I’ve enjoyed with Carla Martin over the past few months about pedagogy and inclusiveness. One of my major takeaways from those conversations is the idea of building a shared understanding in the classroom collectively, rather than simply relying on students’ previously acquired knowledge, which is something that can marginalize different students for a variety of reasons.

This gets right to the heart of our commenter’s question: what expectations did our students bring to this course in its first weeks? The students had a range of expectations for the course, but to think about them in the aggregate, it’s safe to say that no one came to class wanting to build on a strong foundation for digital humanities and its methods; these students have real questions about the future of publishing, desires to build new tools, and find digital platforms to tell analog stories. That is, I quickly realized that we would need to learn the alphabet before trying to write out full sentences (so to speak). One of our overarching goals is for the class to build a shared understanding of what digital humanities even is as a field and what some of the methods are to accomplish some of the wishes the students have.

Last week, we assigned the ‘A Short Guide to the Digtal_Humanities.’ It’s a great primer (available for download on Jefferey Schnapp’s website), but in the context of class, it provides insightful context about how to evaluate digital scholarship and project-based scholarship. Jim and I threw some links to DH projects up in Moodle and we had students talk through how they would evaluate these sites and projects as DH. It was a good experience as we began to better define together what DH was, why and how some projects were more successful than others, and how to make sense of the new types of projects and scholarship percolating in academia. Students were beginning to see what DH can be in the context of these projects, and began asking insightful questions about ‘why’ certain elements were they way they were, why some things worked on mobile platforms and others didn’t, and how they would improve on projects.

One of the expectations I have for students for Intro to DH is that they flex their imaginations. DH is about building: building community, building projects, and building a vision for new and engaging ways to tell stories and solve problems. My hope is that this class will ensure these students become, in the words of Jeffrey Schnapp, prosumers. In the short guide he writes about this emerging engagement model, “From passive consumer to active prosumer. The role of the reader and viewer varies from that of a consumer of material on display to that of a critically informed and discriminating prosumer of cultural materials. How does the project facilitate productive, critical engagement rather than passive consumption?” How will thinking about digital humanities in theory and practice alter how these students consume and produce information? We shall see as the semester continues.


Students Learning

Are these students precursors to prosumers?








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