The Lewis & Ruth Sherman Centre for Digital Scholarship and the McMaster University Library are pleased to share its 2020-2021 Do More with Digital Scholarship workshop series. This year’s fully virtual series consists of a mix of synchronous sessions and asynchronous modules, which will be released at various points of the year and available to watch at any time.
The series is open to all audiences. The events are listed below with registration/reminder links. The first module opens today!
For many years, I have taught the first half of the Survey of British Literature, a standard course in many undergraduate literary studies curricula. This course ends with a unit on eighteenth-century literature. I have always devoted that unit to texts that track eighteenth-century Britons’ growing engagement with the world, even if imaginative, by way of travel, trade, slavery, colonialism, and so forth. However, I have always speculated that students might not be familiar with many of the far-flung places referenced in these literary works, especially places whose names have changed over the centuries.
This project in digital humanities gave me just the opportunity to enhance this unit. As the final project in my spring 2020 LITR 240 at Ramapo College, I asked each student to select one text from the final unit—a unit that included texts from Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko to Olaudah Equiano’s Interesting Narrative—and to map all of the place names in that text by using Recogito, a free, open-access mapping program. After I gave them a demonstration, students mapped their chosen texts and presented their maps orally to me as their final exam. During their presentations, they walked me through each mapped place name, provided its literary context, and explained how their maps help us understand the period’s global imagination. Students also submitted short response papers in which they reflected on what they learned—about geography, the period’s literature, the digital humanities, and so forth—from the project.
All in all, the students exceeded my expectations. Most of the maps were complete and accurate, and many students made exciting connections between map and text. More importantly, students indicated that they learned a lot from the assignment and were eager to complete more projects in the digital humanities.
For my Spring 2020 semester at Ramapo College, I was enrolled in the course, Survey of British Literature: Anglo-Saxon Period to Eighteenth Century, taught by Dr. Eric Daffron. Over the duration of the course, we studied various texts from early British literature, moving through different centuries as the course progressed. To finish the course, we had to complete a final project centered around an 18th century British text from our syllabus. However, the project itself was somewhat unconventional because rather than being just a traditional essay or presentation, the central task required for the final project incorporated elements of the digital humanities. As part of this final project, Dr. Daffron asked us to use the application, Recogito, to digitally map all of the locations referenced in our selected text.
Personally, I found the experience of creating the digital map to be extremely helpful in understanding the context of my selected literary work. Having selected Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko as my text, which not only takes place on two different continents, but also references the wide-reaching influence of the triangular trade of the 18th century, the work contained a great number of locations around the globe. Not only did creating a map with Recogito allow me to become familiar with locations that I had previously not known, but it also allowed me to draw connections between all of the places listed and to see how influential the massive international trade systems of the 18th century were, leading to a growing globalization that would influence many aspects of British life during this time, including literature like Behn’s. Overall, I found my experience with this project to be very enlightening. Completing the mapping project allowed me to learn more about the history and geography surrounding the text, provided me with helpful context to my selected work, and ultimately, aided me in drawing more informed and comprehensive conclusions about the text itself.
The mapping project completed in Dr. Daffron’s Survey of British Literature 240 class allowed me to use a previously unfamiliar software to expand my knowledge of both the piece of literature in focus and the digital humanities in general. For my project, I chose to write about The Turkish Embassy Letters by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (some of this information is drawn from my original response paper to this assignment). The assignment asked us to find different locations mentioned throughout the literature and map them on the software Recogito. By focusing on these specific locations, I was able to learn more about the story and the geographical implications that the locations provided. For example, before starting this assignment I never bothered to find the physical locations mentioned in the letters on a map. Having to map these locations showed me just how far Lady Mary Wortley Montagu went in her travels. Seeing the actual distance between these locations allowed me to see how drastically the culture changes she described happened in reference to their distance from each other.
While this physical representation of the story allowed me a greater understanding of the story, I also learned more about digital humanities. I have had experiences with the digital humanities before, so completing this assignment was challenging in a beneficial way. While I have used software’s to analyze stories and pieces of literature before, I have never come in contact with this particular software before. At first the software seemed quite daunting, but after reading the instructions provided by Dr. Daffron and looking around the software I found it to be very innovative and helpful. The project encouraged me to become more comfortable with Recogito and software similar to it. My experience in completing this mapping project was very educationally beneficial.
This past semester, I was given the opportunity to complete a final assignment in a fashion different than ones I have completed in the past. It was a challenge, but it ultimately introduced me to a new method of presentation and research, and it changed my perception of the standard final exam. In Dr. Daffron’s course LITR 240: Survey of British Literature, instead of having a traditional final exam, we were assigned a Mapping Project. In this project, we were asked to map out various locations mentioned in one of the assigned texts from the course in the online application Recogito, then create a six-minute oral presentation, which was delivered via WebEx between only the student and professor. This was a challenging project, as only being able to virtually present the final was an unfamiliar task. Of course, there were technical difficulties and stresses, but it ended up not being too bad. Frankly, I much prefer this method of a final exam than a test or elaborate essay. It was a way the class could become more engaged with the texts we read in class and gain a deeper, cultural understanding of the works. More importantly, it allowed us to expand our knowledge on digital humanities, the most impactful outcome from this project. Digital humanities was a fairly new term for me, but I quickly discovered its benefits as a student and professional in the world of humanities. This project not only challenged me analytically, but it taught me how to use digital applications to enhance and clearly visualize my work within the humanities. I would gladly complete this project again in a future course, and I believe fellow students would appreciate the creative and innovative final project format.
Academic Year 2019-2020 was an auspicious year to begin experimenting in Digital Humanities in the classroom. I began in an effort to keep up to date with technologies that I could use as a supplement. I ended the year clinging to DH technologies that suddenly became essential as the Covid pandemic closed campuses across the country. When I began the year, I wanted to learn to use DH technologies for mapping (Recogito), annotating (Perusall), and audio/video recording (Techsmith Relay, now known as Techsmith Knowmia).
I assumed that the big project would be use of mapping (Recogito) in my Survey of American Literature course, where students were reading Moby Dick (among other things). I had hoped to show the global interest of the book and therefor the international reach and foundations of American literature. Ironically, of all the things I tried, this was the one that I could not get to work at all and so I never really used it at all. However, I did use Perusall, Techsmith, and other applications I had not planned on (blogging and and discussion forums, for instance). And these turned out to be the most effective.
I learned the lesson that everyone tried to teach us as we began: do less and do it better rather than do more and do it worse. So it’s all for the best that I did not manage to get the mapping done. I used Perusall in all my courses and learned quickly that selected use of Perusall was much more effective than asking students to routinely use the platform. In fact, the single most effective use was using Perusall with readings of graphic novels, as it forced students to comment on images as well as text. The most successful use was with excerpts students read from R. Crumb’s Book of Genesis. After reading the comic strip, they also “read” canonical artistic renderings of the Genesis story they looked for on ArtStor, a visual arts database they have access to.
Once the pandemic closed the college in March, the most useful tool ended up being one I had not trained on at all: Techsmith which allowed for “quizzing” students’ reading. Actually, these “quizzes” served most usefully as “attendance.” In Spring 2020, “taking attendance” expanded—no longer meaning students were “in class” at class time, but that they did their work before the next class. As some students could not access our video classes at the assigned time, knowing they were checking in between class meetings was not just a way to see who was doing the work, but if anyone was in need of encouragement or other help.
I was able to reach out to more than one student who stopped doing the work due to family or health issues. And that allowed me to connect them to services that could offer at least a little help. Also, Techsmith allows the user to get comfortable making videos and recording audio. After the semester ended, my colleagues and I made a “wevideo” movie (another DH application) to say goodbye to graduates whom we could not see off at commencement. Techsmith, more than any other tool, emerged as a useful, multi-application tool. Whether teaching at a distance or face to face, Techsmith seems a very useful and versatile way to quiz and to instruct. Below are three slides from a Techsmith from my Graphic Novel course, where students were reading Watchmen:
An unexpected use of DH methods happened because of the pandemic, rather than in spite of it. In my Graphic Novel course, students read Marjane Sartrapi’s Chicken with Plums, about an Iranian tar player. As it happens, a friend plays traditional Iranian drums in Portland, OR. I invited him and his musical partner to perform for the students via webex video links. The guests loaded music to YouTube and also performed live for the class (YouTube helped, as webex was not ideal for them to play “together” from two different homes in Portland).
Had we not been forced into the situation, I do not know if I would have invited him via video. Now, I have to reconsider what it means to have a “guest” come to class. Below is a screenshot of the class listening to the music:
Recogito is not the only project that did not work out for me. I had hoped to have students in my Graphic Novel course record their group oral presentations as audio podcasts, to be posted on our learning management system page (Moodle). With the Covid shutdown, I could not do that in the Graphic Novel course.
I did have students submit PowerPoint presentations instead of a paper for one assignment on visual composition; that worked well. Students in my Humanities class took it on themselves to record their group presentations via Techsmith, using audio, video, still images and text. This was a real success to be replicated. Other students responded via forums to the presentations, offering a virtual roundtable on their presentations.
I look forward to revisiting Techsmith and Peruall, to operationalizing a podcast presentation, and adding VidoAnt annotation tools to my courses in the fall. Thank you for the support!
Engaging Geography in the Humanities is a three-week Summer Institute to be held at Northeastern University from July 6 – 24, 2020.
The Institute will explore the possibilities and productive tensions at
the intersection of geography and the humanities. By engaging with
readings, lectures, discussions, workshops, and field visits, the
Institute will introduce scholars teaching in the humanities (and
related disciplines) to concepts and methods from geography, as
participants consider how these approaches can enhance their own
research and teaching.
The poet Walt Whitman writes that in the urban environment we see
“the past, the future, dwelling there, like space, inseparable
together.” Inspired by this idea, the Institute will use Boston as our
classroom to explore the layered nature of space and place, as well as
how Boston and the region have served as setting and inspiration for a
range of philosophical and literary works. At the same time, the
geographic perspectives and spatial methods developed here will help
participants engage more deeply with their immediate surrounds, as well
as distant locations.
Through a series of workshops, the Institute will introduce
participants to the emerging field of digital humanities and some of its
possibilities for spatial representation and analysis. Participants
will be exposed to digital projects and receive hands-on training on
tools such as 3D modeling, web mapping, and Geographical Information
System (GIS). In addition to providing practical skills, sessions and
workshops will critically examine the meanings of maps and uses of
digital technology in humanistic inquiries.
Meanwhile, the Institute will build on Northeastern’s commitment to
public humanities and the experiential liberal arts to facilitate more
public facing engagements through popular writing, digital media, and
memorialization and public history projects.
Our goal is to create a diverse cohort of college and university faculty interested in exploring how geographic perspectives and spatial methods can enhance their own teaching and research. The Institute welcomes scholars in the humanities (and related fields) who currently engage themes of space and place in their work, as well as those interested in learning how to do so.
We would like to acknowledge the territory on which Northeastern
University stands, which is that of The Wampanoag and The Massachusett
People. While visiting campus, please honor the continued efforts of the
Native and Indigenous community leaders who work to preserve the
history and culture of the tribes which make up Eastern Massachusetts
and the surrounding region. Today, Boston is still home to many
indigenous peoples, including the Mashpee Wampanoag and Wampanoag Tribe
of Gay Head (Aquinnah), and many more in our region.
Workshops have been organized, speakers have been invited, and spaces reserved. NYCDH Week 2020 is officially one week away. With more than 40 workshops, demos, and events (our most ever), a robust Kickoff Event on Monday which includes graduate student awards, themed panel, keynote speaker, lightning talks, and the presentation of the NYCDH Award, and a chance to meet hundreds of active and involved colleagues NYCDH Week is going to be a blast! So here are a few announcements.
First of all, we are proud to announce that Matthew K. Gold will be the recipient of the NYCDH Award for his significant contributions to the NYCDH community. Past NYCDH Award winner Steven Brier will be presenting Matt with the award at the Kickoff Event. Read about Matt’s work and the NYCDH Award here.
Second, our panel on Histories and Representations of Communities Across the Five Boroughs is finalized and will feature Monxo López from the Museum of the City of New York, Shawn Hill and Desislava Stoeva of Fordham University, and Sara B. Cohn from City College, CUNY. You can read more about the panel and panelists here.
And don’t forget that Matt Knutzen of the NYPL will be providing the keynote at the Kickoff Event as well. Read about Matt here.
The Kickoff Event on Monday, February 3 is almost already fully registered so sign up fast!
Perhaps most importantly however is it is time to sign up for workshops, demos, and events. The NYCDH Week website has been fully updated with topics, times, and locations, so now is the time to find out what appeals to you most. Along with some old regulars we have a lot of new sessions this year so there is bound to be something for everyone. You can look at the sessions by either browsing by title on this page, or looking at the weekly schedule here (for daily listings use the pulldown menu in the top navigation).
We look forward to a great week and to see new and familiar faces alike throughout the city next week. Enjoy!
Hypothesis is a tool like Perusall that you can use for annotating websites. A recent blog post, “Comment, reply, repeat: Engaging students with social annotation,” by Alice Fleerackers, Juan Pablo Alperin, Esteban Morales, and Remi Kalir on their experiences is available here.