Do you need to be a hacker?

There’s no question that communicating your ideas is important. But how much can be accomplished via a simple CMS with a default template? What do people working in the humanities need to know about programming? What languages are most useful and why? And what technologies do we all need to keep our eyes on to keep ourselves ahead of the curve?

Big digital piles and the classroom

There are several proposals hovering around the issue of how to better leverage digital collections within the humanities, and I want to give a thumbs-up to them all. I work with a gigantic pile of stuff at the Digital Library of Georgia (as a Digital Projects Archivist), but have little sense of how (if at all) it is used beyond the independent researcher or curious citizen.

Some questions as gestures towards a proposal(s):

1. What do humanities scholars want/need from digital collections to be of use in the classroom? Here I am thinking about navigating live through the DLG, or any online collection, for real time feedback (would be great to team up with other librarians). Which formats are most compelling…and for which disciplines? What would you like to be able to do with the stuff in our collections that you currently can’t (thinking about types of reuse, linking out, integrating into social media sites, editing, etc…). Is there anything we (any digital collection) could be doing to make our sites and our stuff more compelling to you?

2. Open Access publishing: gigantic sea creature of the deep wrapping its tentacles around the tenure process. We could kick around impacts of the Open Access movement on the ‘impact factor’ in tenure, but…does that really sound like fun? Bringing it back to the classroom, is there any interest in, or experience with, using publishing platforms for student work? At the Univ. of Georgia, we’ve recently launched our first online, open access, peer reviewed journal using Open Journal Systems from the Public Knowledge Project: the Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement. I’d be interested in discussing this platform (or others) with the curious, how it might be used by scholars looking for publishing options in this era of tight budgets, and/or how it might be deployed in a classroom.

3. Worst Digital metaphors/analogies lighting round. 5 minutes to compile examples of the most heinous, ideologically confused, confounding metaphors deployed to understand our relationship to the digital. “Series of tubes,” anyone? Maybe even a prize?

Principles of good web design

Bring your sketches of web design ideas you have and we can learn together about how to apply best practices to your design.

In addition to my own experience-based knowledge as a full-time web developer, we’ll also rely on other un-conference participants’ experiential knowledge and on themes from 2 EXCELLENT meta books about web design:

  • Designing with the Mind in Mind: Simple Guide to Understanding User Interface Design Rules by Jeff Johnson
  • Neuro Web Design: What Makes Them Click? by Susan M. Weinschenk

As my drupal 7 theming proposal was a bit too specific, I’m taking Brian’s advice and proposing this session, instead. 🙂

Educating and involving users throughout development of a digital humanities project

I think this idea changed mid-typing, but here goes.

My session question is how we can involve target groups (faculty, students, researchers, K-12 teachers, general public) in the development and use of digital collections at libraries, universities, and other institutions.  These types of collections are great opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to expand their view of humanities by incorporating digitization, social media, and other technology into their studies.  K-12 teachers and students can also benefit.

My library has a digital collections site that includes material from our library, the medical library, and UAB archives.  We are also working with the departments of communication studies, theatre, art (time-based media), and the ethnographic filmmaking program on housing their students’ moving image projects on our site.  Along with hosting the material comes publicizing it and promoting use.  Promoting the use of collections is easier when you can provide specific examples of how the material applies to faculty research, majors, and specific courses.

What are best practices for incorporating social tools into DH projects so that faculty, students, researchers, and other targeted groups are involved in the development and use of these projects.  I know there are DH projects that are developed as part of specific courses, but I’m thinking more about how institutional projects can benefit from student, faculty, public input throughout development to increase use of the final project.

As a DH newbie, I don’t have any theoretical background information on this topic, but I’m sure campers from a variety of backgrounds and experience levels can contribute.

Exploring the Combination of Techniques of Instructional Design, the Humanities, and Digital Media in an Archival Format

Ann Cunningham (Education), David Phillips (Humanities), and Lauren Pressley (Library Science and Instructional Design)

At Wake Forest, we’re getting ready to launch an experiment in creating an online digital library and archive that captures the essence of what’s happening out in the community. What are politicians saying? What are community groups doing? What are our local artists and performers into? What is happening in our broader creative community? What’s going on in different segments of our community, and how can our students access the events, meet the people, and document what they find in a digital format that is readily accessible through a web-based archive? What would such an archive look like, and how would it organize knowledge in ways that encourage creative thinking about knowledge and culture, while helping us to reshape our conceptions of how to order this knowledge? What if the actual recording in innovative formats and new ways of ordering helped us to envision knowledge and culture in new ways?

Secondly, what are the emerging technologies in library science and digital media studies that are useful in refining this vision. In providing our students with the tools to appropriately and creatively organize their material, students will need to think critically about relevant metadata and how to approach findability in this web-based format for storing video and audio multimedia archives? Just as importantly, how can the content be kept robust, but skillfully edited and packaged in ways that make it easily accessible to viewers, and what skills from documentary film making and editing can be incorporated into the process of creating content?

Stepping back a step from the production of material for this  library and its use as a resource, we are finding as we explore these questions that one of the keys to getting good results is to think about designing instructional sequences that scaffold inquiry, reflection, and expression. These instructional sequences could be courses or as large in scope as a full program of study. Sequenced and intentional integration of learning experiences with digital tools and many opportunities to express knowledge in digital formats can generate products for assessing student growth over time and provide a vehicle for them to develop their questions and support a reflective approach to web-based expression. These engaging and inspiring student products will be published and disseminated through the online digital library. This approach to instructional design facilitates inter disciplinary collaboration but not without challenges. Where are models of interdisciplinary collaborations on courses? On programs?

Finally, what role does the humanities play in shaping the nature of our investigations? What are the pressing questions to be asked, and how can humanistic pursuits be best depicted? What are the most effective ways to record and preserve our personal narratives, human interest stories, oral histories, and examples of our cultural, socio-economic, and regional diversity? How can the humanities inform the process of collecting information that keeps it personalized and that resists the tendency to generalize?

All of these questions are at the heart of our initiative to create a digital humanities library and archive of Winston-Salem, Piedmont-Triad, and North Carolina culture, the arts, and social issues. We think, based on our initial discussions, that a better understanding of process is key to the pursuit of answers to these questions, and to clarifying our goals in creating a digital library.

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Teaching (with) Technology for Digital Non-Natives

Jumping on the back of Tracy Powell’s session idea of Teaching (with) Technology, I am interested in discussing how and what to teach to students who are very unfamiliar with technology. I am an English instructor at an open enrollment community college and I have students of all ages and technological abilities. I’m convinced that appropriately applied technology can benefit even the most technologically uninitiated students, but I would like to swap stories and ideas on what appropriately applied technology means.

Just whetting your appetites

Providing Access to Born Digital Records Online

I am actively working with born digital records in a special collections archives right now, and one of the issues I continue with is how best to provide online access for researchers to view born digital records.  Although we receive digital images,  I am more focused on databases, textual documents like e-mail and items created in word processing software like Microsoft Word.

Digital Humanities and Special Collections Libraries

I am interested in a session about Digital Humanities and special collections libraries. Archives can play a central role in the DH because they are stuffed to the ceilings with the raw materials for a staggering range of DH projects but . . . special collections repository haven’t been to keep up with the “insatiable” user demand for digitized materials. So I want to hear ideas (and even complaints) from my fellow THATCampers about what they want from archives or wish they had. How do DH-ers want to access and use data and digital materials from special collections? What types of devices do you want to use these materials on in the classroom, in your own research or – heaven forbid – just for fun?

Writing for the Web


How is writing for the web different than writing for print? Prevailing wisdom says that web-readers scan until they find the specific information they seek.

My question is: how can we engage people on the web and offer meaningful, substantive, responsible, yet accessible encounters with humanities scholarship? And how can we take full advantage of the possibilities that the web now affords? Here are some issues we might explore:

  • How do we best anticipate and satisfy [goal-oriented] search queries?
  • How do we take people in new and unanticipated directions?
  • How do we help readers to “unlearn” what they think they know about a subject and be open to new perspectives? (See NATURE article by Dan Kahan, “Fixing the Communications Failure,” Vol 463, 21 January, 2010.)
  • How do we manage comments sections?
  • What are reasonable lengths for copy on the web? And frequency of updating text on a home page?
  • How should first paragraphs be written to optimize search engine results, grab and orient the reader, and get them to the heart of the matter? [We could give ourselves a writing exercise here, each bringing a fairly complex topic that needs to be introduced in 200 words or less.]
  • How would you think through the designing of an interactive piece or game with the goal of teaching a new concept? [Again, we could each bring an example and try to write a script for it– a game that teaches/tests how to identify a certain type of pottery… or an interactive puzzle based on manuscript fragments…]
  • How can we offer differentiated levels of content so that novices and more sophisticated readers both have something to learn?
  • If there is time, I’m also interested in the merits/drawbacks and practical aspects of producing video content for the web.

I have a demo site from a project at work (Bible Odyssey) that can illustrate some of these questions.

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