digital humanities + pedagogy: a companion

Imagevisualization: a glossary

  • metadata: information about information. You’ll use metadata to describe attributes of your items, like their dates of creatine, sizes, etc.
  • Dublin Core: a specific kind of metadata used by Omeka. Dublin Core keeps descriptions consistent.
  • (compared to there are two kinds of Omeka sites. is already hosted, meaning that you don’t have to install anything. is customizable, but you have to be comfortable installing Omeka on a server.
  • GIS (Geographic Information System): an integration of hardware, software, and data designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage and present all types of geographical data.  GIS is a “tool-centric” approach to digital mapping.
  • neogeography: combines the complex techniques of cartography and GIS and places them within reach of users. Neogeography is a “user-centric” approach to digital mapping.

    gamification: a glossary

  • achievements: accomplishments such as exemplary performance on specific assignments
  • add-ons: expansion packs that adds new material, such as additional stories, new areas of exploration, new items, or more levels.
  • avatar: the character a player directs through a game.
  • dungeons: complex spaces that must be explored before they can be unlocked.
  • Easter egg: a hidden feature of a game
  • extrinsic motivation: motivation by means of tangible rewards or pressures, rather than pleasure (e.g. intrinsic motivation).
  • game choice: the pedagogical model. Justin Hodgson argues that, more than course readings, game choice shapes “content, structure, assignments, [and] activities” (50). Hodgson borrowed his Quest Line structure from World of Warcraft, whereas Benjamin Miller modeled his class on the gameplay of Legend of Zelda.
  • Game Master: the person who acts as an organizer, authority of rules, arbitrator, and moderator for a multiplayer game. Lee Sheldon discusses how a Game Master isn’t necessarily synonymous with a Game Designer: “A teacher need not be a game designer to be a Game Master, but, in most case, must be the Game Master. Just as you are in charge of the development, you continue to be in charge of the classroom” (220).
  • gamification: the application of game mechanics to non-game activities.
  • gild: a community in a role-playing game. Guilds can be comprised of any number of players, depending upon common goals and play style of the game.
  • hack: a clever or quick fix to a problem. It can also refer to a modification that allows users access to otherwise unavailable features (which might give the player an unfair advantage over opponents). McKenzie Wark wrote the book (A Hacker Manifesto) on it.
  • level chart: allows players to see one another’s scores. Scores are sometimes posted anonymously; other times, Game Masters use avatars to induce competition.
  • postmortem: a game development term, borrowed from medical examiners. In the game development, a game’s features, design, and development are autopsied. In a class, the corpse is the class itself. Teachers often schedule a postmortem for the last session to create a space for conversation about what worked and what didn’t.
  • quest: the levels through which players acquire skills.
  • random factor: ensures that the outcomes of player choices are not always predictable. Some teachers integrate dice to randomize groupings of students into GILDS, for example.
  • scaffolded instruction: guides students from smaller, simpler skills, to larger, more complicated ones.
  • stuckpoints: a term coined by Peter Elbow as a way of recasting failures as essential to writing development.
  • walkthrough: a step-by-step guide to obstacles, puzzles, or bosses. Players create walkthroughs for other players.

    gamification: related concepts

  • active learning: “experiencing the world in new ways, forming new affiliations, and preparation for future learning” (Gee 23).
  • critical learning: “learning to thinking of semiotic domains as design spaces that manipulate us in certain ways and that we can manipulate in certain ways” (Gee 43).
  • semiotic domains: “any set of practices that recruits one or more modalities to communicate distinctive types of meaning” (Gee 18).
  • multimodality: “In multimodal texts (texts that mix words and images), the images often communicate different things from the words. And the combination of the two modes communicates things that neither of the modes does separately. Thus, the idea of different sorts of multimodal literacy seems an important one. Both modes and multimodality go far beyond images and words to include sounds, music, movement, bodily sensations, and smells” (Gee 14).
  • disruption: somewhere between intervention and subversion, a “creative act that shifts the way a particular logic or paradigm is operating” (Flanagan12)
  • intervention: a specific types of subversion that relies upon direct action and engagement with political or social issues, a “‘stepping in,’ or interfering in any affair, so as to affect its course or issue’” (Flanagan 11).
  • subversion: “the turning of a thing upside down or uprooting it from its position; overturning, upsetting; overthrow of a law, rule, system, condition” (OED).

    gamification: a bibliography

  • Alberti, John. “The Game of Reading and Writing: How Video Games. Reframe Our Understanding of Literacy.” Computers and Composition 25.3 (2008): 258–269. Print.
  • Bogost, Ian. “Gamification Is Bullshit.” Ian Bogost. Web. 8 Apr. 2014.
  • Bogost, Ian. How to Do Things with Videogames. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011. Print.
  • Colby, Richard and Rebekah Shultz Colby. “A Pedagogy of Play: Integrating Computer Games into the Writing Classroom.” Computers and Composition 25.3 (2008): 300-312. Print.
  • Dignan, Aaron. Game Frame: Using Games as a Strategy for Success. New York: Free Press, 2011. Print.
  • Elbow, Peter. Writing without Teachers. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. Print.
  • Flanagan, Mary. Critical Play: Radical Game Design. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2009. Print.
  • Hodgson, Justin. “Developing and Extending Gaming Pedagogy: Designing a Course as Game.” Eds. Colby, Richard, and John Alberti. Rhetoric/ Composition/play through Video Games: Reshaping Theory and Practice of Writing. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. 45-62. Print.
  • Gee, James Paul. What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. Print.
  • Juul, Jesper. The Art of Failure: An Essay on the Pain of Playing Video Games. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2013. Print.
  • McGonigal, Jane. Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. New York: Penguin Group, 2011. Print.
  • Miller, Benjamin. “Metaphor, Writer’s Block, and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Writing Process.” Eds. Colby, Richard, and John Alberti. Rhetoric/ Composition/play through Video Games: Reshaping Theory and Practice of Writing. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. 99-112. Print.
  • Sheldon, Lee. The Multiplayer Classroom Designing Coursework as a Game. Boston: Course Technology/Cengage Learning, 2012. Print.
  • Kapp, Karl M. The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-Based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education. San Francisco: Pfeiffer, 2012. Print.
  • Wark, McKenzie. A Hacker Manifesto. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004. Print.

Of Lobotomy, Narrative, and Interface

ImageWhen I registered for a dinner discussion with Miriam Posner at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus, I did not expect brains would be on the menu. Posner’s talk, an aperitif to her forthcoming book, Depth Perception: Narrative and the Body in American Medical Filmmaking (under contract with University of North Carolina Press), lingered on early twentieth-century lobotomies, as participants raised pointed questions about the process and documentation of Walter Freeman’s many lobotomies (reference The Lobotomy Letters or The Lobotomy Files). Yet, despite the curiosity of these surgeries, lobotomies provided but a frontal lobe to Posner’s expansive presentation. As the title of her talk suggests, “Thinking Through and with Text: Designing Digital Humanities Scholarship for the Screen” was as much about how scholars today re-present scholarship via electronic platforms as it was about how surgeons captured and represented bodies in medical films. With this post, I want to raise two related questions that, in the second half of the conversation, divided participants: What should a user interface do, and what is its relation to a narrative?

Posner discussed a number of existing digital projects that showcase the “affordances and opportunities of digital publishing.” She described the Negro Travelers’ Green Book Map in relation to three main considerations: sources, processing, and presentation. Beginning with the Green Book, a directory of “safe” destinations for African American travelers during the Jim Crow era (source), scholars scanned, geo-located, and built a database of destinations (processing), and mapped and made that data searchable (presentation). While the Green Book Map was a crowd-pleaser, subsequent projects tested the audience’s open-mindedness about interface design. For example, Posner introduced the multimodal journal Vectors. In concept, the audience embraced the proposition (judging by head nodding), but as soon as Posner opened the Vectors editors’ statement, brows furrowed. Here was a page that purported to speak (a statement of intent), but that required the user to pose a question (a keyword search). What did readers have to do to access the entire statement? Whereas some members of the audience rejoiced in the “problem” that the code suggested, others simply wanted to read to the statement. A glance at N. Katherine Hayles’ Narrating Bits exacerbated the divide. One participant asked, “Who uses it?” “What if interfaces aren’t for use, but for something else entirely?” Posner rejoined.

We discussed several other projects that underscored the diverse uses of digital interfaces. Whereas The New York Times’ Snow Fallemploys an immersive interface that absorbs the reader in a multimedia report on an avalanche, Eric Loyer’s Freedom’s Ring (built in Scalar, the new Vectors’ CMS) enables readers to either follow a prescribed narrative or chart their own paths through its nodes. The defamiliarizing interface of Whitney Trettien’s Plant -> Animal -> Book, meanwhile, requires readers to explore content—and the act of reading—associatively.

If one takes seriously the proposition that user interfaces are more than transparent views of content (Johanna Drucker), Posner’s talk underscores the potential of interfaces to function as windows, walls, mazes, and gateways. I want to think about the relation of interfaces to narratives. Like many students of the humanities, I enjoy a good story. The question is whether writers or scholars ought to, given the availability of flexible electronic platforms, enable readers to construct their own narratives by means of different interfaces.

In our conversation with Miriam Posner, several participants argued interfaces are inherently coercive because they require somatic engagement with prescribed routes (e.g., Scalar’s linking and forking paths). However, I fail to see how the narrative of a digital text is any more coercive than that of certain print novels. The frustration that participants expressed about their inability to read the Vectors editors’ statement is not unlike from the frustration readers value in difficult novels such as Gravity’s Rainbow, Finnegan’s Wake, and Pale Fire. We prize the challenges of those novels and how they coerce us into becoming conscious of how we read.

The issue, as I see it, is not that digital texts are inherently more coercive than print counterparts, but rather that they provide an illusion of control. This issue is only a problem if the reader is recast as writer. Electronic interfaces are worth evaluating critically because they enable writers to cast the seedlings of multiple simultaneous narratives. Interfaces that allow readers to chart different paths through content (such as those built with Scalar) may not allow readers to inscribe their own narratives, but they enable readers to discover other narrative germinations. Those discoveries, coerced as they may be, belong to readers in much the same way as does understanding wrested from an oblique print narrative. In this context, perhaps interface will entangle with narrative and the act of reading, its form, akin to the human brain, replete with unseen passageways, unexpected barriers, and unforeseeable possibilities.

The Future of the Humanities and the (Semi)Public Intellectual

Conversations about the future of humanities tend to follow a predictable recipe: begin with a spoonful of anxiety (see also: fear, despair); add a smattering of nostalgia (for a bygone era when distinguished faculty members landed their first jobs); bring to boil under a fire of realism (kindled by junior faculty); and garnish with pride (enjoyed by all).

Peter Brooks’ seminar at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus was one of the more unpredictable conversations I have attended on the future of the humanities, aided in no small part by Brooks’ superb book, Humanities in Public Life, and an eclectic cadre of graduate students, faculty, deans, administration, and interlocutors from business, law, and the sciences. While the contours of conversation adhered to the aforementioned recipe, we cooked up two ostensibly different dishes: The humanities are an island, in the parlance of one participant, to be preserved; and the humanities are a perch, from which its advocates infiltrate and affect other modes of discourse. I intend to use this post to explore how such goals are not mutually exclusive by placing the future of the humanities in dialogue with the (semi)public intellectual.

No, I’m not going to talk about Nicholas Kristof’s article about why academics are “irrelevant,” Corey Robin’s and Laura Tanenbaum’s rebuttals, or Joshua Rothman’s alternative assessment. You’ve read those pieces already, and if you haven’t, you’ve heard enough about them. Rather, I want to think about how the Brooks’ island/perch divide relates to a particularly generative panel on public intellectualism at the 2014 MLA Convention.

The panel The Semipublic Intellectual? Academia, Criticism, and the Internet Age exemplified MLA’s vibrant DH presence. Attracting a capacity audience, with onlookers spilling into the hallway, this roundtable assembled a diverse panel to discuss the lived experience of scholarship and digital publication. For several panelists in particular, public engagement provides both a reprieve from and complement to their humanities “day jobs.”

As an Assistant Professor of Film and Media Studies at Whitman College, Anne Helen Petersen entered the public fray to compensate for the solitude of studying for comps. Her blog, Celebrity Gossip, Academic Style, applies historical and theoretical understandings to celebrity culture. Blog posts range from musings on celebrity scandal (with the touchstones of Miley Cirus and Chris Brown) to Beyoncé’s unsettling feminism. Petersen argued that one way that humanities scholars can intervene in the outside world—and to promote humanistic values—is to demonstrate that they have “smart things to say about things we encounter each and every day.”

Hua Hsu, an Assistant Professor of English at Vassar College, admits that he couldn’t have finished graduate school without writing for public outlets. Contributing to ESPN, Slate, and The Atlantic enables Hsu to embrace new vocabularies and humors, to pursue different research questions, and to make money. For example, Hsu reflects on the sorry state of the NFL as a Grantland staff member, reviews Sianne Ngai as a Slate contributor, and puts The Simpsons in conversation with Ai Weiwei as an Atlantic author. In posts, he brings his humanities work into the public sphere (e.g. Ngai), whereas in other pieces, the two cross-pollinate (Simpsons and Ai Weiwei). Hsu seems to relish the creative tensions between journalists and academics. In his talk, he explained that online writing better connected him with editors and readers than his academic scholarship.

Despite the salubrious effects of public engagement on his academic writing, Hsu admitted that he kept his public work separate, even “secret,” from his institution. Salamishah Tillet, an Associate Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, has also written publicly, in private. Tillet has written about domestic violence and George Zimmerman for The Nation and black feminism (and Tyler Perry) for The Root, and she’s even visited MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry to discuss race relations and abortion politics. Although she’s more comfortable occupying the role of public intellectual today, as a graduate student, Tillet didn’t tell her advisors about her activist writings for fear that she wouldn’t be regarded as a “serious scholar.” If, as Tillet observes, the mandate of a scholar is to act as a cultural worker, institutions ought to embrace semi-public intellectualism because it enables scholars to occupy multiple communities simultaneously and to make humanist arguments to wider audiences.

Each panelist models a both/and approach to straddling the island/perch divide. Certainly, I don’t mean to suggest that semi-public contortions are easy. As evident from the closeted writings of Hsu, Tillet, and Petersen, departments still may not know how to evaluate such engagement. Moreover, writing for a wider public entails subjecting oneself to wider scrutiny, placing texts at greater risk of being read out of context.

Natalia Cecire, a Postdoctoral Fellow of English at Yale University, explained how she began blogging as a means of controlling her online identity (in Cecire’s words, “I have an incredibly Google-able name”). However, when she wrote a skeptical post about statistics wunderkind Nate Silver, she found her online identity—as well as her sex and race—assaulted by young economists who rejected the very notion that the humanities could make knowledge claims. In the words of Cecire, “The audience you’re writing for isn’t necessarily the audience you get.”

Public intellectualism can hurt, but if scholars are serious about charting a path forward for the humanities, these panelists model the courage and entrepreneurship necessary to preserve the island and to expand its terrain.

Upcoming Meeting: Can DH Get You A Job? A Presentation and Discussion of DH Job Descriptions

Mark your calendars! The next FGSDH meeting is in only a few days!

Can DH Get You A Job?
A Presentation and Discussion of DH Job Descriptions
February 26th, 12:30pm
Dealy Hall 115

Come discuss Digital Humanities job postings. Bring one you’ve seen recently, or come to hear more about them and what they want. We’ll discuss what skills DH jobs want, how to read the job postings, and how to make them less intimidating and/or mystifying. We’ll also discuss ways to acquire the skills they want, and how to go about doing so at Fordham and in NYC.

As a reminder: never let “not having done the homework” prevent you from coming to a FGSDH meeting! We’re delighted to see you, and more voices in discussion are always valuable.
–Alisa and Patrick

Can DH Get You A Job? Reading DH Job Postings

Have you encountered job descriptions with requirements like these?
Experience with a technical area of digital humanities such as data visualization, text mining, digital pedagogy, spatial humanities, data curation, network analysis, and scholarly communication

What does a Digital Humanities Coordinator at CUNY do, anyway?

Don’t assume that just because you aren’t a computer scientist, you can’t be eligible for these jobs!

Can Digital Humanities Get You A Job?
A Presentation and Discussion of DH Job Descriptions
Thursday, February 20, 12:30pm. Dealy 203

Bring a job description to the meeting.  We’ll discuss how to read these documents, what the skills involve mean and are, and how to go about gaining some of these skills while a student at Fordham University.

PS: As always, never let “not having done the homework” prevent you from coming to a meeting — can’t find a job description?  We know you’re all busy.  We’ll have extras to discuss!  Please show up anyway: we’ll be delighted to see you and to have another perspective in the discussion.

POSTPONED: HTML Resume Workshop

The HTML Resume Workshop has been postponed: it will not happen tomorrow, Tuesday, February 18th.

Watch this space for updates on when it will take place.  We will be asking for RSVPs for this event so that we can reserve the most appropriate room, and have enough food for everyone at this upcoming lunch-time meeting.

We thank you all for your patience as we deal with snow-day- and Presidents’ Day-related scheduling.