Digital Humanities Abstracts

“New Directions in Interdisciplinary Electronic Pedagogy: Practice, Process, Products”
Lissa Holloway-Attaway Georgia Institute of Technology Lisa McNair Georgia Institute of Technology/University of Chicago Mary Carney Georgia Institute of Technology/University of Georgia Brandy Walker Georgia Institute of Technology/Tulane University

Many computer-mediated communication theorists, particularly those engaged in studies of writing-intensive humanities curricula, affirm the revisionary possibilities for teaching and learning that emerge in the electronic classroom. Recognizing that the introduction of educational technologies into conventional humanist practice radically alters the sites and modes through which meaning and identity unfold, they often celebrate the revolutionary and utopian environments they find developing at the human/computer intersection. In the most optimistic theoretical reflections, computer-technologies and the e-texts they generate de- naturalize communication and foreground the diverse functions, means, and processes of writing, while providing faculty and students alike with opportunities to consciously reflect on issues of discourse and literacy in both digital and conventional contexts. As tools and texts merge, restrictive notions of unitary identity and isolated authority and authorship are revised and re- evaluated, as student-centered and -initiated collaborative learning communities are constructed "on-the-fly." The computers' networking functions extend beyond technical applications into social, political, and rhetorical contexts, and the classroom reconstructs itself as a dynamic, egalitarian site of exchange and reflection. However, for those engaged in the actual realization of these theoretical pursuits, such optimism is often difficult to sustain in the complex virtualities of a technology-infused humanities classroom. In fact, a robust pedagogical support system is necessary to negotiate the specific reconstructions (of identity, learning, and practice) one confronts on the front-lines of the humanities computing revolution. The School of Literature, Communication, and Culture (LCC) at the Georgia Institute of Technology offers a rich context in which to explore the practical realities of electronic pedagogy, technical innovation, and curricula development and delivery in humanities classes. LCC faculty share a commitment to interdisciplinary work at the theoretical and applied levels and integrate their interests in educational technologies and new media research and development with conventional humanities studies. In particular, the freshmen undergraduate writing program offers students a dynamic technology-driven educational environment to explore computer mediated communication and composition fundamentals through an interdisciplinary cultural studies approach. While deploying custom-designed synchronous, asynchronous, and hypertext applications within the curricula, the program also offers an innovative and intensive electronic-pedagogy support system for freshmen writing instructors to examine critically the revolutionary practices in which they are engaged. The individual panel discussions that follow explore the strategic objectives necessary to sustain a critical perspective on humanities computing initiatives, as well as provide specific examples that foreground alternatively models of the practice, process, and products of interdisciplinary electronic pedagogy. Collectively, they discuss positive forms of resistance in pedagogical practice to counter utopian idealism, while providing practical guidelines to navigate the inevitable dissensus and chaos that results when humanities studies and technology intersect. Each panel participant will prepare a 10-15 minute presentation leaving considerable room for audience discussion of the key issues foregrounded in the panel as a whole.

Re(media)l Training: Developing an Integrated Pedagogical Support System for Human|Computing Initiatives

Lissa Holloway-Attaway
The integration of computers into humanities-studies requires the development of attendant pedagogical methodologies to support the new discourses and media that result, and LCC's interdisciplinary writing program provides a critical and instructional framework to support the rich educational opportunities it creates. In her presentation, Lissa Holloway-Attaway will provide an overview of LCC's Brittain Teaching Fellows and Electronic Pedagogy Certificate programs to demonstrate the ways in which pedagogical and curricular development can combine with technological initiatives to provide a strong foundation for humanities computing research. The Brittain Teaching Fellows, who comprise the majority of freshman writing instructors, are recruited in a national search from a variety of disciplines and bring a range of critical approaches to explore technology- infused communications within a cultural studies context. Additionally, their participation in a two-year Electronic Pedagogy Certificate program creates a sustained and critically-informed approach to the use of electronic technologies and media within humanities programs. The self-reflective and recursive practices in which they are engaged establish a core community of researchers who participate in the strategic development of tools, media, and resources within the established interdisciplinary curricula. By examining the institutional motivations and pedagogical objectives informing the development of LCC's interdisciplinary structure and reviewing the tools deployed within the curricula, Holloway-Attaway will reveal both the benefits and challenges of resisting discipline-specific education.

2) TITLE: "Practicing Ethnography in and out of the Electronic Pedagogy Classroom"

Lisa McNair
Ethnography is semi-scientific inquiry into human cultures. It is scientific because it is a process of gathering, organizing and presenting empirical data. It is semi-scientific because ethnography employs an interpretive, humanistic methodology that must account for not only its subject of study but also the nature of the investigation itself. Thus, ethnographic studies are necessarily self-reflexive projects. Electronic pedagogy enables students to observe, analyze and engage in practices of ethnography using multimedia tools that expand the notion of "text." In her presentation, Lisa McNair will examine the ways in which ethnographic studies in technology-infused curricula offer innovative and highly complex opportunities for students to engage in an interpretive analysis of the role and function of the authorial subject. In her course focusing on the culture of the American South, students develop methods of seeing the world around them as a collection of interpretations, including their own individualized viewpoints. Research on the world-wide-web produces a plethora of interdisciplinary ethnography projects already completed and presented. Along with these original offerings, there are many re-presentations of earlier ethnographies, some evocative of the original work, some extremely skewed. Too often the web presents only that which glitters, satisfying ephemeral curiosity instead of delving into "thick description." In these radically condensed and sometimes exploitative presentations lies the opportunity to analyze the primary and secondary practices of gathering material, interpreting, and then presenting it to an audience. Indeed, this is the descriptive task that students complete by using several collaborative and individual methods implemented through technology programs provided by the department. Individually, students compare various texts — written material, photo-documentaries, spoken interviews, and film projects — using reproductions enhanced by image, audio and video files. In groups, students meet in electronic spaces to compile findings, discuss their interpretations and build structured presentations. Both collaborative and individual presentations mirror the multi-faceted reality of perspective: by re-presenting the re-presented and moving through different media, students practice methods of interpretation and examine voluble concepts of fact vs. fiction. Finally, students conduct their own fieldwork, armed with humanistic ways of seeing and electronic methods for illustrating their perspectives.

3) TITLE: "The Writing Process: Teaching Discursive Practices in an Electronic Environment"

Mary Carney
The theoretical approach to writing as a complex amalgam of both discrete and intertwining activities can be productively realized by using the medium of computers to foreground the process. Electronic environments are not only conducive to teaching writing as a process but to exposing idealistic notions of writing as an intuitive and natural exercise. In addition, electronic pedagogy helps to make the discursive practices of a writing intensive course more concrete. In her presentation, Mary Carney analyzes humanities computing as a methodology to foreground the writing process and simultaneously provide a concrete engagement with the theoretical and critical practices of cultural studies. For the final project in her course that examines representations of warfare, students engage in interdisciplinary analysis of a war artifact by integrating a description of one war technology, a brief history of its inception, and an analysis of one of its cultural implications. The writing process throughout this project is made visible through a number of assignments using custom- designed electronic tools. Through synchronous and asynchronous modes of communication, in both conventional and electronic discussion, students highlight and practice the "process" of writing with clearly defined assignments designed to foster an awareness of not only their own discursive practices but of their fellow students and of a broader research community. The writing intensive assignments developed through a variety of electronic conferencing applications encourage early "play" with relevant discourses and contribute to the ultimate acquisition of complex critical vocabularies and approaches. For undergraduates, online and conventional resource materials can easily overwhelm students and restrict them to an unfocussed cycle of research and revision, impeding their ability to find appropriate critical approaches to their subject. Collaborative electronic spaces provide opportunities to practice revision skills and to comprehend research as a form of critical practice where authorial identity must be challenged. While mediating the complex discourse communities they create and critique, students must confront the chaos of multiple authorship and uncertain authority in the electronic environments that both uphold and disrupt their rhetorical practices.

4) TITLE: “A Century of Collaboration: The Products of Electronic Research”

Brandy Brown Walker
Humanities computing enterprises offer new ways to conceptualize learning as a collaborative process. Collaborative efforts in turn provide more holistic understandings of discipline specific and interdisciplinary topics. Electronic pedagogy provides students with the tools and strategies to approach their topic from a variety of disciplinary perspectives in order to maximize the potential for learning. Such potentials allow educators to help students move from traditional assignments isolated from other students’ products, to assignments that both supplement and engage in conversation with other students’ work. Courses that focus on interdisciplinary collaboration can then potentially develop resources that have both more breadth and depth than students working in more traditional and discrete modes could produce. In her presentation, Brandy Walker will explore the benefits and challenges that collaboration brings to interdisciplinary pursuits. Students in her course on science, technology and culture ultimately build a database of information and research that reflects both individual scholarship and collaborative production of materials. Moving through a series of assignments that provide breadth to a historical investigation of advancements in science and technology and their impacts on culture, to assignments that explore in depth specific circumstances surrounding particular inventions and discoveries, Walker’s class collaboratively builds a web of timeline and research resources. The final product of this course is a collaborative resource of student work informed by interdisciplinary goals achieved through committed application of electronic pedagogy. When the learning process reflects a multiplicity of research efforts, students gain a more comprehensive view of their subject. In this course, a century of science, technology and culture would be inconceivable without the collaboration that new directions in interdisciplinary electronic pedagogy provide. However, such rewards are not without consequences; both students and instructors face challenges in negotiating and strategically managing the process through with these collaborative efforts are realized.