On How Not to Teach the Digital Humanities (see disclaimer)

(Disclaimer: I was looking back through my posts for this semester to make sure I had posted everything required, and I noticed that I never posted this. Thankfully, I still have the document saved to my computer, so I’m posting it here now. Utmost apologies.)

               Ryan Cordell’s How Not to Teach the Digital Humanities was one that caught my eye as soon as I saw the title. Upon actually reading it, I was pleased with its contemplative and analytical tone, but surprised at the sorts of criticism it contained, specifically regarding Cordell’s idea that pieces grappling with the question of “What is DH?” were commonplace enough to arguably form their own genre. This definitely got me thinking about my own personal application of the digital humanities: do I spend, or have I spent too much time questioning what it is? Should I be focusing less on defining or considering what the digital humanities is, and more on working within it?

               In reference to his teaching experiences in the digital humanities Cordell notes that he “[has] found ‘Texts, Maps, Networks: Digital Literary Studies’ a more productive and stimulating class than its immediate predecessor, ‘Doing Digital Humanities.’” At first, I took this to mean that he finds digital humanities courses with more specific focuses to be preferable to ones that have a more general, less defined theme. However, after reading through the article a second time, I took notice of Cordell’s discussion of interdisciplinarity.

               At a glance, the title “‘Texts, Maps, Networks: Digital Literary Studies’” suggests interdisciplinarity. The first half of the title defines three semi-related topics, and the second half serves to contextualize those topics within a potentially-separate topic. Cordell writes that “that interdisciplinarity is grounded in [his] training in textual studies, the history of the book, and critical editing.” As I continued further into the article during my second reading, I also realized that his points in the “But Don’t Panic” section of the article each lend themselves subtly to interdisciplinarity. At first, I thought this slightly contradicted his claims about the digital humanities “only [being] a revolutionary interdisciplinary movement if its various practitioners bring to it the methods of distinct disciplines and take insights from it back to those disciplines.” However, perhaps it’s meant to demonstrate that because the digital humanities lend themselves to interdisciplinarity in the first place to a degree, it’s not necessary and in fact maybe even excessive to actively pile more interdisciplinarity into it.

               Something that absolutely stuck with me from the piece is his mention of a student using Tumblr as a platform to analyze fandoms. Especially recently, Twitter seems to be dominating the web as the go-to social media site for scholarly projects. While Twitter absolutely has value for such projects, constraining oneself to a single social media platform is almost certainly limiting. While this is a relatively minor part of the piece, it was extremely refreshing – maybe this was only the case for me, though.

               I bring this up because it led me to explore the keyword “blogging” on Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities. I’ve explored a collection of words on the site for my other classes, but blogging never struck me as one that I’d want to examine. Out of the artifacts there, I was most drawn to Karen Cooper’s graduate-level class syllabus, “Social Media and Digital Collaborative Applications: Microblogging.”

               Upon closer examination, the syllabus was significantly removed from most syllabi I’ve looked at critically, although this is in part due to me having few opportunities to look at graduate-level syllabi. That aside though, Cooper’s choice to make “weekly microblogging, analysis, and implications” worth a very significant part of the grade was a very interesting one, at least to me, although it made sense considering the course at large. The fact that the course also “has no required [textbooks]” caught me off guard as well, but again, it’s not the most uncommon choice, especially since the syllabus implies online readings. The syllabus depicts the course as strongly distinct and incredibly focused. While my own distaste for platforms such as Snapchat would steer me away from running a course just like this one, I can’t help but want to try setting a syllabus for a course in the same vein as this one – focusing on the usage of one-to-three platforms and building curriculum and assignments around them.