Digital Humanities

Nathalie's Thoughts

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Olin Bjork’s “Digital Humanities and the First Year Writing Course”

Bjork’s chapter outlines how digital humanities helps to avoid the limits that the definition of a discipline creates. He argues, “composition studies is moving toward digital humanities even as it moves away from the material humanities, or that the humanities in becoming digital, have moved toward composition studies.” By outlining different projects in new media, DH and the comp classroom, Bjork shows shared values and differences to explore how digital humanities provide instructors of the first year writing classroom to guide students in a wider range of writing and those processes.

I agree with Bjork’s claims about the purpose of the first year writing classroom. It’s not a space that focuses on one form or on content, but should instead incorporate new media and various modes and forms (119). Bjork also discusses contemporary culture as part of the content of first year writing classroom, which I would argue surfaces in digital rhetoric and writing spaces that many students use on a daily basis such as blogging, audio, video work. Bjork argues that composition is moving towards the digital humanities. He outlines the parts of digital humanities; the first wave being computing information and the second area being digital media studies. Contemporary culture is part of the content of the FYC as technologies become part of what is studied instead of solely being just tools.

His work correlates to a lot of my own work as I argue we must broaden the definition of writing studies (avoiding the limits of a discipline as he claims DH can work against) to encompass work that is alphabetic, audio, visual and spatial in order to have students constantly reflecting on these creative processes.  Design needs to be a central discussion and element of writing studies especially with all the work Bjork is describing in new media. In discussing some in class work, Bjork summarizes how design of an electronic edition is computing, the next activity is rhetorical analysis and lastly the reflection on media and design choice is new media (126). For Bjork, students are learning to close read, distant read, and engage in text mining, which are all skills that will be useful to them. For Bjork, bringing qualitative and quantitative projects to the FYC would further disciplinary curricular aims (129). This pedagogy emphasizes the need to analyze cultural studies content, linguistic text analysis and lastly facilitate multimodal literacies advocated by the NCTE and WPA (129).

He explains the divide between humanities computing and new media work as the divide between English literature and composition. Most importantly he raises one of the things I value most, students need to be aware of how to become producers, not just consumers of digital culture (121). The first year writing classroom should not privilege one form, or one literacy, or one text, but instead work to incorporate many forms and medias. Digital humanities can provide more opportunity for these goals in the FYC as described in the assignments Bjork shares.

Rhetoric and the Digital Humanities by Ridolfo and Hart-Davidson is coming out in Jan. 2015, if interested in the connection between composition and digital humanities and the overview of Bjork’s chapter.


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more researching for chapter

As I’m interested in digital rhetoric and writing my chapter on using tumblr, I’m continuing my research in the area. Today, I read Cynthia Selfe and Gail Hawsiher’s article, “The Rhetoric of Technology and the Electronic Writing Class.” Even though the article is dated (1991), some of the main points they raise are important to consider when writing in digital spaces, but especially s once I’m writing about the use of tumblr in a composition classroom. Selfe and Hawisher describe the positive remarks writing teachers make about using computers in the classroom – it allows for more writing, allows for more conferences online, more collaboration, more sharing, more getting to know one another (133). But Selfe and Hawisher warn teachers to also think about how computers can effect or possibly contradict our pedagogies, as emphasized in the positive notions of computers. They describe a small study they completed and concluded thoughts such as students in peer groups would be completing the task because the teacher assigned it not because they were actively engaged in it. Although, they don’t let the reader know if there were guidelines handed out for this kind of peer-review session or what kinds of assignments were happening. The more interesting part of the essay is when the authors discuss Foucault’s discussion of Bentham’s panopticon, where inmates converse over networks with one another. They apply this to computers concluding that “electronic spaces, like other spaces, are constructed within contextual and political frameworks of cultural values” (137). I found the chapter useful – I’m never really theorizing computers or Word – I suppose I don’t because I was born into this age, where I primarily did school writing on my computer, no matter where I was. But, I’m interested in electronic and digital writing spaces, as I do require students to blog (this semester it’s tumblr), and they are also required to use digication, where they post everything they write, in addition to collaborating with peers and completing peer-review in that space. It seems to me that tumblr allows for students to be as free and open as they want. At least, this is what they have expressed in their reflections on tumblr. In researching online this week, I found this wiki on Digital Writing which I actually found on tumblr. The wiki supports the book, Understanding and Creating Digital Texts: An Activity-Based Approach, by Richard Beach, Chris Anson, Lee-Ann Kastman Breuch, and Thomas Reynolds that was just published this past October. The books provides, “examples for using a range of different digital tools—blogs, wikis, websites, annotations, Twitter, mapping, forum discussions, etc.—to engage students in understanding and creating digital texts. It therefore integrates reading and writing instruction through goal-driven activities supported by uses of digital tools. The wiki provides support tools for the book, for each specific chapter. This is the tumblr page for the book.I’m waiting on this book to arrive in the library to look at it in relation to the tumblr assignments I”m working on in class  now with students. So, I’ll be continuing research this week for writing the chapter. Any recommendations are welcome.

While on a tumblr page for writing pedagogies on line, I found this video that is a summary of The Shallowsb by Carr What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, which is a good conversation to have with students as we ask them to do more and more digital writing. The cat videos – to wikipedia page on pandas made me laugh.

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Tumbling & researching for chapter

I’m thinking about digital pedagogies in class this week because of my work on wordpress with my writing group. As a group, we’re working on keeping a log of our uses of the digital as grad students and as instructors. Last week, I focused on the use of tumblr in the composition class I teach. It’s one of the digital writing spaces we use – where students blog about writing, about our readings and respond to one another by using text, photos, videos, links, etc. In “Weaning Isn’t Everything: Beyond Postformalisim in Composition,” Miles McCrimmon describes the importance of teaching students to aggregate, annotate, reflect and publish. Blogs allows for this to happen. For McCrimmon, tools such as Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, etc succeed to do what he advocates. He argues that we, instructors, must wean ourselves away from one-size fits all assignments (Carbone). I’m specifically interested in this idea as a way to have students navigate the large amount of information they find in digital spaces. Such a digital space, emphasizes collaboration, dialogue about writing, navigating pages and pages of information, echoing what McCrimmon describes. Charles Tryon says in Pedagogy that blogging provides a way “for students to take charge of their writing, to provide them with a sense that writing matters” (128). I see the idea of taking charge in the collaboration, audience and genre mode analysis students must do when blogging. Students have responded well to tumblr in class. Many have stated that they’ve never used it before while others have. But, part of my introducing the tool has to do with creating an awareness of digital writing, writing for a large audience and also thinking about research. Many students choose to post a unique picture or text they created, but most use tumblr as a search engine, find something they want to write about, re-post it and then write about it and how it relates to our class. This requires critical thinking and aggregating as McCrimmon says, then annotating as the student must help the class understand its relation to the conversation occurring in class, then students are required to reflect on the tumblr page and what it means to write in a digital space (reflect) and lastly they must publish the post and reflection piece. Tumblr and other digital spaces for writing allows for these thinking and writing skills to develop. Lanette Cadle writes about blogging as vital for writing instructors and students. She begins her article by stating that blogging is not a new thing. Even though, we need to recognize the importance of the blogging space in relation to building an identity. She quotes the following, which I will share because I think it summarizes the importance of digital writing as part of being aware of multipleliteracies and growing literacies:

J. Elizabeth Clark (2010) asserted that Kathleen Blake Yancey’s (2009) call for 21st literacies cannot be ignored and details how student blogs fit into what she calls “The Digital Imperative.” In this vision for the composition classroom, the blog format itself is studied as a rhetorical construct; links are used to lend source support, and most of all, students gain experience in argumentation the way it is happening now—in “an online arena” (p. 34). Clark added that student blog entries then become high stakes writing, writing that has real consequences: The instant publishing feature of blogs, however, makes blogs one of the highest stakes (although graded as low stakes) forms of writing that my students do; in a single click, they become authors with the responsibility for what they have written. They are also aware of the possibilities for revising if someone in the class challenges the reliability of something they have written. In this way, blogs may be seen as a popular form of Bakhtin’s “cultural software” that gives meaning to the act of writing and help students to develop new habits of thought about writing and its role in their lives. (p. 34)

Blogging allows for multi composition, digital writing, recognizing new literacies, audience awareness, genre awareness and the creation of an online identity. It’s important for students to learn and understand these spaces. As I think about this week’s reading, blogging and tumblr also raise the question of original work, especially when students are using the search engine on tumblr to find something to post. In Eisner’s Introduction piece, she writes, “Instead of policing student writing, teachers need to acknowledge the existence of ‘different discursive communities with different practices and activities.” They urge readers to reframe the discussion of plagiarism in universities and in the media; rather than focusing on theft and morality, teachers should encourage students to understand different genres and contexts and to use academic citation practices.” Tumblr is a space where students can understand a specific digital genre while also encouraging creativity and voice as staed in Eisner’s piece, “even first-year students often prefer to follow a formula, a formula dictated by the organization of the five-paragraph essay. Anne Berggren focuses on classroom techniques for fostering originality in novice writers; she argues that rules may build confidence in the short run, but are destructive in developing a writer’s voice.” Digital spaces and digital writing allows students to explore their use of voice, what impacts their voice, different modes of expression and creates an awareness about the   choices they make while reflecting on those choices to become stronger communicators.