Digital Humanities

Nathalie's Thoughts

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

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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.


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

  1. Its interesting to think about how multimodality might change students perceptions of themselves as authors or their understanding of authorship…


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