From the resource:
I’ve written about this before: working in groups, my students are assigned a dataset at the beginning of the quarter. They learn how to work with it as the quarter progresses, doing a lot of secondary contextual research, interviewing an expert about it, manipulating the data, and finally building a website that makes a scholarly humanistic argument with the support of the data. You can see the mechanics of this on my course website.
People often ask me about the data I use, and indeed, that is a story in itself. I have 88 students this year, and since I don’t like any group to have more than seven people in it, I have 12 groups, each of which needs a dataset. (Really, some of them can share the same dataset; I don’t know why I get weird about this.) And they can’t just use any dataset. In fact, most of the data out there is inappropriate for them.
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From the report:
RMDH featured an all-star cast of Digital Humanities speakers, including opening and closing keynotes by Dr. Jessica Marie Johnson and Dr. P. Gabrielle Foreman respectively, remarks from Dr. Marcia Chatelain, and an artist talk with Pamela Z. Each of these amazing women left participants with remarkable insights. Professor Johnson incorporated music, videos, literature and mapping to take us to Puerto Rico and New Orleans, to make us consider digital Blackness and Black codes, and what would happen if we refuse Blackness as null. If Johnson’s talk asked us to organize with our digital work, Professor Foreman showed us how. Through a history of the Colored Conventions and Langston Hughes’ poetry, Foreman showcased the digital archiving and organizing work her team at Colored Conventions Project are doing. Pamela Z’s outstanding electronic and contemporary classic performance was only enhanced by her discussion of how our best work comes from mistakes and imperfection—so don’t be afraid of them. Similarly, Chatelain reminded us that failure happens in the academy, and when it does we must move onto the next thing. Her talk on the #FergusonSyllabus showcases how #syllabi are a way for academics to teach and lead the public, as well as show that academics are invested in our society and that we have tools which can be helpful.
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Wikipedia’s gender gap, which results in problems of representation attributed to the lack of women and non-male editors participating in the encylopedia’s production, is by now well-known and well-documented. A groundbreaking survey conducted in 2011, conducted by the Wikimedia Foundation, found that less than 10% of Wikipedia editors identify as women, and less than 1% as transgender. And while multiple efforts are underway to both understand and respond to the systemic bias resulting from this demographic, the problem persists. Many initiatives have sprung up in the years since these demographic statistics were released. One of the most popular of these has been the Art+Feminism Project, a loose collection of academics, librarians, artists and students who have worked together to organize over 280 Wikipedia “Edit-a-thons“, or hands-on editing workshops, since March of 2014. Such Edit-a-thons provide participants with hands-on Wikipedia literacy training and guide them in direct-action editing meant to improve representation and coverage of articles on women and the arts. Sustained attention to the pedagogy behind “Edit-a-thons” opens doorways for critical praxis among other interventions. One such Edit-a-thon, recently conducted at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, provides opportunities for theorizing a type of critical digital praxis that intervenes in the encyclopedia’s systemic bias.
The Arts+Feminism Edit-a-thon, in acknowledging the encyclopedia’s systemic biases and resulting gender gap, provides direct opportunities for participants to reflect on Wikipedia’s ideological biases, and to respond to those biases through direct action. Such reflection and action in digital spaces is characteristic of a type of critical digital praxis, a model for making writing interventions in public digital cultures in order to both better understand the writing activities of those cultures and make meaningful impressions with/in them. In invoking the term “praxis,” we draw from Paulo Freire, whose major work Pedagogy of the Oppressed outlined a concept of liberatory pedagogy intended to empower the oppressed towards revolutionary self-realization.
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Below are my Skype remarks from the Colonial and Postcolonial DH roundtable at the College of William and Mary’s Race, Memory, and the Digital Humanities Conference.
To my mind, the most significant contribution of digital humanities is to developing and sustaining the digital cultural record of humanity. We can debate about definitions and methods, but, fundamentally, the faculty, librarians, archivists, students, and those who work in galleries and museums who are equipped with digital humanities skills are uniquely poised to assemble this digital cultural record. They – we – do this by thinking critically about digital methods for humanities research and objects of knowledge and by building digital archives, maps, databases, and other digital objects that populate the digital cultural record.
Yet, as we engage in this work, we do so in the context of a politics of knowledge that hasn’t always been hospitable to those outside a dominant culture. With a background in postcolonial and African diaspora studies, then, I am inclined read our digital cultural record through the colonial and neocolonial politics that have shaped the cultural record in its pre-digital phases. Edward Said, for example, has offered language for describing how power operates through colonial discourse, representation, and the construction of the othered colonized subject as an object of knowledge. Scholars of Subaltern Studies have pointed out the importance of looking beyond nationalist historiography to recover unheard voices in the cultural record. Benedict Anderson’s work on imagined communities has identified the relationship between print culture and nationalism. And scholars like Gayatri Spivak and Anne McClintock have brought intersectional nuance to colonial cultural production through attention to race, gender, and sexuality. These critiques of the cultural record have not gone away as the digital cultural record has been developed. The digital cultural record has largely ported over the hallmarks of colonialism from the cultural record, unthinkingly, without malice, in part because postcolonial critique has not made many in-roads in the practices of digital humanities scholarship.
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The Library of Congress has released MARC records that I’ll be doing more with over the next several months to understand the books and their classifications. As a first stab, though, I wanted to simply look at the history of how the Library created digital card catalogs to begin with.
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