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Editors’ Choice: Teaching Underrepresented Students How to Navigate Higher Ed Via Digital Humanities

This is the third part in a multi-part series about participants in the Race, Memory, and the Digital Humanities conference. This series features public intellectuals discussing digital literacy issues.

“He was always on the lookout for what the next big thing would be, and made sure I knew about it.” In an email interview with DML Central, Parham explained that her grandfather was also an enthusiastic booster for tennis as a sport, although “pre-Williams sisters” women of color like Parham might have felt hesitant to follow his lead. “The tennis didn’t take, and we never got the Kaypro, which was, of course, too expensive and too useless for an 8 year old. But, the imagination of that computer did take hold, and soon after, we went to Sears to buy me a Commodore 64.”Professor Marisa Parham of Amherst College, who has led the Five College Digital Humanities initiative has a long history with digital media. “My earliest experiences with computers and devices mainly stemmed from my grandfather’s obsession with Kaypros in the 1980s. I was 8 or 9 years old. He would take me downtown to ogle what must have been some iteration of the Kaypro II, which for some reason, we found more intriguing than the Compaq II, though I remember thinking that the Compaq was hideous to behold.

As a future digital humanist, access to home computing proved critical to her literacy story. “The Commodore 64 was transformative for me because I could do so many different kinds of things with it. I still remember making my way through Turtle and then Basic. Over the years, though, I spent most of my time playing interactive text narratives, which is an interest I still have today!”

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