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Thank you. ### Digital Humanities…. Public humanities… I want to ask two question in this talk: How much do they overlap? How can they overlap more? I’m going to start by spending a little bit of time defining the digital humanities, and the public humanities, and then I’m going to focus on teaching. # In particular, I want to think about how one might teach a public humanities course that is fifty percent digital. #And conversely, what about a digital humanities course that
was concerned with the public? What might that look like? What might we gain out of doing that? I used the word #overlap, and so of course, the next thing you’ll expect to see is a Venn diagram. Let’s say there’s something called #“the humanities” – I won’t try to define that. There’s some subset of that that Eric Johnson of the UVA Scholars Lab calls # “open humanities.” He #defines it thus: the open humanities are those aspects of the humanities aimed at democratizing production and consumption of humanities research.” Mostly, but not completely inside the open humanities are the #public humanities, and the #digital humanities.” #This talk focuses on the overlap between the digital and the public. It seems to me that there are three kinds of overlap: #Topics – the subject matter. # Tools – the digital humanities tools that are useful for doing public humanities work - and –this is based on Eric Johnson’s work # Style. It’s about that openness.
These are some of the styles that the digital and public humanities have in common.
#Digital humanities means many different things. If you attended some of the sessions yesterday, or this morning, you’ll be familiar with a lot of this. But the digital humanities spends an enormous amount of time defining itself, and I want to revel in that tradition
##I’ve pulled together some quotes from practitioners, and arranged them roughly in order from scholarly to public humanities.
#1. The new tools answer old question approach -humanities computing - Digital tools give us new ways to answer traditional questions: new tools to examine traditional texts and images, and perhaps open up new kinds of texts for examination
#2. Media literacies The traditional questions of the humanities, applied to help us to interrogate and understand the contemporary digital world #3. AN INSURGENT HUMANITIES “Digital humanities, according to the digital humanities manifesto, “have a utopian core shaped by its genealogical descent from the counterculture-cyberculture of the ’60s and ’70s. This is why it affirms the value of the open, the infinite, the expansive [and] the democratization of culture and scholarship.” Tied to remaking of the university in a more open way.
#4. Ian Bogost – Humanities need to be useful to the public #5. A cultural heritage dream: digital humanities makes the world’s heritage available to everyone.
#6. Digital redefines the public sphere
#7. New kinds of outreach -- But in recent decades, the academy’s civic role has weakened: higher education increasingly has been seen as a private rather than a public good. Kathleen Woodward is at the The Simpson Center for the Humanities at the University of Washington – it “ seeks to reverse this trend by taking humanities scholarship public with the new digital technologies. “
#This sums up these approaches. – from new tools to new modes of organization to new topics to new modes of outreach. There’s a lot that is public here – a surprising amount, I think.
But let’s go back to my earlier question
#What if public humanities were 50 percent digital #And what if we set out to teach it that way.
I teach two public humanities overview courses, one theory and one practice. What I’m going to try to do here is to reimagine them as digital humanities courses. What would they look like?
This is sly way of being able to talk about the question: what is public humanities? So I’ll start there, with my Introduction course.
#AMST2650. Introduction to Public Humanities. I’ve taught this a variety of ways over the years…. I’m going to look at some of the big divisions and see how they might change if they were conceived of as being digital, or half-digital.
(AN apology here: I like to set up my courses in subsections, usually three subsections. So, lots of odd triplets ahead!)
#One set of categories I like to use are these: Culture, Community, and Curation #Here’s what they mean. On curation: it’s a scary word to use any more… My students learned curation when curation wasn’t cool… I use it to mean both selecting things to save and interpreting them. – an old fashion museum definition. (In class, I’d assign two or three books that explore each of these categories.) #Now, when we look at these digitally, they work pretty well. There are new forms of culture to discuss, but the word still works. Groups interact differently; there are new groups; and there’s a lot more complicated
curation going on… We might add data curation and visualization in these categories. #Overall, there more fluidity, more openness, more complexity; But one could easily teach a digital history course that used these categories. Now the next group of categories I use to organize public humanities theory. #Us, Them, You. This one, I admit, is odd. But it’s my favorite. One can understand a great deal about the public humanities by understanding the relationships of these groups. Here’s what I mean by each of them… #Us – the professionals. Them: the object of display You: the audience. The course focuses on the relationships between these groups.
(If you want to know more, I gave a whole talk on the changing relationships of these groups – it’s online …
#So, how has this changed with the digital? We need new tools; the “other” has new tools to use for themselves, to speak for the themselves; and the audience, more and more, become co-creators of meaning. #And the relationships between the categories change in interesting ways. Categories become fuzzier.
And there’s one really big difference: what business people call disintermediation. #Let me say a bit about disintermediation. That’s a great word – means you cut out the mediators. Public humanists are the mediators – we often use the word “interpreters,” –
#Curators mediate between museum artifacts and museum visitors. #Oral historians capture memories and stories and make them available to researchers. # Preservationist establish rules for saving historic buildings and landscapes and create tangible cultural heritage. But these relationships are changing – #in a big way. Disintermediation! What role will public humanists play? You could very well do a course that was about the way those changes happen.
How might the course change if it were to focus on this change, on the changing role of the curator, the interpreter, the public humanist?? One might imagine starting with the same set of beginning and end products – museums, research, cultural heritage – and seeing what happens when the anvil of disintermediation falls on them… That’s one way to do a course on the digital in the public humanities..
#There’s another way to approach this. What if the course were “born digital”? What would the categories be if you were to teach a course that was public digital humanities, rather than one that was digital public humanities? Here are some of the categories that might make sense if we were to teach a course that started by thinking about the digital: #Texts / Connections / Visualizations #Markup / Metadata / Modeling # Database / Network / Interaction These are some of the categories that digital humanists think about. Digital humanists are very good at conceptualizing and define more specifically the relationships between their documents and their models, - that’s modeling - and at the relationships of
models and viewers – they call that visualization, or interaction design.
#Let’s compare these categories to the public humanities models I set up earlier. The words are very different. The emphasis is different, too – public humanities theory thinks more about community, groups of people, digital humanities more about relationships of texts and the interactions with them. One could, changing a few words, use the digital theory in public theory; it would be harder to go the other way. Public humanities theory is more general; it uses categories that digital humanities does not use, or not as much. What might a combination look like? What if we shook these up to see how they might fit together? #It might look something like this. Hard to know exactly how to teach this – but it would make both digital and public humanists – all humanists, for that matter – think
about things in new and interesting ways. Culture as text? Sure, that’s what anthropologists do. Clifford Geertz wrote a whole book on the topic. Digital humanities ideas about how to work with text might be interesting applied to culture more generally. Visualization as curation? That works very nicely. In fact, it would be a fascinating seminar discussion to compare and contrast the ways in which one builds virtual and real exhibitions; how much can we learn from visualization theory in the way we do exhibitions and community projects? The digital is ahead of the material here. Interaction and Community? Again, it’s worth thinking about audiences in terms of the interactions and connections between the community and the audience… This one is harder. This is more provocative than really sorted out – but my hope is that the juxtaposition of digital and public
humanities ways of thinking will yield some interesting new possibilities.
#Let’s move on from the theory course to the practice course. This is AMST 1550… coming up this spring! How might we mix digital and public humanities in a way that trains students to do the work of public humanities in a digital world, and brings the interests in the public to the digital world. #Here are some of the categories that I use to think about the work of public humanities. Again, sets of three, big categories with some significant overlap. History and Memory Culture and Community Preservation and Representation
Remembering and Saving
Classifying and Valuing Preserving and Interpreting
These are categories of the work that public humanities people do. To be more specific: #Here are some of the topics that we cover in these classes. #And to be even more specific: These are some of the projects that we might do as part of teaching these topics. (And on, we wouldn’t do all of these in one semester! I don’t want to scare the public humanities students who are here…) It should be pretty clear that nothing here is digital. That clearly isn’t right, anymore. So let me go back to my original question: #What if we said that public humanities should be fifty percent digital ? What do we add, what do we drop? We could easily change some of these to digital public
projects. ##### But that’s on the right way. That’s add digital and shake… #So, lots of good reason to teach the digital in the public humanities. But what shall we teach? #Let me turn to work that Lisa Spiro did in analyzing digital humanities syllabi. Here are the tools and topics she found: #Interaction #Networks #Openness and Copyright #Data and Database #What she didn’t find is perhaps just as interesting: among them representation and interpretation, our public humanities words. #And the other things she found are tools and technologies. There’s a big debate in the digital humanities about whether real digital humanists program. There’s clearly a sense that learning
technologies should be part of the teaching of digital humanities. #So how might we combine these? We might look at some digital techniques that student should learn. There are some very practical ways. There are lots of digital techniques that we might teach students, lots of digital projects that we might use to replace traditional ones. So, we might redefine teaching about #collections to talk about #content management systems, and teach #Omeka, or Pinterest; (I know that putting these two together will annoy the Omeka people; but the comparison and contrast is useful and a good teachingmoment) #Storytelling becomes #digital story telling, and we teach #storiy or iMovie; Instead of #fund-raising, we teach about #viral marketing, and we teach students how to succeed at #Kickstarter. Let me give some examples: #So we might have students build a pinterest instead of an exhibit, like this one.
#Or produce a Storifylike this one #Or a kickstarter project like this one… These are all examples of the digital in the public humanities
# Remember this Venn diagram? On the tools side it seems quite easy to add in digital. Topics, it seems to me might be harder. But on style, we’re already there.
Let me end by consider not the what or the how, but the why. Why should teach the practical side of public humanities in a digital way? #Why go digital? #It’s the real world. When a non-existent museum can raise $1.4 million in a few weeks with a campaign called “Let’s build a goddamn Tesla Museum,” we need to pay attention.
#It demands rigor. Working in the digital requires more rigor, more thinking things through in advance. That’s useful in both the digital and real world… #It is open and public. The public humanities is – or should be – open and public. The digital humanities has accepted openness, transparency, #It allows and demands a more complex view of community. Digital humanists are very good at sorting out connections – community is a key concept in the public humanities, and we can learn from the rigor that the digital humanities applies to the concept. # It has a maker, collaborative mentality that we can learn from. #And finally, and perhaps most important! It’s where the jobs are… That drives a lot in the public humanities world! # # # Thank you.
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