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Interdisciplinary Readings in Digital Humanities

This fall, I’ll be teaching 946: Interdisciplinary Readings in Digital Humanities. This is a new course (it’s only been taught once before) that is part of our new Graduate Certificate Program in Digital Humanities at unl. The syllabus (in pdf) is now available online [Last Modified: Sun Aug 25 11:14:33 cdt 2013]

Our intention is to rotate this course (which is cross-listed between English, History, and Modern Languages) among our many faculty in dh. Since our faculty specialize in everything from text analysis, 3d modeling, textual criticism, and digital archives, to text encoding, gis, digital history, and archaeology, I suspect the content of the course will change – sometimes radically – each time it’s taught. I think the faculty not only expects this, but welcomes it.

My own version, of course, has its own particular cast. Here’s the course description:

The Certificate Program in Digital Humanities at unl is mostly focused on helping graduate and post-baccalaureate students acquire the skills and methodologies necessary for doing professional scholarly work in the humanities using digital tools, frameworks, and media. This course attempts to complement that training by taking a much broader view—considering not only digital humanities, but technology itself within wider cultural, historical and philosophical contexts. Throughout, we will consider not only classic texts in the history of computing, media studies, philosophy of technology, and digital humanities, but some of the newest voices in these ongoing discussions. We will also consider, in less formal and structured ways, some of the specific artifacts of digital humanities work past and present.

I think whenever we talk about computers, we have to proceed from an understanding of what computation actually is. That, of course, is an entire field of study (and the word “actually” is a bit of nonsense), but Davis’s The Universal Computer is still one of the best general-reader introductions to the “mathematical history” of computing I’ve yet read, so that’s on there. I also feel like there are a number of classics in the field of computing and media studies that students have to have read, even if they aren’t in the foreground of contemporary discussions (how can scholars of computing and media not know Turing, McLuhan, Benjamin, and Haraway?). We want to talk about interactivity, virtual reality, and the Web, but despite brilliant contemporary discussions of these matters, my favorite way to get a discussion moving in a classroom environment is to engage with what I call “first contacts” – the first people to think about online environments, mice, hypertext, cyborgs, virtual reality. And then there’s the latest work. What is hot right now? What sort of discussions would you be likely to hear if you were to attend a dh conference or symposium in 2013?

Absent from the syllabus are particular sites, tools, forums, and other manifestations of concrete work in dh. I hope to let those manifestation just “come up” in our discussions, so we can think – right on the spot – about the ways in which dh is (or is not!) engaging with, reacting to, or manifesting some of the technological trends we see in these (older and newer) discussions.

Since this is a reading seminar, I really want the students to read and talk a lot, and write a little. I hope to set up individual blogs, and I’m going to try to highlight those on twitter for anyone who would like to follow along. We have some very bright (not to mention technically savvy) students at unl, and I think onlookers will enjoy hearing what they have to say.

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