Visionary Cross Project report slides (ISAS 2013)

Here’s a link to the slides we just presented on the Visionary Cross project at the biennial conference of the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists (ISAS 2013 Dublin)

(Click on the image to access the file).

tags:


English 3601a: Chaucer (Fall 2013)

This is a preliminary syllabus. It is subject to change before the last day of the Add/Drop period.

About this course

English 3601 introduces students to the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, the best known English poet of the high middle ages. This course is a companion to English 3401, Medieval Literature, and English 3450, Old English.

This section takes a constructionist and collaborative approach to student learning. Students will be expected to take responsibility for the direction of their learning under the mentorship of the instructor.

Times and location

  • Time: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 3:05-4:20pm
  • Location: W561.

Office and Office Hours (Subject to change)

My office is room B810B. My telephone numbers, a map, and other contact information are available on my Contact page.

Mon 13:30-14:30
Tues [By appointment 1900f Appointment
Wed 11:00-12:00
Thur 12:05-13:30
Fri 14:30-15:30

Detailed description

English 3601 introduces students to the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, the best known English poet of the high middle ages.

The Calendar describes the course in this way:

The writings of Geoffrey Chaucer, including selected minor works and major works such as The Canterbury Tales and Troilus and Criseyde.

As this suggests, our main goal will be to become familiar with this canonical English poet. This will involve learning about his language and time and of course reading his works.

Reading Middle English requires some effort on the part of students, though our textbooks are well glossed. In addition, Chaucer’s period was quite different from our own in many ways. An important part of our work this semester, therefore, will involve probing our own understanding of this author and his work. What do we need to know in order to understand Chaucer?

Answering this will require us to engage in active reading. As the semester progresses, students will be expected to keep a weekly research journal in which they report on the questions they developed and what they did to go about answering them.

Learning goals

The principal goals of this course are to learn to read and respond to Chaucer in the original Middle English with confidence. By the end of the course, students will be expected to demonstrate:

  • A fluency in reading Chaucer’s Middle English
  • A detailed knowledge of Chaucer’s major works and selected minor works
  • A familiarity with the history and culture of Chaucer’s society and a knowledge of the outlines of Chaucer’s career and importance to contemporary and subsequent literary history
  • An ability to formulate and answer appropriate research questions in Chaucer studies.

Texts

Required

  • Chaucer, Geoffrey, Canterbury Tales. Ed. Robert Boenig and Andrew Taylor. Peterborough: Broadview.
  • —. Dream Visions and Other Poems. Ed. Kathryn L. Lynch. Norton Critical Edition. New York: Norton, 2006.
  • —. Troilus and Criseyde. Ed. Stephen A. Barney. Norton Critical Edition. New York: Norton, 2006.

Optional

Assessment (Subject to change)

There are two kinds of assessment in the class, Formative and Summative.

Formative Assessment is intended to assist students gauge how well they are learning the material of the course. This material is graded on a 100%/0% basis: if your work shows you have made a good faith effort to do the assignment, you will get 100%; if it doesn’t or you don’t hand it in, you will get 0%. For some formative assignments I will also assign a letter grade. This is intended to give you a more fine-grained sense of your performance but only your best two formative letter grades will count against your final grade.

Summative Assessment is intended to let others know how well you learned the material of the course (i.e. the people who to whom you give your transcripts). This material is graded on basis of a standard letter grade.

Formative assessment

1) Attendance 10%
2) Seminar Leadership 20%
3) Letter of Intent 5%
4) Prospectus 20% + Letter Grade
5) Poster 10% + Letter Grade
6) Poster Presentation (“Slam”) 5%
7) What I did/did not know about Chaucer, his age, contemporaries, or culture 10% + Letter Grade
8) Middle English Pronunciation 10% + Letter Grade
9) Translation and content review 10% + Letter Grade

Summative Assessment

Assignment Value
A) Average of Formative Exercises 20%
B) Average of Best Two Formative Letter Grades 10%
C) Blogs 20%
D) Research Project/Essay 30%
E) Final Exam 20%

Grade scale

  Excellent Good Satisfactory Poor Minimal pass Failing
Letter A+ A A- B+ B B- C+ C C- D+ D F
Percent range 100-94 93-90 89-86 85-82 81-78 77-74 73-70 69-66 65-62 61-58 57-50 49-0
Conventional value 100 92 88 84 80 76 72 68 64 60 56 49-0
Grade point 4.0 3.7 3.3 3.0 2.7 2.3 2.0 1.7 1.3 1.0 0

I use this table in different ways depending on the nature of the work.

  • For tests of specific skills or knowledge (such as identification questions in literature classes, or fact-oriented tests in grammar and language classes), I usually assign a numeric score, which is easily converted to a percentage.
  • For essays, presentations, and other qualitatively evaluated work, I usually grade by letter. This is then converted to a percentage using the third row (“Conventional value”). Thus a letter grade of “A,” for example, will be converted to 92% for purposes of calculation. A letter grade of “D+” will be converted to 60%. A grade of “F” is assigned an arbitrary percentage based on my sense of your performance. Usually this is a common fraction (e.g. 40%, 33.4%, 25%, 10%).

In marking work I try to keep the University’s official description of these grades in mind (a description can be found in the University Calendar, Part IV.3.a). If you get an A it means that I think that your work is excellent; a B means that I think that your work is good; a C means that I think that it is satisfactory; a D that I think that it is barely acceptable (minimal pass); and an F that I think that it is failing to meet University-level standards.

Submitting Work

Tests, Exams, and Quizzes

Tests and Exams will be written in the University’s Testing Centre on Moodle. Quizzes may be presented in class on Moodle.

Essays and Reports

Essays and reports will normally be collected using Turnitin. Information on our account (URL, ID number, and Password) will be made available in our class space on Moodle: http://moodle.uleth.ca/

Class schedule (Subject to change)

Week Date Topic Reading Assignment
1 Tue. 3/9 No class
Thur. 5/9 Welcome Syllabus, assessment, and language Scott Kleinman, Introduction to Middle English.
2 Tue. 10/9 Introduction and Short Poems
Close group reading
  • “Words of Chaucer to his Scribe Adam” (ed. Lynch)
Blog: All students (Due midnight before class)
Last day to add/drop
Thur. 12/9 Close group reading
  • “Lack of Steadfastness” (ed. Lynch)
Blog: All students (Due midnight before class)
3 Sun. 15/9 “What I didn’t know…” due Midnight on Turnitin.
Tue. 17/9 Close group reading
  • “To Rosemounde” (ed. Lynch)
Blog: All students (Due midnight before class)
Thur. 19/9 Seminar 1
  • Parliament of Fowls (ed. Lynch)
Blog: Last names A-L (Due midnight before class)
4 Sun. 22/9-Sun. 30/9 Language and comprehension review (testing centre)
Tue. 24/9 Discussion
  • Parliament of Fowls (ed. Lynch)
Blog: Last names M-Z (Due midnight before class)
Thur. 26/9 Introduction to Troilus and Criseyde Read the Introduction in Barney Blog: Last names M-Z (Due midnight before class)
5 Tue. 1/10 Seminar 2
  • Troilus and Criseyde
Blog: Last names A-L (Due midnight before class)
Thur. 3/10 Discussion
  • Troilus and Criseyde
Blog: Last names M-Z (Due midnight before class)
6 Tue. 8/10 Seminar 3
  • Troilus and Criseyde
Blog: Last names M-Z (Due midnight before class)
Thur. 10/10 Discussion
  • Troilus and Criseyde
Blog: Last names A-L (Due midnight before class)
7 Tue. 15/10 Seminar 4
  • Troilus and Criseyde
Blog: Last names M-Z (Due midnight before class)
Thur. 17/10 Discussion
  • Troilus and Criseyde
Blog: Last names A-L (Due midnight before class)
8 Tue. 22/10 No class (Instructor absence) (Subject to change)
Thur. 24/10 No class (Instructor absence) (Subject to change)
9 Sun. 27/10 Letter of intent due (Turnitin)
Tue. 29/10      
Thur. 31/10 Introduction to the Canterbury Tales
  • Boenig and Taylor, Introduction
Blog: Last names A-L (Due midnight before class)
10 Tue. 5/11 (test). Seminar 5
  • General Prologue
Blog: Last names M-Z (Due midnight before class)
Thur. 7/11 Discussion
  • General Prologue
Blog: Last names M-Z (Due midnight before class)
11 Tue. 12/11 (test). Seminar 6
  • Miller’s Prologue and Tale
  • Reeve’s Prologue and Tale
Blog: Last names A-L (Due midnight before class)
Thur. 14/11 Discussion
  • Miller’s Prologue and Tale
  • Reeve’s Prologue and Tale
Blog: Last names A-L (Due midnight before class)
12 Sun. 17/11 Prospectus Due (Midnight on Turnitin)
Tue. 19/11 Seminar 7
  • Knight’s Tale
  • Cook’s Prologue and Tale
Blog: Last names M-Z (Due midnight before class)
Thur. 21/11 Discussion
  • Knight’s Tale
  • Cook’s Prologue and Tale
Blog: Last names M-Z (Due midnight before class)
13 Tue. 26/11 Seminar 8
  • Prioress’s Prologue and Tale
Blog: Last names A-L (Due midnight before class)
Thur. 28/11 Discussion
  • Prioress’s Prologue and Tale
Blog: Last names A-L (Due midnight before class)
14 Tue. 3/12 Seminar 9
  • Parson’s Prologue and Tale
  • Chaucer’s Retraction
Blog: All students (Due midnight before class)
Thur. 5/12 Poster Slam
15 Sun. 8/12 Research Project Due on Turnitin
Exam Period Final Exam

tags:


The Ideas Create Themselves

I began this week’s rather broad  search under the blanket of the question “How to we teach students to have good ideas?” This is not a very straightforward question, or answer, for that matter. Upon embarking on my search, I discovered this interesting fact: there is a lot of information on teaching creativity. However, there is almost none on teaching innovation or critical thinking. Is this a distinction, or a synonym? Does it matter? It is a subtle nuance, but I believe it represents the distinctions of our society and what it values.

Teaching innovation to students usually comes packaged in the outfit of the sciences. What does this suggest? That innovation is only valued in the practical and practicable arenas of the science world? But does this type of innovation help students write essays? We need them to be able to disassemble something, and rather than build something new, they need to be able to figure out a way to creatively tell you how it was built.

There seems to be a generally accepted theory that states that every child has within himself the ability to generate good ideas, and these ideas will naturally come forth if given the proper outlet, which, fittingly, is exactly what the Unessay suggests. Strategies for promoting creativity in students generally focuses on an open output formula, where the results are not specified and discussion and assignments are student driven. This would suggest that good ideas are generated from the individual, and it is within every students’ power to come up with them.

But, as most instructors have probably noticed,  just because an idea is creative, that does not mean it is necessarily a good one. Are creativity and critical thinking the same thing? I think probably not.

But the consensus seems to be that if you give students the reins to discuss and question, they will figure out which are the good ideas and which are the bad ones. The simple act of discussion and engaging with the material lets a student know whether a topic is worth exploring or if it will be easily exhausted. But as the Unessay proves, students fare far better when given the chance to question and examine.

The most poignant truth I discovered when researching was simply this: we learn by imitation. We seem to believe that students come up with brilliant ideas from within themselves. But they must have learned what questions to ask and where to go for inspiration somewhere.  As one theorist suggests, “when allowed to do what we want to do, we are most likely to revert to whatever we previously found enjoyable and/or successful”.

So what is the solution here? If we learn by imitation, yet students can also to a certain extent create innovation from within themselves, I think the answer is that we need to give them something good to imitate, that they can run with. The Unessay does that by allowing students to explore the areas that interest them while channelling the results and discussion  into a scholarly format. If instructors could find a way to be more transparent about their own idea-generating process, and put more emphasis on teaching students how to tell good ideas from bad ones, and then let students run with it, I think the seeds of critical thinking would easily be born.

 

Works Consulted

http://people.goshen.edu/~marvinpb/arted/tc.html

Gary, William L. “Letting Students Teach Themselves.” Community College Week 15.7 (2002): 4. Web.
McLester, Susan. “Student Gamecraft.” Technology & Learning 26.4 (2005): 20–24. Web.

 


English 1900f: Introduction to English Language and Literature (Fall 2013)

This is a preliminary syllabus. It is subject to change before the last day of the Add/Drop period.

About this course

English 1900 is the introductory course in our department. It is a prerequisite for all higher level courses.

The purpose of English 1900 is to introduce students to the study of literature and to provide opportunity to practice analytical reading, thinking, and writing about texts.

This section of English 1900 will focus particularly on discovery and communication: uncovering our (often unrealised) critical responses to texts and developing these into compelling and interesting arguments.

Times and location

  • Time: Tues/Thurs, 16:30-17:45
  • Location: W561

Office and Office Hours (Subject to change)

My office is room B810B. My telephone numbers, a map, and other contact information are available on my Contact page.

Mon 13:30-14:30
Tues [By appointment 1900f Appointment
Wed 11:00-12:00
Thur 12:05-13:30
Fri 14:30-15:30

Detailed description

English 1900 is the required introductory course in the department. The calendar description is as follows:

An introduction to the study of English language and literature, involving an exploration of various genres of literature and non-literary texts and requiring a series of critical assignments designed to encourage analytical reading, thinking and writing.

Within this broad rubric instructors are free to set their own themes and texts. In this section, our focus will be on discovery and communication: uncovering our (often unrealised) critical responses to texts and developing these into compelling and interesting conversations with others. These are essential skills in literary studies and the humanities more generally. Their acquisition is the principal goal of a humanities education.

We will be taking a constructivist approach to practising these skills. Students will be largely responsible for the direction of class content, within the framework sketched out in the class schedule below. The class will consist almost entirely of in-class discussion, with our topics for discussion being determined for the most part by student interests as reflected in weekly blogging assignments.

The section will also expose students to a variety of different communication contexts. In addition to their weekly blogs, students will also write two “unessays” (free-form writing in which the only requirement is that you develop and communicate your ideas in a compelling fashion), one formal essay (an essay in which you will be graded on both the quality of your ideas and ability to communicate and more formal aspects of style, citation format, and the like), blog responses, reviews, and a final exam.

Learning goals

By the end of the course students should have an understanding of the conventions, processes, and skills required for University-level literary research. This involves the ability to

  • recognise and develop appropriate and original literary topics and arguments
  • identify and marshal appropriate supporting evidence from primary and secondary sources
  • accommodate, modify, or refute arguments and evidence of others in students’ own work
  • present research and arguments in a variety of standard formats including essays and class discussion
  • help themselves and others improve their work through the revision process.

Texts

  • Auburn, David. Proof. Dramatist’s Play Service (January 2002) 978-0822217824
  • Carson, Anne. The Beauty of the Husband. Vintage. 978-0375707575
  • Homer. The Odyssey. Lattimore transl. ISBN 0374525749
  • Sawai, Gloria. “The Day I Sat with Jesus on the Sundeck and a Wind Came Up and Blew My Kimono Open and He Saw My Breasts.” 277-296. A Song for Nettie Johnson. Regina: Coteau (handout).
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (O’Donoghue transl.). ISBN 0140424539
  • Thompson, Hunter S. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. ISBN 0679785892
  • Woolf, Virginia. To the Lighthouse. ISBN 0156907399

Notes:

  1. all texts are required;
  2. to assist you in finding the specific copies we will be using, I have provided ISBN information for the books you are required to purchase. The format used in this list is not the same as that required for the works cited list for your formal essay.

Assessment (Subject to change)

The evaluation scheme presented here should be considered tentative and open to change until the beginning of the last class before the Add/Drop deadline.

Assignment Value
Attendance 5%
Quizzes and participation 5%
Essay/unessay drafts 5%
Responses on student drafts 5%
Blogs 15%
Best essay/unessay 20%
Other two essays/unessays 20% (10% each)
Final exam 25%

Grade scale

In my classes, I use two grading scales: one for formative work, the other for summative.

Formative grade scale

Formative work is usually graded on a pass/fail (100/0) basis. I may also supply a letter grade to give you a finer sense of how you did, but this grade generally does not contribute to your grade. I reserve the right to award a bonus to work that significantly exceeds expectations.

Summative grade scale

  Excellent Good Satisfactory Poor Minimal pass Failing
Letter A+ A A- B+ B B- C+ C C- D+ D F
Percent range 100-94 93-90 89-86 85-82 81-78 77-74 73-70 69-66 65-62 61-58 57-50 49-0
Conventional value 100 92 88 84 80 76 72 68 64 60 56 49-0
Grade point 4.0 3.7 3.3 3.0 2.7 2.3 2.0 1.7 1.3 1.0 0

I use this table in different ways depending on the nature of the work.

  • For tests of specific skills or knowledge (such as identification questions in literature classes, or fact-oriented tests in grammar and language classes), I usually assign a numeric score, which is easily converted to a percentage.
  • For essays, presentations, and other qualitatively evaluated work, I usually grade by letter. This is then converted to a percentage using the third row (“Conventional value”). Thus a letter grade of “A,” for example, will be converted to 92% for purposes of calculation. A letter grade of “D+” will be converted to 60%. A grade of “F” is assigned an arbitrary percentage based on my sense of your performance. Usually this is a common fraction (e.g. 40%, 33.4%, 25%, 10%).

In marking work I try to keep the University’s official description of these grades in mind (a description can be found in the University Calendar, Part IV.3.a). If you get an A it means I think your work is excellent; a B means I think your work is good; a C means I think it is satisfactory; a D that I think it is barely acceptable (minimal pass); and an F that I think it is failing to meet University-level standards.

Submitting Work

Tests, Exams, and Quizzes

Tests and Exams will be written in the University’s Testing Centre on Moodle. Quizzes may be presented in class on Moodle.

Essays and Reports

Essays and reports will normally be collected using Turnitin. Information on our account (URL, ID number, and Password) will be made available in our class space on Moodle: http://moodle.uleth.ca/

Class schedule (Subject to change)

Week Date Topic Assignment
1 Tue. 3/9 No class
Thur. 5/9 Introduction and syllabus
Blogs and unessays
 
2 Tue. 10/9 Sign in to Moodle, update your profile page, and try a test blog
Create an account using your uleth email address at http://www.turnitin.com/
Sawai, “The day I sat with Jesus…” Blog: All students (due midnight before class)
Last day to add/drop
Thur. 12/9 O’Connor, “A good man is hard to find” Blog: All students (due midnight before class)
3 Tue. 17/9 Blog audit Read all class blogs before class, commenting where appropriate
Thur. 19/9 Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Blog: Last names A-K (due midnight before class)
4 Tue. 24/9 Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Blog: Last names L-Z (due midnight before class)
Thur. 26/9 Blog Audit and Unessay Q&A Read all class blogs before class, commenting where appropriate
5 Sunday 29/9 Unessay 1 draft due (midnight)
Tue. 1/10 Unessay Audit Read assigned essays before class
Wed. 2/10 Unessay responses due (before midnight)
Thur. 3/10 Unessay revision discussion  
6 Sunday 6/10 Unessay 1 due (before midnight)
Tue. 8/10 Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Blog: Last names L-Z (due midnight before class)
Thur. 10/10 Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Blog: Last Names A-K (due midnight before class)
7 Tue. 15/10 Woolf, To the Lighthouse Blog: Last Names A-K (due midnight before class)
Thur.17/10 To the Lighthouse Blog: Last Names L-Z (due midnight before class)
8 Tue. 22/10 To the Lighthouse Blog: Last Names L-Z (due midnight before class)
Thur. 24/10 Instructor absence
9 Sunday 27/10 Unessay 2 due (before midnight)
Tue. 29/10 Carson, The Beauty of the Husband Blog: Last Names A-K (due midnight before class)
Thur. 31/10 Carson, The Beauty of the Husband Blog: Last Names L-Z (due midnight before class)
10 Tue. 5/11 Homer, The Odyssey. Introduction and Books 1-8 Blog: Last Names L-Z (due midnight before class)
Thur. 7/11 Homer, The Odyssey. Books 9-16. Blog: Last Names A-K (due midnight before class)
11 Tue. 12/11 Homer, The Odyssey. Books 17-end. Blog: Last Names A-K (due midnight before class)
Thur. 14/11 Unessay review/essay discussion  
12 Tue. 19/11 Auburn, Proof Blog: Last Names L-Z (due midnight before class)
Thur. 21/11 Proof Blog: Last Names A-K (due midnight before class)
13 Sunday 24/11 Formal essay draft due (midnight)
Tue. 26/11 Formal essay style and citation Q&A session Read assigned essays before class
Wed. 27/11 Responses due (before midnight)
Thur. 28/11 Formal essay discussion  
14 Tue. 3/12 Editing discussion Blog: All students (due midnight before class)
Thur. 5/12 Conclusion and catchup
Sunday 8/12 Formal essay due (midnight)
Exam Exam Period Final Exam (Moodle)

tags:


The New Humanities. The Place and Practice of the Humanities in an Age of Ubiquitous Networked Computing.

This is the Letter of Intent submitted by Cathy Davidson, Neil Fraistat, Alex Gil, Allan Liu, Geoffrey Rockwell, and me to the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research Global Call for Ideas Competition.

Interested in the project? “Contact me”:mailto:daniel.odonnell@uleth.ca.

This proposal is about the future of the humanities. But it is not a story of despair, neglect, or decline.

Although humanities scholars and students are increasingly and vitally engaged with issues of broader societal import, discourseabout the humanities often seems stuck in an oppositional register—defining, and indeed at times perversely celebrating, their status as outsiders to or even foes of developments in the worlds of science, technology, and commerce (see Bivens-Tatum 2010).

This is despite the fact that there has never been a more exciting time to be involved in the humanities. The digital revolution that is transforming our world is vitally concerned with questions about the discovery, communication, and reception of culture, knowledge, and self-representation—questions that lie at the heart of humanistic research. The industries that have been most transformed by these new technologies include those with which humanities students traditionally have been most closely engaged. New forms of communication and social organisation are allowing the public greater access to—and opportunities to participate in—humanistic and cultural research. As a proponent of this LOI, Duke Professor and HĀSTAC founder Cathy N. Davidson, has argued, “if the humanities cannot make a case for themselves in the Information Age, something is very very wrong” (Davidson 2013).

It is time to address this disconnect. Our proposal to the CIFAR Global Call for Ideas is to establish a research network that will explore the place and practice of the humanities in this age of (near) ubiquitous, networked computing: investigate how humanities research can help us understand the impact of the ongoing technological revolution and how the technological revolution, conversely, can transform the way humanities research is carried out and understood.

These are questions that have broad implications. The place of the humanities in contemporary society is a current topic in policy, education, business, and technological circles. The impact of the digital on traditional humanities research methods and questions is being taken up by our major humanities funding agencies and scholarly societies. The conclusions this project will reach have the potential to affect the way governments set priorities, businesses and public institutions allocate resources, and individuals and families make decisions about their educational and employment futures. What is needed now is a high-profile, agenda-setting research network that will explore these issues and lead a transformative discussion of the role and place of the humanities in contemporary, networked society.

The humanistic web

The relationship between the humanities and contemporary networked society extends back to the creation of the Web itself. Although it was first developed at CERN, the World Wide Web was not designed to solve a physics problem. As the title of Tim Berners-Lee’s original memo suggests (“Information Management—A Proposal”), the technology that eventually became the World Wide Web was instead proposed as a method for addressing the age-old problem of document preservation, organisation, and discovery. The web’s unexpected value as a conduit for social and cultural information, moreover, became apparent almost immediately: the earliest web photo came not from a CERN experiment but publicity material for Les Horribles Cernettes, a comic singing group made up of lab employees and spouses (Riesman 2013).

The connection between the humanities and the web is also reflected in its engineering. Two of the most important technologies underlying the modern Social Web—XML and Unicode—were developed in part under the leadership of humanities researchers and drawing on the work of humanities research projects such as the Text Encoding Initiative, a twenty-year old humanities and library-science consortium led subsequently by the lead proponent of this LOI, Daniel Paul O’Donnell.

How the web was built, however, is far less important for our proposal than how it is used. From the moment the general public was first allowed access, communication, self-representation, information discovery, and cultural dissemination have been key to the web’s strong growth and global penetration. All but one of the ten most visited sites on web focus on these core activities: search engines and portals (Google [2], Baidu [5], Yahoo [4], Windows Live [7]), social networking (Facebook [1], Twitter [10], TencentQQ [9], YouTube [3]), and reference (Wikipedia [6]). Even the first pure vendor on the list, Amazon.com (8), began its existence as an online seller of books (Wikipedia contributors 2013). Similar activities, with the addition of games, also comprise the ten most popular smart phone applications.

The web’s overwhelming interest in the creation and dissemination of information and cultural material, coupled with an ethos that encourages users to research issues for themselves, has led to greater-than-ever popular engagement with the work of professional humanities researchers. Libraries and archives that post information about their collections online invariably see an increase in demand for their physical holdings. Humanities scholars with a strong online presence receive more requests for advice and enquires about their research than any but the most famous researchers of the pre-web era. New approaches to crowd sourcing and the rise of popular initiatives such as the Wikipedia have created a culture of popular participation and engagement in humanities research that has few historical parallels. And whether it is Steve Jobs arguing that an interest in the humanities provides Apple with a competitive advantage over its arch-rival, or Google developing high-profile tools and research programmes of immediate relevance to students of the humanities, business leaders too have begun to see the ability to understand technology and its place in the world from a humanistic perspective as a core economic and technical skill rather than a simply virtuous adjunct to more practical concerns.

Potential

The time is right for this kind of work. The last fifteen-to-twenty years have seen the rise of a critical mass of researchers with the requisite digital skills and humanistic training, a process in which Canadians and Canadian institutions have played an outsized role. These scholars are leading the introduction of new research techniques to the humanities and adapting more traditional methods to the digital age.

Just as importantly, they are also now leaders in the broader domain. Most organisations focussing on the integrative value of humanities research are led by digitally-active researchers, including the authors of this LOI: e.g. HĀSTAC (Davidson), 4Humanities (Liu and Rockwell), CenterNet and ADHO (Fraistat), GO::DH (Gil and O’Donnell), and the Praxis Network (Davidson). Many traditional humanities organisations and agencies, likewise, are led by scholars with a significant digital profile, including, in North America, SSHRC, the Modern Language Association, and numerous disciplinary societies. Funding agencies too have begun to cooperate internationally in the development of competitions on the integration of technology and humanities research. Recent government initiatives, such as the Canadian consultations on the New Digital Economy and, in the U.S., the appointment of Digital Humanists such as Davidson and John Unsworth to President Obama’s National Council on the Humanities, demonstrate the impact the “digital turn” is having at the policy level.

The pieces, in other words, are in place. What is missing is the catalyst that will allow this sense of moment to develop the kind of high-profile, transformative agenda a CIFAR-supported research network would support.

Excellence

Canada has a history of excellence in pioneering the use of digital technology in humanistic study.

Early and innovative funding programmes such as the SSHRC Information, Text, Sound, and Technology (ITST) networking grants and the Canada Research Chairs programme helped Canadian researchers develop a strong national infrastructure of expertise in the area. Building on the work of Canadian pioneers, including Ian Lancashire, Willard McCarty, Christian Vandendorpe, and the Dictionary of Old English project, these initiatives have established Canadian researchers of the current generation as world leaders in both the new discipline of the Digital Humanities and the integration of technology into more traditional forms of humanistic research. Important contemporary Canadian projects include Synergies, Erudit, the Public Knowledge Partnership, INKE (Implementing New Knowledge Environments), ArticIQ, Global Outlook::Digital Humanities, and the world-leading Digital Humanities Summer Institute. Canadian researchers of the current generation with extensive international leadership in the discipline include Ray Siemens, Rowland Lorimer, Susan Brown, Peter Robinson, Christine McWebb, Kevin Kee, Chad Gaffield, Michael Sinatra, Stéfan Sinclair, and the Canadian members of the team behind this application, Rockwell and O’Donnell.

These people and projects are part of a wide and increasingly diverse global network of researchers, centres, and projects. These include the non-Canadian proponents of this LOI, Davidson, Fraistat, Gil, and Liu, and others ranging from Alliance of Digital Humanities Organisations and the Consortium of Humanities Centers to individuals with well-established international reputations such as, in the U.S., Kathleen Fitzpatrick (MLA), Laura Mandell (TAMU), Ian Bogost (Georgia Tech), and John Unsworth (Brandeis); in the U.K., Andrew Prescott (KCL) and Melissa Terras (UCL); Ernesto Priani and Isabel Galani (Mexico); Jieh Hsiang (Taiwan); Domenico Fiormonte (Italy); and Amlan Dasgupta and members of the Sarai project (India)—to name only a few of the many researchers and organisations around the globe who are engaged with topics of relevance to this call.

Leadership

The core group behind this application are all leaders or emerging leaders in the Digital Humanities (corresponding authors marked with an asterisk). Cathy N. Davidson* is John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke University, co-founder of HĀSTAC and the Praxis Network, and co-director of the MacArthur Foundation/Gates Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competition. She was appointed by President Obama to the National Council on the Humanities in 2011 and is the first educator to join the six-person Board of Directors of Mozilla. Neil Fraistat is Professor of English and Director of the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) at the University of Maryland. He currently chairs the international Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations (ADHO), is Co-Founder and Co-Chair of centerNet, and is Vice President of the Keats-Shelley Association of America. His is also Co-Founder and General Editor of the Romantic Circles Website. Alex Gil* is a recent PhD (Virginia) and textual scholar at Columbia University, where he is Digital Scholarship Coordinator at the University Library. He is a founding officer of Global Outlook::Digital Humanities and organiser of the first and second Caribbean THaT (The Humanities and Technology) camps. Alan Liu is Professor of English at UC, Santa Barbara, founder of the pioneering early humanities portal, Voice of the Shuttle, co-founder and -leader (with Rockwell) of the international 4Humanities advocacy initiative and director of the NEH-funded Teaching with Technology project. Daniel Paul O’Donnell* is Professor of English at the University of Lethbridge, editor of Digital Studies/Le Champ Numérique, former chair of the Text Encoding Initiative, and co-founder of Digital Medievalist and Global Outlook::Digital Humanities. He is Principal Investigator of both the Lethbridge Journal Incubator and the Visionary Cross 3D visualisation project. Geoffrey Martin Rockwell* is Professor of Philosophy and Humanities Computing at the University of Alberta and a former Director of the Humanities Media and Computing Centre at McMaster University. He is currently the Director of the Canadian Institute for Research in Computing and the Arts and a network investigator in the GRAND Network of Centres of Excellence that is studying gaming, animation and new media.


Works cited


Bivens-Tatum, Wayne. 2010. “The ‘Crisis’ in the Humanities”. Blog. Academic Librarian. November 5. http://bit.ly/19mSkN3.


Davidson, Cathy N. 2013. “It’s Not a Crisis in the Humanities, It’s a Crisis in the Society | HASTAC.” Accessed May 12. http://bit.ly/175HGuQ”.


Wikipedia contributors. 2013.“List of Most Popular Websites.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. http://bit.ly/14m3Mq3.


Riesman, Abraham. 2013. “Crossdressing, Compression and Colliders: The First Photo on the Web.” Motherboard. Accessed May 26. http://bit.ly/13jqWeb

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Journal Incubator Poster (Digital Humanities 2013)

There was a lot of interest in the Lethbridge Journal Incubator project poster yesterday at the Digital Humanities 2013 conference poster session at the University of Nebraska.

A thumbnail image of the poster comes below (there is also a letter-sized version). You can get the original PDF here

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Global Digital Humanities Essay prize: Interim report

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This article traces the commonly perceived origins of the form,  describing its basis in the realm of current-traditionalism, which had its day between 1870-1920. While the article is actually questioning the origins of the form in this period, it does concede the solid placement of the form within the period which I think is worth describing here. Read the rest of this entry »


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