What I’m Reading This Summer: Heather V. Hill

Note: As the dh+lib Review editors work behind the scenes this summer, we have invited a few members of our community to step in as guest editors and share with us what they are reading and why the dh+lib audience might want to read it too. This week, we hear from Heather V. Hill, a graduate student in Pratt Institute’s School of Information.  Heather has been working on a project describing the early history of digital humanities with Chris Alen Sula, which she will co-present at DH 2017, and also recently participated in a project analyzing trends in fake news. She holds an MA in Medieval Studies from Fordham University.

Next spring, I will be teaching a course at Fordham University entitled “Digital History and Art History”, an introduction to practical digital humanities for undergraduate and graduate students interested in history, art history, and medieval studies. This post is framed in the context of preparing to teach this course. In particular, I am considering what DH values I want to pass on to my students as well as what areas I may need to become more familiar with to best teach this class.

“This is why we fight”

Spiro, L. (2012). “This is why we fight”: Defining the values of the digital humanities. In M. K. Gold (Ed.), Debates in the Digital Humanities. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. Retrieved from http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/13

Lisa Spiro’s classic essay, “‘This is why we fight’”, addresses concerns about providing an explicit definition for digital humanities and limiting who is allowed in our field. Instead of trying to restrict ourselves to specific methodologies that are often dependent on our disciplines (which themselves vary greatly within DH), Spiro argues that we should delineate our core values to find common ground. Spiro proposes a handful of such values based on manifestos, model statements of value, and her own analysis of the rhetoric of DH; they include openness, collaboration, collegiality, diversity, and experimentation. Spiro’s essay has me thinking about my approach to my own digital humanities work as well as the values I want to instill in my future students. I wonder, do Spiro’s values encompass everything I want to address? Is there a limit to simply having a values statement without action? As Spiro states, her essay is meant to “provide the grounds for conversation.” I hope, therefore, to use it as a start to conversations about social justice, diversity, risk of failure, and more with my students.

Pedagogies of Race

Earhart, A. E., & Taylor, T. L. (2016). Pedagogies of race: Digital humanities in the age of Ferguson. In M. K. Gold & L. F. Klein (Eds.), Debates in the Digital Humanities. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. Retrieved from http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/72

Earhart and Taylor’s “Pedagogies of Race” discourages the rhetoric of expertise and knowledge perpetuated by many digital humanists, and alternatively suggests the implementation of “entry-level technology” with an eye toward student and community participation. They argue that these individuals are more likely to be at the forefront of new developments, therefore serving as valuable interpreters of their research. By keeping digital humanities “small” through employing user-friendly technology and teaching skills like data collection, metadata application, and analysis, scholars can provide better access to DH to those with alternative viewpoints. Earhart and Taylor use this method in their described study of race, violence, and Texas politics. They find that student involvement in these projects allowed for greater engagement with issues of race and social justice, while simultaneously expanding the digital record of these incidents.

Although not explicitly stated, this essay provides a response to Spiro’s chapter in the previous edition of Debates. Spiro’s piece was a call to action and conversation; Earhart and Taylor actually enact them. By lowering the technological expectations to allow students to participate, they actively open up the digital humanities to more people. Similarly, they are contributing to a conversation about diversity and race issues, encouraging a new kind of digital humanist to enter the field. Finally, collaboration is vital to work in the digital humanities. Incorporating students in this project promotes the value of collaboration while simultaneously contributing new points of view, enriching the project altogether.

Evolving in Common

Vandegrift, M., & Varner, S. (2013). Evolving in common: Creating mutually supportive relationships between libraries and the digital humanities. Journal of Library Administration, 53(1), 67-78. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01930826.2013.756699 (open access pre-print via CiteSeerX)

Librarians and humanists are often encouraged to use digital humanities as a means of demonstrating their significance in a world where STEM fields are dominant and humanities and librarianship are often disregarded. In this article, Vandegrift and Varner detail how humanities scholars and library workers can come together to reinforce each other’s significance in such a climate by responding to classic arguments made by prominent digital humanists in libraries. Specifically, Vandegrift and Varner call on libraries to be places where scholars can experiment and repositories where their digital projects as well as digitally preserved materials may be stored and displayed. They describe libraries as a support for the journey of research and encourage librarians to get involved in digital humanities groups online and through departmental events. Vandegrift and Varner conclude that librarians need to be prepared to adapt to changes, big and small, and to lose their “academic inferiority complex” so they may become leaders in digital humanities.

I originally read this article with the thought of collaborating with librarians at Fordham in mind, particularly for my future students. Coming away from it, however, I am thinking about the librarian side rather than the student side. Once I have graduated from Pratt and am moving forward in my career, I need to place myself in a position to work actively with scholars and to be more than a service. I hope likewise to encourage the partnership between my students and the librarians who can act as both a resource and a partner in research projects.

Developing a Qualitative Coding Analysis of Visual Artwork for Humanities Research

Budzise-Weaver, T. (2016). Developing a Qualitative Coding Analysis of Visual Artwork for Humanities Research. Digital Humanities Quarterly, 10(4). Retrieved from http://www.digitalhumanities.org/dhq/vol/10/4/000275/000275.html

The course I will be teaching will encourage collaboration through its co-taught structure. Because I have not studied art history, Fordham’s Katherina Fostano will be teaching students aspects of digital humanities related to this field. However, I want to expand my horizons and learn more about digital art history in anticipation of this new venture. Tina Budzise-Weaver’s article on qualitative coding analysis of artwork offers a brief introduction to digital art history while elaborating on one particular methodology that can be utilized by art historians and other visual scholars. Budzise-Weaver describes the usage of ATLAS.ti, qualitative data analysis software, on artwork by Roy Lichtenstein and Roy Rosenquist to code human reactions to specific iconography using visual grounded theory. Although I am not well versed in this area, I felt as though I could roughly follow Budzise-Weaver’s research, and I appreciate how thoroughly she defines her methodology and the technological aspects of her scholarship.  Additionally, Budzise-Weaver wants to emphasize the possibilities with this methodology for students and scholars, who may now take advantage of digitized images through the use of qualitative analysis tools. As part of this endeavor, she highlights the role of libraries and museums in digital art history and in students’ development in both physical and online classrooms.

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Heather Hill

Heather V. Hill is currently a graduate student in Pratt Institute’s School of Information. While attending Pratt, Heather has been working on a project describing the early history of digital humanities with Chris Alen Sula, which she will co-present at DH 2017, and also participated in a project analyzing trends in fake news. Prior to her program at Pratt Heather earned her MA in Medieval Studies at Fordham University, where she became interested in DH and helped manage several mapping and text analysis projects for the Center for Medieval Studies. Next spring, Heather will be teaching a course at Fordham entitled “Digital History and Art History”, an introduction to practical digital humanities for undergraduate and graduate students interested in history, art history, and medieval studies. Heather’s entry for the 2017 edition of “What are you reading?” is framed in the context of preparing to teach this course.