Literacies in a Digital Humanities Context: A Brief Introduction

Librarians are well aware, as are many faculty, of the intricate relationships between digital humanities (DH) and literacies—information literacy, visual literacy, digital literacy, data literacy, and the like. Scholarship centered on this intersection is spread across books and journals in numerous disciplines, however. Because of this broad range of publication venues, the scholarly conversation around DH and literacies has not always been easy to follow. In response, this special issue is an attempt to bring together practitioners and foster discussion from a number of perspectives, providing ‘on the ground’ applications that, we believe, will encourage and empower our colleagues and peers to engage more deeply in this work.

The first half of this issue represents different takes on digital humanities literacies. Kayla Abner argues for the centrality of data literacy by focusing on threshold concepts illuminated by examples from the digital project Torn Apart/Separados. The next three articles work through how aspects of the digital humanities can facilitate teaching and learning different literacies. Jasmine Clark and Alex Wermer-Colan show how interactive, multimedia experiences can help lower barriers to primary source literacy by describing their work bringing the Charles Blockson Collection to high school students in Philadelphia. Olivia Wikle, Evan Williamson, and Devin Becker discuss how static web technologies (their own CollectionBuilder, in particular) engage students more deeply in the technical systems that enable web publishing. Jared Nistler and Sarah Ketchley provide a case study of an online digital humanities course that engaged a number of digital literacies while teaching the students text analysis using different platforms and approaches. For the final article in this cluster, Jason Crider and Wesley Smith interrogate the concept of digital literacy and ask a much bigger question: is digital literacy the appropriate framing for engaging with digital media today?

The second half of this issue consists of articles that more closely address the intersection of digital humanities and information literacy as expressed in the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. Craig Dietrich, Christopher Gilman, Darren Hall, and Jacob Alden Sargent discuss how they use the Framework’s structure in the design of undergraduate project-based digital assignments and provide specific examples of how they have incorporated the use of digital platforms such as Scalar. Similarly, Rebecca Eve Graff, Emily Grubbs, and Emma Annette Wilson explain how the Framework provided the underpinning for a digital humanities English course devoted to the creation of a digital collection. Colleen Farry explores the Framework’s threshold concepts and how she used them to ground classroom activities; she also provides insight into how she developed her pedagogy while incorporating her pre-existing digital services librarian knowledge and skills. Finally, Kate L. Ganski and Ann Hanlon discuss how they retrospectively applied a Framework lens to the work of a DH Teaching Fellows cohort, and how, by applying that lens, they were able to identify specific frames and ways that teaching librarians can be more deliberate in their incorporation of information literacy concepts into future DH-influenced assignments.

The impetus for this issue came from an informal group of librarians who saw a need for a conversation that examines DH work through the lens of literacies. We hope that this special issue spurs future conversations about this topic and brings new contributors to the table. We know there is much more to explore and, as the disciplinary breadth of this issue attests, there are many connections to be made among librarians, information and instructional technologists, instructors, and students. Together we can explore this subject as a community
and ask how we can effectively disseminate our understanding to our colleagues. And, as we seek to transfer our knowledge to students, ask how do we develop assessment.

These articles are published thanks to the efforts of the editors of this special issue – Melanie Hubbard, Mackenzie Brooks, Jody Perkins, and John Russell – and the members of the dh+lib editorial staff who helped review proposals and submitted articles – Sarah Melton, Patrick Williams, and Nickoal Eichmann-Kalwara. Our thanks also to the authors for their work and their patience as this process was slowed down due to COVID-19.

[PDF version of the special issue in Humanities Commons]