Conferences Digital Humanities Digital Pedagogy Reflections

DHSI/digped FTW – Pt. 1

Computer Case Key
Computer Case Key by Collin Allen, on Flickr

While I’m still in the slipstream of DHSI, I thought I’d try and sketch out some of the best bits. I’ll come back with further pts. as they gel.

DHSI, for those of you who don’t know, is the acronym for the Digital Humanities Summer Institute, held every summer for the past ten years at the University of Victoria. Julie Meloni wrote about it for Profhacker a few years ago, describing it as “Academic Summer Camp”, and “grown up nerd camp.” I like that. It is an intensive week-long gathering of digital humanists and pedagogues – and, as Kathy Harris would describe them, the digi-curious. This year 423 of us attended, almost double last year’s attendance. DHSI isn’t like traditional conferences, where you opt in (or more likely out) of a slate of panels and then get together for a networking cocktail party. Rather, the imperative is that attendees take (or teach) one course over that period, with the option of attending colloquium and/or unconference sessions … and trying desperately to find a few minutes to sleep. Five days feels like fifty. And I mean that in a good way. It’s a rare, lightning-in-a-bottle gathering of people who have been slogging it out in the trenches since before the digital humanities were widely known, as well as those who are just getting hip to what it’s all about. To continue with the camp metaphor, this year I felt more than ever like a CIT. And again, I mean that in a good way.

I co-taught the Digital Pedagogy course with Jentery Sayers and Katherine D. Harris. It’s the inaugural run of the DP course at DHSI, and it was fantastic. Teaching with Jentery and Kathy was an eye-opening experience and an incredible rush. Our course participants were a broad mix of academics: professors at all levels, librarians, graduate students – we even had a high school teacher. The syllabus called for a dynamic serious of group discussions and workshopped assignments, course instructors and participants collectively produced a remarkable resource site that will live and hopefully continue to evolve. Oh, and Chris Friend produced a trailer for the class that was presented in all it’s glory at the end-of-the-week DHSI competition – erm, show-and-tell extravaganza.

Teaching the course helped me to think about my own teaching process, and  how I can teach smarter. I’ve decided I need to reexamine the fall course I’m planning. The experience reaffirmed again concerns about the horse/cart paradigm: sound learning objectives must be identified before any tools can be applied. It seemed that Digital Pedagogy, which so many bemoan as a marginalized area of DH, is coming into its own. It’s exciting to be at a juncture where the scholarship as well as the praxis of digital pedagogy as scholarship is being defined  – as Robin Wharton reminded us in her colloquium presentation on “Making a Digital Humanist.”  Our course was packed, and many of the colloquium and unconference sessions touched in some way on how important teaching methods are to wider-scale embracing of DH. It would appear that the marginalized are moving to the center.

There’s more to write: reflections on the course, the colloquium, the experience as a whole, and what is coming out of it in terms of my own development as a scholar. Frankly, though, I’ve just hit the exhaustion wall and it’s probably best if I sign off for now.

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