OPEN SOURCE AND OPEN ACCESS

Text from MLA 2017 Talk on DH Forum “Minimal Digital Humanities: Choice or Necessity?” 

This paper engages with Jentery Sayers’ and Alex GIl’s discussion of Minimal Computing on 

 

In April, I will teach what I believe will be the first stand-alone Intro to Digital Humanities course at a community college (CC) in the Pacific Northwest—maybe the first such course at a CC in the country. I call my course “This Digital Life: Reading, Writing and Culture in a Digital Age,” because my students don’t know what “digital humanities” is.[i]

In this course, I will introduce my CC students to a way of thinking about and comprehending the forces around them—the forces that Alan Liu calls the “great postindustrial, neoliberal, corporate and global flows of information and capital” (Liu 491). Community college students’ lives are immersed in precarity wrought by these flows; only the grittiest of them will overcome the bleak economic for economic mobility in America. Articulating how those forces affect them is one of the most important learning outcomes of DH at the CC.

But what are the minimal computing coordinates for CC students? And where does open source fit in an open access environment? I hadn’t really thought of this before reading Alex Gil’s and Jentery Sayers’ definitions of “minimal computing;” I am unsure how to use Raspberry Pi and I can barely work with Markdown templates. I do use whatever tools are available and we’ll read whatever open educational resources we can find. Perhaps, following Gil and Ernesto Oroza, my community college DH course will follow a kind of “architecture of necessity.”

While the surface features of my course are not strictly “minimal,” they share structural affinities to the GO::DH values of maximum access and longevity: My students might read Gil’s and Sayer’s pieces but they will likely write about them using Google or Word on their laptops and email me using Outlook—transgressing minimal computing principles at every keystroke. I think that these definitions of minimal computing themselves point to a set of assumptions for humanistic computing that are worth considering in CC students’ digital lives. 

I’ve practiced not “minimal” computing but what Roopika Risam calls “micro DH.” Since 2012, I have embedded whatever I could invent or learn in all my courses, adopting and adapting from a generous DH Pedagogy Community and translating research so that my students can appreciate the cool factor of big data without slamming up against skill barriers to data mining; and then I send students to Wordle or Voyant so they can work the magic themselves. My students dive into archives and annotate texts using Google docs. Sometimes we “break” Google or Twitter because our computer lab is equipped with lame machines and the systems crash. The Computer Help Desk folks are so used to hearing from me about glitches during class that they respond immediately when I call; if I ever have a classroom emergency, it’s them I’ll call first, not campus security.

Reconsiderations and a Maturing Field

While minimal computing intends to create conditions for maximum inclusiveness, I fear that in practice it may exclude underprepared students in open-access institutions.

The minimalist turn registers the effects of uneven development in the academy. Community colleges are just beginning to recognize the term “digital humanities,” and faculty are just beginning to figure out how digital assignments fit into their courses. In many, although not all, cases, “minimal computing” assignments take maximal preparation–for CC faculty still untrained in the field and for unevenly prepared students.

Jentery anticipates the critique that minimal computing may produce different impacts to different agents in an unevenly developing field.  He asks, “what sort of expertise and decision-making [does minimization assume]” and how do “we define ‘we’ in relation to necessity and simplicity?” (“Minimal Definitions”). Necessary for what? Simple for whom? Under what constraints?

For community colleges, the purpose of humanities education is to empower students with as much mastery of as many tools as possible for full participation in civic and cultural life.  How we define “minimal computing” at the CC needs to support that purpose.  

For I’m not just talking about access to any particular set of digital tools—whether “minimal” or “maximal”–in this regard. Rather, it’s students’ transformed understanding that I am after—the crossing of a threshold from accepting a received cultural landscape to a deep reading of it. Open-access institutions may make use of “maximal” tools as a relay for critically engaging with the digital life they lead. In so doing, they may achieve ends that “minimal computing” principles intend.

Participation, writes Carpentier, is “strongly related to the power logics of decision making” (8).  Carpentier’s foregrounding of power relations and social capital helps us to situate values of minimal computing in an open-access CC context. Looking at Jentery’s comprehensive list of the features of minimal computing, we see that he is going for a maximalist model of participation in stewardship of the cultural record and in knowledge production and dissemination. The list helps elaborate the question that Alex Gil asks—that of “what do we need?” –and imagines a DH architecture of necessity that ensures scholars’ maximal role in decisions and maximal control of future use.

While community colleges share disciplinary affinities with their counterparts at 4-year colleges and universities, these affinities mask power differentials between CCs and their four-year counterparts. Carpentier’s focus on power provides language for recognizing the differences  between four-year institutions and CCs and for responding to those differences.[ii]  This power differential is visible in multiple spheres, but here are a couple of examples to illustrate how it impacts faculty and students at CCs: [slide 1]

  • First, graduate school doesn’t train most humanities graduates for the demands of CC teaching
  • Second, graduate faculty rarely maintain close professional ties with students who land jobs at CCs. I call this the “You’re dead to me” model of mentorship.
  • Effects of this dynamic on professional development have been to create an hermetic CC professional world cut off in important ways from developments in the larger field
  • This dynamic limited what should have been a much earlier diffusion of digital humanities methods into CC curricula.[iii]

Additionally, the role that contingency and precarity play in CC faculty lives cannot be overstated. Part-time/adjunct faculty represent nearly 70% of the instructional workforce of community colleges and 47% of humanities educators overall (“A National Survey” and “Traditional versus Nontraditional Humanities Faculty”). Many part-time or adjunct humanities faculty teach given syllabi or are limited in the texts they can select. Maximal equity in participatory decision-making in curriculum is harder for contingent faculty to achieve.

And what about CC students?

What might minimal computing look like for them and how might they practice it? Student diversity is the open access institution’s best asset and biggest challenge. [1]  Jentery raises the issue of time in relation to reduced consumption (“Minimal Definitions”); working class time orientation is characterized by “precarity”—a sense that struggles in and endurance of the present are more salient than investments in a future imaginary. You could say that CC  priorities are driven by a working class time orientation toward the “short now” and not the “long now” thinking required of the minimal critical movement (“Minimal Definitions”).

How else might “minimal” computing impact students’ full participation?  “Creative failure” and “generative messing around” may directly challenge an already profound sense of what Walton and Cohen call “belonging uncertainty.”  Experiences of failure that middle-class students may simply slough off disparately impact minority students’ sense of belonging and social “fit” in college. CC students are already “doing the risky thing” (Fitzpatrick)—they’re going to college. Trial—and especially error–around spartan and user-unfriendly interfaces can challenge even the most confident of lifelong learners.  Recently, I fell short of completing a Github pull request after many tries, and I had the humbling experience of standing on the wrong side of a threshold. Perhaps for CC students, commercial interfaces are the “architecture of necessity” (Gil)– the best way to ensure that they cross important thresholds when taking on digital projects.

When I was reading about minimal computing, the words “syntactic sugar” and “syntactic salt” popped up. This language of low-processing and elemental design pepper minimal computing definitions and put me in mind of the language of food politics–Whole Foods, organic produce, farmers’ markets and distributed pantry movements. Why is it, I wondered, that the advantages of bypassing the supermarket to ensure maximal autonomy are only realized by middle-class families with huge domestic square-footage and mini-vans? Do the conflicting urgencies of class and environment operate in minimal computing?

If they do, what kind of computing can help CC students comprehend and intervene in the high-speed, overprocessed environment of their “digital life”? Thinking of supermarkets led me to consider how McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell and KFC leverage food deserts for profit. I looked up the Food Desert locator data visualization map posted by the USDA [Figure 1 “Food Desert Map”], and then quickly also found the Fast Food restaurant map [Figure 2 “Fast Food Locator”]. Then I went back to the GO::DH map that locates DH centers globally [Figure 3 “In a Rich Man’s World: Global DH”] and created my own DH at the CC data viz map using Google Maps to see what it might reveal. This was networked computing toward a local end [Figure 4 “The Only CC Digital Humanities Faculty in the PacNW Flies to the MLA”].

So I’m saying that “maximum” computing can serve “minimal computing” ends of inclusiveness and participation, but I do know I need to avoid creating conditions for CCs to become digital equivalents of food deserts. A sole diet of Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat et al. could play into a lifetime of dependence on overprocessed commercial platforms. Meanwhile CC students’ four-year counterparts at Honors Colleges and First Year Interest Groups tinker with their Tiny Linuxes, “healthy choices” and “whole foods” of Raspberry Pi. But for now, that’s where my staircase ends.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] CC Student facts: There are 992 public community colleges in the US, and community college students make up 46% of all undergraduates in the US and 41% of all first-time freshmen. Sixty-one percent of Native American college undergraduates are enrolled in community colleges; 52% of Black students and 43% of Asian/Pacific Islander undergraduates are enrolled in community colleges; 50% of Hispanic college students begin at community college. In the US, 59% of community college students are enrolled part-time, and 59% are women (American Association of Community Colleges, “Enrollments”). The SES data on CC students are well known (Adelman): 44% percent of low-income students attend community colleges as their first college out of high school as compared to 15% of high-income students (Community College Research Center). Sixty-nine percent of community college students work, with 33% working more than 35 hours per week; 22% are full-time students employed full-time; 40% are full time students employed part-time; and 41% of part-time students are employed full-time. And first-generation students make up 36% of community college student populations (American Association of Community Colleges, “Fast Fact Sheet”).

 

[i] I should have heeded Ryan Cordell’s advice about course naming http://ryancordell.org/teaching/how-not-to-teach-digital-humanities/

 

[ii] I want to acknowledge here the existence of many under-resourced four-year colleges and universities as well, and that we are talking about a complex system of power and privilege operating in higher education.  But CCs have an open-access mission and a lower-division or foundational focus, and this puts them at a singular disadvantage in terms of social capital—for students, for faculty within the profession.

[iii] There are some hopeful signs on the horizon in this regard: The University of Washington and CUNY Graduate Center have explicitly engaged with community colleges as a site for expanding public humanities, but the impacts of these initiatives remain to be seen.

 

Threshold Concepts and DH at the CC

DH at CC Course Poster

Spring 2017 DH at CC Course goes Live!

At the Community College Humanities Association PNW earlier this month, I discussed my development of “threshold concepts” for digital humanities as a way of bridging and scaffolding accessible DH work into community college courses–simultaneously teaching a “whole game” approach that is valuable to all students while also preparing transfer students for a 21st century humanities education. Powerpoint is here: this-digital-life

Actually I retrofitted threshold concepts onto course assignments I had already developed or am in the process of developing for my Spring 2017 Intro to DH course entitled “Reading, Writing and Culture in a DIgital Age.” I took a page from Ryan Cordell’s wise essay and chose a title that refers to concrete practices that novice humanities students and Gen Ed students alike would recognize.

Here are some of the assignments that I’m still tinkering with–some of them are in the process of being developed, some have already worked successfully. One assignment is adapted out of a lengthy and sophisticated assignment in Bruno Latour’s “Scientific Humanities” MOOC and another was inspired by Jena Osman’s Public Figures book and website to provide opportunities for students to practice humanities methods of observation, analysis and creative imagining in their daily lives.

Humanities Computing or Digital Humanities is…

—About the Book

…About how algorithms-organize-information-essay-wr122

…About anticipating questions anticipate-your-audience-faqs-assignment-sheet

…About glitches and breaking-stuff-write-like-gertrude

…About non-human subjectivities synthetic-selfies-and-monumental-subjects

..About how words-get-their-meaning-from-other-words

…. About building an audience for your cause writing-studio-exercise-awareness-object-artifact

DH at the CC Commons Now Live!

DH at the CC Commons is a community of practice begun at the NEH ODH Advanced Topics Summer Institute 2015

DH at the CC Commons is a community of practice begun at the NEH ODH Advanced Topics Summer Institute 2015

The DH at the CC Commons is open to all interested in teaching digital humanities at community colleges.

Visit us today at https://dhatthecc.lanecc.edu/

Poster

Professor Marta Effinger Crichlow will give the public keynote address, “Mapping Black New York: an Interdisciplinary Search for Home” on Wednesday, July 15, 2015 at 6 pm at Lane’s Downtown Center for Meeting and Learning

Free and Open to the Public Click for More Information

NEH Advanced Topics in Digital Humanities Summer Institute July 13-17, 2015

neh_logo_horizontal_rgbPlans are underway for Lane’s NEH Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities Summer Institute July 13-17, 2015.

Applications have closed. We have confirmed our cohort of 29 participants from 12 states and DC.

Here’s my 3-minute lightening-round presentation on this summer’s institute.

PARTICIPANTS: CLICK HERE TO BE REDIRECTED TO THE INSTITUTE PAGE FOR UPDATES ON INSTITUTE INFO

The institute, entitled An Institute for Community College Digital Humanists: Beyond Pockets of Innovation, Toward a Community of Practice.

Since I first began my engagement with DH, I have noticed that community college humanists have been slow to join conversations and communities of practice in digital humanities (DH).  This is in part because serving students in an open-access context involves intensive teaching and service workloads and constraints on professional development. This institute seeks to address this lag in DH at community colleges.

This summer, a distinguished group of institute faculty will lead 29  CC faculty in a week of engagement with DH theory and methods, tool building and pedagogical innovations that scaffold digital humanities for the unique learning needs of their students.

One goal of this institute is to offer a context for CC faculty to participate in the definition of digital humanities practice to include the work of community college teachers, scholars and students. The participants will emerge with a firm grounding in the depth and complexity of DH and its applicability to their courses. They will create a portfolio of project prototypes in data visualization, geospatial mapping, crowdsourcing, and digital storytelling, et al.

To extend the reach of the institute, a public keynote address by Professor Marta Effinger-Crichlow of City Tech in New York, will welcome the community into the DH conversation, and participants’ work will be shared in an online commons that will serve as a hub for developing a community of practice.

 

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this website do
not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

NEH ODH Start-Up Grant Project: Video of Community College Humanities Assn Session

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One of the activities of the Lane’s NEH Office of Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant “Bringing Digital Humanities to the Community College and Vice Versa” was an all-day pre-conference strategic discussion at the Community College Humanities Association national meeting, October 24, 2013. The meeting was recorded by videographer Russell H. Shitabata. Click on each picture below to watch the video of the sessions. Scroll to the end to view links to sites referred to in the videos.

Session I: Anne McGrail, Terri Whitney and Jake Agatucci, “DH in Community Colleges Now”

Project Director Anne McGrail Introduces DH Expert Panel in Session I of "Bringing Digital Humanities to the Community College" Pre-Conference Session at the CCHA 2013

Project Director Anne McGrail Introduces DH Expert Panel in Session I of “Bringing Digital Humanities to the Community College” Pre-Conference Session at the CCHA 2013

McGrail Intro Slides DH at CC

Session II: Jesse Stommel and Rebecca Frost Davis, “”In the Open Access, Lower-Division Classroom: Pedagogy and Faculty Development”

Jesse Stommel and Rebecca Frost Davis Lead Session II, "In the Open Access, Lower-Division Classroom: Pedagogy and Faculty Development"

Jesse Stommel and Rebecca Frost Davis Lead Session II, “In the Open Access, Lower-Division Classroom: Pedagogy and Faculty Development”

Session III: Dean Rehberger and Matthew K. Gold, “Equity and Institutional Policy: Opportunities and Obstacles for DH Development on Community College Campuses”

Dean Rehberger and Matthew K. Gold lead Session III, "Equity and Institutional Policy: Opportunities and Obstacles for DH Development on Community College Campuses"

Dean Rehberger (l)  and Matthew K. Gold (r)  lead Session III, “Equity and Institutional Policy: Opportunities and Obstacles for DH Development on Community College Campuses”

 

List of Website Resources Referred to in DH at the CC Session Videos

Home | HASTAC

http://nycdh.org/

http://thatcamp.org/

http://mla2013.thatcamp.org/about-thatcamp/

http://explorepahistory.com/

http://msu.seum.matrix.msu.edu/

http://openlab.citytech.cuny.edu/

http://commonsinabox.org/

http://commons.gc.cuny.edu/

http://lookingforwhitman.org/courses/

http://waterandwork.wordpress.com/

http://ohda.matrix.msu.edu/

http://www2.matrix.msu.edu/

http://publicphilosophyjournal.org/

http://historyhacks.org/

http://www.jessestommel.com/hypertext/wordle.html

http://www.jessestommel.com/hypertext/

http://www.jessestommel.com/

http://rachelblumeblog.wordpress.com/2013/06/09/viscera/

http://lanssolo.wordpress.com/2013/04/06/a-certain-slant-of-light-typographically-speaking/

http://timmydigiwriting.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/photo.png

http://www.jessestommel.com/digitalhumanities/

http://rachelblumeblog.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/20130602-211240.jpg

http://rachelblumeblog.wordpress.com/2013/06/02/final-project/

http://rachelblumeblog.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/what-the-helvetica/

http://rachelblumeblog.wordpress.com/

http://rachelblumeblog.wordpress.com/page/2/

http://www.jessestommel.com/digitalhumanities/syllabus.html

http://www.jessestommel.com/digitalhumanities/syllabus.html

http://www.jessestommel.com/digitalhumanities/blog/index.html

http://www.racheldoesstuff.com/

http://www.hybridpedagogy.com/Journal/files/Digital_Humanities_is_About_Breaking_Stuff.html

http://www.hawthorneinsalem.org/Architecture/CustomHouse/Introduction.html

http://www.hawthorneinsalem.org/Architecture/Introduction.html

http://www.hawthorneinsalem.org/Introduction.html

http://hawthorneinsalem.org/

http://hawthorneinsalem.org/mmd/search.php?view=0&search=witches&topic=0&mediasel=1&submit=submit

 

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this website do
not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Survey Data Available from National Survey of Digital Humanities in Community Colleges

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WHICH METHODS FAMILIAR WITH

 

In Summer/Fall 2013, I implemented the National Survey of Digital Humanities in Community Colleges. The survey was a major activity of Lane’s NEH Office of Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant Project, “Bringing Digital Humanities to Community Colleges and Vice Versa.”

CFP_on_Hastac

I sent notices out to humanities departments across the country, including Lane.  The aim of the survey was to develop a picture of the role that digital projects, digital pedagogies, digital archives, methodologies, rhetorics and tools play in the pedagogical practice and professional lives of community college faculty and instructional staff. The ultimate aim of this project is to develop a national community of practice in digital humanities at community colleges in the U.S.

Click on this link for summary survey data from the Fall 2013 National Survey of Digital Humanities in Community Colleges, a project sponsored by the National Endowment for Humanities Office of Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant.

A PDF of the survey data is available here:  Survey Results All March 2014

 

Slides from CCHA DH at the CC Workshops Thursday and Saturday

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A major activity of Lane’s National Endowment for the Humanities Office of Digital Humanities Start-Up grant was a pre-conference all-day workshop at the Community College Humanities Association Conference in Louisville October 24, 2013. A follow-up session on Saturday was intended to extend the reach of the project to interested CCHA members unable to make the pre-conference session.

Eternal September of DIgital Humanities

Here is the link to the Haiku Deck slides from Anne McGrail’s introduction to the all-day workshop at the CCHA in Lousiville October 24, 2013.  And here is the text of the  Introduction: Bringing DH to the CC

Work on the Hard Parts!

Here are the slides from Anne McGrail’s Saturday Workshop “Helping Students Navigate the ‘Digital Turn’ in Humanities.”  SATURDAY WORKSHOP DH AT THE CC

My Storify of Tweets from DH at the CC October 24

Here’s the link to my Storify of the Tweets from Matthew K. Gold, Jesse Stommel, Rebecca Frost Davis, myself and others from the October 24th Preconference Session at the Community College Humanities Association, “Bringing Digital Humanities to the Community College and Vice Versa”

http://storify.com/DocMcGrail/doing-dh-at-the-cc-ccha-2013-preconference-session

 

Thirteen Ways of Doing DH at the CC

In anticipation of this week’s Community College Humanities Association national conference meeting, I am posting this compilation of assignments that I have developed over the past year. These assignments rely heavily on the educational sites that they link to. The procedural instructions are my main curricular contributions.

Check them out here: Thirteen Ways of Doing DH at the CC A Resource Packet

Thirteen Ways of Doing DH at the CC by ANNE B MCGRAIL is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at VARIED EDUCATIONAL .