In this section, Dr. Kurt Fendt and teaching assistant, Andrew Kelleher Stuhl, discuss how the core structure of the course remains the same in each iteration of the course, but how the projects and topics of discussion shift in response to the skills and interests of people, including the teaching assistants, doing related work on campus and in the community.
Dynamic Projects and Topics
The core structure of the course—focusing on theoretical readings, looking critically at data and tools, and creating digital projects—remains stable each semester, but the focus of the projects and the topics we discuss are dynamic. In that way, the course becomes new each semester. The next time this course is taught, for instance, it would be interesting to consider how we might bring artistic practices into digital humanities in ways that allow audiences to engage with and think differently about humanities data and content.
An Evolving List of Guest Speakers
When we talk to colleauges about the concepts and ideas for the class, faculty and other scholars on campus get really interesetd. These colleauges with different research interests and backgrounds often become our guest speakers. Our list of guest speakers is always evolving. In fact, one of the strengths of the course is that it draws on the strengths of people doing related work on campus who are available to the students and who are excited about sharing their insights and expertise. This often has influence on how students go about formulating their final projects.
Connecting with the Community
Currently, we have a great connection with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and our field trip to the MFA is the fulcrum of the class; it’s the moment when students shift from exploring concepts and trying out different approaches to then formulating an independent project of their own. We had many really innovative museum-based projects this year, and were able to amplify the museum-related readings in the latter half of the semester. That may be true again in future iterations of the course, and could also be true for other areas of the digital and public humanities, depending on who is available on campus and in the community and if students conceptualize projects that tie into theses areas.
The Influence of Teaching Assistants
The teaching assistants, who are from the Comparative Media Studies program and who are also research assistants in HyperStudio, influence how the course takes shape each semester. Their familiarity with the digital media tools and techniques is helpful, but it’s their specific backgrounds that make them most compelling and we try to incorporate their interests and skills into the course. For example, this year Andrew’s interest in sound studies brought a rather unusual subject matter to the class. For the final projects, we ended up having two course projects that were heavily sound based on a theoretical level, as well as in their design and approach.
It’s wonderful that the focus shifts each semester in response to the teaching assistants’ skills and interests because it helps students gain new perspectives. This is what digital humanities is all about: it’s not just one person working in isolation; it’s truly a collaborative approach involving many people with different perspectives all working toward a shared result.