[Humanist] 23.669 Yale, the past and the future

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Tue Mar 2 07:05:21 CET 2010

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 23, No. 669.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Mon, 01 Mar 2010 16:57:05 -0500
        From: Wendell Piez <wapiez at mulberrytech.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.663 Yale, the past and the future
        In-Reply-To: <20100228083212.E06CA40FE5 at woodward.joyent.us>

Amanda, Willard and HUMANIST:

At 03:32 AM 2/28/2010, Amanda wrote:
>More to Kathy's point, we also need to think hard in the DH community about
>beefing up our attention to pedagogy.  The classroom is where, on a daily
>basis, we subtly model the profession not only to our students but to
>ourselves and our colleagues.  If we had better methods (probably developed
>within DH subgroups such as Digital Americanists or Digital Medievalists)
>for using DH resources and methods in the classroom, I suspect it would help
>people like Kathy make their case...in a way I for one would find much more
>palatable than pointing to authority.

I agree that the way forward lies in pedagogy and pedagogical 
applications of digital technologies.

For one thing, we have all known for years that projects in the 
digital humanities afford special and perhaps unique opportunities 
for collaboration between students, technologists, and 
traditionally-trained faculty.

For another, it is spectacularly evident that networked digital media 
have strong pedagogical consequences -- and require the serious, 
critical engagement of teachers as well as technologists -- even 
while it is doubtful (at least to my mind) that the most important or 
consequential promise of digital technologies is that they should 
generate "new research results" (which depend less on technical means 
than on imagination and discovery).

I also agree that is not only second- and third-tier institutions 
that would reap the rewards. Even the elite research universities 
will benefit from this emphasis, and not just because in an era of 
short budgets and apparent zero-sum calculus even in the educational 
sphere (a state of affairs I find rather bizarre, however "normal" it 
has become), a recommitment to teaching, learning and (digital) 
literacy can trump old criticisms of irrelevance.

In fact, in my experience in the private sector as well as in 
academia, it is clear that digital media, at least at this moment, 
have the capability of reconfiguring the old research/teaching 
divide. This division is based on the assumption that what is to be 
learned by the student is already known by the pedagogue, and 
therefore outside any scope of interest to the researcher. But that 
is hardly the case in our work, where these roles can hardly be 
distinguished. (Echoing Kathy Harris, I think this is one reason why 
institutions organized on the basis of this split are having such 
problems coming to terms with digital technologies.)

Routinely, organizations I work with discover that their research 
into digital media leads them to rethink what they themselves are 
doing and how they can best address the needs of their markets, 
audiences and constituencies, discovering in the process much about 
themselves, their world, and their opportunities in it. I should 
hardly have to add that this is a rather different promise from 
"greater efficiency", as if the point of digital technology was to 
automate jobs away and thereby widen profit margins. Instead, we tell 
our clients that the point isn't to do as much with less: it's to do 
more and better, and by "better" we mean qualitatively. Inevitably 
this demands an investment in people more than in methods and 
machines. And inevitably, those who make this investment discover it pays big.

Will this shift also happen in the academy? I have no doubt 
whatsoever. I just can't say where or when.


Wendell Piez                            mailto:wapiez at mulberrytech.com
Mulberry Technologies, Inc.                http://www.mulberrytech.com
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