[Humanist] 24.759 reading, core competencies, work?

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Fri Mar 4 09:17:14 CET 2011

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 759.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    S.A.Rae <s.a.rae at open.ac.uk>                              (21)
        Subject: Desired Core Competencies

  [2]   From:    Carlos Monroy <carlos.monroy at rice.edu>                    (56)
        Subject: Fostering reading in a virtual world

  [3]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>          (42)
        Subject: where's the work?

        Date: Wed, 2 Mar 2011 11:54:27 +0000
        From: S.A.Rae <s.a.rae at open.ac.uk>
        Subject: Desired Core Competencies

Dear all,

A few weeks ago I was involved with presenting a paper at an HEA ICS (the UK Higher Education Academy Subject Centre for Information and Computer Sciences) Conference on Enhancing Employability of Computing Students (http://www.ics.heacademy.ac.uk/events/displayevent.php?id=250). One of the themes that the paper dealt with was our use of the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) framework (http://www.sfia.org.uk/) in planning courses and programmes of study for Computing Sciences students.

Working with SFIA I was struck by similarities that some of their skills & competencies possessed with respect to things that I know people do in their work in what could be termed the humanities job sector - museum & gallery work, theatre work, creative industries etc. For example, in the Strategy & Architecture category (specifically Information strategy) SFIA talks of the Skill of Information Management and describes it in general as:

'The overall management of the control and exploitation of all kinds of information, structured and unstructured, to meet the needs of an organisation. Control encompasses development and promotion of the strategy and policies covering the design of information structures and taxonomies, the setting of policies for the sourcing and maintenance of the data content, the management and storage of information in all its forms and the analysis of information structure (including logical analysis of taxonomies, data and metadata). Includes the overall responsibility for compliance with regulations, standards and codes of good practice relating to information and documentation, records management, information assurance and data protection. Exploitation encompasses the use of information, whether produced internally or externally, to support decision-making and business processes. It includes management and decision making structures to ensure consistency throughout the organisation, information retrieval, combination, analysis, pattern recognition and interpretation.'

Just yesterday I received in the post a set of reports from the HEA Physical Sciences Centre giving the results of work they have done identifying which areas of the curriculum and which generic skills are of particular value to new graduates and how well they were developed within their degrees (available at: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/physsci/home/projects/graduateskills). Maybe it's the way I'm reading the reports, but it seems that the skills that respondents to the survey on which the reports are based wished had been developed more on their courses were skills like 'Computing skills', 'Problem-solving skills', 'Team-working skills' and  'Time management and organisational skills'.

Please excuse the naivety of my request ... but for those of you who employ humanities graduates - what core skills and competencies do you require and are they formalised like the SFIA ones, and for those of you who design or deliver humanities courses and programmes of study - what core skills and competencies do you look to develop in your students?


Simon Rae
Lecturer in Professional Development
Centre for Professional Learning and Development (CPLD)
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes
phone: +44 (0)1908 332926
fax: +44 (0)1908 332681
email: s.a.rae at open.ac.uk
web: http://www.open.ac.uk/cpd

The Open University is incorporated by Royal Charter (RC 000391), an exempt charity in England & Wales and a charity registered in Scotland (SC 038302).

        Date: Wed, 2 Mar 2011 15:27:59 -0600
        From: Carlos Monroy <carlos.monroy at rice.edu>
        Subject: Fostering reading in a virtual world

Hi Willard,

I would like to share the following story (with the permission of Jim 
Bower, whyville's founder) about the use of a virtual world for 
fostering reading among young audiences. This is a partnership between 
whyville.net and the Great Books Foundation (http://www.greatbooks.org). 
Our group at Rice (http://cttl.rice.edu) has collaborated with wyville 
in embedding and conducting an exploratory study of a science game in a 
virtual world. Given my work with digital humanities, digital libraries, 
and gaming I see the potential of using this environment for 
dissemination of scholarly collections to non-expert audiences and 
stimulating their interest in literature, humanities, and classics along 
with science. Due to the emphasis in STEM education (Science Technology 
Engineering and Mathematics) given by the United States government as 
strategic component in the 21st century, I strongly believe that 
incorporating and combining humanities can be mutually enriching. Just a 


Carlos Monroy, Ph.D.
Gaming Research and Development
Center for Technology in Teaching and Learning
Rice University
Houston, TX
voice: 713.348.5481
fax: 713.348.5699
carlos.monroy at rice.edu

Late last year we announced a partnership with The Great Books 
Foundation   (www.greatbooks.org) to bring great literature and Shared 
Inquiry99 to Whyville.

We are very pleased to announce that this last weekend we officially 
opened the "Great Books Roundhouse" in Whyville.  The Roundhouse 
includes discussion space, a teachers lounge, support for teachers using 
great literature as a base for inquiry, and rooms specifically devoted 
to different great books.

The first such room is now open and built around "Beauty and the Beast" 
by Madame de Villeneuve, originally published in 1740.  While over 250 
years old, we think that this story is a particularly appropriate way to 
start our collaboration with the Great Books Foundation because of the 
relevance of the issue of external to internal beauty within 
avatar-based virtual worlds. So far, our users seem to be making that 
connection.  An abridged version of the original story is available for 
free download at the Round House.

Soon we will announce our first Great Book themed party, where party 
goers will receive prizes for dressing up (in clothes they themselves 
design)  and role playing characters in Beauty and the Beast. 

While many in the media have raised concerns about the effect of the 
Internet on children reading,  initial reaction to the Great Book 
Roundhouse from our users suggests that  the very new learning 
technology of Whyville can also engage young learners in the world's 
great literature and reading both in and out of the classroom and on and 
off Whyville.  Beauty and the Beast makes clear that the human 
experience captured in great books can be made equally relevant to the 
real and virtual worlds of our children.

We look forward to introducing a steady stream of great literature in 

        Date: Fri, 04 Mar 2011 08:01:07 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: where's the work?

Looking over the last few decades of computing in the humanities, one 
can see various types of problems and different fields of enquiry 
becoming objects of our attention as the technology develops. An obvious 
example is improvements in displays and graphics hardware, which made 
higher definition colour display commonplace, which in turn stimulated 
the development of image archives. No doubt historical details tell a 
somewhat different story (perhaps about how a financially rewarding 
demand for better displays drove the development of hardware), but my 
question is rather different. I'm wondering how our attention is 
directed by what hardware can do, and how work that is technically more 
difficult is thus frustrated.

The problem here is more subtle than might seem. What happens 
psychologically in technologically assisted research when the technology 
favours one way of working and makes another very difficult? What 
happens when the technologically assisted researcher tries to make sense 
of what he or she is finding with the kit of the day and so theorizes 
the situation? When it is ever so psychologically rewarding to theorize 
in a direction that justifies use of the technology for, say, the study 
of text, and quite inconvenient to theorize otherwise?

The history of text-analysis suggests that two things happen: (1) those 
who are committed to use of the technology come up with or accommodate 
themselves to a theory of text that licenses their work; (2) everyone 
else runs for the hills, theorizing otherwise and so rapidly becoming 
unable to see anything interesting in the technology.

But let us grant that all that was once upon a time. Where now, in what 
disciplines, are the problems that our technologies of computing cannot 
handle? What are these problems? How could we use them to stimulate 
inventive thought and research into computing?

A useful mental exercise, I hope. But let's think further, 
strategically. From time to time we're called upon to reach out to 
colleagues whose research offers real potential for the betterment of 
both our and their work. In one case I know of a group of researchers 
who want to go digital see a bog-standard technology that suits (i.e. 
does not challenge) they way they think. This technology has the Good 
Academic Housekeeping Seal of Approval because a prominent academic has 
adopted it. There's no question that this technology can be of use. But 
it does not stretch the mind. So my question is this: how do we go about 
making sure that mind-stretching has a place in the institutions for 
digital humanities that we build?



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