Collin Brooke, Syracuse University
Kathie Gossett, Iowa State University
Liza Potts, Michigan State University
Kristi McDuffie, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Quinn Warnick, Virginia Tech
Timothy Laquintano, Lafayette College
Douglas Walls, University of Central Florida
Where does digital rhetoric stop and digital humanities begin? Where does technical communication or the computers and writing fit? How is this new burgeoning field taking shape and how can scholars help develop it? This roundtable session, loaded with years of experience, sought out to address some of these questions. As it turns out, the answer is rather simple: whatever you decide to call the field, take advantage of the uncertainty and turn the digital humanities into whatever you want.
Rather than highlighting each speaker’s notes, I’ll address some of the themes that arose from the discussions throughout the roundtable and the Q&A that followed.
As Collin Brooke noted, “Every method has its blind spots.” The same holds true for the digital humanities in all its variations, and some departments and universities are a little frightened of them. This new field is more rhizomatic than any other. It borrows from one discipline and steals from another. As it nebulously grows, it can sometimes be unpredictable. Administrators know that it’s a hot field, and it’s up to us as digital scholars to help guide them through our methods. As Timothy Laquintano put it, we have the ability to anchor digital methods into the curriculum and bring in funding.
When we sit down and start talking, we will be able to show other disciplines where the field intersects with theirs. Liza Potts discussed the “Experience Architecture” program developed at Michigan State University where they have been able to introduce the humanities into science, engineering, and architecture in new ways that traditional humanities simply couldn’t. Their program currently has 60 majors enrolled with six graduates—all of them with jobs upon graduation. Digital methodology permeates into every field.
Kathie Gossett and Kristi McDuffie both spent some time on digital pedagogy. Gossett reminded us that pedagogy is rather new to the digital humanities’ publications, with only six mentions since 2009. This is an excellent opportunity for new and established scholars to enter the field. We can start tackling all sorts of pedagogical questions:
- How do we incorporate technology into the classroom?
- What are the social problems of access?
- When is technology used as an excuse to address deeper social problems?
- What ways can we collaborate more effectively?
- How do these technologies impact the writing practices not only in the traditional humanities classrooms, but all other disciplines as well?
With few practices firmly established in the field, we can step in and help each other and administrators see the value of digital pedagogy. Experiment and share ideas.
Even though scholars and administrators know these digital fields are hot, we need to establish the value that it brings to students and the university. Douglas Walls and Quinn Warnick both recommended that scholars make the digital humanities your own, but be ready to “sell” it to the department or college by being able to define it. The definitions may be loose overall, but we should be prepared to help others understand how we plan to use it in our programs or classrooms. This will help with branding (which Walls called “PR nonsense”) and our credibility.
In the words of Quinn Warnick, if you want to be recognized in the field, we need to show up at other digital conferences, apply for grants, and widen the scope for publication venues. Essentially, “we need to show up, sit down, and start talking.”