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2017 Digital Humanities Curricular Development Grant Awardees

View descriptions of 2016 grant awardees here.


Emily Paddon Rhoads

Course(s): POLS 62: The Politics and Practice of Humanitarianism; potentially also POLS 115: Humanitarianism

Dept: Political Science

Semester: Fall 2017

Described as “the ultimate empathy machine”, virtual reality (VR) is hyped as the next big thing in the fields of crisis journalism and humanitarianism.  The United Nations, Amnesty International, and Doctors Without Borders are just a few of the organizations that have turned to VR as a medium for advocacy. Immersive films like Forced From Home and Clouds over Sidra transport viewers to war-torn countries and sprawling refugee camps with the aim of breaking through emotional numbness, raising public awareness, and inciting people to donate. In this unit students will critically engage with the field of digital humanitarianism and VR through a series of in-class immersive experiences, reading, written reflection and class discussion.  What happens after the headset is removed?  Do immersive experiences really foster empathy and insight? What are the ethical and political implications of visual and aural immersion? Does VR reinforce existing power dynamics and enable new forms of voyeurism and disaster tourism?  What other forces may arouse acts of kindness?  Students will consider these questions in written reflection pieces that will be shared online. Additionally, students will contribute content for the development of a digital database/library of VR resources. They will source new VR documentary films, write reviews, and conduct research on the institutional uses for this technology.


Eli Cohen

Course(s): SPAN 022: Introduction to Spanish Literature/Introducción a la literatura española

Dept: Modern Languages and Literatures (Spanish)

Semester: Fall 2017

This course offers a panoramic introduction to Spanish literature from the Middle Ages through the present day. In addition to more traditional critical analysis, students will be asked to engage with and develop complementary modes of thinking about and presenting the history of Spanish literature through practices associated with ‘distant reading,’ the development of a digital exhibition consisting of a visual and textual chronology of Spanish literature from its origins through the twenty-first century (using KnightLab’s TimelineJS), and the construction of a non-linear digital exploration and presentation of the texts covered in class designed to uncover and highlight synchronic, intersectional, parallel and recursive phenomena that often remain undisclosed by a traditional reading of literary history. This project will entail the development of a website on the online publishing platform Scalar, which will allow students to present their research in an interactive and media-rich digital space.


Jen Bradley, Edwin Mayorga

Course(s): EDUC 14: Introduction to Education

Dept: Educational Studies

Semester: Three sections taught each semester

The “Pedagogy and Power Digital Syllabus Project” aims to enhance the experience of faculty and students participating in the course, Pedagogy and Power: An Introduction to Education (EDUC 14). In this course, we explore major questions on educational policy, theory, and practice as related to the complex social institution of school. The Digital Syllabus Project is rooted in the concept of “multiple literacies,” where students and faculty can engage in a collaborative process of gathering digital ‘texts’ from art, music, literature, journalism, and other electronic sources. Our goal is to deepen, extend, and enhance course readings and activities beyond the traditional course syllabus and assignments. We will be curating a variety of digital sources through google docs and asynchronously communicating about these texts through the comment and suggestion functions. Throughout this process, faculty and students will engage in dialogue, review suggested texts, and make connections to course readings and current education issues. Once the digital syllabus is constructed, it becomes a living document that will evolve, with additional sources added each semester.


Jamie Thomas

Course(s): LING082: Sociolinguistics II: Deviance, Dystopia, and Democracy

Dept: Linguistics (cross-listed with Sociology and Anthropology)

Semester: Spring 2018

During this course, digital humanities will serve as a tool for guiding advanced linguistics students into critical approaches for the examination of news and entertainment media, as well as science fiction. In-class discussions and hands-on activities developed in collaboration with digital humanities librarians will encourage students to consider the research potential and limitations of digital scholarship and public engagement. Discussion will also concern questions about the role of discourse (textual, audiovisual) and computer languages in the presentation of information and the engagement of internet audiences. Course assignments will introduce students to using plain-text authoring and version control as they learn to write original, collaborative work to contribute to the ongoing, born-digital and public-facing exhibit [ZOMBIES REIMAGINED].


Daniel Laurison

Course(s): SOCI 016B: Research Methods in Social Science

Dept: Sociology and Anthropology

Semester: Fall 2017; at least once a year in subsequent years

Engaging in digital content analysis within this course, students will learn how to grab a sample of digital content from online platforms such as Twitter or Reddit, and use qualitative content analysis, word clouds, and other techniques to look for and understand patterns of meaning in the data they retrieve. As more of our social lives are intertwined with digital platforms and media, digital methods are a key part of the toolkit of aspiring students of the social sciences.


Min Wang

Course: CHIN 011A: Third Year Chinese Conversation

Dept: Modern Languages and Literatures (Chinese)

Semester: Fall 2017

Throughout this course, students will integrate digital tools with discussions, presentations, and storytelling projects at the third year level. In addition to more traditional methods of class discussions, students will be asked to engage with online discussion forums and make digital presentations through the development of Wordpress-based blogs, video essays, and final digital storytelling projects. Workshops on Camtasia and other digital tools will support the students’ work. At the end of the semester, students will also combine some of their blogs into an approximately 1,500-character essay to be submitted for publication, with instructor revisions, in an official journal for students’ essays in the US, JUHE SUPPLEMENT 《居荷副刊》. These digital tools and platforms will allow the students to engage in language learning more continuously, in and out of class, online and offline, and will allow them to develop peer learning environments that will also help their language acquisition.


Patricia Irwin

Course: LING 055: Say what? Syntactic variation in dialects of English

Dept: Linguistics

Semester: Fall 2017

In analyzing data from corpora -- large bodies of transcribed and searchable text -- students will explore the ways in which language can be viewed as a socio-cultural phenomenon and as an abstract set of rules in the minds of speakers. Students will learn to query and interpret results from the 500+ million word Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) in order to analyze the syntactic variation that exists (often unnoticed) in mainstream varieties of English. Students will then apply these skills to a newly-compiled corpus of Appalachian English, the Audio-Aligned and Parsed Corpus of Appalachian English (AAPCAppE, Tortora et al., to appear), which consists of transcribed oral history recordings from areas such as southwestern Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and northern Georgia. Appalachian English has interesting and under-examined linguistic properties such as double modals (e.g., "might could"), non-standard past participles (e.g., "boughten"), and expletive "they" (as in, "they is a big creek yet").


Yvonne Chireau

Course: REL 044: Reading Religion and Comics

Dept: Religion

Semester: Spring 2018

Within this course, students will rethink the category of “magic” as a subset of “Religion.” Professor Owen Davies famously remarked that “all books of magic are magical books.” But in reviewing digital resources and library collections it is clear that there is a dearth of electronically archived sources on this topic, particularly those sources from within the American context. Students will consider the idea of the magical book as visual and historical object, and especially their uses as religious artifacts and ritual items. Studying the intersections between these categories by examining primary sources, the class will build an electronic image and text archive that foregrounds the material and cultural production of books related to a variety of magic, occult, and esoteric traditions in the United States.  In so doing students will learn the basics of data compilation and annotation, scanning, and processing for the end product, a co-created digital archive that uses the Omeka platform to organize and manage our materials.


Désirée Díaz

Course: SPAN015/LITR15S: First Year Seminar: Introduction to Latinx Literature and Culture

Dept: Modern Languages and Literatures (Spanish)

Semester: Fall 2017

In this First Year Seminar students will participate in a semester-long research workshop in which they will explore and analyze contemporary representations of Latinx culture in digital media with an emphasis on digital content produced by Latinx groups and communities such as news outlets, blogs, magazines, video channels and social media platforms, among others. This project will encourage the students to establish critical dialogues between Latinx literature canonical texts and recent representations, narratives, and understandings of the Latinx experience. In their individual research projects, students will be encouraged to investigate issues related to identity politics, gender, and race, the politics of bilingualism, diaspora and transculturation, activism through art, the politics of self-representation, among others. Through this project, the students will produce original and innovative research in the field of Latinx culture with an array of non-traditional methods and delivery formats. Primarily, students will use the publishing platform Scalar to produce and publish their digital research projects. All projects will also be posted on the course website.


Rachel Sagner Buurma, Richard Wicentowski

Courses: CS021: Introduction to Computer Science, ENGL035: The Rise of the Novel

Departments: Computer Science and English Literature

Semester: Fall 2017

This assignment brings together work in CS21 with work in ENGL35. It will exist in two interlinked versions, one for students in CS21 and one for students in ENGL35. For CS21 students, the assignment is a word-sorting lab. Students will learn to write a program that will create raw word frequency lists for a group of novels by Jane Austen and her contemporaries, draw on these sorted lists to calculate the relative frequency of each word in teach text, and then allow users to compare two texts or corpora with one another and give an output of a list of words that are “overrepresented in” or “more distinctive” of each text or corpus in comparison with the other. Using background information on these novels provided in the assignment, CS21 students will then try to interpret any patterns they can find. Student in ENGL35 will then complete an assignment in which they will use the CS21 students’ program to compare various configurations of Austen’s novels with various configurations of other novels written around the same time; contextualizing the results with what they have learned during the course of the semester, the ENGL35 students will work up some initial interpretations. The students will then meet in groups to answer each others’ questions about the program and the interpretation of the results. The assignment aims to introduce computer science students to literary criticism and literature students to computer science, and to to show all of the students just a few of the possibilities opened up by collaboration between computer scientists and literary critics, as well as the way that very simple textual features or models can offer the basis of interesting literary-critical analysis.