DH@CC Projects

DH projects at the 5Cs

Alex Juhasz’s DH Story: An Invitation

In the Summer of 2014, I agreed to helm the Mellon Digital Humanities grant awarded to the Claremont Colleges. I had not authored the grant application (this effort was led by my colleague Jacque Wernimont, now at ASU), so first I read it to ascertain that I could shepherd its several categories of support in good faith. More importantly, I needed to evaluate my own comfort level with becoming a face of DH in/for Claremont, again obviously something I decided to take on, but in this case with a more complex back-story (my DH story below), one I am about to unroll here in hopes that it might prove illuminating for those who are in the earlier stages of developing their own (this prosthelytizing, or at least tutoring about DH being obviously one of my main roles as grant administrator, and of DH itself).

I have an open-hearted, big-tent approach to the digital humanities whereby I believe that all humanists are most likely digital, only they don’t know it or don’t want to know it. By this I mean they are probably using digital methods in their teaching, research or publication and/or they are considering the digital, as humanists in their teaching, research or publication, but perhaps they are not fully aware of or interested in the conversations in the newly developing field of DH that applies to said activities.

Given that every humanist is a digital humanist in that they probably email, read and watch things online, use the Internet for their teaching, and/or use digital machines to record, store, write, and publish, what use could such a completely capacious definition serve? As far as the grant is concerned, I’d suggest there are two important outcomes from such openness. And then, as far as my own DH story, I’ll add a few more. Here in Claremont (and across the humanities), a generous DH allows for:

  • new opportunities for inter-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary connections and collaborations in relation to themes, methods, tools, and outcomes
  • new opportunities for funding, publishing, teaching, and other professional possibilities connected to a growing interest in DH in a time of humanities scarcity
  • new opportunities to learn, refine, and question digital possibilities within our worklife as humanists, and as citizens of academia and the world

My own DH story suggests that such opportunities are stimulating and generative. I came to DH a doubter; or better said, it came to me. In a 2009 blog post entitled, “Digital Humanities,” I wrote:

Tara McPherson asked of us our relation to the term “digital humanities,” and I said I had always thought of myself as a media scholar, artist, and activist but would be pleased to also take on this newer title. However, after spending a few days amongst digital humanists of various home disciplinary stripes, I believe that this inter-disciplinary field holds much in common with earlier practices enabled through the work of scholars who have pressed at the intersections of academia and art and/or activism.

Shortly thereafter, and with McPherson’s help and that of the Vector‘s team at USC (and more Mellon and also NEH funding), I built and then published my born-digital, free, online “video-bookLearning from YouTube (MIT Press, 2010). That publication led to many more “DH” possibilities. I was invited to write, present, interact, and challenge the digital themes and methods raised by that project in that it critically considered and also used digital platforms and tools for teaching, writing, research, and publication. While my more longstanding homes in Media Studies, feminist and queer studies, and activist academia certainly embraced this new project, I found that invigorating conversations about critical or activist Internet studies were as often as not happening around the edges of DH. In fact, I’d suggest that librarians and people in Rhetoric have been at this for much longer than most of us other humanists and I really enjoyed the conversations I was having as a “DH” person with many people who I was meeting in these fields through DH.

Since then, I’ve engaged in any number of projects I’ll gladly call DH (and other things)—if it will have me—that further situate my teaching, research, and writing at what I hope are the most critical edges of the Internet (often tipping off, I must admit):

  • I taught Learning from YouTube for the fourth time this Spring, and I had hoped to add a practicum where some of my Claremont students would have taken the class with ten inmates at Norco California Rehabilitation Center as part of the larger Prison Education Project (hence the tipping off I spoke of above), thereby challenging our understandings of the power, relevance, and reach of YouTube (and the Internet more broadly) given that some of the students in the class would have been denied access to the web as an integral feature of  of their punishment. While this was cancelled by the Prison at the last minute, I ended up writing about the relations between social (in)justice and social media twice at a site called Lady Justice. And the class allowed me to refine my on-going thinking about new and social media and feminism.
  • FemTechNet, which I co-facilitated with Anne Balsamo during its inception in 2012, is an international collective of artists, activists, academics, librarians, technologists and students that has conceived and successfully run the DOCC (Distributed Open Collaborative Course), a feminist rethinking of the MOOC (Massive Open Online Class). I have taught the DOCC twice to Claremont students.
  • My current research project is Ev-Ent-Anglement: an experiment in a digital embodied collective feminist media praxis committed to intentionaly recutting the fragments of ourselves otherwise strewn willy-nilly across the Internet.
  • I have taught Visual Research Methods every year at Claremont Graduate University since 2011, where graduate students across several humanities disciplines learn how to “provide a theoretical and historical background for considering three scholarly traditions—from the arts, humanities, and social sciences—that research about and/or with visualization tools (cameras; digital media) and/or visual objects (art, photography, film, video, digital media).” See this blog post where students in the second iteration of the course define DH. That year I added the really useful (and available online for free) anthology Debates in the Digital Humanities (Matthew Gold, ed.). I highly advise it for doubters or newcomers.
  • My class, linked site, and public performance, Feminist Online Spaces, attempts to “build and link principled sites in collaboration.” It builds from my criticism of YouTube (a corporate enterainment platform that we’ve been given for free) to imagine, interrogate, and inhabit other kinds of Internet spaces and communities, especially those built outside the dominant logics of corporate capitalism.
  • And of course, I blog here and elsewhere, and have since 2007: an integral part of my digital life, and one I require of my grad students in VRM (to build and write an “academic blog” among other digital things).

Over the next four years of the DH@CC grant I look forward to hearing the DH Stories of many of you here in Claremont, and those we will meet elsewhere. And I use this blog post as an invitation to hear your Claremont DH stories.

Featured Projects: “Grandma got STEM” celebrates women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

Rachel Levy, Associate Professor of Mathematics at Harvey Mudd College, found herself tired of hearing people try to teach students to speak accessibly about science, technology, and math by suggesting they should “explain it as if you were talking to your grandmother.” While she knew that they likely meant “explain that in a compelling and clear way so that a person without a technical background could understand it,” she was concerned by the profiling (female + maternal + age) such statements enacted.

While it is true that many people in the world, some of them grandmothers, have not had access to STEM education due to cultural, economic, geographic, gender-bias or other reasons – the grandma profile does more harm than good. Levy believes, like many others, that it is time to transition away from describing an elementary idea as “so simple your grandmother could understand it.”

To address this issue, Levy has created a new blog called Grandma got STEM. Screen shot 2013-03-04 at 3.25.45 PM Initially, Levy began the blog in order to collect very basic profiles (pic, name, occupation) of grandmothers who had engaged with STEM in some way; she imagined that she might use that information to create a collage or other art project (which she still might do).

But as she began to get emails from contributors, the blog developed into a collection of more robust and personal narratives. “People began sending me stories” and “I thought, if people are going to come back to the blog more than once, it’s because they want to read those stories.” To this end, Levy is encouraging submissions that arise out of personal connections. “It’s the photo from the family album of women doing STEM or the memories of those experiences that readers find really compelling.” In addition to serving as a public forum to inspire, Levy hopes that the blog will eventually be used as a classroom resources for K-16.

In the first two weeks of existence, the blog had about 3000 views from 40 different countries, including Madagascar, Kenya, Trinidad and Tobago, Latvia, and Colombia. Levy says, “I really have no idea how people in so many far away places have found the blog. It makes me want to shout to them a welcoming “Hellloooooooo!” and “Who are you?” So far, most of the submissions have come from inside the US, although an early post was submitted from an Engineer in Turkey. Her hope is that the blog will receive submissions from all over the world.

Each day the blog features a picture and personal narrative about a grandmother in STEM, affectionately known as a STEM-ma. Posts have been contributed by sons and daughters, granddaughters and grandsons, the women themselves and their partners.

Levy was inspired to create the blog as a way of addressing the “so simple your grandma could understand it” problem on a larger scale after attending Science Online 2013, a conference about science communication. She features grandmother Karyn Traphagan, the Executive Director of Science Online, in an early post and on the site’s banner. For Levy, the blog “helps me think about a way to solve the problem in a way that celebrates these women rather than just complaining that they’ve been misrepresented.”

While the blog began as a project focused on the oft-referred-to grandma, it will not be limited exclusively to grandmothers. Levy has already heard from great aunts who would like to be included. She’s also heard from women in STEM who say they are longing to be grandmothers and certainly are old enough, but their own children have not yet had children. Other women have delayed or decided against child-rearing, making grandmotherhood less likely or impossible. Levy also notes that “some women did not have access to education. Some still do not. All of their stories are welcome. The experiences of all these women contribute to our impressions and attitudes about the relationship between gender+age+maternity and technical prowess.”

Readers can find the blog at ggstem.wordpress.com and they can follow on twitter @mathcirque and with the hashtag #ggstem. If you’re a grandmother interested in submitting your story, send an email to ggstem@hmc.edu with your name, a photo, and a remembrance about your experiences with/in STEM. Readers are also encouraged to submit stories about grandmothers they know – include her name, photo, your relationship to her, and a story about her experiences with/in STEM. The blog provides some examples of different lengths and styles of posts. Submissions go through a basic editing process and then authors are given an idea of when their posts will appear.

Levy is particularly eager to expand the range of experiences represented on the blog, she is hoping for a minimum of one post submitted from each country, and she encourages readers to spread word about this project as widely as possible. Additionally, if you have a global network (personal or professional) and are willing to help Levy spread the word, send an email to ggstem@hmc.edu.

— Jacque Wernimont

DH in the classroom

DH in the classroom – Creating Archives with @profwernimont

“I wanted to somehow incorporate my love of art and art history into my final project,” says [Rachel Levi, Scripps College class of ’15] of online mini-archives produced as part of “Creating Archives,” a course taught by assistant professor of English Jacqueline Wernimont. Utilizing original research conducted in the Denison Library archives…”