Curatorial note from Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: The origin of humanities computing is usually dated to 1949, when Father Roberto Busa began working with IBM computers to produce a concordance to the works of Saint Thomas Aquinas (Hockey). Of course, concordances and indexes long predate electronic computers and, as Geoffrey Rockwell suggests, are premised upon hermeneutical assumptions of coherence and generative rule-bound procedures (Rockwell 211). The index is thus another example of “digital” or “hands-on” technology that expands beyond the electronic. Rachel Sagner Buurma’s assignment asks students to create an index to Tennyson’s In Memoriam or to use an existing index to create a new edition of the poem, foregrounding how informational technologies like the index create, constrain, or complicate the interpretation of literary works.
Curatorial note from Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Paul Fyfe provocatively asks, “Can there be a digital pedagogy without computers?” and offers several examples of assignments that treat “the ‘digital’ in the non-electronic senses of that word: something to get your hands on, to deal with in dynamic units, to manipulate creatively.” Rethinking digital pedagogy in this way not only allows students and instructors with varied access to electronic technologies to explore new kinds of assignments but also creates useful linkages between thinking about the materiality of print artifacts and that of digital texts. For example, Fyfe imagines a curatorial assignment where students gather, remix, and analyze physical artifacts rather than images on a screen. Such assignments could be scaffolded with digital assignments that use computational tools to emphasize shared methodological and theoretical principles.
Curatorial note from Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Tara Rodgers asks students to delve into the historical and cultural dimensions of digital sound and music. With a concentration on creative practices, her course examines digital audio in relation to topics such as deejaying, electronic music genres, authorship, ownership, and technological progress. Students also learn to make their own audio projects. Rodgers devotes a substantial amount of time to texts, discussions, and assignments that are aimed at helping students cultivate critical listening habits—an admirable model for any sound-based syllabus. Most notably, this course provides an example of what an expansive approach to teaching with sound can look like. That is, rather than only treating sound as a semiotic mode of communication, this course amplifies the affective, physical aspects of sonic interactions, focusing specifically on bodily experiences and the relation between sound and space. Rodgers’ syllabus represents an exciting range of possibilities for sonic education in the humanities.
Curatorial note from Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Steven Hammer’s undergraduate course titled Audio Design and Production focuses on examining and creating an array of sonic work. For the final project of the class, Hammer asks students to compose a 45–60-minute audio documentary that addresses the theme of “silenced voices in Philadelphia.” Working in teams, students do research, collect field recordings and interviews, and decide on how to structure and edit their documentaries. Community-driven fieldwork is an excellent way to incorporate sonic practices and digital composing techniques into the classroom, and Hammer’s collaborative audio documentary is an example worth emulating. This assignment also presents an opportunity for students to read about and discuss the implications of using sound recording to represent others, particularly when it comes to representations of race and class. Thus, this project would pair especially well with readings like Jennifer Stoever’s “Splicing the Sonic Color-Line” and Jonathan Stone’s “Listening to the Sonic Archive.”
Curatorial note from Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Jonathan Stone’s assignment “Sonic Remediations of the News” invites students to transform a print news article into a “layered sonic artifact” using digital-audio editing software. In the process of creating a sonic version of the print article—which includes recording a vocal track and adding music, sound effects, ambient noise, etc.—students experiment with the possibilities and constraints of both print and audio media. Stone’s remediation project is a model assignment for calling attention to how different compositional modes and technologies profoundly shape the ways that writers present information. For teachers who are new to sonic projects like this one, Audacity (an open-source, multitrack digital-audio editor and recording application) is a user-friendly option. The Audacity Manual is also a helpful resource that provides comprehensive information about how to use Audacity, including tutorials, tips, instructions about recording technologies, and explanations of the program’s various effects and technical features.
Curatorial note from Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Casey Boyle’s undergraduate rhetoric course explores the rhetorical affordances of sound as a form of writing, focusing specifically on sound in digital environments. Boyle takes a multidisciplinary approach by drawing on readings and audio texts from sound studies, critical theory, rhetoric and composition, journalism, and pop culture. Each week, the assigned readings and listenings are layered with and informed by new technical practices for students to learn. As the semester progresses, the students cultivate a deeper understanding of sonic theories and practices and are able to apply that knowledge in the production of their own sonic projects. This balance of analysis and production allows students to develop technical skills with digital audio tools over an extended period of time, thus making a potentially unfamiliar mode of composing less overwhelming. Boyle provides an excellent road map for teachers interested in developing semester-long courses on sound as a communicative medium.
Curatorial note from Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Some digital archive projects are social justice projects in practice and context. One such project is Andre Johnson’s digital archive, The #HMTProject, focused on the writings and study of the nineteenth-century African Methodist Episcopal Bishop Henry McNeal Turner. As a model of historical rhetoric and a digital archive, The #HMTProject provides students a means to engage historical text in understanding Bishop Turner’s use of the prophetic to embody social justice. Director Johnson along with his research team, Kimberley Travers, Dianna Watkins-Dickerson, and James Morgan III, digitized or provide links to over sixty writings, over twenty letters, and ten books or manuscripts written by Bishop Turner. The artifact included here is Johnson’s syllabus. The 21 September section of the syllabus contains embedded links and discussion questions and is an example of how to engage students in debates on the practical use of texts within the historical context.
Curatorial note from Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Amber Johnson and Toniesha Taylor modified this activity from one created by Robert Gutierrez-Perez. Guiterrez-Perez’s original activity used music and focused on themes and terms around marriage equality. Johnson and Taylor expanded the activity to include video, to use hashtags, and to cover themes and terms used to discuss race, class, gender and sexuality. Johnson and Taylor adapted the original activity as a creative interactive performance delivered at the Western States Communication Association Conference. Since then they have each adapted the activity for various communication classrooms. This activity allows professors to engage in mediated representations of intersectional identities. Moreover students are able to discuss the ways in which they understand social justice actions through identity matrixes. When delivered in classrooms, this activity can be used to start conversations.
Curatorial note from Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Some form of equitable social contract is valuable between course participants. Contracts, when presented thoughtfully, can be negotiated equitably and ethically. When teaching social justice, it’s critical to model a social justice paradigm. Start this assignment by discussing how students can consider the meaning of work, individual versus collaborative contribution, and work products. Remember: Students may not know how to write a contract without totalitarian or authoritarian language. Guide them to writing an equitable contract. It is important to talk about how the instructor will interpret the guidelines they set when grading or assessing work products resulting from the contract. This activity is designed to help students create a collaborative contract that outlines the group’s work and the group members’ shared responsibilities. The directions for the assignment are in the COMM 4543 syllabus, which is another artifact included in this keyword. Names and contact information were removed from the student sample.
Curatorial note from Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: This activity was created by Noel M. Estwick for COMM 4543. He was a guest lecturer for the course, and he delivered four lectures during the sixteen-week semester on GIS mapping. This activity introduces students to the method of data collection for GIS mapping, allowing them to gain valuable understanding of the physicality of place and space in relation to communication research. Estwick asked students to contribute to the GIS data on historical markers and social justice sites on campus with this activity. GIS mapping activities like this one are used to teach students how metadata and natural language affects mapping data. Students were asked to think critically about language choices. They focused on the digital structures of maps and access and particularly on how race, class, and gender descriptors of locations within preexisting GIS metadata structures guide the input of new sites in a database.