Year Of Book Blogging: Digital Humanities Pedagogy in Kind

Posted in: book blogging  pedagogy  digital humanities  alt ac 

Crossposted to the Scholars’ Lab blog

Amanda, Ammon, and I have been discussing our plans for the upcoming year of blogging. While last year’s blogging push was invigorating and exciting, we wanted things to be slightly different in the coming year. In particular, we’ve been talking about wanting more continuity in the things we publish. Speaking for myself, it often felt like I was blogging just in time and on deadline. Some good things came out of that work, but I liked the idea of putting just a little more thinking into the project ahead of time so that I could blog around a central topic for the year. Amanda and Ammon have been incredibly helpful in talking about all this with me.

Truthfully, I’ve been feeling the lack of a large writing project lately. After my dissertation, I worked on a text analysis coursebook with Sarah Horowitz, a faculty colleague at W&L. I adore blogging, but I feel the lure of a large project I can chip away at over the next year and that can draw together my energy. Am I talking about writing a book? Maybe? We’ll see. I’m certainly not the first person to write a book in public, but the idea of revealing what I was aiming for made me feel a little uneasy. What if my ideas didn’t cohere (I tend to write in multiple sections of a project at once)? What if I didn’t actually produce anything or finish? What if the project turned out to be empty (easier to dismiss a single blog post)? Does what I’m interested in working on even need to be a book? What do I mean by book - is it a published thing with a press or just something big that lives online?

I had initially planned on just quietly blogging around a cluster of ideas over the next year and then potentially revealing at the end that they were part of a coherent project in progress. But as I started to write the first post on imposter syndrome (seriously)- and in the midst of talking with my students about the very topic - I thought I should put my money where my mouth is from the outset. So here you go! Here are my notes on the large, ongoing, multifaceted writing project that I’ll be trying to cohere together over the course of the next year. If it winds up being something I try to actually turn into a book so be it. If it just winds up being a series of blog posts, then I’ll at least be happy to have written about topics I felt were urgent.

One last note on process: in my PhD program we did an activity where we repeatedly drafted a fantasy table of contents for our dissertation. No abstracts necessary at that stage - just a title for the project and titles for the chapters. I found it enormously useful as a means for thinking through the different shapes a large writing project could take. That’s essentially what I do below. I try on a provisional title for the large project and take a spin at some rough chapter ideas. Since this is a blogging endeavor to begin with, within each chapter title I offer some titles, topics, or questions for blog posts that might intersect with it. I flag a few thinkers and discourses that I see this all drawing upon and engaging with. I also offer a few beginning thoughts towards a topic (nothing surprising, if you’ve read other posts by me on here). My arguments always tend to emerge in the process of writing, though, so it will be interesting to see how this develops over the course of a year. So take this for what it is - a sketch of a sketch of things I find urgent and will be trying to attend to over the coming months. Stay tuned for a look into my messy process.

I thought I might start by close reading this provisional, draft-y title as a way of getting at the ideas I want to explore. For now, at least, I’m thinking about it as called Digital Humanities Pedagogy in Kind.

Digital Humanities Pedagogy in Kind

  1. Our pedagogies model and reflect the kind of academic community we want to see in the world. Academia is toxic in numerous ways. Teaching and the ways we theorize and practice it can be interventions in the culture around us. The project hopes to connect classroom practice broadly construed with the kinds of infrastructural changes they reflect and enact.
  2. Kindness is at the core of the project. I’m trying to formulate a theory of DH pedagogy that is, at its core, one about developing a less toxic and more affirmative space for students in higher education. It’s about developing empathy and kindness as teachers and how DH can (or cannot?) offer us the space to do so within and against the infrastructures of academia.
  3. Finally, at least in this title, I wanted to get at the idea of paying a debt in goods and services rather than in cash. For starters, I like this formulation because it draws in a range of topics. What do we owe our students? It raises the specter of student debt. And it draws in Paulo Freire and questions of neoliberal, zero-sum teaching. Is digital humanities fundamentally bound up in neoliberal politics of the university? Yes. How can we develop an ethical, just, and progressive pedagogy anyway and in the face of this?

A starting list of thinkers I imagine the project in dialogue with: Cathy Davidson, Katina Rogers, Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Jeremy Boggs and Purdom Lindblad, Hannah Alpert-Abrams, Amanda Henrichs, Roopika Risam, Sara Goldrick-Rab; Jesse Stommel and Sean Michael Morris, Matthew Cheney, Catherine Denial, bell hooks, Paulo Freire; Shawn Graham; Rebecca Frost Davis, Matthew K. Gold, Katherine D. Harris, and Jentery Sayers; Brian Croxall; Carolina Villarroel, Gabriela Baeza Ventura, Trevor Muñoz (and more). Significant projects that I’d examine and reflect on would include the UCLA Student Collaborators’ Bill of Rights, the Collaborators Bill of Rights, The Futures Initiative, HASTAC, Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities, ILiADS, #generousthinking, The Postdoctoral Laborers Bill of Rights, the Academic Job Market Support Network, AADHum, and USLDH, among others. In my mind I want to tie together questions of higher education reform, critical digital pedagogy, and DH pedagogy. I’m certain I’m leaving people and projects out in this short and initial list - such is the nature of blogging about a work in progress. I’ll be working on a Zotero bibliography that collects these resources for myself and others as I continue reading around about the important work already being done in these areas.

I imagine the project offering a theory and praxis of DH teaching and pedagogy - very broadly construed, as it tries to develop a theory of pedagogy far beyond the classroom - as an intervention in academic culture. DH pedagogy offers a number of great interventions to begin with – meditations on failure, teaching as activism, rethinking the professional futures of humanities students – and I’d like to join those conversations with others from critical digital pedagogy that emphasize radically student-centered teaching. With these frameworks, I’ll focus the work on the conditions of being a DH student – the material labor and working circumstances, the conditions of professional development and career prospects, the intersections of administrative decisions and the economic conditions of student life. I think doing so will help to give a better sense of the lives at the core of DH pedagogy as they intersect with the administrative infrastructures of DH. And perhaps ultimately the project aims to argue for a pedagogy that teaches with and alongside students and with kindness that happens together (a lot of echoes of Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s Generous Thinking here).

That’s where I’m at right now at least. Lots of loose threads and jumbled thoughts but at least a place to get started. One unresolved question for me is what makes this an argument about DH and not just pedagogy in general? Is it DH just because I am a DH person? Or does DH specifically have something to say about this? Is the DH audience, in particular, a good one for this? Or not? Things I’ll want to think further about in the future for certain. Without further ado, though, I’ll close with the draft table of contents and associated blog topics / questions. The arc of the project as I’m thinking it at the moment moves from micro to macro, from the classroom to larger questions of professional climate.

Draft Table of Contents and Ideas

  1. Introduction
    1. Where does DH teaching happen?
    2. Where does infrastructural change happen?
  2. Classroom experience
    1. Kindness and generosity as skills that require training
    2. Pedagogies of listening
    3. How do we make the classroom a space where students can be sheltered from the academy and also create the conditions to transform it a la Jacqueline Wernimont?
    4. What are the spaces of teaching, for DH in particular?
  3. Labor
    1. DH students as DH teachers
    2. Neoliberal DH pedagogies
    3. Expanding on the UCLA Student Collaborators’ Bill of Rights
    4. Precarious labor and the labor of teaching
  4. Infrastructure
    1. As it impacts pedagogy and student life and teaching in particular; how do the small decisions we make at the level of administration reflect out pedagogies?
    2. How can pedagogy be enacted beyond the classroom? How can we take teacherly actions as administrators?
    3. How can those teacherly administrative actions address issues of precarity among the student population?
    4. Your budget is a question of pedagogy and justice
  5. Profession
    1. Imposter syndrome. Where does imposter syndrome start for students? How can we address it?
    2. Professional Development / Career Paths
    3. Professional Imposters
    4. Small changes / big changes
  6. Conclusion – on inclusivity
    1. How do we invite students into the profession and into higher education in a way that makes their voices heard and valued?
    2. How can we ensure students are valued in online spaces? Or welcomed in spaces of open peer review?
    3. Where to go from here?

Seems like plenty to go on for now. Now to get blogging!