Capstone Project in Digital Humanities
Joseph Brown, Abigail Gatewood, Samantha Hostetler, and Sam Meurer under the direction of Dr. Andrea Davis (Spring 2020)
Joseph Brown, Abigail Gatewood, Samantha Hostetler, and Sam Meurer under the direction of Dr. Andrea Davis (Spring 2020)
The goal of the 2020 Capstone Project in Digital Humanities was to build a digital presence for the Digital Humanities program at Arkansas State University. To do so, we first conducted an environmental scan to assess institutional capacity and situate our program within its broader regional and national contexts. To begin, we collected data on other universities’ Digital Humanities programs and certificates. Overall, we looked at 41 institutions, taking into consideration departments, degrees, projects, locations, sizes, credit hours and more. This provided us with an idea about what other universities are doing in their DH programs.
We then conducted a campus scan to investigate DH research, teaching, and support at A-State. As part of the campus scan, we created two surveys and sent them via email to faculty, staff, and administrators across campus.
Each survey was designed for a specific audience, and they each had a different goal – one to gauge basic knowledge about and interest in Digital Humanities, and another to assess how those who are already familiar with the field might want to further incorporate the Digital Humanities into their research and teaching. Finally, we conducted follow-up in-person interviews with select respondents to better assess what faculty, staff, and administrators were looking for in a Digital Humanities program at Arkansas State University.
We then co-authored a report to share our findings with the university and make formal recommendations for continued program development.
Dr. Andrea Davis | Joseph Brown |Abigail Gatewood |Samantha Hostetler | Sam Meurer
The digital humanities, part of a broader computational turn within academia, encompasses a wide range of methods and practices, including, but not limited to, text analysis, network analysis, spatial analysis, data visualization, web programming, and software development. Characterized by its collaborative and interdisciplinary nature, the digital humanities brings together humanities scholars, librarians, technologists, and new media artists to:
Visualization of DH Centers and Programs http://arcg.is/1X1eDf : Blue & white markers = digital humanities programs (national scan), black & blue markers = digital humanities centers (regional scan).
The digital humanities is an emerging and rapidly growing field. As shown in the above visualization, there are at least 30 universities in the United States that offer degrees, certificates, and/or minors. Most of these programs have similar core requirements, focusing on the development and application of information technology in the context of humanities research and practice. Electives and program placement, however, varies, reflecting the nature of faculty interests and specializations on campus.
While digital humanities programs are predominantly located in the coastal US, digital humanities centers are more widespread. The above visualization draws attention to ten nearby centers in the South and Midwest. Our review of these examples reveals that there is no single model for digital humanities centers. Some centers are staffed by digital scholarship librarians who provide support for faculty research and teaching. Others are run by faculty directors who primarily organize lectures, symposia, and workshops. Still others, such as the Roy Rosenzweig Center for New Media and History at George Mason University and the Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Richmond, employ researchers and programmers to develop specific digital humanities projects and tools.
At Arkansas State University, the eighteen hour Undergraduate Certificate in Digital Humanities was established by the History Department in 2018 under the direction of Dr. Andrea Davis. To help develop the program and create digital humanities capacity on campus, Dr. Davis participated in the NEH summer institute, Digital Humanities Research Institute (DHRI) (https://dhinstitutes.org/), a ten-day workshop in June 2018 at The Graduate Center, CUNY. As a community lead, she developed core computational skills through hands-on workshops, explored interdisciplinary digital humanities research and teaching with leading digital humanities scholars, and began developing a version of DHRI for A-State. When she returned to Arkansas in the Fall, she worked with the Faculty Center and an interdisciplinary group of faculty members to develop and host an institute with an original curriculum focused on “Data for Humanists,” “Distant Reading,” “3D Presentation and Preservation,” “AR and VR,” “Digital Ethics,” and a final “Project Laboratory,” where participants developed their own projects for research or teaching (http://scalar.usc.edu/works/dhriastate/index?path=index). Held March 29-31, 2019, DHRI@A-State was attended by fifteen faculty members, all of whom positively reviewed the institute via anonymous exit slips. In these slips, participants described the institute as “a huge asset to the university,” and praised the curriculum, writing “lots of connections between sessions, seemed like a lot of synergy among participants” and “all seminars built upon information or skills learned in preceding presentations… [leading] to excellent discussions related to presentations.” The Digital Humanities Research Group (DHRG), an outgrowth of the 2019 Institute, organizes monthly meetups in downtown Jonesboro for faculty, staff, and graduate students (who increasingly express interest in graduate-level certification) to continue promoting “digitally-enhanced scholarly communication, research, and pedagogy at A-State” (DHRG Press Release).
Survey Visualization: Top four responses to the question “In what ways could A-State support your research/teaching interests with the Digital Humanities?”
To assess digital humanities interests and needs at A-State, we created a google survey for CLAC faculty members, graduate students in the humanities, and administrators and staff in the Library, RTT, and IT departments. Out of 31 responses, 90%, or 28 individuals, indicated that they would like to receive more information about digital humanities related resources and events on campus. The survey also gave respondents the opportunity to reflect on their research and teaching interests, providing insight into broader campus needs. One respondent, Dr. Kellie Buford, who has an advanced contract with the University of Nebraska Press for her second book project on sexual assault in the military, reflected on attending a presentation on the Digital Humanities at A-State, where she realized that she can further her analysis and better communicate her research through data visualization techniques. Her experience points to the need for training workshops and/or support staff to assist faculty with their emerging research needs. Another respondent, Dr. Katherine Baker, reflected on her desire to more fully integrate the digital humanities into her teaching. While the DHRI (2019) and DHRG (2019-2020) have provided her with initial training and feedback, and she now includes podcasting and blogging assignments in her courses, she requires more robust instructional support to assist with the development, management, and implementation of digital humanities projects in the classroom.
Following our initial survey, we conducted in-person interviews with select repondants to better assess the program. Information gathered from three interviews demonstrates how the program’s major opportunities and obstacles represent two sides of the same coin, suggesting the need for strategic planning and resolution. First, as our interview with Dr. Elizabeth Chamberlain of the English, Philosophy and World Languages Department made clear, our core faculty members would like to be more involved in the digital humanities program, but departmental needs and lacking IT support hinders them from offering additional courses. Second, as our interview with Dr. Michael Bowman from the Department of Communication revealed, interest in the digital humanities extends beyond the traditional humanities, but concerted outreach is needed to increase awareness, recruit students, and promote collaboration beyond the departments of History, Art + Design, English, Philosophy and World Languages. Third, and finally, the interview that we could not schedule with the Library due to workload constraints, supports Mr. Michael Sheppard’s point that “Libraries play a rather important part in this [digital humanities], and I’d like to think we can as well. But we need people with interest and time to commit” (google survey).
As one of the few programs in the region, the Digital Humanities program at A-State has the opportunity to grow and expand, furthering A-State’s broader recruitment efforts and research objectives. While the program has already garnered support from faculty and administrators in the College of Liberal Arts and Communications, Faculty Center, and Research and Technology Transfer Office, additional technical, financial, and human resources are needed to 1) promote the undergraduate certificate, 2) develop course offerings and/or certificatification programs for MA and Heritage Studies PhD. students, and 3) support and showcase faculty research and teaching. The recently purchased astatedh.com website, which is currently under development, aims to address some of these needs by creating a digital identity for the program; publishing digital humanities guides, tutorials, and research notes; and providing faculty and students with webspace to develop and showcase digital humanities projects. The proposed Digital Humanities Center, which figures within current strategic planning conversations, could build on these efforts by hiring dedicated staff, such as a digital scholarship librarian, to 1) support faculty research and teaching, 2) help organize lectures, symposia, and workshops, 3) serve as a liaison between IT, RTT, the Library, and faculty, and 4) administer astatedh.com as it continues to grow beyond its initial three-year trial period.
Mr. Cameron Buckley (Assistant Professor of Photography and New Media)
Dr. Jacob Caton (Associate Professor of Philosophy)
Dr. Eric Cave (Professor of Philosophy)
Dr. Elizabeth Chamberlain (Assistant Professor of English)
Dr. Andrea Davis (Assistant Professor of History)
Mr. Joe Ford (Associate Professor of Digital Design)
Dr. Rachael Isom (Assistant Professor of English)
HIST 3393 Introduction to Digital Humanities
HIST 4573 Digital History Seminar
HIST 470V Capstone Project in Digital Humanities
ART 1013 Design I
ART 1023 Design II
CMAC 2502 Introduction to Visual Communication
CS 1114 Concepts of Programming
CS 2114 Structured Programming
ENG 3053 Introduction to Digital Writing
GCOM 1813 Introduction to Digital Publishing
GRFX 3713 3D Digital and Game Design
MDIA 2313 Multimedia Production
MDIA 3313 Audio and Video Production
PRAD 3353 Strategic Visual Communication
The report, in turn, shaped the critical and creative decisions we made as we developed a website and social media plan for Digital Humanities at A-State. We began with the website, creating a sitemap and wire frames for each page. We tackled the first three main sections of the home page first: Digital Humanities Certificate, Digital Humanities Research Group, and Notes from the Search Bar. Working through each page, we made sure that the user had a clear and easy experience when navigating through different sections. As we developed each section, we also made sure that the website had room for growth. Our intention is that the website serve as a starting place for the Digital Humanities at A-State to continue to grow so that faculty and students have have a place to showcase their work and contribute in the future.
The final step of the capstone project was to create and utilize social media platforms. We wrote a social media style guide, a mission statement, and created two social media accounts. The style guide and the mission statement allow for a consistent and unified presence across all social media accounts. The goal of these accounts is to share information about what is happening in A-State’s DH program and the broader field of Digital Humanities. We want the content on these pages to be geared toward students as well as the general public.