#FridayDHSpotlight: Introduction to Digital Humanities

For this week’s #FridayDHSpotlight, we’d like to present a reflection by Sean Buchanan on his semester taking the Intro to Digital Humanities course taught at the Claremont Graduate University by our very own Assistant Director of DH@CC Aaron Hodges last fall.

Students in this class examined the impact of computational methods on humanities scholarship in both theoretical and practical ways. Students also experimented with digital publishing platforms to present their research. After exploring various publishing platforms, they engaged in discussion concerning whether or not specific platforms are appropriate for humanistic research.

Sean entered the class wary of digital humanities, but through the many conversations and discussions had in the class, he came to understand the benefits that digital methods can bring to the study of the humanities. Thanks for this thoughtful reflection, Sean!

I came into the course as an archivist, filled with skepticism. My limited knowledge of DH at that point pertained to the digitization of archival materials and methods of processing and describing born digital materials. When I left the course at the end of the term, my skepticism had considerably diminished. This is to say that the readings assigned for class discussion stirred useful conversations about the state of the humanities, the “crisis” in humanities, and pedagogy.

I was once wary of DH and its perceived takeover of the various disciplines, but I have come to realize through Aaron Hodges’ class that DH, among other things, is an excellent tool for teaching across all age groups. Particularly younger generations, who were born into a digital world, respond well to digital tools and methods of instruction. Thinking from the perspective of an archivist, who wants to advocate for their collection and promote engagement with primary sources, DH represents a valuable opportunity. If it were not for the class, I may have remained a skeptic.


Sean is finishing up his last semester at the Claremont Graduate University, after which he will have earned his M.A. in History and Archival Studies. For more information about the Introduction to Digital Humanities course at CGU, feel free to contact the DH@CC Team.

Anna Mitchell: Update from Women Who Rock

“Digital” and “humanities” never struck me as complementary forces. The humanities conjured the analogue; the smell of books, the feel of a camera, the sounds of a classroom engrossed in discussion or the thick silence of study. Yet, through reading Jill Walker Rettberg’s scholarship and digging in to concepts such as the archive and collective memory, I now see that the two realms are far from disparate.
Women Who Rock Logo
This understanding is central to the Women Who Rock project (University of Washington archive; Scripps College Omeka and WordPress archives) and, on an individual level, contributing content to an archive of women’s voices, narratives, and knowledge. Though it began as a conference, the Women Who Rock project is rooted in its presence as a digital archive and fundamentally wed to the accessibility the internet engenders. The digital archive, as Tara McPherson explores in her introduction to “Media Studies and the Digital Humanities,” is exceptional because its boundaries are malleable, its chronology is non-linear, and, lastly, it is ever-evolving. Can’t the same be said for artists and their work?
Having watched the documentary “The Internet’s Own Boy,” which recounts the tragic story of Aaron Swartz, not far in the wake of a session exploring Omeka and the digital humanities provided another window into the issue of the digital humanities and questions of access. I found myself perplexed by the elitism perpetuated through capitalistic resource possession and by regulatory laws. Through such a lens, gaining even a non-expert grasp on Omeka and WordPress garners more power. It becomes not only a tool for documentation, but for democratization of information, especially information regarding people, movements, or art forms who are still fighting for shelves on the vast walls of the vast halls of our collective cultural library — our memory.
Anna Mitchell is a a member of the class of 2022 at Scripps College. She’s planning to major in French and Humanities: Interdisciplinary Studies in Culture, with a focus on Gender & Sexuality. She came to Claremont from a small island in Maine.
Women Who Rock (CHST 74) is a course that is regularly offered by Dr. Martha Gonzalez at Scripps College. In this course, which is situated at the intersection of music herstory, gender studies, and digital humanities, Dr. Gonzalez introduces her students to popular music studies through the practice of archive building, oral, history analysis, critical writing, and digital scholarship.

Paul Faulstich: Update from Visual Ecology

In addition to building and curating personal online portfolios, students in Paul Faulstich’s course this semester have begun the ambitious project of creating a Field Guide to the Claremont Wilderness Park. In Visual Ecology — a combined theory & praxis course developed with the help of a Digital Course Development Grant from DH@CC — we integrate studio art with scholarly analysis and engaged field research as we create socially and environmentally responsible works. The primary class project has two components: 1) a hardcopy field guide, and 2) a corresponding website.

The Claremont Wilderness Park is a treasured community resource of almost 2,500 acres of chaparral habitat. The City of Claremont estimates that there are about 500,000 visits to the Wilderness Park each year. The Park is habitat for a diverse array of flora and fauna, but most of the visitors do not have an understanding of the ecosystem and its biodiversity. This field guide will provide a resource for visitors to help them better appreciate the plants, animals, history, and geology of this cherished part of our city. The Field Guide will be a “pocket naturalist guide”: a laminated, accordion folded pamphlet with illustrations of the most important plant and animal species. Approximately 15-20 plants will be depicted, along with about 25 animals (about 10 of which will be birds). Each species will include its common and scientific names, identifying features, and size. For mammals, their tracks will be shown. The scientific drawings are being created by students, and the photographs are from Professor Faulstich’s ongoing trailcam research. The Guide will also include a map of the Wilderness Park and its trail system, an introduction to the ecology of the chaparral habitat, brief overviews of the geology, fire ecology, and environmental history of the area, credits and acknowledgements, and a salute to Tongva for having cared for this land for eons before it came to be known as Claremont.

The website will provide a source of additional information related to the Field Guide. The website will allow visitors to click on images of plants and animals to get more in-depth information, including material on medicinal uses of plants and animal behavior and demographics, and video clips of animals engaged in their natural activities. A GIS Story Map will allow users to click on a diagram of the Wilderness Park to access detailed information on specific locales. The class is working with the Digital Humanities of the Claremont Colleges staff to create and populate the site with more detailed natural history than can be included in the Guide.

We’re fortunate to live near open spaces large enough to sustain astonishing wildlife. The Field Guide to the Claremont Wilderness Park and its corresponding website could become resources enabling our community to gain understanding and appreciation of our local natural environment.

Microblogging as Scholarship

Students in this year’s Digital Humanities Studio (DGHM 150): Archaeology in a Digital Age have spent the first half of the semester critically examining digital platforms and digitally curated data. Twitter, in particular, has got a bad rep. When most people think about the social media platform, they imagine brief snippets of news containing links to additional information, or the unsolicited thoughts of celebrities and the general public. Few conceive of Twitter and other social media platforms as effective means of teaching concise writing with a creative twist for pedagogical purposes. In a recent studio assignment, Microblogging as Scholarship, that coincided with Dr. Donna Zuckerberg’s lecture, “How Deep the Rabbit Hole Goes”: The Alt-Right’s Infatuation with Stoic Philosophy, students in the studio “live-tweeted” to this end.

DZ Lecture

Live-tweeting has the potential to change the way audience members listen to, process, and engage with research, and this practice is consequently growing in popularity at conferences and academic lectures. Live-tweeting is posting a series of focused tweets that offer a minute-by-minute rundown on what is being shared by the speaker/panelists and what questions are being asked by the audience—all in real-time. Why are scholars and students live-tweeting in the first place? We live in an age where many of us own smart phones. For this reason, many of us have the ability to promote and communicate knowledge on a globally accessible platform with just the click of a button. By broadcasting information via platforms like Twitter, we can uphold our fundamental responsibility as scholars to openly share our work with a broad audience rather than only with other academics behind closed doors.

Because this was the first time many of the students had been encouraged to formally engage with a platform like Twitter, they composed their “tweets” in a form set up specifically for this assignment. Their collective “tweets” not only demonstrate their engagement with the topic but also provide a useful summary of the talk, readily accessible to those who weren’t able to attend. You can learn all about their take on this important subject, a play-by-play of the lecture itself, and some thoughtful reflections on microblogging as scholarship by accessing their “tweets” here.

For more information about the Digital Humanities Studio (DGHM 150), visit the course website.

© 2020 Digital Humanities at The Claremont Colleges.
Unless otherwise indicated, all materials licensed by the CC 4.0 BY-NC License.

DH@CC has been made possible through a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.