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Teaching the digital humanities

fawei's picture

When we were in groups trying to link the articles to the movie, we ran into some trouble near the end questions, about how we would teach it using Hayles’ ideas.

The ideas seemed a little abstract in how they would actually form solutions for current problems/disuse of existing technologies. There seemed to be some examples where the ‘assimilation’ of humanities to technology or vice versa was shown, like the projects to machine read old texts to better understand them with human interpretation (page 19 of ‘How We Think’) but what would a system that ‘forgot meaning’ be realized? Especially in a teaching context, where today critical thinking seems to be the goal of being a scholar? To deliver a class without any context or implied meanings would make for maybe objective, but stiff and inert information. Sure, experts might be needed to dissect and label all the features of the film, the historical record, and the nuances of the script, but the gathered info could be taught out of a manual by anybody, they don’t need an opinion/bias marring the pure ‘data streams.’ It could even be taught by a computer

 By the end of the class I kind of gathered that the learners were still allowed to be critical or symptomatic thinkers, it was just the teachers/information distributors were not supposed to be -or maybe it was just because we were talking about teaching it? I recently looked at monitorial schools in a class about education; these were schools that were mostly taught out of the manual, such that even students could teach other students. (It’s not as romantic as it sounds, though, it was a budget saving tactic to take on a lot of kids without many teachers.) The school system was a bit harsh, but the idea is similar - curriculum was very generalized, critical thinking was definitely not a part of education. It eventually failed because people automatically grew more interested in education as a result of being exposed to it- and more money allotted into hiring teachers. Inversely, in ‘digital humanities,’ the unnatural aspects of monitorial schools here, if something feels unnatural , movements could also be made to reform or get rid of it. To be used by humans, it needs to somehow fit and be tangible – but somehow these two things affect each other and just make full on establishment of the ‘digital humanities’ hard to understand.

This seems kind of extreme, but is just a sort of comparison to try to work out an understanding of the ideas Hayles’ was trying to explain. Still not too sure. I’m sure there are positive things to say too… even monitorial schools had their successes.




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