Further expanding the boundaries of DH

All of the readings I’m about to discuss seem to push the boundaries of DH even further than those of previous weeks. In fact, David Gruber, in “New Materialism and a Rhetoric of Scientific Practice in the Digital Humanities,” comes right out and states that DH focuses too much attention on discursivity. He suggest that DH needs “to be about more than creative textual analysis.” While there is no doubt that Written Communication as a discipline does, indeed, focus on discursivity, I’m not sure that it makes sense to claim that it focuses “too much” on its own subject matter. Does Literature as a discipline focus too much on texts? It seems a silly argument to make; however, the field of DH is expanding so quickly and rapidly that this is a real and valid discussion.  Gruber describes a number of disparate projects that include furniture making, medical imaging machines, and surgical room activities, but then places them all into DH. I understand that they are all digitally-based, but what they “do” and what they “create” seems better situated among professionals in the fields they affect.

Similarly, Mary Hock and Jentery Sayers explain “Hacking the Classroom” as and “an edited, crowdsourced collection” of essays in response to a conference on ways to hack conventional pedagogy and classroom structure. The projects that were created out of this conference are all interesting in their own ways. It’s interesting to think about how to move writing into different modalities to see what needs to change rhetorically, but these projects seem to lose the original concept of “writing.” Does the construction of a video game on bullying belong in a composition class or a computer programming class? Is hacking the space of a classroom “writing” or should that fall into a course on educational methods? I think the authors’ suggestion that we, as instructors, need to hack our “own head” makes the most sense to me because it means challenging our assumptions. I think I need to hack my head a little before I’m ready to call some of these things written communication.

Karl Stolley, in “MVC, Materiality, and the Magus: The Rhetoric of Source-Level Production,” and Annette Vee , in “Understanding Computer Programming as a Literacy,” both argue that computer programming is a form of literacy. Yes, I agree, that programs are read and follow some type of narrative, but is this a literacy that is universally necessary for all? Writing and reading are arguably necessary to function in contemporary society. I don’t think reading computer code is a necessary literacy. I am more than happy to download apps written by those interested in writing code while I understand nothing of the underpinnings of these apps. Although reading and writing code are important skills for someone to have, much like reading an MRI, I don’t believe this is a necessary literacy for all.

The one article that I actually enjoyed and see the practicality of was Kevin Brooks, Chris Lindgren, and Matthew Warner’s “Tackling a Fundamental Problem: Using Digital Labs to Build Smart Computing Cultures.” While I may not be interested in creating these computing cultures that the authors discuss, I do see the benefit of reaching out to K-12 teachers and students. This sounds like an important way to introduce the subject to students who may have a real interest. I also think it’s important that they discuss the digital divide as not just to access in the classroom, but as busing to after-school programs or even parental permission to use technology at home. While the authors want to help build smarter computing cultures, I wonder about access to the extra-curricular programs and camps they discuss. I know that large universities like Michigan offer expensive summer computing camps, but it seems that this creates a further divide based on socio-economics. Until there is a political movement in K-12 requiring these programs to become part of the curriculum (Common Core?), I think this will become a stratified skillset based on class and economics.


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