DH and Social Justice

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Yesterday I asked a question on Twitter and Facebook:

Do you know of a ‪#‎DH‬ project or tool that addresses a social justice issue? I know this is a broad request, but I’m looking to compile a list of interesting projects for students to analyze. Plz share links, resources, or references and I’ll share the list we come up with.

In less than 24 hours, I’ve received dozens of links and suggestions, and also many requests to share the list. To make sharing and contributions simpler, I’ve created an open Diigo Outline, which you can access here, or see below.

First–thanks to everyone who has sent links and resources. Please keep adding–this is a huge area, and the more work we collect the better for our students/scholars/activists.

Michelle Moravec asked a crucial question about the method and scope of my request:

Are you looking for just contemporary social justice or historical?

As you see from the list below, I’ve included both and tried to tag and categorize to make finding easier.

The inspiration for my request comes from a class titled “Just Hacking” I will be team-teaching with my colleague Bill Kronholm in Fall 2015. Here’s the catalog description:

“Hacking” is often viewed as a criminal endeavor; however, at its core it is the art of creative problem solving. In this course students will hack the information flow of new media to conceptualize, design, and implement responses to real-world social justice issues. As a class, we will identify a specific issue and then learn data visualization, basic programming, and/or design skills as needed to build a project to address it. No prior programming experience is assumed. 4 credits. CON2

The course is designed for people with no prior programming experience who share a conviction that we are all responsible for improving our world. Students will learn efficient problem-solving and basic coding (especially Python) using an applied project-based learning approach in which they will collectively identify a social problem, design potential projects to address it, select an approach, learn the skills they need to implement their choice, and then collaboratively implement their solution. The course will teach basic programming skills as a literacy that can help address social problems, while also exploring ways technological solutionism can obscure or exacerbate existing social problems.

I’d love your feedback and thoughts about our concept. We are developing the course modules this summer, and the projects on this list will be both inspirations and opportunities for students to analyze existing projects in order to imagine what is possible, what can be improved, and what works.


Diigo DH and Social Justice Outliner:

DH and Social Justice
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May comes every year

May arrives every year–and every year it is a surprise. While I seem to spend every April wondering if it really is the cruelest month, May (on the semester system) is an opportunity to reflect on the past year and to dream for the future.

May, as a runner friend of mine would say, is when I need to remind myself to “finish strong”. I want to spend the last of my energy in the final push of the academic year. I have just one more week to make up for all the mistakes or missed opportunities of the year. How I could have done better, arrived in May with bigger accomplishments, happier students, and more publications?

So, a stock-taking. This year (2014/2015) I:

  • Gave a paper, with Anne Cong-Huyen, U Toronto Conference on Digital Pedagogy in August 2014.
  • In fall, regularly participated in FemTechNet planning and committee meetings.
  • Participated in four MOOCs (that I can remember) on open learning, connected learning, Python, etc.
  • Attended AACU in January 2015 with Doreen O’Connor-Gomez.
  • Gave a paper, with Pete Rorabaugh, at ELI, Educause annual meeting in February 2015.
  • Gave two papers, with Pete Rorabaugh, Maha Bali, Janine De Blaise, Christina Hendricks, and JR Dingwall at OLC annual meeting in April 2015.
  • Gave a paper at HASTAC in May 2015 for a panel on digital liberal arts.
  • Attend DHSI in June 2015.
  • Taught classes in both the Whittier Scholars program (two new preps) and the English Department.
  • Worked with colleagues to build Whittier Digital Liberal Arts Center.
  • Served as interim Associate Director for the Whittier Scholars program.
  • Served on faculty committees:
    DigLibArts Steering Committee (chair)
    EPC (spring)
    Whittier Scholars Council
    VPSS/DoS Hiring Committee (fall)
  • Submitted a manuscript for an essay on trauma and nationalism in Kipling (still in review).
  • Submitted an essay proposal for a paper on Romantic Pedagogies, which was accepted.

“Salth of the Earth”, Salgado, Bare Life, and Spectacle: A few thoughts

Went to see “The Salt of the Earth” last night, and I’m haunted today by Salgado’s devastating images of labor, of suffering, of “bare life” in Rwanda and Congo and the former Yugoslavia. Don’t miss this film. Though flawed (wish it had explored the ethics of such witnessing of horror) it is incredibly powerful–made more so by a large screen.

In thinking about how I might use (parts of) this film, of course Sontag’s “On Photograpy” came to mind. A quick search turned up her late New Yorker article, which I don’t think I’d read before.

And, as so often the case, Sontag makes articulate an important thread in my response to the film:

“To speak of reality becoming a spectacle is a breathtaking provincialism. It universalizes the viewing habits of a small, educated population living in the rich part of the world, where news has been converted into entertainment—a mature style of viewing that is a prime acquisition of the “modern,” and a prerequisite for dismantling traditional forms of party-based politics that offer real disagreement and debate. It assumes that everyone is a spectator. It suggests, perversely, unseriously, that there is no real suffering in the world. But it is absurd to identify “the world” with those zones in the rich countries where people have the dubious privilege of being spectators, or of declining to be spectators, of other people’s pain, just as it is absurd to generalize about the ability to respond to the sufferings of others on the basis of the mind-set of those consumers of news who know nothing at first hand about war and terror. There are hundreds of millions of television watchers who are far from inured to what they see on television. They do not have the luxury of patronizing reality.” from http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2002/12/09/looking-at-war

In June, 1938, Virginia Woolf published Three Guineas, her brave, unwelcomed reflections on the roots of war. Written during the preceding two years, while she and most of her intimates and fellow-writers were rapt by the advancing Fascist insurrection in Spain, the book was couched as a tardy reply…

How do I keep the research/conversations going during the semester?

This is a perennial question for me, and one I have never “solved” adequately. Some semesters I get more of my own research done than others, but I always find that I feel unsatisfied with my ability to remain connected to my larger academic discourse community during the semester.

I teach at a liberal arts college, which I love, but which means that my 3/3 teaching load is fully on my own shoulders. Each course is an individual prep, and I rotate courses on a two-year schedule. So I do a lot of prepping in order to stay up to date in the fields of my active courses. I find I need to catch up on each field, reinsert my brain into those concerns, and reread all the materials for each course–for each course each semester.

This rotation of courses means that, in any given semester, I am likely NOT teaching a course directly related to the article or project I’m working on for my own research. I just can’t move through projects that quickly. So my research trajectories don’t line up with my teaching very well.

Recently, though, as I’ve been doing more and more digital pedagogical experiments, they are enabling me to realign some aspects of my work with teaching. That’s exciting.

And I find that, if I can carve out time to interact with my Twitter account multiple times a day I can stay connected to my colleagues.

So–my resolution this semester is counterintuitive: spend more time on social media–especially Twitter–in order to stay “in the conversation” with my own research and with others who are doing related projects.

Have you ever made such a resolution? How do you keep your head in your research during heavy teaching times?