Notes on Re: Hum ’12

i. To me the most valuable aspect of the Re: Humanities ’12 conference at Swarthmore was the opportunity it provided for us Stockton Postcolonial Studies Project researchers to collect ideas from other undergraduates. The diverse presentations—ranging from GIS mapping of Soweto to reformulating citation methods for social/digital media sources—demonstrated the wide variety of projects that can fall under the heading “digital humanities.” Listening to many of the presentations, I was thinking about ways to make The Stockton Postcolonial Studies Project better using the tools, strategies, and principles employed by other students and professors: a pop-up glossary like in Alex Juhasz‘ “book” Learning From Youtube, a Historypin tour of postcolonial sites like Lauren Close‘s tour of monuments in Paris, better attention to design and functionality as suggested by Kevin McGillivray, and so on. I also left with a wealth of inspiration for future creative and academic projects.

ii. Although I was a little uncertain about the “poster session” we had been invited to participate in, I ultimately found the informal and interactive style of this session preferable to that of a traditional presentation. During the traditional presentations, time was limited and questions afterward had to be kept to a minimum. In contrast to this, during the poster session, conference attendees and passers by from the campus were able to linger over projects they were interested in. KimoneSvetlana, and I stood around the poster we had stayed up late assembling and were able to engage separately in stimulating conversations with professors and students. Some viewers were more interested in the technical aspects of the project’s design and creation, while others were interested in postcolonial concepts or the specific projects each of us had completed. The poster session allowed us to tailor our presentations of SPSP to viewers’ interests, and to engage in more in-depth conversations about our work.

A trio of students from Bryn Mawr were particularly delighted by our print-out of Homi Bhabha looking dashing in spectacles.

iii. In the spirit of digital humanities, and at Professor Koh’s suggestion, I decided to live-tweet the conference on my Kindle Fire. I was hesitant at first, and wondered if trying to type on a touchscreen keyboard while listening to the presenters would be a huge distraction. But although there were certainly moments I missed due to fixing an auto-corrected word or struggling to articulate a thought in 140 characters, tweeting helped me crystallize important ideas in a more effective way than taking notes by hand. Since I could only type 140 characters at a time and didn’t want to flood my Twitter feed, I was focused on pulling out key points more than I usually am when filling up pages of handwritten notes. Tweeting also helped me stay focused and present; as someone who is not an auditory learner, I frequently find myself spacing out or losing the thread entirely during spoken presentations. With my fingers poised to type, I was always listening for the next thing worth repeating.

iv. One of my favorite parts of the conference was Katherine Harris‘ (@triproftri) keynote presentation, during which she enthusiastically conveyed her own passion for digital humanities work. Professor Harris dedicated a large portion of her presentation to sharing her students’ projects. As an aspiring educator myself, I was excited and intrigued by the way that Professor Harris encourages her students to “screw around” with digital media as a way to demonstrate understanding of course material. In doing so, Professor Harris emphasizes exploring and making over working toward pat conclusions and rote mastery. The discussion about how a mash-up of Youtube videos could demonstrate greater critical thinking and be a better way to express an idea than a traditional paper was particularly exciting to me: the digital humanities may offer more students the opportunity to create and play as part of the learning process.

v. Throughout the conference, many students and professors commented about the way that digital humanities projects empower undergraduate students to take themselves and their academic work seriously, in part by making this work more publicly available, and by bridging the divide between the realm of academia and the “real world.” This sentiment is very much in line with my own experiences working on the Stockton Postcolonial Studies Project, as I noted in my reflections on research. Overall, I felt honored to have been invited to present alongside such impressive and interesting projects, and also proud to represent Stockton at a conference populated largely by students and professors from more well-known institutions. Spending time around other students undertaking serious scholarly work at the undergraduate level was inspiring, and the buzz of energy and excitement about the possibilities of digital media, radiating from everyone at Re: Hum ’12, was infectious.

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