Introducing Digital Sandbox

Digital SandboxToday has been an extremely lazy day for me. Not much of anything got done. Amidst the laziness, however, I completed a rough draft of an essay on public history and the digital humanities that will be up soon. I wrote this essay in preparation for Digital Sandbox, an exciting workshop that will be taking place at IUPUI next month on Thursday, August 15. The idea for this event was originated by Nancy Brown, a recent graduate of IUPUI who is now pursuing her PhD at Purdue University, but the process of planning and arranging the event’s logistics was left to three classmates and myself. Many of us took a course on digital history in the spring, and all of us have a strong desire to continue the discussion on the intersections between history, digital technology, and the digital humanities. We felt that a student-created, student-run workshop on these topics would be a creative and exciting way to not only inform and educate our fellow public history/liberal arts/humanities classmates, but to also demonstrate to IUPUI faculty our desire to make the implementation of digital technology a core element of the humanities curriculum.

I believe that digital technology should be utilized in humanities classrooms in two important and interconnected ways:

  • Rigorous and critical analysis of the theories behind digital technology. Does digital technology really lead to a democratization of humanities content that is accessible to a nonacademic audience, or does digital technology perpetuate old gender, racial, and class divisions that plagued humanistic studies in the twentieth century? Who are the power interests behind the creation of the digital tools we use in our research? How much technical training should humanities students receive? Should they receive training in code (HTML, XML, etc.), or should the emphasis be on other technical aspects? How much time should be spent “hacking” digital technology and how much time should be spent “yacking” about digital technology? What is the digital humanities, anyway?
  • Building things. Using tools to conduct digital research, create websites, preserve archival resources, present digital exhibits, and engage in text mining of large bodies of text. Experimenting and playing with digital tools. Collaborating in scholarly digital projects, some of which will be interdisciplinary in nature. Creating projects that provide unique insights, ask new questions of the past, and present our work to a diverse audience not exclusively composed of academics. The latter qualification is important, as the digital humanities shouldn’t be an exclusively academic endeavor.

By building things and understanding the promises and perils of digital technology, I believe humanities graduate students will put themselves in a much stronger position to find gainful employment upon completion of their respective degree programs. I am very privileged to work with such great classmates and faculty at IUPUI and I am hopeful that my training will lead to great results for my career next year.

You can see what we’re doing with the Digital Sandbox by visiting our website here.


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