Digital Humanities Pedagogy: Beyond Text, Past Instruction

The long-winded (and probably not published in such a lengthy form) abstract for my talk at “Digital Humanities Pedagogy” UNSW Sydney Friday 26 June..

Initially, thanks to Sportronic’s version of Pong, but particularly from around 1982 to today, I have been fascinated by computer game design. Not so much the games for their own sake, but the complicit power they exert over players. How can we design fragmented systems that allow others to create their own imaginative worlds, their own procedural fictive realities? Later, teaching game design, I was struck by how difficult it can be to encourage students to move beyond repeating the standard tropes and clichés of commercial computer games.

My own solution, which is still a work in progress, was to encourage the students to evaluate the group work of their classmates in order to better understand others, and provide examples of critical thinking to help students concentrate more on the underlying principles while predicting the needs and demands of a future audience. For I believe the changing nature of what is the audience of today and tomorrow is a crucial emerging component of Digital Humanities, and the nature of a university as a collaborative testing and invention space of a focused strategic community is a vital if dwindling resource.

So game design teaching reflects a larger problem. How can we, in this fast changing world of digital technology, re-establish the relevance and usefulness of the university, while helping our students to prepare for a tomorrow that is not defined by a discipline or industry skill today?

Having now worked more directly in or around the field (if it is a field) of Digital Humanities, I am continually struck with the issue of learning by following or by teaching, how to reconcile individual scholastic achievement with the benefits of collaborative work, and the yawning gap between start up projects and what is desperately required at an infrastructure level. I will discuss some current and upcoming research that will hopefully tackle these issues.

That said, while my PhD evaluated learning in virtual environments, I am not a pedagogical expert. So my talk will be based on my observations and suggestions for dealing with some of the above issues, but I would also be very happy to hear how these ideas parallel or lie outside of your experiences.

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