About the Project: Most of my work in DH has been in the classroom, and my presentation today focused on how I see my pedagogical projects fitting into a multi-faceted understanding of the Digital Humanities, which Randall Cream has articulated for us in English:
- Technology as an object of critical study
- Technology as a method of pursuing traditional humanities work
- Technology as a tool for creative and critical production
The particular class I started to discuss before we ran out of time combined critical, literary, and cinematic texts about the “virtual” (life/reality) with field work in the online virtual environment Second Life. Dr. Larysa Nadolny and I had won an Information Services “Technology Beyond Borders” grant to construct and conduct classes on a Second Life WCU “island.” You can find the Prezi about that project here. My students (in ENG 400: Research Seminar–“Welcome to the Matrix”) and I used the island for some of our class meetings, and they conducted their own field work exploring Second Life.
If you are interested in online virtual environments for education, you can visit Second Life for free, but you’ve got to download their client. More information on that here. You might also want to check out the Virtual Worlds Education Roundtable or the website for the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education Conference which begins tomorrow, April 9th (Larysa is presenting this year).
The student comments from Joe C., Mike B., and Jessica R. that I included in today’s Prezi demonstrate the “reflexive awareness” that we worked our way towards as a group. The students compared their own experiences of Second Life with the literary and critical representations of virtual reality. They also traveled around and interviewed the denizens of SL, and they toured and reflected on sites such as “Foul Whisperings, Strange Matters,” an island devoted to Shakespeare’ Macbeth, and Frideswide, a representation of the WWI Western Front, complete with virtual encounters with poetry of Wilfred Owens, Siegfried Sassoon, and others.
As far as “making” technology goes, the only thing the students got to create at SL was their avatar. But the sociological/ethnographic studies and literary texts they had read about avatars helped them to “understand and critique the epistemologies, worldviews, and structuring assumptions built into [such] digital platforms, technologies, visualizations” (Short Guide to DH) as SL, and that study made them rather self-conscious about the identities and images they fashioned for themselves. When I teach another version of this course, given enough time I would like to work with the students on some “construction project” of our collective choice.
In other classes, such as ENG 400: Research Seminar in Digital Literature, I have had students collaborate on wikis or “translate” a print literary text of their choice into new media (following the rationale that Eleanor articulated for us today–any edition or instantiation of a text is an interpretation). Like my colleagues, I do think it is most important that students become users of digital technologies to discover and present.
About the presenter: Robert Fletcher teaches courses in the English department, including seminars on electronic literature and the virtual in literature and culture. His essay comparing the role of the reader-player in computer adventure games and electronic literature appeared in Playing the Past: History and Nostalgia in Video Games (2008), and his analysis of the tension between a hacker ethic and a hawker entrepreneurialism in Cory Doctorow’s science fiction and blogging appeared in Science Fiction Studies (37.1, March 2010). Currently, he is developing competencies as a digital humanist and writing on the topic of queer politics in the science fiction of Chris Moriarty.