Am I (like) What I Like (or RT or blog)
The purpose of this assignment is to provide you with the opportunity to reflect on representation and identity. You need to move beyond describing what identity is represented to making an argument about how identity is represented by focusing on processes of identity formation.
Select a facebook page, twitter feed or hashtag, any sort of blog or homepage of someone else (individual, group, corporation) or yourself to analyze for the representation of identity. What do the images, text, links, and likes say about identity formation? For whom it is intended? Who does it exclude? What mechanisms are used to encourage identification? What mechanisms discourage identification? Deliverable: 500word analysis [assignment inspired by this course http://studio.berkeley.edu/coursework/niemeyer/courses/23ac/assignments.htm and @edmondchang tweets
I come to the idea of curating via the art world, so I never thought of myself as a curator until very recently.* I’ve plenty of writing included in exhibition catalogs, but I’ve been on the periphery of the art world long enough to understand curation as a deeply intellectual project largely taken on by people with advanced education. Curation is also, like most of the art world, pretty damn elitist. So when I waded into the waters of the digital humanities I was both pleased and intrigued to see “curation” everywhere, in extremely “democratic” applications. My thoughts on curation have developed in exchanges with the following tweeps (although obviously not meant to imply that they endorse my views)
@ adelinekoh @alicebag @katelaity @jsantley @readywriting
creating v. curating
a suggested code for honoring the creative and intellectual labor of information discovery by making attribution consistent and codified, celebrating authors and creators, and also respecting those who discover and amplify their work.
Juxtaposed against this notion of curatorial attribution is a cautionary note sounded by Richard Hyland in “Some Thoughts on Curating.“ The author fears that curators may become complicit in “supporting an increasingly regulated …terrain beholden to both market (private) and government (public) agendas.”
These fears translate I think into the dangers that may be faced as digital humanities is increasingly institutionalized (and professionalized, and hence has “recognized” experts), housed in elite institutions of higher education, funded by the government (NEH grants for example) as well by for profit companies? What then becomes of the notion of “crowdsourcing,” the volunteer transcription projects, or the public history origins of some digital humanities projects?
The digital humanities has considered interface with alt-ac, interdisciplinarity, publicly accessible, and dare I even say valuable, intellectual work that doesn’t always “fit” into expert-driven categories. Academics are struggling (See this year’s MLA for example and the documents that emerged out of it) to find ways to fit their collaborative, interdisciplinary, technologically informed works into traditional models of scholarship that see knowledge production, service, and teaching as separate areas, divides that are often transcended in/by the digital humanities. Think of the #thatcamp phenomenon for example. Does one put that under “service” or “scholarship?” What if you present on a pedagogical project? Then does it fall under teaching?
By “oscillating between the high/low” as Suzanne Buchan suggests in her discussion of “curating and exhibiting animation,” we may be able to find away to both ensure that people engaged in digital humanities are not marginalized (Katherine D. Harris has been quite open about the challenges she has faced, despite her considerable prestige in the #DH community) and forestalling the creation of an (academic) digiterati. (I’ve already written about my fears about a new digital divide as it might effect students)
Buchan argues that curatorial practices initially consigned animation to “low art” and de-emphasized its “artistic practice.” Only through critical/curatorial interventions into discourses was animation re-located into the “high art” a move “not entirely beneficial,” hence her desire to “oscillate.” How can the digital humanities secure enough status to ensure it’s practitioners’ survival and the resources needed for it to flourish without it becoming the purview of (yet another) elite group of academics?
Having raised rather more questions that I have answers for, particularly in the latter case, I want to argue now that the art world discourse on curation has much to offer to teachers of the digital humanities. I initially became interested in the digital humanities for pedagogical purposes. In an effort to make a liberal arts education more applicable to contemporary issues I figured I’d take some time out of my sabbatical to see what was out there. What I thought I found was (mostly) new ways of doing some things I already do
My first impulse was that a special topics course that I teach, History in the City, would lend itself nicely to the digital humanities approach. Using google maps, a very easy interface, students could “annotate” some of the historical sites that abound here in Philadelphia, drawing links in from various sites and combining that with their own “scholarly” commentary drawn from course materials.
Critical Thinking and Curation
My immediate thought at seeing “curate” bandied about online was that this trope could be quite useful for teaching students critical thinking. Curatorial scholars have devoted considerable time to defending their intellectual contributions. Liz Wells in “Curatorial Strategy as Critical Intervention“ argues that curation is critical thinking as in “established academic models of enquiry” relying on “a research process involving investigation, discovery, and critical reflection” which offer some neat encapsulations of what we might try to teach our students.
investigation – how to do “digital” often subsumed under “tech literacy”
discovery – processes of clicking through, following likes/RT, but also stumbling, as well as following likes, shares, RT
critical reflection – how does online inform/incorporate into learning process/product
I began to think about having students “read” critically their own Facebook or Twitter or tumblr (or whatever) accounts and then expanding out to a larger more reflexive project in which they explore a topic online beginning from a social media site while documenting the process of their exploration (which sites, how they found sites, how they “read” sites, what they think of sites).
Am I (Like) What I Like
Alun Rowlands’ essay “The Movement Began with Scandal” argues for the need to develop structures and models of thinking that are sensitive to emerging arts practices. Rowlands offers us a jumping off point for considering how #Dh transforms rather than informs (i.e. rather than simply using digital means to do what we always do in the classroom think ppt at its very very worst as “technologically enhanced pedagogy”). As a professor of gender studies this seemed most applicable to thoughts about identity formation giving rise to my question Am I (like) what I like?
I began to wonder how I could help students explore the notion that they are already (active and engaged) curators of their own existences. I hoped to encourage a greater self-reflexive practice, not only because future employers may view them through their social media usage, but also because the digital is how they are in the world. If I want them to become engaged human beings, how do I help them to find the difference between slacktivism and activism (if there is such a thing), or to consider the interactions they have online (I was flabbergasted by how many students bandied about all sorts of epithets online, words I knew they’d shy away from in conversation).
In “Critical Spatial Practices: Curating, Editing, Writing,” Jane Rendell outlines the following roles at work in the curation process. I expand her usage to roles that we all inhabit, either consciously or not, online. (although she emphasizes the divergences within these pairings, I’ve focused on their similarities)
editor/curator – developing and clarifying relationships
artist/architect – creating “spatially” via practice and appropriation
critic/theorist – exploring experience and identity
For Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies, I’m thinking of a project in which students use one of the many online curation tools to create a sort of document/map/visual of their (online) identities with explications drawing on the above three roles. What/who do I relate to and how? How can I/do I “arrange” those relationships? What does it mean that I relate and arrange in those ways?
The Student as Historian/Curator
The strongly interdisciplinary turn of curation gave rise to another idea for a project that I’ll use in a U.S. women’s history course. Rendell argues that we must approach artworks as “sites” for investigation form “various tools of investigation” which seems a quite fruitful way of helping students to grasp the digital humanities. Similarly, Chris Dorsett argues that an “expanded field” of arts practice informs contemporary art in ways that I would argue the “expanded (digital) field” informs history.
Using Omeka (I think), I plan to have the students create online exhibitions using primary source documents (for which they will do beginning text mining) as well as visual and audio sources (I already incorporate basics analytical techniques for the “readings” of these into the course), in order to produce their own “histories.” I hope the curatorial process will help stress the constructed nature of history as well as its reliance on “other” fields (art history, literature, politics, economics etc).
All of the above will I think admirably meet my goal of helping students in the liberal arts to acquire “transferable” skills for life after college, however, more importantly, the process of formulating the projects caused me to realize that in fact “doing” digital pedagogy does involve considerably more than “digital” tools to accomplish “non-digital” pedagogical means.
While in the past students have created document analysis portfolios, and participated in peer editing and evaluation of said portfolios, that is not the same thing as creating for public consumption an online historical exhibition. The processes of “doing” digital invoked a third party to the classroom, the “out there” of the digital realm. Who, how, and what that consists of hasn’t been revealed to me. Perhaps no one will ever view the Omeka exhibitions or read the Google map annotations, but the awareness that someone might, I think, markedly transforms the endeavor for students, bridging the classroom to the “out there” that is so often the most difficult part of the liberal arts education.
*in the process of working as part of a Getty Institute team of scholars, Ale Juhasz, Jennie Klein, JenniSorkin, and Vivian Green-Fryd, I questioned my suitability to make suggestions to exhibition curators as I am “just a historian.” Jenni Sorkin asked me if I selected the documented included in my web 1.0 project for Women and Social Movements. When I said yes, she pointed out that my process was, in fact, curation.
More updates (confession I spewed out my thoughts without doing tons of research. Twitter for me is all about starting the conversations you want to have, not getting the final word. ) Found this great grad seminar at the New School, with post on Pinterest and curation.