From Brick to Click, Overnight

Draft version updated, 5 March (1945, GMT +4) I will update this as I think more. The situation seemed to call for publishing it in draft form as I write it.

This semester all of the instruction in all of the institutions of higher education in my country of residence has undergone rapid conversion to online delivery. School and university closures were declared necessary by the MoE for combatting the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

I have been teaching with an LMS and online presence for many years, and with student work in digital humanities (DH) done in web hosting for six. It may seem counter-intuitive that teaching digital humanities online would be difficult, but in fact, an undergrad DH class in a liberal arts (LA) environment isn’t a MOOC (Cordell). In a classroom where there is already such intense transmedial engagement with technology, we depend a lot on brick-and-mortar infrastructures (projectors/large screens, standalone and web-based platforms, seating configurations, the ability to move around the room) as well as the small classroom environment supporting both discussion and technical problem solving. The immediate switch to a synchronous online course raised a lot of issues in my mind. I had to think quickly what could be done to make the shift, literally overnight. I have my last face2face course today, for at least one month. My course is Reading Like a Computer, CDAD UH-1024Q at NYU Abu Dhabi.

Luckily the students in the class have web hosting set up and they are somewhat comfortable in it for course materials and written work (we also use Drive and an NYU-wide LMS). The suggestions for creating a rapport with students and setting up expectations that we find in the literature about online teaching are not as crucial since as I am writing this we have arrived at midterm. What follows are some ideas that I have been gleaning from the literature about online delivery and some thoughts on how the delivery of a transmedial undergrad DH class can be adapted to online environments, both quickly and meaningfully.

Right now my ideas are in the form of questions:

How can the combination of Zoom (the video conferencing built into the LMS), web hosting and other media work together to “help mimic the collaborative environment” of the classroom (Bidaisee)? How will we manage the Zoom calls so that there is direct interaction between myself and students, as well as between them? We already have computational notebooks published, but how and when will I share my screen most effectively so that we can go through the exercises as I do in face to face? How will we handle the inevitable debugging of open source software like R?

What are some strategies for using the chat function to the best effect? For taking notes that could be annotated by the instructor and posted in Drive ? For writing down key words?

How in a moment of “social distancing” can students be encouraged to “partner up” to review the material? (Goldberg) to complete group exercises? What is the “architecture of engagement” (McKay) required to transition abruptly to synchronous video classes (cognitive/instructor/social presence)?

If I have a course site already, do I really need to pull the content into NYU Classes? I feel that I will need the space of the course WordPress site even more to post notes and key concepts.

Some reading I found (with more to come):

Cordell, R. 2016. 36. How Not to Teach Digital Humanities. In Gold, M. and Klein, L. (Eds.), Debates in Digital Humanities 2016. University of Minnesota Press. https://doi.org/10.5749/9781452963761.

Research Instructional Technology Services NYU Shanghai. 2002 “Digital Teaching Toolkit” https://wp.nyu.edu/shanghai-online_teaching/.

Spiro, L. 2012. 14. Opening up Digital Humanities Education. In Hirsch, B. D. (Ed.), Digital Humanities Pedagogy: Practices, Principles and Politics. Open Book Publishers. Retrieved from http://books.openedition.org/obp/1654.

Student DH Zotero S19

This semester I asked my undergraduates at NYU Abu Dhabi to individualize their learning about topics related to digital humanities by building a Zotero bibliography in my Introduction to DH class. This Spring semester I reorganized the course around themes important in today’s society: computational thinking, digital identity, text as data, dataset, pattern, algorithm, network, location, with different experiments that allowed us to explore these concepts along a spectrum of more human- or more algorithm-centered activity. The Zotero library was an opportunity for them to connect learning in the larger theoretical issues with specific topics of interest to them. The students came from a variety of majors: Computer Science, Interactive Media, Arab Crossroads, Art History, Economics, Music, Social Science, and undecided freshmen.

Our Digital Scholarship head Beth Russell came into the class to introduce Zotero as a citation management system in the first weeks of the semester. By week 3 students had picked a general topic that corresponded to their own interests. Over the course of the term they refined the topic, curating 25 bibliographic entries, tagged and organized in foldesr. We got some very interesting Zotero group libraries. Feel free to build on their open knowledge!

Here are the topics that emerged from student interest in IM-UH 1511 in the Spring 2019 semester:

Generative Digital Art

Applications of Digital Art History

Emotional AI / Affective Computing

Human Matchmaking Algorithms

3d Printing Ethics

The Biometric Industry & Facial Recognition

AI and DH

Dark Skin and Facial Recognition in Photography, Cinematography, and Technology

Machine Learning Popularization

Big Data Analytics and Data Wrangling

Generative Adversarial Networks and Fake Faces

Digital Humanities and Education

DHIB 2019: Quantified Self

I offered a 10-hour workshop at the Digital Humanities Institute Beirut (DHIB), 4-5 May 2019. It is a miniature version of a course I will be teaching at NYU Abu Dhabi in Fall 2019. The slides are available at Zenodo here.

Brief description: This ten-hour workshop explored elements of the contemporary “quantified self” movement and its claims to “self-knowledge through numbers” focusing on contexts outside of the West/global North. It adopted a data-centered approach to gather, analyze and visualize data about the self in order to evaluate the phenomenon critically.

Preparation for the Workshop: Check out some of the 325(!) “Show and Tell” sessions here.

Requirements: Participants should come with a laptop and a updated smartphone (iOS or Android) with plenty of charge each day.

Outcomes. Participants in this workshop will:

  1. explore basic arguments in the contemporary context of self-tracking and the datafication of human life.
  2. be exposed to relevant issues in information privacy related to device usage and commercial data aggregation.
  3. collect some data about themselves in familiar surroundings
  4. practice data storytelling techniques reusing that data (map visualization, plotting).
  5. discuss to what extent these data reflect their own life experience, or constitute “self-knowledge”.
  6. examine critically the risks and benefits of QS applications for emerging and vulnerable environments.

Breakdown

Saturday 4 May, 0900-1130 — Session 1

  • introduction to quantified self (QS) movement and to its globalization in the public & health sectors.
  • discussion of data privacy, geo-privacy, app gamification.
  • exploration of the data collection capacities of a smartphone / wearable technologies.
  • lunch exercise: observing the data collection apps already on your phone.

Saturday 4 May, 1430-1700 — Session 2

  • exploration of self-tracking apps: their functions, gamified nature, benefits and drawbacks, the exportability of data
  • working with a couple apps to set up (temporal & spatial) data collection exercise for a one day period.

Sunday 5 May, 0900-1130 — Session 3

  • debriefing about data collection: findings and shortcomings.
  • discussion of a few short passages from critical literature on QS and media studies (Maturo/Moretti; Rettberg; Wernimont; Lupton).
  • exporting the data from the apps.
  • presentation of relevant data visualization techniques.
  • lunch exercise: completing your data collection, if you haven’t already at night.

Sunday 5 May, 1430-1700 — Session 4

  • reusing that data for storytelling purposes (map visualization, plotting).
  • wrap up.

For more information, see the bibliography of my forthcoming colloquium as well as the QS bibliography and 325 Show&Tell talks.

NYU Abu Dhabi DH Meet Up schedule 2018-19

What is the Digital Humanities Meet Up? 

It is an informal get together featuring a wide array of topics for those interested in, or just curious about, the digital humanities.  It is co-sponsored by the NYU Abu Dhabi Center for Digital Scholarship and the Division of the Arts and Humanities.

 

When will it meet?  

It will meet for approximately one hour during the day every few weeks throughout the Fall and Spring semester.

 

Who can attend?

Anyone in the NYU Abu Dhabi community or beyond.  The meet up is designed to be a learning experience for all.  No particular technical knowledge is required. No RSVP required.

 

Have an idea for a future DH Meet Up? Let us know…

 

Fall 2018 schedule:

 

All meet ups are held in the NYU Abu Dhabi library, C2 329, unless noted below.

 

Wednesday, 19 September, 12-1pm  Taylor Hixson (NYUAD Library, Geospatial Services), Workshop: “An Introduction to Story Maps

 

Monday, 24 September, 1150-105pm  David Wrisley (NYUAD, Digital Humanities), Workshop: “Web Hosting and Digital Identity” 

 

Thursday, 4 October, 2-3pm –  Abdullah Heyari, (NYUAD, Center for Cybersecurity), Workshop: “LaTeX for complete beginners”

 

Monday, 8 October, 1150-105pm – Kaki King (Musician), “Data Not Found”  Different Location C3 116, NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center

 

Sunday, 4 November, 12-1pm –  Jeremy Farrell (Emory, Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies) – Research presentation and hands on: “Network Approaches to Historical Religious Movements: Early Sufism (9th-10th c. CE) as a Case Study”

 

Tuesday, 20 November, 12-1pm  – David Wrisley (NYUAD, Digital Humanities)  Presentation and hands on: “WikiMedia and the UAE : On Freedom of Panorama, de minimis, and Visual Data in the Creative Commons”

 

Tuesday, 4 December, 12-1pm   –Taylor Hixson (NYUAD Library, Geospatial Services) “Archiving your Digital Spatial Objects in NYU’s Spatial Data Repository

 

Spring 2018 schedule (forthcoming)

Topics for next term:

Digital Scent

Social Networks and Entrepreneurship in the 19th century

Faculty Digital Archive and “green” repositories

 

 

Past DH Meet Ups :

Fall 2016

Spring 2017 

Fall 2017 – Spring 2018