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.

Research Instructional Technology Services NYU Shanghai. 2002 “Digital Teaching Toolkit”

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

Digital Humanities NYUAD Year in Review 2017

“What exactly has happened to the study of the humanities in the digital age? To answer this question one need only review the last thirty years and remember how scholarship used to be carried out. In order to find books and articles, we had to look through various catalogs (card, National Union) as well as printed bibliographies. Fledgling institutional digital catalogs existed, but hardly contained everything we needed. Few journals offered digital access to publications. A researcher’s data was often stored on a desktop computer, or even just in paper copy on a shelf. At conferences, we arranged photographic slides in a carousel to project them on the wall.

In today’s connected world a stunning variety of virtual, networked resources are now available to researchers: electronic books and other platforms for document delivery, digitized archival collections, new environments for scholarly communication and web publishing, open data repositories, even cloud and high performance computing. Not all humanists are using these resources, but increasing numbers are, and as a result, our scholarly work is taking on a diversity, and creativity, of new forms. The transition to an era of “software intensive” humanities-it is, after all, a slow change-is bringing about new possibilities for trans-disciplinary scholarship. But what are the implications of more machines in our profession? Are we ready to confront the challenges and the results of such research? How many of us actually understand how to navigate these new data-rich environments to our benefit? …”

The rest of the NYU Abu Dhabi Digital Humanities Year in Review 2017 document can be downloaded here.

مؤتمر أبوظبي للإنسانيات الرقمية

“مؤتمر أبوظبي للإنسانيات الرقمية “ضاد

جامعة نيويورك أبوظبي
جزيرة السعديات

أبريل / نيسان 12-10

 DHAD تجسد الحروف الإنجليزية المختصرة لاسم “مؤتمر أبوظبي للإنسانيات الرقمية” كلمة

أو حرف “ضاد” بالعربية، وذلك في ربطٍ بديع يعكس تميز اللغة العربية وبلاغة معانيها، ويؤكد على رمزية لغة “الضاد” للتعبير عن الجماليات والتحديات في اللغة العربية، التي نستلهم منها في هذا المؤتمر جوانب الابتكار في مواجهة التحديات البحثية الجديدة لدراسة ماضينا باستخدام منهجيات “الإنسانيات الرقمية” وأساليب وطرق التكنولوجيا الحديثة.

    ما هي الإنسانيات الرقمية؟
(humanités numériques / digital humanities)

 الإنسانيات الرقمية هي ترجمة للمصطلح الإنجليزي والمصطلح الفرنسي حيث يبدو أن التسمية العربية لهذا المصطلح ظهرت للمرة الأولى في عام 2010 على أيدي مجموعة من المستشرقين العاملين في فرنسا الذين قاموا بترجمة أول بيان الإنسانيات الرقمية والذين أرادو للمصطلح الجديد أن يشير للأدب أو العلوم الإنسانية.

واليوم بات هذا المصطلح مستخدماً في مختلف الجامعات حول العالم، ليس بهدف عكس ما تعانيه الحالة البشرية بعد المنعطف الرقمي، بل للإعلان عن تجديد وتحديث عاداتنا البحثية القديمة ضمن المجالات الأدبية في مجتمعنا الرقمي الحالي. وبالرغم من الحداثة النوعية لمصطلح “الإنسانيات الرقمية”، إلا أن أساتذة الأدب طالما حاولوا استخدام أجهزة الكمبيوتر لأكثر من سبعين عاماً للتمكن من فهم تعقيدات الماضي البشري.

إن موضوع “الإنسانيات الرقمية” موضوع متشعب تتنوع فيه المجالات والاتجاهات مثل، الأرشفة الرقمية، ورسم خرائط البيانات التفاعلية، والتحليل الحسابي للنصوص، ونمذجة القطع الأثرية بتقنيات الأبعاد الثلاثية، والفنون الرقمية، وتعريف البيانات، ورسم الخرائط الصوتية. ولذلك فإن العاملين في مجال “الإنسانيات الرقمية” أو لنطلق عليهم “الأدباء الرقميين”، يُبدون تقديراً كبيراً لممارسات الانفتاح والتعاون، وتعدد التخصصات المشتركة، والمشاركات العامة. كما يشجعون دوماً على استخدام أجهزة الكمبيوتر والتقنيات الحديثة بطرق إبداعية لفهم إنسانيتنا وموقعنا في التاريخ.

ويعتقد ممارسو “الإنسانيات الرقمية” بأن أجهزة الكمبيوتر تمثل فرصاً وتحديات لتدريس وتعلم الأدب في عصرنا الحالي، في حين يعتقد من يخالفونهم الرأي، بأنها تقنيات تقلل من نسبة القراءة والكتابة وتجعلنا مجتمعاً أقل تفكيراً. إن تقبل وانفتاح “الإنسانيين الرقميين” على التكنولوجيا لم يكن أمراً تلقائياً، بل كان نتيجة الاعتراف بكثرة الصعوبات والتحديات التي واجهتهم خلال استخدامهم للتكنولوجيا. ولذلك فإن “الإنسانيات الرقمية” تمثل فرصة مميزة لنا لإعادة النظر في العلاقة بين الجنس البشري والآلات التي تحيط بنا.

إن تبني مفهوم “الإنسانيات الرقمية” بدأ بالتزايد في العالم العربي، وذلك على الرغم من عدم وجود المصطلح المناسب، حتى وقت قريب، القادر على عكس شمولية التنوع والثراء الكبيرين لهذا المفهوم. ومن المتوقع أن يساهم إدراج هذا المصطلح الجديد في لغتنا العربية وغيره من المصطلحات المشابهة التي مازالت قيد الترجمة، بفاعلية في زيادة الإنتاج المعرفي لمجتمعاتنا العربية مع التركيز على تعزيز المعرفة ضمن السياقات الثقافية.

:المحاور البحثية للمؤتمر

  • تكوين المعرفة الثقافية والاجتماعية في زمن عولمة التعليم الجامعي.
  • الوسائط الإنسانية المتطورة في زمن الحوسبة، سواءً التي تركز أو لا تركز على النصوص.
  • أهمية تفاعل “الإنسانيات الرقمية” مع المجتمع.
  • التحديات والمخرجات البحثية لمجالات “الإنسانيات الرقمية” في اللغات وسياقات العالم العربي والمنطقة الآسيوية.

يجمع “مؤتمر أبوظبي للإنسانيات الرقمية” مجموعة من الخبراء والمتخصصين في مجالات وتطبيقات “الإنسانيات الرقمية”، ويضم محاضرات أكاديمية متخصصة، وجلسات حوار ونقاش متعددة، وورش تدريب عملية.

موقع المؤتمر


NYU Abu Dhabi Digital Humanities Meetups 2016-17

What is the Digital Humanities Meet Up?  

It is an informal get together for anyone 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 during the lunchtime hour throughout the Fall and Spring semester every few weeks.  

Who can attend?

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

Spring 2017:

Tues, 14 February 2017, 1150-105 C3 118 (Presentation): Mobile Data Collection for Documenting Historical Built Space   Amel Chabbi (TCA Abu Dhabi, Historical Environment Department) will come to speak with AHC-AD 141 Spatial Humanities about a project in the implementation phase that aims to document historical buildings in Abu Dhabi using the tool known as Collector for ArcGIS that facilitates mobile data collection.

Thurs, 23 February 2017, 1150-105, Archives and Special Collections, NYUAD Library C2 3rd floor (Practicum): Digitizing Historical Maps  This hands on session led by Rebecca Pittam, Nicholas Martin and David Wrisley will explore creating digital images of archival maps of different sizes and media for reuse in spatial humanities projects.

Tues, 28 February 2017, 1150-105, C3 118 (Hands-on): Exploring Digital Map Libraries  This session led by Beth Russell and David Wrisley will discuss digital map libraries, what kinds of maps can be found in them, issues of metadata as well as how they can be used in digitized, “georeferenced” form.

Tues, 28 March 2017, 1150-105, Center for Digital Scholarship conference room, NYUAD library (discussion):  What is Web Hosting?, and What is it Doing in the NYUAD Classroom?  This presentation address the use of web hosting in the classroom for written coursework.  It will be presented within the context of the domain of one’s own movement.  We will discuss and the kinds of public, digital, multimedia composition that it enables as well as the questions of audience.  NYUAD students building their own domains will attend and contribute to the discussion.

Mon-Wed, 10-12 April 2017, A6 (Hands-on Workshops) During our international conference Digital Humanities Abu Dhabi – DHAD there will be a number of digital humanities workshops.  These are open to the public, but require registration.  Check the schedule of workshops for updates.  If you would like to sign up for one of these free workshops, you can do so here.

Fall 2016:

Wednesday, 21 September 2016 (11.50am-1.05pm, Center for Digital Scholarship, C2, 3rd floor  PRACTICUM: Demystifying Digitization – This practicum is a part of David Wrisley’s course AHC-AD 139 (Introduction to Digital Humanities) that will be open Wednesday to the NYUAD community. Today’s practicum comes at a point of the semester when students are beginning to think about constructing their own private corpus of text. We will work with one of the best pieces of software for automatic transcription Abbyy FineReader to explore the process of optical character recognition (OCR) of printed texts in multiple languages including Arabic. We will discuss the class readings and do a hands on exercise with a few samples of text.  The exercise should illustrate the benefits and limitations of the digitization for texts of different periods and languages.  Topics of discussion include text archives, the hidden labor of digital texts, as well as digitization and loss.  (This practicum borrows its name from the digital humanities summer school being held in Antwerp next week.)

Monday, 17 October 2016 (1150-105, A6-016)  – UNDERGRADUATE DIGITAL HUMANITIES PRESENTATIONS This session co-led by David Wrisley and the students of his course AHC-AD 139 will feature low-barrier data visualization of textual corpora.  Students will each have built a small corpus in the language of their choice based on a research question they have.  They will be giving lightning presentations about their “distant readings” of this corpus.  These presentations, curated on the students’ sites, will be accompanied by general discussion.  

Wednesday, 23 November 2016 (1150-105, Center for Digital Scholarship, C2, 3rd floor) HANDS-ON LEARNING ABOUT GIS. To celebrate GIS Day 2016, come learn about Geographic Information Systems (GIS) with Matt Sumner and David Wrisley.  We will take a look at some maps made around the time of the unification of the UAE in the early 1970s and we will learn some basic skills useful for GIS like digitization and georeferencing.  We will also compare those maps with digital maps from today like Open Street Maps (OSM) and Google Maps and have a discussion about the different ways they represent the world we live in.  Read this post to learn about the results of this meetup.

Monday, 28 November 2016 (12-1, Center for Digital Scholarship conference room, C2, 3rd floor) – PROJECT PRESENTATION Akkasah.  Akkasah, the Center for Photography at NYU Abu Dhabi, explores the histories and contemporary practices of photography in the Arab world from comparative perspectives: it fosters the scholarly study of these histories and practices in dialogue with other photographic cultures and traditions from around the world. This presentation will engage with issues of image data and metadata, as well as digitization, preservation and collection curation.

Monday, 5 December 2016 (1150-105, TBA) – DIGITAL PUBLISHING IN PERFORMANCE AND ART  Today’s presentation will be given by Debra Levine about Scalar, Tome and other digital publishing platforms used by performance and cultural scholars as well as artists.  Deb will also introduce the Hemispheric Institute Digital Publishing initiative, drawing on some examples from it, her own work as well as projects carried out by NYUAD students.  The presentation will be followed by a open discussion.