Class Blogging and Social Media

We will engage with the ideas of the course through public writing on your individual websites, which I will aggregate on this course blog. I ask you to blog for a number of reasons:

  • All writing—even academic writing—is being reshaped by online modes of publication. Many academics maintain personal research blogs in which they try out their ideas and get feedback before developing articles or even books. For many scholars working in DH, blogs are places to share work that doesn’t fit neatly into articles or monographs with the community, to get immediate feedback on their methodologies, and to improve their projects. Dan Cohen (former Director of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media and now Director of the Digital Public Library of America, claimed that reading junior scholars’ blogs is one way he identified promising collaborators and job candidates. I strongly believe that graduate students should begin thinking about the affordances (and potential pitfalls) of creating and maintaining an online scholarly presence.
  • In a related point, blogs give you the opportunity to experiment with your writing, composing arguments that integrate links, quotations, images, video, and other online media as evidence.
  • Blogging allows for a broader spectrum of participation in the class. Even shy students can contribute to a course blog.
  • Blog posts give you the chance to learn from each other. You’ll read your colleague’s writing and, hopefully, learn from it or be challenged by it.
  • Public blogging allows us to connect to larger communities outside of our classroom. Who knows? Perhaps the author of an article you blog about will respond directly…

Blogs only work when sustained by an energetic (and perhaps somewhat chaotic) community. You should both post your own written responses to our class and comment regularly on the posts of your colleagues. You might experiment with different blogging “voices.” It is perfectly acceptable to blog in a less formal (though no less thoughtful) voice than you would use to pen an article or dissertation chapter.

So what do I expect in your blog posts?

  1. There are five units in our class. You must blog at least four times during the semester: once for the first unit and once for all subsequent units save one, which you may skip at your discretion. You may certainly blog more than four times, but I’ll not be giving extra credit for extra blog posts.
  2. Blog posts for a given unit are due by the first class in the subsequent unit (so your first blog post is due by 3:29pm on September 10).
  3. Shoot for 750-1000 words, though to be frank I’ll not be counting. Each blog post should be just long enough extend your thinking about our readings and discussion, and no more. Consider your genre and medium, and avoid writing full essays. Think of your blog posts in total comprising an evolving research paper—they have the same importance and weight and seriousness—demonstrating your evolving understanding of digital humanities theories, methodologies, and projects.
  4. Only connect. As my colleague Mark Sample at Dickinson College wrote, you might

    consider the reading in relation to its historical or theoretical context; write about an aspect of the day’s reading that you don’t understand, or something that jars you; formulate an insightful question or two about the reading and then attempt to answer your own questions; or respond to another student’s post, building upon it, disagreeing with it, or re-thinking it.

    To my mind, blog posts are most forceful when they link our current course readings and discussions with your own research—connecting, for instance, the issues raised a recent blog post highlighted on Digital Humanities Now with those raised in class discussion. Quotations and links back to pertinent readings are strongly encouraged.

  5. Along those same lines, you should regularly comment on your classmates’ posts. Not on every post, certainly, but on 2-3 each unit.
  6. In addition to your four regular blog posts, you will write and post a Key Project Reflection and choose one of your blog posts to develop into a Medium-Form Essay.

What should you expect from me in regards to your blog posts? I will read and think on each and every one. I will comment on many of them, but not all. I will comment when I feel I have something substantive to add: a reference to another piece, a question, or a suggestion for further development. You should not interpret a comment from me as either validation or condemnation of a post; neither should you interpret a lack of comment from me as condemnation nor validation. If you would like more detailed feedback about your blogging, I’m happy to discuss this work during my office hours.

Social Media

I’ve moved away from requiring students to use Twitter in my graduate courses. With that said, Twitter is an important space for conversation in the DH community. Many DH scholars share their scholarship through blogs or social networking sites such as Twitter, and the field keeps up an ongoing conversation through the latter platform. In the Digital Humanities Compendium (which drives Digital Humanities Now), you will find lists of notable blogs and Twitter feeds. If you want to “take the pulse” of the field during this semester, I strongly encourage you to create a Twitter account—under your own name or an alias—follow many scholars in the field, and participate in conversations happening in social media. Your participation in social media shouldn’t be entirely passive. One of the great opportunities of social media is that it can help generate conversations among scholars from different fields, at different career stages, and with differing levels of expertise. You should be actively engaged in conversations about digital humanities on Twitter. Post your thoughts and questions about class discussions and assignments on Twitter using the hashtag #f14tmn. I even encourage you to post during class, so long as you stay on topic. Indeed, you might find that I reply to your Twitter questions more quickly than email. I look forward to a robust class discussion on social media.