Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Links for Class: Deresiewicz and Gender Pay Gap

I asked students in my "Liberal Arts" class to read William Deresiewicz's book "Excellent Sheep," which covered some of the same ground as Fareed Zakaria's "In Defense of a Liberal Education" -- but with a more polemical edge. After reading the book, I asked them to find reviews of the book that challenged their perceptions of the book's ideas and arguments. Here are some of the links they found. 

We were also discussing the recent "College Scorecard" site produced by the White House, which listed the average salaries of college graduates at institutions around the country based on tax returns from 10 years after graduation. Strikingly, elite institutions showed a huge pay gap along gender lines that surprised many of the students. I suggested students follow up on that feeling of surprise with their own research. 

1. A Few of the Deresiewicz Articles Students Were Looking At:

Reviewer, Douglas Greenberg. “White People Problems: A Critical Response to Deresiewicz’s “Excellent Sheep.” Begins as one of the most negative reviews of the book you’ll see anywhere:

Many of these criticisms of elite private higher education have some merit. Yet the tone of the book is so egocentric and intemperate and the framing of the issues is so narrow and sensationalistic that it might not merit a review in the Los Angeles Review of Books if it had not already received so much attention in the national press. 

The strangeness of Deresiewicz following up the publication of his book with a speaking tour of the very same campuses he was deriding in the book:

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Archive Gap: Race, the Canon, and the Digital Humanities

[I am giving a modified -- probably significantly different -- version of this as a talk at the DH Forum at the University of Kansas in a couple of weeks. These notes are oriented to the students in the Digital Humanities seminar that Ed and I are teaching. But any feedback from other readers would be most welcome.]

Pioneering work by digital archivists like Jerome McGann of the University of Virginia helped lay the groundwork for the conceptualization of a set of best practices for online archives that have been widely replicated in subsequent projects. That said, some scholars associated with race studies and gender studies constituencies have raised questions about the ways in which the first wave of major digital archives essentially reinforced the Anglo-American canon. Authors like Walt Whitman, D.G. Rossetti, William Blake, Emily Dickinson, and Henry David Thoreau were, by about 2008, well-represented by thorough, thoughtfully designed, and technically sophisticated web archives. These archives frequently feature page images of manuscript drafts of the complete works of the authors in question, as well as (in the case of Whitman and Blake) exceptionally deep access to different versions and printings of key texts. This same level of attention was, generally, lacking with reference to minority writers. As Stephanie P. Browner puts it, “scholars of race and ethnicity do not yet get online and find themselves in a deep, comprehensive, well-linked and indexed world of materials.” [link]

Here, I will survey what I am calling the "Archive Gap," comparing and contrasting digital archives of canonical figures (especially Rossetti and Whitman) with those of American writers of color, lesser known women writers, and writers from the colonial world. The Archive Gap as I am conceiving of it has several dimensions. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll split my consideration into two parts, one historical and the other contemporary.

The historical dimensions of the Archive Gap are largely outside of our control. To put it quite simply, we’ll never be able to recover what was never preserved. There are, however, strategies we can use to address the pattern of omission of artifacts related to marginalized writers, which I'll discuss briefly at the end of this post.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Links Related to Fareed Zakaria, "In Defense of a Liberal Education"

(In my "What Am I Doing Here? The Value of a Liberal Arts Education" class, we have been reading Fareed Zakaria's new book, In Defense of a Liberal Education. These are some links I shared with my students in office hours meetings yesterday)

1. Some of you picked up on some of the issues in Zakaria's chapter 4 relating to problems with the current system of higher education. While a robust university system is seen as an equalizing force (and as a way of protecting democracy -- Jefferson), at the present moment there are disturbing signs that our college system helps well-off students stay in the upper-income brackets, while only a small slice of students from low-income backgrounds are able to rise up the ladder:

Thomas Edsall, "The Reproduction of Privilege" (New York Times)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Fall Teaching 2: "What Am I Doing Here? The Value of a Liberal Arts Education"

It started happening here and there a few years ago, but recently became a regular phenomenon: I would get new first-year student advisees who, upon first meeting me, said they planned to immediately transfer out of the College of Arts and Sciences and into Lehigh's Business School (thereby rendering any "advising" I could give them immediately pointless). Usually the reasons were pretty straightforward and, unfortunately, overlapping: "I need to make sure I have a job when I graduate" and "My parents want me to." (Sadly, there's no arguing really with "My parents are making me do it"...)

Needless to say, I'm not thrilled when I get this request. Journalists and scholars have written about the changing culture of American higher education in recent years, and made many good points that I think these types of students ought to consider. One crucial point to be aware of is that English majors actually do just fine on the job market (we'll look at some statistics on humanities and social sciences majors on the job market). Secondly, while we have seen a slight decline in the number of majors in recent years, it's not true that humanities departments around the country are necessarily in crisis (though there seem to be a growing number of students who seem not to be able to appreciate it). Finally, I don't think enough students grasp that there's an intrinsic value in liberal arts education -- in the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake. 

So I designed a course to help them grasp it. 

Course Description: "What Am I Doing Here? The Value of a Liberal Arts Education" 

Since World War II, American colleges and universities have been engines of upward mobility for the vast American middle class; and they are widely seen around the world as excellent educational institutions. But in recent years -- with skyrocketing tuition and a growing concern about "return on investment" -- some of that luster seems to have worn off, at least if you read the debates in the media. Some of today's students enter college thinking of it more as a means to obtaining pre-professional credentials than as a site of actual learning and personal growth. So why are we all here? Is the traditional dream of a liberal arts education still alive, or is it a relic of a bygone era? This course aims to examine the fundamental values of the classic liberal arts education, conceived of not as an activity that leads to credentials that help young people find jobs, but rather as a gateway to becoming a fully-developed and multifaceted human being.

Fall Teaching: Digital Humanities

My colleague Ed Whitley and I are co-teaching an Introduction to Digital Humanities course for the first time this fall.

In some ways the course looks a little like other Intro to DH courses taught by colleagues elsewhere (and we consulted syllabi by people like Johanna Drucker and Alan Liu while designing our own). But we're also diverging in some significant ways from traditional Intro to DH courses. For one thing, Ed in particular has a great deal of experience building digital archives, and we'll emphasize digital archives and digital collections a great deal in the first weeks of the course. (I am also working on a digital archive project on "The Kiplings and India," as I mentioned in a previous post). 

Secondly, we have put in a pretty robust social justice emphasis in our approach to DH, not as an afterthought or token presence, but in the front and center. The first major project we'll work on together is a collaborative edition of Claude McKay's 1922 book of poetry, Harlem Shadows. And we'll come back to social justice, #TransformDH, and #DHPoco types of issues regularly in other units. We're especially pleased to integrate our class with a couple of visiting speakers to campus, including Johanna Drucker (September 15), and Vincent Brown (November 12). 

Finally, in lieu of final projects (conventional research papers), we'll ask students to do four smaller projects and then revise and extend those projects at the end of the term in the form of final portfolios. 

All that said, the syllabus below is still pretty experimental -- we're not sure yet which essays will "work" and which might be less effective in connecting with students. If and when we do this again, it might look different. Feedback, suggestions, and criticisms welcome (including the "how can you *not* have X?! variety). 

Preliminary Calendar
Tu August 25
Basic Introduction 
-Matt Gold, “Digital Humanities” (CourseSite)
Th August 27
Defining the Field  


Tu September 1
Debating the Field  
Unit I: Digitally Curated Texts
Th September 3
Textual Scholarship and Editorial Theory 
-G. Thomas Tanselle, “The Varieties of Scholarly Editing” (CourseSite)
-D. F. McKenzie, “Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts” (CourseSite)
-Jerome McGann, from A Critique of Modern Textual Criticism (CourseSite)

Due: DH Stakes paper (3-5 pages)
Tu September 8
Digital Archives: Theory and Practice 

Th September 10
Digital Archives: Case Studies I  
-- Websites --

--Readings --
-Ed Folsom, “Database as Genre: The Epic Transformation of Archives” (see also these responses to Folsom’s article, particularly those by McGann and McGill)
-Ed Folsom and Ken Price, from Re-Scripting Walt Whitman (“Intimate Script and the New American Bible” and “What Whitman Left Us”)
-Roger Whitson and Jason Whitaker, chapter 1 from William Blake and the Digital Humanities (CourseSite)
Tu September 15
Johanna Drucker visit. 1:10-2pm: Regular class. 2-3:30pm: conversation with Johanna Drucker (please review her DH 101 Coursebook). 4pm Drucker lecture in Linderman 200, “Should Humanists Visualize Knowledge?” (required -- she is a major figure in Digital Humanities scholarship!)

Digital Archives: Case Studies II   
-Claude McKay’s “Harlem Shadows” (Digital Edition by Chris Forster & Roopika Risam). We’ll be doing collaborative hands-on work to expand and improve on this archive (contributions due September 29). Visit the site, visit Chris Forster’s Github site containing XML/TEI version of the McKay text, read Deep’s lecture notes on Claude McKay.

Th September 17
Continue discussion of Digital Archives Case Studies II from Tuesday (40 minutes) 

TEI and XML (30 minutes) 


Short Assignment: Analyze small chunks of XML from the Whitman Archive and Harlem Shadows and compare what this reveals about the editorial practice of each site. Assignment due Tuesday 9/22.
Tu September 22
Work on Projects 
We will do a hands-on session focusing on individual student contributions related  to the digital edition of Claude McKay’s “Harlem Shadows” for this session. Depending on what you’re working on, you may need to read critical or biographical materials related to McKay’s life and work and write up short contextual or interpretive essays that will eventually be included in a version of the site that will later go ‘live’ (possibly on Tuesday 9/29). (A large amount of scholarly and biographical material has been scanned and posted on CourseSite.)

The expectation is that students will have read relevant material related to their subtopic vis a vis McKay before this session, and have ideas and questions about how to proceed. (Or a draft) We will talk more about “building” on Thursday 9/24 and on Tuesday 9/29.
Th September 24
Content Management Systems 
Hands-on introduction to WordPress (Annie Johnson)
Before coming to class complete the prework listed here.

-The Vault at Pfaff’s (Drupal + CONTENTdm)
-Freedom’s Ring (Scalar)

--Other Platforms to discuss/explore--
Tu September 29
Contributions to “Harlem Shadows” digital edition due -- in-class presentations.

Student presentation and collaborative / group self-critique of our collaborative version of “Harlem Shadows.” What value have we been able to add to the site? What else could we add / what are we missing? How could we improve architecture / user experience? What do we hope different kinds of visitors  to this site might learn from their experience?

Based on feedback you receive from your peers and from us, plan to revise your contributions for the final portfolios due in December.
Unit II: Digitally Manipulated Texts
Th October 1
Reading, Scale, Text-as-Data  
Tu October 6
Distant Reading and Data Mining 

- Stephen Ramsay, “An Algorithmic Criticism," in Reading Machines (CourseSite)
-Franco Moretti, chapter(s) # from Distant Reading (CourseSite)
-Matthew Jockers, chapter(s) #from Macroanalysis (CourseSite)
Th October 8
Topic Modeling 

Tu October 13
Pacing Break: No class
Th October 15
-Stephen Ramsay, Introduction to Reading Machines (CourseSite)
--Case Study 1: Syuzhet Controversy--
-Matthew Jockers, “Syuzhet” Announcement: http://www.matthewjockers.net/2015/02/02/syuzhet/)
-Annie Swafford,  “Problems with the Syuzhet Package” https://annieswafford.wordpress.com/2015/03/02/syuzhet/
--Case Study 2: JK Rowling and “Cuckoo’s Calling” --
Tu October 20


Th October 22
-Digital Yoknapatawpha (watch demonstration videos)

Tu October 27
-The Vault at Pfaff’s network visualization prototype


-Dan Edelstein, “Networks in History: Data-driven tools for analyzing relationships across time” NEH application (CourseSite)
Th October 29
Hands-on session on text analysis. Collaboration on student work in progress. 
-Lauren F. Klein, “Hacking the Field: Teaching Digital Humanities with Off-the-Shelf Tools” (CourseSite)

Tu November 3
Small scale text analysis project due: in-class presentations. We will ask you to use one of the “off the shelf” text analysis tools we discussed over the preceding three weeks. Create a useable body of text (i.e., a text file) and run either a statistical or visual analysis of that text oriented towards answering a particular question you wish to answer about that text. Give us your results, and a short essay describing your goals and assessment of the results.
Unit III: Born-Digital Texts
Th November 5
Social Media and New Scholarly Forms 
-Explore Twitter hashtags: #DH, #transformDH, #dhpoco

-Kathleen Fitzpatrick, from Planned Obsolescence (CourseSite)
Tu November 10
Electronic Literature I 

--Primary Texts--
-Sasha West, “Zoology
-Christine Wilks, “Underbelly
-J.R. Carpenter, “Entre Ville
-Stephanie Strickland, True North

--Platforms and Tools--
-Storyspace (no longer viable)

--Secondary Readings--
-Margie Luesebrink & Stephanie Strickland, “Seven Types of Interface” (CourseSite)
Th November 12
Vincent Brown visit  (Alison Kanosky’s class will join us)

Carefully read the project description:

Vincent Brown: Lecture at 4:00 pm in Linderman 200. (Required!)
Tu November 17
Electronic Literature II 
--Primary Texts--
-J.R. Carpenter, In Absentia
-Jim Andrews, “Stir Fry Texts
-Possibly other authors:  Michael Joyce, MD Coverley, Stuart Moulthrop, Deena Larsen, Steve Tomasula, Donna Leishman, Stephanie Strickland, John Cayley, Juliet Davis.

--Secondary Readings--
-Eugenio Tisselli, “Why I have stopped creating E-Lit
-Sandy Baldwin, “Ping Poetics
Th November 19
Electronic Literature III 

James McAdams: Guest lecture/ class leader

--Primary Texts--
-Zoe Quinn, “Depression Quest
-Robin Sloan, “Fish: A Tap Essay
-Sharon Daniel, “Public Secrets
Tu November 24
Hands-on collaborative session devoted to student electronic literature projects: interpretive essay (for the I Love E-poetry site) or a work of creative electronic literature using Twine, Stir Fry Poetry code, or other tools.
Th November 26
Thanksgiving: No class
Tu December 1
Presentations of student work on electronic literature.
Th December 3
Hands-on session
Fr December 11
Final portfolios due