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 at George Mason University, 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 on the posts of your colleagues. Think of your blog posts as an evolving research paper—they have the same importance and weight and seriousness—demonstrating your evolving understanding of digital humanities theories, methodologies, and projects. With that said, 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? I expect a carefully-considered, 400-500 word response to course reading, activities, and/or discussions. I like this description of a blog assignment, penned by my colleague Mark Sample at George Mason University:
There are a number of ways to approach these open-ended posts: 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 the writer’s 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.
Given the compressed nature of our summer term, I cannot reasonably expect the same amount of writing for the blog as I would in a typical semester. Instead, I would ask that you post at least four times—at least twice during our week of class and twice in the week following.