Digital Humanities offers global learning opportunity

A unit in Digital Humanities will be available to undergraduate students at Monash University and the University of Warwick, thanks to funding and support from the Monash Warwick Alliance.

Digital Humanities is an approach to research and teaching that applies computational techniques to traditional humanities. It is an interdisciplinary field that uses digital tools to re-examine existing data and create new data to find innovative ways to ask questions and tell research stories.

The unit, offered at both universities, will be split into two components: digital methods will be taught separately at each institution to align with their teaching period timetables; while discussion of the theory and implications of the digital methods, will be co-taught in the final three weeks of the Monash unit, coinciding with the first three weeks of the Warwick unit.

The course headed by Dr Simon Musgrave, School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics, Faculty of Arts at Monash University and Dr David Beck, Institute of Advanced Teaching and Learning at the University of Warwick will examine the application of digital technologies in humanities research.

Students will conduct a research project based on one of two datasets. The first from the Monash based Restoration Theatre Song archive, a complete catalogue of songs from theatrical performances in London during the Restoration period. The second, the digitised diaries of William Godwin, a turn-of-the-19th-Century intellectual who networked with major literary figures of the time, contributed by Warwick’s Professor Mark Philp.

An important facet of the unit will be to help students develop their thinking around the process of research.

“We will get students to play with and produce research from the two datasets. They will learn the digital tools, but we want them to understand the process of thinking about data in a structured and useful way, no matter their discipline,” Dr Musgrave said.

Development of the course infrastructure was also supported by the Monash Warwick Alliance through its Seed Fund initiative, which gave Drs Musgrave and Beck the opportunity to meet in person to develop the course curriculum and hold a workshop with colleagues across a variety of departments to discuss the broader issues of digital humanities and data management across the two institutions.

“Having the chance to meet face-to-face to flesh out ideas and resolve issues for the module as well as have broader discussions about digital humanities has been invaluable,” Dr Beck said.

Drs Musgrave and Beck believe the Alliance is supporting deeper discussions about teaching between researchers at the two institutions.

“It’s not about applying the same things at both institutions, it’s about working out what will fit within your institution and having the Alliance helps with that process because it’s so focused it encourages the deeper conversations,” Dr Beck said.

“There is potential to be exposed to a different pedagogical culture and to improve student learning as a result,” Dr Musgrave said.

“There are clear benefits for teaching from the perspective of global studentship,” said Dr Beck.

Expanding Research Paradigms: Digital Humanities begins in July 2015 at Monash University in Semester Two and Digital Humanities and Texts commences in October 2015 at the University of Warwick in the Autumn Term.

A video outlining the course is now available for Monash and Warwick students.

Formed in early 2012, the Monash Warwick Alliance represents an innovation in higher education and research and aims to accelerate the exchange of people, ideas and information between Monash University and the University of Warwick.