New Adventures in the Digital Humanities

Written by: Spencer Greenhalgh

Primary Source:  Spencer Greenhalgh

[This post originally appeared on the MSU Digital Humanities blog]

In a few days, I’ll be heading down to Indianapolis to attend a workshop on computational text analysis that runs from June 13th through June 16th. This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to anyone who’s had to listen to me ramble about my research: I’ve been waist-deep in R for a while now, there’s a digital methods category on my research blog, and I certainly haven’t been shy about wanting to pick up some text analysis skills to add to my repertoire. The one thing that could turn heads, though, is that I’m a PhD Candidate in an Educational Psychology and Educational Technology program headed to a Humanities Intensive Learning and Teaching workshop.

In many ways, though, this venture into Digital Humanities really isn’t that surprising. When, as a junior at Brigham Young University, it became time to ditch my major and find a new one, I was sorely tempted by Computer Science before settling on French Teaching. When, a year later, I learned that BYU’s CHum minor (which has since been replaced by a DH one) might let me combine both fields, it was tempting (but ultimately impractical) to change course again. To top it all off, all that work I did typing up all the dialogue in Astérix chez les Helvètes for a friend’s MA thesis looks—in hindight—like it was going to be used for a text analysis not too different from the ones I’ll be learning to do next week. I even managed to attend some sessions at HASTAC last year under the not-entirely-wrong impression that it was an educational technology conference like the ones I’d been attending: I’d first heard of HASTAC because of their work with Mozilla Open Badges, one of the ideas that first piqued my interest in ed tech.

So, maybe HILT is the natural next step given this series of near-misses with the field of digital humanities. Or, more accurately, maybe this is part of my realization not only that an educational technology researcher can move in DH circles but also that I’ve been doing so for a while and would benefit from taking a closer look. After all, I’m constantly clamoring for education departments to not forget history, languages, and literature as they focus ever more on STEM, the MSU DH Slack has been a great resource for me to lurk in, and there’s something about the awe and wonder of studying teachers’ use of Twitter that reminds me a lot of the feeling I got studying French history and culture as an undergrad. I’ve still got a foot planted in the humanities, and my research is increasingly being defined by the digital, so going to HILT, taking a DH seminar in the Fall, and continuing to explore this new world (for me) is probably the way to go.

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Hi there! My name is Spencer Greenhalgh, and I am a student in the Educational Psychology and Educational Technology doctoral program at Michigan State University. I came to Michigan State University with a strong belief in the importance of an education grounded in the humanities. As an undergraduate, I studied French and political science and worked as a teaching assistant in both fields. After graduation, I taught French, debate, and keyboarding in a Utah private school before coming to MSU, where I plan to study how technology can be used to help students connect the humanities with their lives. I have a particular interest in the use of games and simulations to promote ethical reasoning and explore moral dilemmas, but am eager to study any technology that can help students see the relevance of studying language, culture, history, and government.

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