Digital Scholarship Incubator Reflections: Lauren Wilwerding

This post is part of a series of reflections from 2017 Digital Scholarship Incubator participants.

Lauren Wilwerding: In each of the courses I have taught I have challenged myself to incorporate digital mediums and assignments, both to challenge myself and learn alongside my students. Often, even with preparation and reflection, the value of the digital aspect of the assignment is not consistently clear to me or my students. When using MediaKron in a composition class, I found that some students benefitted from rethinking their writing for a web-platform, while others thought it was busywork. Since I was learning alongside them, I struggled to recuperate the assignment for those who found it cumbersome.

When I heard about the Digital Scholarship Incubator, I was drawn in by the opportunity to dedicate time to designing a pedagogical project. I am teaching lit core in the spring, and it occurred to me that developing a method of digital close reading could provide one more access point to bring a central aspect of literary studies alive for students. I love the idea of pairing DH, often associated with “data” and distant reading, with the intimate practice of close reading a sentence of a paragraph. During the first session, it became clear to me that platforms already exist to do what I had in mind. I find this to be a huge advantage – it allows me to spend the next seven-plus weeks learning a platform and designing an assignment that will make the best use of it. It’s important to me that the digital aspect of the assignment enhances what is already happening in the classroom rather than becoming a distraction or an obstacle.

In our first session, I also realized that some practices I use in my research already draw on digital humanities tools and methods – I just don’t have the specific language to describe what I am doing to a DH audience. My secondary goal is the develop this vocabulary so that I can ask the right questions to improve my digital research techniques and find out how to bring them into the classroom.