Monday, July 28, 2014

HBCUs, Technology & Vital Interventions

Institute participants listen during presentation on digital collections at the AUC library

It's one thing to talk about and even embrace the idea of interdisciplinary work; however, it's something else to get sociologists, a visual artist, literature scholars, a historian, an African American Studies scholar, a psychologist, a musician, librarians, a folklorist and poet, Communications scholars, and a film scholar together in the same room conversing and collaborating on interrelated projects. Well, Morehouse College scholars Corrie Claiborne and Samuel Livingston managed to make it happen for a UNCF Mellon Summer Teaching and Learning Institute focused on technology and digital humanities (DH).

During the 3-day institute "Mapping the Future by Mining the Past," participants from Claflin University, Dillard University, Morehouse College, Paine College, and Spelman College worked on projects that explored "the intersections of the Humanities and digital scholarship," as the program material noted. I served as a presenter, highlighting the value of blogging and utilizing the crowd-source annotation Genius site (also known as Rap Genius).

There were extended discussions about the possibility of using iTunes U, a popular Apple service that allows academic departments and universities to present a range of educational materials online for students. The participants studied possibilities for creating iBooks in order to present their research and make content available for their courses.

Vicki Crawford, director of the Morehouse College King Collection, discussed efforts to organize, preserve, and share the civil rights leader's writings and various other materials. Karcheik Sims-Alvarado -- founder of Preserve Black America, a research agency that seeks to identify and showcase African American history and culture -- discussed black histories of Atlanta, gave a tour of notable locations  in the city, and pointed out possibilities for utilizing digital technologies to enhance understanding of African American historic sites that have vanished over the decades. 

This institute was particularly important given the racial disparities concerning DH projects. For example, the National Endowment for the Humanities recently announced their latest round of  award recipients. Humanities scholars concentrating on African American topics were not represented among the approximately 28 DH-related projects that totaled more than $7 million. The recurring absence or exclusion of African Americans and black studies projects concerning DH could have long-term, troubling implications. Thus, an institute like the one Claiborne and Livingston organized serves as a vital intervention.

Digital Humanities

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