For the Digital Humanities Seminar that I am taking, the instructor, William G. Thomas (who has blogged about the class), assigned us a project in which we, as a class, were to build an iPad/iPhone App during the first month of class. From the beginning the project was intimidating, exciting, and occasionally terrifying. Two Thursdays ago (September 29th), we presented our unfinished App. The fact that our App was unfinished really highlights the true beauty of this assignment: Failure was explicitly allowed and encouraged. I am not even sure if building an App in a month from scratch (no one had any experience building an App) was possible for our group. The focus of the assignment was on the process. If the Digital Humanities is about building, a seminar on the Digital Humanities, even a readings course, needs to incorporate building in order for the students to fully understand the Digital Humanities. Particularly given the diversity of students’ experience in working on Digital Humanities projects in our class, having the class engage in building ensures everyone has some experience as we delve into more theoretical aspects of the Digital Humanities.
The project also had many beneficial aspects to outside of the classroom. The one aspect that I think everyone in the class would mention is collaboration. The entire seminar class worked together on the project as one group. Working as a large group often made decisions tough, though we divided ourselves into three groups (Coding, Design, Content), which served to provide each student increased opportunity for hands on experience.
Another benefit of the project was that it challenged the class to think about the state of the humanities online. In designing an App we had to think about what humanities resources are “out there”, what should be, and what we want to be. Our final concept was to have an App that would function as a news reader for online humanities content. We found a huge amount of humanities content available free online and aggregating the information for interested users would be quite a valuable tool. Some students are looking to continue working the project and may release a final version (or at least a more detailed account of the project experience than my brief overview). Unfortunately, the project does not fit into my semester’s goals or schedule, so I will not be joining the brave few who have decided to push onwards.