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Humanities students to digitize with grant money from Willson Center - The Red and Black : Campus

Humanities students to digitize with grant money from Willson Center

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Posted: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 5:00 pm | Updated: 6:45 pm, Mon Nov 18, 2013.

The Willson Center for Humanities and Arts awarded grant money to three University of Georgia professors to support the Digital Humanities Lab, which will include the creation of new classes.

Stephen Berry, a professor in the history department and a second co-director, said digital humanities “is essentially applying the methods of big data to the functions of humanities’ big questions.”

“It’s really the laboratory model for teaching, so instead of being lectured to, students are being involved in leading national digital humanities projects led by faculty,” Berry said. “But the undergraduates and the graduates are true collaborators.”

Bill Kretzschmar, a professor in the English department and one of the co-directors, of the program wrote in an email to The Red & Black the DHL “is an attempt to gather resources that we need for humanities faculty and students to learn digital techniques and to use them in their own projects.”

The Digital Humanities Initiative, which includes the DHL and associated courses, is an umbrella project housing individual projects such as the Linguistic Atlas Project and eHistory.org.

Kretzschmar wrote UGA is already well known for its work in digital humanities through famous research projects and good faculty members, so it makes sense for UGA to have a digital humanities presence.

In the past, there was an attempt at establishing a similar program in the English department, but it became too difficult to keep up with resources.

Kretzschmar also wrote the faculty research clusters seemed like a good opportunity to create something more “durable.”

He said the DHL project has two components — a research function and a teaching function.

The teaching function, he said, will “revolutionize” the way teaching happens in the classroom.

The research element will allow students to be more involved in major projects.

Berry said as part of the project, they are working on implementing new classes — hopefully as early as next fall — with a DIGI prefix to promote digital skill sets for humanities students.

Berry said the classes are not up and running yet for several reasons, one of which is finding the faculty doing national digital humanities research and bringing them all together.

Also, he said the creation of a high-tech classroom will take a substantial amount of time.

“There are a lot of hurdles bureaucratically, so we are still in that process right now,” he said. “We are in our early days.”

The project is intended to use all of these components to strengthen the digital humanities research at UGA, provide a central location for resources and promote collaboration across departments, according to the website.

Kretzschmar wrote the cluster applied for a grant of $25,000 per year for three years, but after merging with another project concerning the Center for Virtual History, the grant ended up at $30,000 per year — $90,000 to implement the DHL, the new courses and for renovations and equipment in the lab space.

“Half of our money is going straight to our partner, the library, for them to buy equipment to start making resources available to humanities faculty and students,” he wrote in an email. “The other half of our money will support the programming needed to get the first projects of the Center for Virtual History up on the library resources.”

Berry said the grant from the cluster is seed money for them to start putting the lab together, but they are also going to pursue outside funding.

“I think that for this to work the individual projects will be bringing in — if they’re good — bring in grant money as well,” he said. “Most of those individual projects have their own funding source.”

Joe Daigle, a sophomore international affairs major from Lilburn, said he believes the DLH is “a good idea.”

“The humanities are kind of a complex topic so I think having a broad range of classes and policies to teach things like that is a really smart idea,” he said. “It allows new ways for students to learn and I think it fits more students’ ways of learning.”

He said with access to new classes and spreading information about the opportunities they present, lots of students will have an interest in the project.

Kretzschmar wrote in the email his hope for the DHL is not any one individual project, but to create an environment at UGA where humanities faculty and students can collaborate on digital projects.

Berry said the way things are taught now — lectures and papers that just get a grade and are thrown away — are not adding anything, but with the lab students will feel like their work counts.

“I think there are many ways to teach, but I think this is an exciting one,” he said. “If undergraduate students can come into our classroom and feel essentially like they are interning at Google for humanists, that’s an exciting thing.”

American history professor Claudio Saunt, the third co-director, could not be reached for comment to The Red & Black.

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