Steven G. Anderson

history, technology, and life in academia

Critical Digital Humanities is putting together a roundtable for this year’s Cultural Studies Association. The conference will be held from May 21-24, 2015 in Riverside, California at the Riverside Convention Center. This year’s theme is Another University Is Possible: Praxis, Activism, and the Promise of Critical Pedagogy. In keeping with this year’s theme, we would like to explore the question “What does critical digital humanities look like?”

The goal of this roundtable is to open a dialogue about critical approaches to digital humanities. Each participant will give a brief 5-7 minute provocation followed by a discussion.

Some topics for consideration, but not limitation:

–critical approaches to digital pedagogy, big data projects, data visualization, and digital scholarship
–specific campus initiatives, classes or programs that fall under the category of “critical digital humanities”
–limitations of critical digital humanities
–theory vs. practice in DH
–cultural studies and DH
–public scholarship, public humanities, and public history

Building off of the terrific energy from THATCamp, we would like to invite the DHSoCal community to consider having a role in this conversation! If you are interested, please contact Steve Anderson at and let us know what you are interested in discussing by Dec 1, 2014. Also, feel free to pass this on to friends and colleagues.

We look forward to hearing from you!
Steve Anderson, Rochelle Gold, and Sarah Lozier

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At a few recent meetings we’ve talked about the new digital projects and resources being developed at UC Riverside, as well as other opportunities for graduate students and faculty interested in digital humanities.

Digital Scholars Lab

The UCR Rivera Library will be opening a new Digital Scholars Lab in the coming months. Over the Summer and Fall quarters, I’ve been working for the library as an advisor on digital scholarship projects and digital humanities in general. Once the Lab is open it will be a meeting place for graduate students, researchers, and faculty to start new digital scholarship projects or get help with existing ones. In the meantime if you need assistance with a project or would like more information on digital scholarship and digital humanities, please send me (Steve Anderson) an email: Although the Lab isn’t officially open at the moment, the Library is still happy to work with scholars and has many resources available. I’ve also made a website as a place to keep my notes for the development of the Lab. The website is a work in progress and it is not the official Lab website, but it does list many resources on digital scholarship and digital humanities:

Critical Digital Humanities

For the past few years Critical Digital Humanities has been holding discussions on critical theory, reading groups on technoculture and digital media, and hosting invited speakers from a wide array of fields and subjects concerning the digital humanities. These workshops have been made possible by generous funding from the Center for Ideas and Society and Mellon workshop grants. For the 2014-2015 academic year CDH is working on pedagogy and production with Sergei Eisenstein’s unfinished film Que Viva Mexico! as our focus. More information on CDH events and other opportunities in digital humanities can be found on our website:


In Southern California the digital humanities community stays up to date on recent projects and opportunities through the DHSocal website: The calendar is up to date and active, there are lists of resources, and also CFPs and job opportunities. DHSocal is also on Twitter (@dhsocal and #dhsocal), but most of the activity takes place within individual accounts. If you’re just getting started with Twitter and DH, Miriam Posner (@miriamkp) over at UCLA has a very active Twitter feed, and don’t miss her weekly newsletter on DH happenings, tools, and opportunities:

Digital Humanities Summer Programs

If you’re interested in digital humanities, week-long summer workshops are a great way to hone your skills and make new friends. Newcomers to the digital humanities are welcome, and most workshops do not require any technical programming skills or equipment. Over the summer I attended two of these workshops, and they were quite extraordinary experiences. HILT is the Humanities Intensive Learning and Teaching workshop, which was held at the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities, or MITH, at the University of Maryland. This coming summer in 2015, HILT will be held at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) in Indianapolis, with registration beginning soon. The other workshop I attended was the Digital Humanities Summer Institute, or DHSI, at the University of Victoria in British Columbia. DHSI offers three separate weeks of instruction now and registration is currently open. Both HILT and DHSI have many opportunities to offset the cost of travel and tuition, as well as on-campus housing. DHSI is also offering a Graduate Certificate in Digital Humanities which I hope to finish this year. There are other summer programs in Europe as well, the Joint Culture & Technology and CLARIN-D Summer School in Germany, and the Digital Humanities at Oxford Summer School in England.

Crossposted at CDH and HGSA.

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THATCamp DHSoCal: Diving into Digital Humanities
October 24th and 25th, 2014
San Diego State University

THATCamp is “The Humanities and Technology Camp,” and it is an “un-conference” meeting where humanists and technologists of all skill levels learn and build together in sessions proposed on the spot.

THATCamp DHSoCal: Diving into Digital Humanities will be held at San Diego State University, but it is organized through a unique digital humanities-style collaboration between 4 regional institutions: San Diego State University (SDSU), University of California at San Diego (UCSD), California State University at San Marcos (CSUSM), and University of San Diego (USD).

Visit for more information and to register online. It is free and open to the public.

The spirit is inclusive, so, please send this email far and wide—to anyone (colleagues, students, friends) interested in learning about the digital humanities, getting involved in regional collaborations, and geeking out on the intersection between traditional humanities and digital technologies.

Join us to dive into the digital humanities!

More information on the DHSoCal digital humanities group can be found at:


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Workshop Links

Ever wondered what digital pedagogy is? Want to know what it’s like to teach online?


Wonder no more.

On February 19th, 2014, join us for an introductory session on digital pedagogy.

We will introduce you to what Canvas is and does. We will show you some of the applications that make online teaching as good (and sometimes better) than face-2-face teaching, and we’ll discuss some of the best practices for online education in the physical classroom and in the virtual one.

Location: UC Riverside, Surge 170

Date and time: Wednesday February 19th 4-6PM

This is the first of hopefully many sessions aimed at training graduate students (and anyone else) in digital pedagogies.

Please RSVP to Juliette Levy –

Juliette Levy teaches online and face-2-face in the History Department at UCR and at UC Online.

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My post at Critical Digital Humanities on a recent workshop: TEI and Markup Fundamentals

On February 13th I attended a workshop on TEI and Markup Fundamentals sponsored by the Graduate Quantitative Methods Program. The workshop was given by Rochelle Gold and Kimberly Hall from the Department of English at UC Riverside.

480px-Text_Encoding_Initiative_TEI-800TEI (Text Encoding Initiative) is a method of encoding texts with markup language for digital representation. TEI markup focuses on rendering the semantic qualities of texts more visible. For example, sentences and clauses can be marked within a text, as well as the lines and features of a poem. This granular level of encoding allows for digital representations of these texts to carry details and information beyond their normal forms, which is valuable for critical interpretation.

→ read more at the original post

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My post at Critical Digital Humanities on a recent talk: Rethinking Debates on Digital Learning

Event Archive: Rethinking Debates on Digital Learning . 12 Feb 2014

Yesterday CDH sponsored a talk by Professor Juliette Levy of the Department of History at UC Riverside. In her discussion, Professor Levy described her own evolution toward using digital technology in order to broaden the learning experience for her students.

Professor Levy’s talk began with a common experience many in academia have shared — traditional methods of teaching are not being adapted to the changing needs of students in our modern world.

The RSA talk by Sir Ken Robinson, which was turned into an animated video, was central to describing this need for change. There is a great chasm between the needs of students and the pace of innovation within the classroom.

→ read more at the original post

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The virtual lecture that Professor Levy gave to her CHASS F1RST class on Monday went very well. This was the first time we attempted to produce a virtual lecture, and I’ve compiled some notes on the process and our experience.

1. The setup will take 5-10 minutes.
Professor Levy and I had both done Google Hangouts before, but never for such a large audience. Just connecting the laptop to the projector can take a minute or two, and then there’s the webcam, and the initiation of the Google Hangout. In order to keep students engaged during all this, I played the “#Hashtag” video with Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake. The idea here was to inject a little humor, and also consider digital technology as a theme for the lecture. After the video Judy (the TA) addressed the class and let them know about the video conferencing aspect via Google Hangouts.

2. Going digital in the lecture, means going analog in the classroom.
With the projector screen being used for video conferencing, the textual information needed to be given to the students in another form. A printed handout would work well (even shared between groups of students), or posting the information in an accessible digital location, like Piazza, Twitter, or Blackboard. Our “smart classroom” happened to have two projector screens, so the other screen was used to show the PowerPoint information — I changed the slides as necessary for Professor Levy. Also, the screen-share feature of Google Hangouts works well, but it takes away from the process and leaves the students somewhat lost. It’s much better to keep the person’s image on the screen and use a paper handout or alternative digital handout.

camera, screens, and whiteboards

Making notations on the whiteboards helped bring the lecture into the classroom, and the second projector screen displayed the Midterm review questions.

3. Interaction with the students is key.
Using the webcam to show the entire classroom to Professor Levy enabled her to see the students’ reaction to her lecture. She was able to call on specific students that had questions, and to ask certain groups if they needed help with a concept. Thankfully the webcam microphone was able to pick-up student voices as far as 20-30 feet away, so Professor Levy could talk to them directly amongst the entire class. During group work, students walked up to the tripod-mounted webcam and asked questions as if Professor Levy was in the room.

student asking question via webcam

A student asks Professor Levy a question at the tripod-mounted webcam.

4. Some glitches are to be expected.
Be calm and don’t tweak the setup too frequently. In any video conference there will be a few moments when the audio drops out, or the screen freezes for a moment. Try and let these pass by if possible, only making corrections if absolutely necessary. When something does go wrong, all the students might speak at once which makes it impossible to hear on the other end. Hand signals, either from the students or the TAs running the equipment can be helpful. For example, rather than saying “can you hear me now,” you might say “thumbs-up if you can hear me.”

5. And finally, work toward breaking through the digital barrier.
Initially, I thought an hour and a half virtual lecture would feel like a lifetime. Digital interactions can sometimes create the sensation of time compression, making a few minutes of audio/visual communication feel much longer. While this was the case in the beginning of the virtual lecture, we managed to break through into a sense of normalcy about 20 minutes in. Sharing with the students the agenda for the session is very helpful, and although this might seem obvious, with the digital aspect of the lecture it really helps to provide an awareness of pace and accomplishment. Also, group work within the virtual lecture can help as well — this takes some pressure off the video conference itself, and refocuses the students on their interactions with each other. And most importantly, lots of assistance in the room is essential. For our class, the TA and student mentors were able to keep students engaged with the lecture and each other during group work. The TA and student mentors also provided students with a feeling of authenticity in what has the possibility of coming across as a disembodied performance.

Connected Post:


This winter quarter I am a research assistant working on digital pedagogy and instruction at UC Riverside for Professor Juliette Levy. The class consists of about 60 students, and it’s a CHASS F1RST Humanities Course covering the history of Latin America.

Even though this is a regular in-class course, we’re using a variety of digital tools to help broaden the learning experience. These tools, which are helpful for managing the class itself and also creating real interaction between students, include:

  • Piazza — an online forum for student and faculty interaction
  • Twitter — for live-tweeting lectures and group quiz questions and answers
  • Storify — for creating and sharing storyboards of lecture tweets
  • iLearn (or Blackboard) — as the location for individual quizzes, film clips, written assignments, and grades
  • Trello — for course creation ideas and task management at the instructor level
  • Google Drive — for publishing the class syllabus and other documents
  • Skype — for student questions and project review

In addition to these tools, just yesterday we used Google Hangouts to connect Professor Levy, who was snowed-in in Oregon, with the students in the lecture hall. As this particular class was a review session for the Midterm, it was important that the lecture still took place despite the bad weather. Using a webcam we were able to connect Professor Levy with the entire class, with both audio and video interaction.

camera, screens, and whiteboards

Professor Levy instructing the class via Google Hangouts

This CHASS F1RST class also has a teaching assistant (Judy), and two mentor students, who were all extremely helpful during the lecture. Overall the virtual lecture was very effective, but it could not have been done without assistance in the actual classroom itself.

In the image above, both projector screens are being utilized for the virtual lecture. On the left screen, the podium computer is displaying a PowerPoint of the Midterm review questions. And on the right screen, Professor Levy is commenting on the material in the Google Hangout, which is running on a laptop connected to the classroom speakers, and the webcam with a USB extension cable.

The TA, Judy, wrote the information on the whiteboards as Professor Levy spoke, and the mentor students live-tweeted the review questions for the entire class to see on their smartphones, tablets, and laptops. There are no class requirements for any devices, the class solely relies on existing technologies that the students already have and are familiar with. Students are also seated in group arrangements, so device screens are easily shared.

virtual lecture webcam

Webcam for the virtual lecture via Google Hangouts

The image above shows the camera we used for the Hangout, which happened to be a Logitech C910, but many other webcams would also work. The webcam was attached to a tripod with a spring clamp in order to better position the field of view. Students actually walked up to the webcam/tripod and asked Professor Levy questions directly during group work.

Below is a 30-second video which helps show the whole process.

More comments and thoughts on this virtual lecture:


In 1947 a moth was found in a relay switch on the Mark II electromechanical computer, a true computer “bug.”[1] What’s most interesting here isn’t that an insect was found in the machine, but that the computer operator taped the moth into the logbook. It’s almost as if the moth was trapped in a thin sheet of amber, preserved as the pre-digital ancestor of the tricksters within our own modern devices.

"Log book with computer bug," NMAH

“Log book with computer bug,” NMAH

The insect was found by Grace Hopper, a computer scientist and rear admiral in the US Navy. Google recently paid homage to Hopper with a “doodle” showing her working on an early mainframe computer. Not only does the computer display an answer on a paper printout, but a moth also flies out at the end of the sequence.

Google "doodle" commemorating Hopper's 107th birthday last December

Google “doodle” commemorating Hopper’s 107th birthday last December

[1] It’s most likely 1947, but the Computer History Museum lists the date as 1945, before the completion of the Mark II and its delivery to the Navy.

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