News and Notes from the DevLab: Introduction

In addition to my other responsibilities as a Brittain Fellow, I have also been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to serve as coordinator of DevLab, the Georgia Tech Writing and Communication Program’s Research and Development Lab. Over the course of the next few weeks, I will be bringing you some short updates on DevLab’s progress.

In many ways, I see the mission of DevLab is closely aligned with what Alex Reid has called, “the strong definition” of the “Digital Humanities.” In a post to his blog earlier this week (a post, I should mention, previously discussed by fellow TECHStyle blogger Roger Whitson, here), Reid explained that he believed we could offer both a “weak” and a “strong” answer to the question “what are the digital humanities?” The weak answer is, “one that draws some fuzzy and arbitrary line among digital technologies and says if you use these technologies to study humanistic content then you are a digital humanist.” The use of the word “weak” here should not be taken as a pejorative. There has been plenty of excellent work done using digital techniques to analyze subject matter within the traditional canon of the humanities. However, I find Reid’s “strong” definition of the digital humanities enticing for the opportunities it opens up for expanding the subject matter of the humanities beyond the traditional canon and the skill set of the humanist beyond textual analysis. For Reid, the “strong” definition of the digital humanities, “has two main components. There are makers, who build various digital tools for use in humanistic research and teaching. Then there are researchers, who study humanistic aspects of digital media and culture.”

These twin drives, building unique tools and expanding the scope of humanistic research to encompass the digital heart of our contemporary media and culture, are what DevLab seeks to move forward. We’re just getting started, but possible future projects for the lab include:

  • Contributing to the <emma> project, which is building a unique form of courseware designed for the writing classroom
  • Building smartphone applications for humanities teaching and research
  • Working to build flexible tools for visualizing texts that could be of use both in classroom and research settings
  • Researching and teaching communication practices in immersive worlds like Second Life

Stay tuned for further developments!

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