Critical Making and Public Facing DH in the Liberal Arts Classroom a case study.

1. Abstract

Digital humanities have historically been underrepresented at small liberal arts colleges. Though this is changing, the pace is slow, and most DH pedagogy remains targeted at graduate students and faculty at R1 universities. Bryan Alexander and Rebecca Frost Davis have identified several reasons for the lack of DH pedagogy at small liberal arts colleges (SLACs), including “logistics, infrastructure, and campus identity.”[1] Briefly, SLACs frequently do not have either the critical mass or the funding to make DH courses (which can be resource-intensive for both individual faculty and the broader institution) viable. Additionally, SLACs emphasize a liberal undergraduate education, which can be skeptical of or even hostile to training students in the concrete technical skills that digital humanists frequently need to build digital projects. Nearly a decade after Alexander and Davis identified the particular challenges for DH instruction in a SLAC context, SLACs are shifting towards developing DH minors, certificates, and sometimes even majors in their curricula. Yet many of the challenges—of logistics and campus identity in particular—remain the same. In other words, small colleges can feel insular and insulated from larger digital humanities contexts.

This poster presents a case study of what one response to these challenges can be: to teach students not only how to apply skills like HTML in a particular course context, but also to frame DH and DH pedagogy as always aimed toward a wider audience. The course which serves as the case study for the poster, to be taught in Spring 2020 at Amherst College, is titled “Books and Their Afterlives: Text as Technology.” Students both examine and use a wide variety of textual technologies from across the centuries: they handle rare books in a college archive, write HTML to develop a narrative in Twine, and experiment with 3D printing pens and paper circuits in order to investigate text as a concept, a technology, and a material artefact.

This poster serves two functions: first, it will enact practical DH pedagogy by engaging students in developing the poster, encouraging them to think of their course work as public facing. Second, the poster will demonstrate the arc of the course to that public audience. It will include the guiding principles of the course’s design: the remaining poster content will be determined by student collaborators.

This poster will be of interest to faculty and instructional staff in environments that might resist DH pedagogy, such as small liberal arts colleges and libraries. It will also be of interest to those in environments that have embraced DH pedagogy who might want an example of engaging students in active learning through public-facing digital work.

[1] “‘Chapter 21: Should Liberal Arts Campuses Do Digital Humanities? Process and Products in the Small College World | Bryan Alexander and Rebecca Frost Davis’ in ‘Debates in the Digital Humanities’ on Manifold,” Debates in the Digital Humanities, accessed October 21, 2019,

Amanda Henrichs (, Amherst College, United States of America

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