Acculturation and Professionalism in Digital Humanities Education
In their paper, “Acculturation and the Digital Humanities Community,” Geoffrey Rockwell and Stefan Sinclair write about the importance of professionalization, particularly for students, within the discipline of digital humanities. The authors begin the chapter with definitions.
Professionalization is defined as involving the development of skill, identity, norms, and values associated with becoming part of a professional group
Acculturation is defined as the process of preparing students to fit into the culture of the professional community.
The authors are concerned that currently, this is an often neglected part of the curriculum. Usually, this content is introduced through non-credit activities like the following:
discussion topic woven into a course
workshops about specific issues
general services through the university
The authors critique the existing curriculum at the post-secondary level by stating the it usually acclimatizes students to a narrow range that is typical of academia, to what is done at the university. The authors also state that the problem with what currently happens is that students must read widely in the field, publish monographs, give papers, and that professionalization happens in the core of what students are asked to do, and that this type of work prepares students for academic careers. The problem lies in the fact that the digital humanities is potentially broader than the academy, as a lot of work in the area happens outside of the academy.
In order to make recommendations around professionalism and acculturation, the authors start by asking the question:
What do digital humanists really do, and how are these activities are encouraged in the design of curriculum? They offer the following list in response:
Digital humanists don’t necessarily write books, but some of them do. Digital work itself is considered research.
DHers don’t have to theorize new media: challenge lies in avoiding a split between theory and practice, finding ways that building can be theorizing
DHers don’t have to teach credit courses: teaching may not be part of professional responsibilities.
DHers don’t have to become professors
DHers do work in collaborative, interdisciplinary, innovative teams, in various roles. Students need to develop team skills and learn about these in order to thrive
DHers apply digital practices
DHers do manage projects
DHers do explaining technology
The article proposes that the aim should be to train students to be able to participate in as professionals in the field of DH rather than grafting on old habits: training that students receive should actually reflect what they will be required to do in their professional lives.
The paper offers a very fullsome discussion of how this could happen through the illustration of two case studies: the Multimedia at McMaster University, and the M.A. in Humanities Computing at the University of Alberta.
For a full discussion, please see "Acculturation and the Digital Humanities Community," in Digital Humanities Pedagogy: Principles, Practices, and Politics. ed. Brett Hirsch,
The authors discussion initiatives such as:
In conclusion, the authors state that professionalization can encode in a program the desires and the politics of a its stakeholders, and that curriculum can be designed in such a way as to prepare students to approach a breadth of careers. DH curriculum should be designed with the breadth of careers that DH can offer, rather than focusing merely on the academy.
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