Start Date

28-2-2015 3:50 PM

Description

Internet surfing and social networking are much maligned as activities that divert the attention of our digital native students away from the serious, sustained pursuit of knowledge and encourage, instead, mind-numbing, superficial quests for personal relationships. This paper challenges the time-honored seminar class paradigm by demonstrating that social media do, in fact, possess tremendous latent scholarly and pedagogical credibility, legitimacy, and power if utilized in a carefully charted manner for a semester-long research project.

When enrollments in a traditional history seminar dwindled in the face of stiff competition from other technologically-driven electives, the instructor surmised that redesigning his class to appeal to tech-savvy digital natives could renew student interest in more humanistic investigations. Flying in the face of the status quo in art historiography, typical research paper assignments were reconceived to leverage the technology literacies and digital dexterities of NetGeners, including their infatuation with social media.

This paper describes a collaborative class project in a seminar dedicated to the life and times of a singularly renowned and catalytic historic figure in architecture. Upper-level architecture students were asked to create individual Facebook pages clustered around that architect's fan page (created by the instructor) and then to “friend” all other students' pages in a closed-network. Each student assumed the identity, or avatar, of one of that architect's family members, friends, clients, or apprentices.

The overarching objective of this class project asked students to discover the true character of one of the most enigmatic architectural personalities and enormously complicated design geniuses of all time not through the traditional channels of art historical scholarship – studies of the architect himself or his corpus of designs by themselves – but through the virtual recreation of the complex web of personal and professional relationships he had forged over a nine-decade-long lifetime.

By plumbing the depths of cultural data bases on the Internet, by digitizing products of traditional scholarship, and by creating their own born-digital materials, students immersed themselves in a new sort of historical scholarship that transcended the mere consultation of typical textual sources. By inventing new approaches to documenting their investigations, by altering the means of scholarly communication, by increasing the visibility of their work to one another, students acquired a more profound understanding of the personal character and motivations behind the public persona of a celebrated icon in the art world.

The end result of this digital humanities experiment was a vibrant, endlessly interconnected repository of useful information – simultaneously engaging and revelatory – that everyone within this harbored network could share.

And in the final analysis, this social media collaboratory was perfectly attuned to coming to terms with the intricate, nuanced findings that multifaceted, historical problems often demand. Envisioned by Mark Zuckerberg as “the stream of all human consciousness,” Facebook does indeed redeem itself as a valuable didactic tool in the humanities when focused particularly on matters of the human condition throughout time.

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Feb 28th, 3:50 PM

The Stream of All Human Consciousness: Using Social Media in a History Seminar Collaboratory to Chart the Tributaries of Collective Cultural memories in the Digital Age

Internet surfing and social networking are much maligned as activities that divert the attention of our digital native students away from the serious, sustained pursuit of knowledge and encourage, instead, mind-numbing, superficial quests for personal relationships. This paper challenges the time-honored seminar class paradigm by demonstrating that social media do, in fact, possess tremendous latent scholarly and pedagogical credibility, legitimacy, and power if utilized in a carefully charted manner for a semester-long research project.

When enrollments in a traditional history seminar dwindled in the face of stiff competition from other technologically-driven electives, the instructor surmised that redesigning his class to appeal to tech-savvy digital natives could renew student interest in more humanistic investigations. Flying in the face of the status quo in art historiography, typical research paper assignments were reconceived to leverage the technology literacies and digital dexterities of NetGeners, including their infatuation with social media.

This paper describes a collaborative class project in a seminar dedicated to the life and times of a singularly renowned and catalytic historic figure in architecture. Upper-level architecture students were asked to create individual Facebook pages clustered around that architect's fan page (created by the instructor) and then to “friend” all other students' pages in a closed-network. Each student assumed the identity, or avatar, of one of that architect's family members, friends, clients, or apprentices.

The overarching objective of this class project asked students to discover the true character of one of the most enigmatic architectural personalities and enormously complicated design geniuses of all time not through the traditional channels of art historical scholarship – studies of the architect himself or his corpus of designs by themselves – but through the virtual recreation of the complex web of personal and professional relationships he had forged over a nine-decade-long lifetime.

By plumbing the depths of cultural data bases on the Internet, by digitizing products of traditional scholarship, and by creating their own born-digital materials, students immersed themselves in a new sort of historical scholarship that transcended the mere consultation of typical textual sources. By inventing new approaches to documenting their investigations, by altering the means of scholarly communication, by increasing the visibility of their work to one another, students acquired a more profound understanding of the personal character and motivations behind the public persona of a celebrated icon in the art world.

The end result of this digital humanities experiment was a vibrant, endlessly interconnected repository of useful information – simultaneously engaging and revelatory – that everyone within this harbored network could share.

And in the final analysis, this social media collaboratory was perfectly attuned to coming to terms with the intricate, nuanced findings that multifaceted, historical problems often demand. Envisioned by Mark Zuckerberg as “the stream of all human consciousness,” Facebook does indeed redeem itself as a valuable didactic tool in the humanities when focused particularly on matters of the human condition throughout time.