More digital techniques are being integrated into the ways we teach, and Bucknell is a place of encounter between the disciplines. Our new technical capabilities inspire exploration across majors and departments.
Thanks to new technology like Web 2.0, humanities scholars can ask new questions through their scholarship in interactive ways - by using electronic links to open pop-up windows, or mapping action between historical figures or fictional characters, for example. These breakthroughs excite Professor Katie Faull, German and humanities, who believes technical innovation strengthens the relevance of the humanities in the 21st century.
"Digital tools allow us to think in new ways about the humanities," says Faull, an expert in the culture of Moravians, an 18th-century Pietist group from Central Europe and Great Britain. "Materials that have been hidden away on an archival shelf in an acid-free box are now coming online, and we can make our scholarship interactive." She is using technology to illustrate the relationships she's discovered between 18th-century women missionaries in the Susquehanna River valley. "The best way to represent the network of information exchanged between the women is through new digital humanities tools such as Gephi or Palladio software, which map relationships between people, places and periods of time, respectively," she says. "Mapping the action within texts really brings them to life for students."
The possibilities inspire students in many fields to pair technology with traditional scholarship in the humanities, she notes. Some are learning how to write and display information for web pages showcasing scholarly research. "More digital techniques are being integrated into the ways we teach, and Bucknell is a place of encounter between the disciplines," says Faull. "Students taking my classes are engineers and computer scientists who are also really interested in the humanities. Our new technical capabilities inspire exploration across majors and departments."
The Bucknell Stories of the Susquehanna Valley initiative exemplifies how technology can enhance scholarly work. The project, involving Faull, faculty and students across the University, will enable river enthusiasts on the nearby Susquehanna to use their smart phones to learn about the 18th-century Native American villages that dotted the riverbanks via digital maps that connect scholarship with human and natural history.
"When you are kayaking down the river, you can look at your phone to see who lived there, what they did and how they used the place for their existence," says Faull, a past recipient of three National Endowment for the Humanities grants to support her scholarship on Moravian history and culture. "This project has been very popular with students because it combines cultural, historical and environmental history into one interdisciplinary humanities course."
In addition, a new course called Humanities Now, co-taught by Faull and Diane Jakacki of Library & Information Technology, will enable students to work with the diaries of Lewisburg dignitary J. Merrill Linn, Class of 1851. Faull hopes students will learn how to create online exhibits of the materials, which are housed in the University Archives. "Any time there is innovation within an academic field, that particular discipline starts asking questions about how the form will affect the interpretation of our work," she says. "It is still scholarly work because it adheres to professional standards — but now it becomes much more interactive."
Posted Feb. 11, 2015