Digital Humanities in Latin American Studies: Cybercultures Initiative

Angelica J. Huizar (ahuizar@odu.edu), Old Dominion University, United States of America

My research is multi- and interdisciplinary focusing on electronic literature and cybercultures in/of Latin America. My latest articles and book manuscript explore the divide and convergence in literature and technology. This project lends itself well to the application of those theories and the evaluation of how they can best be implemented in classroom practices and complemented with co-curricular modules. I will therefore present my research findings on the use of Digital Humanities components specifically for the teaching of Latin American Studies. The presentation would thus serve as a report of: 1) initial research findings and best practices found at other institutions; 2) work accomplished at the DHSI 2018 Workshop (Victoria, Canada) “Critical Pedagogy and Digital Praxis in the Humanities”; 3) feedback gained from presentation at the DHSI 2018 Conference & Colloquium; and, 4) samples of syllabi to foster a lively discussion on the application of such a course with co-curricular components for Latin American Studies programs.

The goal of this project is to do a detailed study of program and curriculum design at other institutions on the use of DH modules specifically for Latin America/US Latino culture with a focus on pedagogical methodologies that engage critically about the problems that DH platforms do and do not resolve in Latin American Studies. The course design and the co-curricular components complement and intersect each other. This project will facilitate the assessment of various curriculums and specialized courses for the digital humanities and would ultimately lead to develop a course for all students interested in DH Latin American Studies. 1 Course components will include developing language proficiency, learning and using DH tools, and analyzing the effectiveness and drawbacks of such technologies specifically to Latin American Studies.

The interactive, systematic, and innovative features of digital humanities have been proven to advance language learning both in and outside of the classroom. Through exploring different forms of digital humanities, including multi-media, online archives, as well as existing web tools like Google Earth and Twitter, instructors and scholars of foreign languages not only facilitate collective and immersive language learning, but also broaden and deepen students’ exposure and knowledge of foreign culture. These projects break the traditional geographical and cultural boundaries in learning a foreign culture and/or language. Therefore, it is essential for instructors to reflect on how best to incorporate digital humanities in language/culture learning, and to determine to what extent digital learning complements and even replaces traditional ways of teaching and learning.

Students will be encouraged to adapt these new tools of analysis to their own future career objectives. The field of Digital Humanities is collaborative and very interdisciplinary as it produces new scales of analysis with varying modules (texts, maps, audio-mapping and networks) which may include experiments across modalities with: distant reading alongside close reading techniques, programming language, audio creation, geotagging, speech recognition encoding documents in TEI (Text Encoding Initiative 2 ), learning the basics of computational text analysis, programming chatbots using the Python programming language, etc. The course will also note the drawbacks or pitfalls of the use of technology.

However, the skills needed in DH have less to do with a particular hardware or commercial software and more about engaging in digital literacy (train interpretative methods necessary for critical analysis), and showcase how digital humanities is valuable to better understand Latin America’s transformations in the production, circulation and reception as well as its impact on culture, politics, history, literature, music, etc. The course will encourage students to develop more analytical projects from the use of such modalities. The focus will also be to analyze and address why this method of learning is complementary or even superior to traditional methods, specifically addressing the impact and implications that technology involved on ideologies, ethics and ideas. For example, a more involved topic would approach the idea of “mapping” as interpretation of geospatial data in GIS, georectify historical maps in Map Warper, manage digital archival objects in Omeka, and use Neatline to build “deep maps” of particular neighborhoods or landmarks in a city, layering historical photographs, maps, geospatial data, literary texts, and other elements to build analysis about their city.

Additionally, the course will attempt to link to public libraries (Slover in Norfolk), museums (Chrysler, Mariners, Living Museum), research centers, community groups (Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Community Dialogue) or other campus-level initiatives (ODU’s Institute of Humanities “Mapping Lambert’s Point Project,” for instance). The goal is to build projects that make use of the University and community’s collections. These public projects can energize students to work that much harder, as they can create materials with a chance of life beyond the classroom itself. The course will draw on resources from, participate in and continue their learning with the Regional, National and International Network 3 aimed to promote digital humanities initiatives to Old Dominion University faculty and to learn from and collaborate with external groups. 4 This network would be dedicated to exploring, analyzing, and sharing the cultural and visual modalities of digital humanities in the research and teaching of Latin America. The network would engage in these discussions through symposia for faculty and students with guest speakers or virtual conferences, virtual exhibitions, and online or hybrid workshops. 5 The network and initiatives that I foresee fostering and/or facilitating may include:

  1. K-12 Service Education: Working with the College of Education and the Licensure Students in the World Languages and Cultures Department to: Expand on its longstanding educational outreach commitments with K-12 educators and students at the local and state level; and, serve as a resource to K-12 educators working to meet Virginia Performance Standards as they relate to Latin American content in the social, natural, and life sciences by
  2. Language Without Borders Initiative: Create the next generation of global professionals through innovative language education, with Superior level proficiency in Spanish and overseas internship experience.
  3. DH and Latin/o American Cybercultures Initiative: Exposure to the digital culture of Latin America through seminars, symposia, courses, exhibitions, and workshops.
Notes
1.

Students in this course would include (but not limited to) those in the Latin American Studies Minor Program, International Business, International Studies (BAIS and GPIS), Humanities, Political Science, Spanish majors and Minors, World Cultural Studies majors and minors.

2.

Text Encoding Initiative Markup Language at the University of Virginia, https://dh.virginia.edu/tool/text-encoding-initiative-markup-language-tei (for my future reference)

3.

To be featured in the Latin American Studies Program website

4.

I already have established contacts and am in current collaborations with: Centro de Cultura Electrónica in Mexico City; the project Cultura Digital Chile (Universidad Diego Portales, Chile); the Latin American and Digital Humanities/Cybercultures at University of Georgia; the Digital Latin American Cultures Network: Researching the Cultural Dimensions of New Media in the United Kingdom; I am also a board member of the organization Lit-e-Lat: Red de Literatura Electrónica.

5.

For example, “Tecnoestética y sensorium contemporáneo: arte, literatura, diseño y tecnología” in September 2017 in Córdoba Argentina;