Paper Digital Humanities Australasia 2018

Exploring the Impact of Digital Humanities on Students’ Engagement with Technology (66)

Kara Kennedy 1 , Jakob Kristensen 2
  1. English, University of Canterbury, Christchurch
  2. Media and Communications, University of Canterbury, Christchurch

The growth in digital humanities courses has involved an increasing number of undergraduate students engaging with digital technologies, yet there is relatively little data from students’ perspectives on how they experience digital humanities. Furthermore, there is little information available about the connection between gender and digital humanities; that is, whether there is a difference between how female and male students encounter digital humanities in their courses. One of the few published examples of the student voice is the Bloomsburg University Undergraduate ‘Manifesto’ on Digital Humanities, in which fourteen undergraduates argue that digital humanities not only helped them open their eyes to new perspectives on technology and the digital world, but was an essential part of their educational experience. This piece offers a tantalizing glimpse at the connections students draw between learning, technology, and their lives, and it suggests that exposure to digital humanities is a fundamental factor in shaping how students think about technology, though it does not discuss the role of factors like gender.

The high proportions of women in humanities programs and low or decreasing percentages of women in STEM programs such as computer science—attributed in part to women’s lower levels of confidence with technology—have been documented in many countries. Thus, it becomes pertinent to consider the impact that digital humanities engagement has not only on undergraduate students in general but on female students and their experience of working with programming languages, databases, and other digital tools and methods outside of the male-dominated tech paradigm. It becomes pertinent to determine whether digital humanities can deconstruct stereotypes relating to masculine geek culture that have contributed to alienating women from technology. Helping to bridge the gap between technology and the humanities, and thereby facilitate greater confidence with technology, is potentially one of the most significant contributions that digital humanities has to offer undergraduate students, especially women, but more information is needed to confirm this.

Through interviewing students, we anticipate gaining insight into the impact of digital humanities courses and projects, thus helping to inform pedagogical approaches to undergraduate teaching as the field advances. More specifically, we aim to examine changes in students’ perception of digital technologies and their applications to their studies and lives, and changes in their confidence with technology. We also aim to explore whether there is a connection between women’s engagement in digital humanities courses and projects and their confidence with digital technologies, enabling us to answer the questions: Can digital humanities help deconstruct stereotypes relating to geek culture and enable women to benefit from critical engagement with technology?’ and ‘Is digital humanities potentially creating an entry point that allows women to connect with computing in a way that is accessible and meaningful?’ Our selection method includes choosing students with different social backgrounds who are enrolled in or have completed undergraduate courses in digital humanities within the past five years. We then plan to analyse the transcripts using qualitative data analysis software, which will help us identify key themes, patterns, and contrasts in students’ responses.