After the deluge

It’s the last day of Semester 1 at the University of Melbourne. It’s been an exciting, gruelling, disorganised, improvised, adaptive, foolish, fun and frenzied semester, and I’m not sure I’ve learned anything.

I have always been taught by students, but never this much. Digital Studies is a brand-new course at Melbourne, and I have almost sole responsibility for its structure and delivery. That is not to say I’ve had no help. David Goodman, Mathilde Lochert, Fabio Mattioli, Lutfun Nahar Lata, Claire Loughnane, Josh Miller, Robert Lazarus, Lieve Donnellan, Nick Thieberger, Robert Hassan, Mitch Goodwin, David McInnis, Beth Driscoll, Marc Mierowsky and especially Alice Dixon all pitched in in various ways, and to them I am immensely grateful.

But it was my students who taught me most. Who are the Digital Studies cohort? What do they want? How will they get it? The students gave the most vivid answers to these questions.

I’m not sure I’ve learned anything, but I know I’ve unlearned certain things. It now seems obvious to me that I tried to teach too much and in the wrong order. I can see now that I saw things through the researcher’s eyes. I thought it made sense to teach digital methods according to the object of study: start with structured data, then text, then space, then image. It turns out that ‘space’ and ‘structured data’ are coded almost identically, and that ‘text’ is so hard we need at least twice as much time on it. All lessons for next year.

I have been working in and around Digital Humanities for 10 years. I have ‘taught’ Digital Humanities in many contexts many times. But every time I arrive in a new classroom, I feel I’m there for the very first time.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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