thinking about the asecs dh caucus’s technology survey

I looked at the survey and discussion about this at EMOB today, and found that technology-triumphalism notwithstanding, there is an interesting range of responses to technology going on within 18c studies.  (And I believe that the triumphalism itself is largely imagined or feared by those who don’t actually engage in the difficult work of DH).

What struck me, however, was the generational diversity of the ASECS respondents, with what seemed to be roughly equal cohorts for those whose membership had lasted 2 yrs, 2-5 yrs, 11-15 yrs, 16-20 yrs., and 20+ yrs.  Unsurprisingly, there was also a similar range and diversity of social networking tools in use, from Twitter and Facebook to blogs like the Long 18th and EMOB to traditional email listservs like C18-L. But there doesn’t seem to be a single favored approach to scholarly communication among ASECS members, at least among these respondents.

The other aspect of this report that surprised me was the strong showing of pedagogy and teaching practices in the list of DH topics people want to learn more about.  We’ve featured discussions like this in the past at the Long 18th, as has EMOB, but it seems as if the demand for this kind of information goes beyond what our blogs have offered so far.

I’d be curious whether those following the Long 18th or EMOB would like to see more pedagogy posts, perhaps in a variety of formats.  For my part, I enjoy writing these, but I tend to discuss the strategies used in my own teaching.

For my part, I’d love to see how different instructors use ECCO or EEBO in different kinds of courses (I know that Eleanor has done so in a History of the Book course, but I’d like to see how it might work differently by genre or other organizational schema), or at different levels of the undergraduate or graduate curriculum. If anyone out there would like to share additional information about their own assignments or strategies, or about what works and what hasn’t for them, I would be happy to have them post here.  Just let me know, either in the comments here or offline at DMazella at UH.EDU.

12 responses to “thinking about the asecs dh caucus’s technology survey

  1. Eleanor Shevlin

    Yes, the survey certainly underscored the widespread interest in learning how colleagues are using ECCO and EEBO in courses (undergraduate and graduate).

    While Anna Battigelli’s and my CFP for this year’s ASECS specifically seeks examples of using ECCO and EEBO to teach bibliography or book history, I have not used these databases that much in book history courses. Instead, discussions on the Long Eighteenth Century and EMOB blogs over the past year inspired the CFP, for they prompted seeing these textbases as excellent tools for teaching these related fields.

    Yet I have used EECO and, to a lesser degree EEBO, in two courses—one on the 18th-century novel and another on 18th-century poetry and nonfiction prose. A discussion of how I used these tools appears in the Eighteenth-Century Intelligencer’s Special Topics Issue: “Teaching with EEBO and ECCO” (Fall 2009); this forum includes pieces by Nancy Mace on “Using ECCO in Undergraduate Survey Courses,” Sayre Greenfield on “Undergraduate Use of Search Engines in EEBO and ECCO,” and Brian Glover on “EEBO, ECCO, and the Eighteenth-Century Novel Course.”

    Yet, several years have passed since these essays first appeared, and no doubt many new ideas for using these tools have been developed. So let me echo Dave in saying that I too would like to hear from others about the ways ECCO and EEBO (and other digital databases) are being employed in courses.

  2. Dave Mazella

    Eleanor, I think that 18c Intelligencer link is invaluable, and a potential model for the kind of blogging posts we’re both interested in. As you point out, though, there don’t seem to have been that many follow-ups to that.

    One of the issues that I’ve run into is the relation of ECCO and independent research to required course readings, in both grad and undergrad courses. Students new to the period, which describes most of my students, are very wary of delving too deep into non-canonical texts while they’re still trying to construct a framing narrative of the period. So the ECCO research tends to gravitate towards the supplementary or contextual readings rather than the primary readings.

    My suspicion is that ECCO/EEBO/Burney work best in courses where students spend a substantial time practicing some directed or independent research, but this is not a conventional requirement in most curricula until students reach the dissertation stage. Would you agree with that?

    • Eleanor Shevlin

      I’ve had success with using these tools in undergraduate seminar courses; these seminars (our students take 3 seminars if they are BAs, and 2 if they are BSEds) require students to undertake independent research for a final seminar paper. The seminars are capped at 14, and about half of these students typically develop projects that are heavily tied to using these tools—sometimes more. Early in the semester we have had two workshops on the tools and a brief paper based on one (or more if they so desire) of the databases. Some of the readings for the seminar are also found on ECCO (or EEBO)

      For upper-level survey classes, I’ve often used ECCO and EEBO with the teaching of certain texts—the series of “dressing room” poems, “Rape of the Lock,” or the Turkish Embassy Letters. These databases enable students to compare canonical texts with ones largely forgotten or to gain a better understanding of a text’s broader historical context (e.g. earlier male travel writings on the harems). Anna’s suggestion of using these databases to explore bibliographic and book-history issues offers other possibilities.

      In short, these databases can be useful to varying degrees in upper-level undergraduate courses. While they clearly can play a significant role in seminars and other scenarios in which students undertake independent research, they also can be used for short exercises and the study of specific texts in other sorts of courses.

  3. I can envision using EEBO/ECCO/Burney with graduate students. Using them with undergraduates seems less straightforward, though possible.

    As an initial step, I can see using EEBO Interactions as an introduction to bibliography or book history by having students, either undergraduate or graduate, both explore records and record discrepancies they find.

    I’d love to hear how others use these tools for teaching.

  4. Dave Mazella

    I think that it’s possible with undergrads, but the research opportunities are more limited, and so too are the opportunities for practice.

    It’s interesting how contemplating the full use of ECCO makes us rethink the “coverage model” of course organization, and seems to demand more independent research by students. How we prepare them for that kind of course, and that expanded role, is another question.

  5. Thanks Laura for the link to the Intelligencer special issue, there are some comments which echo my own experiences with using ECCO in teaching as well as some great ideas I might have to try out. I’ve posted a few times on my experiments in using ECCO on my own blog and My current course gets students new to the 18thC novel familiar with its formal experimentation and its attendant ideological / cultural issues by using ECCO as a provider of contextual historicizing material. The limitations of that model is that it rather closes down the other wonderful material that can be found on ECCO: there simply time or space to read,for example, A Sentimental Journey in a modern edition and other types of journey narratives in the period on ECCO. I think if it were at a more advanced level, then there would be space for the kind of student-led project model of interacting with ECCO.

  6. Dave Mazella

    Thanks for pointing us to these helpful blog posts, Steven. I liked the way that you tied the ECCO material to presentations rather than essays initially. I also think that linking this to low-stakes assignments makes it more possible for students to feel comfortable navigating ECCO when it comes time for graded research essays.

    I think that one of the lessons I keep learning from ECCO pedagogically is that there are different modes of experiencing it: “browsing,” “searching,” (through the search pages); “skimming,” “aggregating,” “immersing” (with the particular text or set of texts pulled up by the searches. Perhaps the way to get the fullest use out of ECCO is to build time into the course for a recursive research process around the identification/selection/analysis of supplementary or additional primary texts.

    I haven’t tried this myself, but perhaps a novel course would assign a canonical novel, and then the subsequent assignments would center on having students assemble, under instruction, a constellation of additional texts related by formal or generic features. Or, if you prefer to have them look for contextual materials, various non-literary materials that could inform students’ readings.

    Coverage would be significantly curtailed, but students would get a more authentic sense of how we move from canonical to non-canonical sources. You would have the ability to discuss maybe 3-4 of these constellations in a semester.

  7. Eleanor Shevlin

    Presentations do work well–especially for showing students how other students are using the tools. In my seminars students present on their research to date about 2/3 into the semester, and these presentations have helped others with their projects. Your posts, Stephen, are helpful, and Dave’s follow-up comments are too… (and my most recent seminar, the 18th-century novel and material culture, used Richardson’s Pamela in much the way you suggest above, Dave. We only read 5 novels in the seminar as a group, but students each pursued a novel or two chosen from a list I provided, and used ECCO and Burney to pursue either generic or formal features, publishing history, or cultural contextualizqation of their selected novel(s).

  8. I am late in the game responding here, but I want to add my voice. David, I am glad that more attention is being drawn to teaching, and I’d love to hear more. I’ve always participated in the professional opportunities we have to discuss our methods of teaching (and I edit the Pedagogy section of ABO: Interactive Journal for Women in the Arts, 1640-1830, where people can publish their teaching ideas!) I am also interested in the ideas presented here by Eleanor and that great panel from ECASECS as well as Stephen’s blog posts. I have been working on a grad level 18thC Novel and Theory course that explores the digital humanities as fully as I can and still meet the learning objectives for the course.. Your posts have inspired me with more ideas. At this point, I have three maybe four projects using different databases and 18th C digital projects.

  9. I have a “screwing around” project, getting students into EEBO to define what we mean by the novel before 1700. We will explore the database in the first class and I will walk them through a search on Oroonoko and “novel.” The goal will be for each to discover a “novel” from before 1700 and read it over the Labor Day weekend, write up a 2-3 page paper on what it is like (guided by questions) and present it to the class when we return. I have a WIKI term project for students to identify the meaning of key terms in novel and novel theory (and I’m going to use some of the ideas from Michelle Sarver’s piece above). I have a data mining project that I am going to introduce so that students get a sense of the way in which digital humanities is actually shaping research projects — we’ll use ECCO for that and develop and preseent a 3-5 page paper, and now I am considering a material objects research paper, tied to Burney’s Cecilia and the Burney newspaper database. I haven’t used that database yet, but some of my students have used it for pat Roger’s courses, and so they can help me. Digital Humanities is all about collaboration, right? I’d love to hear more from Anna about the EEBO intractive feature. How does that work?

  10. Dave Mazella

    Laura, thanks for all these suggestions from your own teaching. The data mining and material objects assignments sound particularly interesting, and match the strengths, I think, of the databases in terms of their sheer range of material both literary and non-literary. Interesting, too, to think of how our view of canonical and non-canonical works changes or deepens after such research. Keep us posted on how these develop, and the kinds of reactions students bring to this kind of study.

  11. Eleanor Shevlin

    Thanks, Laura. Very interesting projects! For later in the century and into the 19th, you might be interested in playing around with Google ngrams to chart the use of the word “novel”.

    On EMOB Anna and I have posted a basic guide to using Burney.

    While Anna will no doubt chime in here, too, we have also had a number of discussions about EEBO Interactions on EMOB, including the following:
    EEBO Interactions and Bibliography: Linking the Past to the Present

    EEBO Interactions as an Interactive Guide

    Making Use of EEBO Interactions

    On a different note, I don’t know if anyone has read Katherine Bode’s Reading by Numbers: Recalibrating the Literary Field. While it deals with Australian literature, it seems as if it might be a useful demonstration of what data mining and visualization tools can enable us to do. (I have it on order at my library).