Study Abroad and Digital Humanities Projects

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I have developed two digital humanities projects: 1) one for a literature class taught on campus; and 2) another for a study abroad program in Toledo, Spain. In both cases – on campus and off campus, a digital humanities project is enriching. Nevertheless, that which principally drives the enrichment (the map or the textual criticism) depends, interestingly, on place – where the students are.

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Digital humanities projects combine geography (a map) and textual criticism (often a video and a text) as the above screenshot visually represents.

Students on campus in the classroom gain a better sense of place when reading the literary texts. However, students on a study-abroad experience already have a heightened sense of place because they are in the country moving through the city space. What they gain is not a greater connection to the built environment (they already enjoy this relationship) but an increased appreciation of the historical/cultural milieu in which the texts occur. In other words, for students on campus, the geographical component (the map) of a digital humanities project radically transforms their experience of a traditional literature class. However, for those on a study-abroad program, it is not the map, but the textual criticism linked to the map that makes both built environment and text come alive.

I ask students both on campus and off campus to make videos that provide historical and cultural information about the various urban sites mentioned in the texts studied. The students on campus are, obviously, only able to include photos in their videos because they cannot fly to the cities to film. The students on a study abroad program, on the other hand, are already in situ and can take live video. This added dynamic allows the students to literally immerse themselves in the culture. The following videos are two examples filmed by graduate students from Northern Illinois University in Toledo, Spain:


These videos serve as points of entry into the critical texts that always accompany them.