The Internet and numerous technological tools have opened up wide ranging possibilities for researching, teaching, and publishing in the humanities. Having an information technology background from sixteen year of work in the IT field throughout the Southeast United States, I see great opportunities to use technology to advance humanities knowledge and research through using technology in new and exciting ways. The following three examples represent a broad application of some of the digital humanities methodologies assisting in the research and teaching of humanities subjects, particularly religious studies. The three examples are the spatial humanities, online learning, and digital publishing.
Humans occupy space and are emplaced in the world. When they practice their religion, they imprint establish the traditions spatially, through buildings, establishing communities, traveling for missionizing, or to present lectures or sermons, or simply their immigration. All human activity has a geographical component. Using geographically aware technologies not only allows the inclusion of spatial data in humanities research and publishing, but also the opportunity to combine the humanities data with other spatially organized data to create sophisticated and dynamic demographic and networking representations of humanities subjects. One area of research within digital humanities I have been exploring is the use of geographic information systems (GIS) to track and map the places various historical figures have traveled and how various new religious movements have expanded throughout the world. For instance, in this paper, “The American Tours of Annie Besant, 1891-1929,” I trace the many of the places Annie Besant, the second President of the Theosophical Society based in Adyar, India, made during six trips to the United States and Canada from 1891-1929. By using this lecture data I was able to combine it with US census record to construct a general representation of the people she was meeting and giving lectures to for almost four decades.
Digital Pedagogy & Online Learning
The emergence of sophisticated learning management systems has brought immersive learning environments to a broad range of students. The asynchronous delivery of content allows even those with a busy schedules the opportunity to engage in learning and course work. New technologies allow students to engage a variety of media, often bringing the humanities alive for the student, and offering space for students to engage, reflect, and discuss their thoughts and the information they have learned. In addition, new software platforms and mobile devices present ways of interacting that would not be possible for in person classrooms.
One example of how I have explored digital pedagogy probabilities within online learning environments has spanned from using blogs and social media to working with students to create an online repository to store the research they create. In a project, The Religious Institutions of Tallahassee, for two semesters students traced the history of local religious institutions, collecting and documenting various historical aspects of the institution and interviewing institutional representatives. They then created an institutional exhibit showcasing their results. While those who chose a different topic wrote blog posts, essays, or created movies which they collected and submitted to the repository. The repository is now part of Florida State’s special collections showcasing undergraduate scholarship in religious studies. I presented about this project in in the “The Digital Futures of Religious Studies” session at the annual conference of the AAR in 2016.
Another way I promote digital humanities research is that from 2013-2016, I have been a co-organizer of THATCamp AAR & SBL. THATCamp stands for The Humanities and Technology Camp, which is an informal, all-day conference which takes place the day before the American Academy of Religion conference in November. Here scholars of religion come together to learn about digital humanities and from those involved. As an “unconference,” the topics and presenters are not selected until the morning of the conference so that it truly represents those in attendance. Each year the attendance of the conference increases. For 2016, approximately 100 participants attended to learn more about digital humanities. By co-organizing the event, I help introduce digital humanities to more scholars who can, in turn, apply it to their research, expanding the field and opening up more opportunities for collaboration.