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Opinion

DHi provides tools for tech-mediated teaching

By Hristina Mangelova ’16

October 10, 2013

How many of you have heard about the Digital Humanities Initiative on campus? How many of you know how Hamilton students can benefit from the work of the DHi and gain new knowledge?

The Digital Humanities Initiative, co-directed by Professor of Africana Studies Angel Nieves and Associate Director of Instructional Technology Services Janet Simons, uses new media and computing technologies to promote research and innovative teaching methods in the humanities and across the liberal arts. The initiative is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Only a few days ago, the DHi received its second grant, for the next three academic years, from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which makes the external funds awarded from the Foundation to the DHi a total of $1.6 million.

Students, particularly those interested in pursuing an interdisciplinary minor in Cinema and New Media Studies, may find the work of the DHi very interesting. Similar to the Cinema and New Media Studies concentration, the DHi brings together theoretical and historical knowledge with hands-on photochemical, electronic and digital media. The DHi also presents its interns and fellows with some unique opportunities like creating 3D models, electronic archives and filming.

This semester, the DHi has taken on several new projects.  One of these is Burke Library’s creative arts series, Apple & Quill.  With the DHi’s help, each Apple & Quill event will be recorded and archived for future teaching and research opportunities.  Other DHi endeavors include the Comparative Japanese Film Archive, the Euphrates Project (a documentary film on water) and the Soweto Historical GIS Project on new strategies of mapping growth and development.

A project that is currently being developed is the “I am a refugee” project. It consists of a documentary film about the lives of the refugees in the Mohawk Valley Resource Center and a website archive that compiles all sorts of information and research on the refugee center. Faculty members from four departments—Professor of Economics Erol Balkan, Professor of German and Russian Languages and Literatures John Bartle, Professor of English and Creative Writing Patricia O’Neill and Associate Professor of Anthropology Chaise LaDousa, together with Simons serve as five of the seven project directors.

Dima Kaigorodov ’16, one of the three student assistants on this project, said that the idea for the project came from professor Balkan. The “I am a refugee” project began over thiesummer with the initial idea to follow and videotape one refugee family, but evolved into interviewing multiple people. The aim of those interviews, according to Kaigorodov, was to understand how the city of Utica shaped the experience of the refugees—the pros and cons of coming to the US. Another intriguing issue that the documentary talks about  is “the identity question.”  Where does a refugee belong? The answer to this and other similar questions will be presented at the second annual Unspoken Human Rights Film Festival in Utica next week when the documentary film will have its debut. If this sparked your curiosity but you cannot make it to Utica on Oct. 17, you will have the chance to watch the documentary on campus in the near future.

The Digital Humanities Initiative at Hamilton College is a unique project that bears our faculty’s passion and dedication for innovations while providing students with practical, applicable experience. So if you have not yet attended an event sponsored by the DHi, look out for posters.  If you have an idea for a DHi-related project, look out for the application for their CLASS (Culture, Liberal Arts and Society Scholars) Program in the spring semester.

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