The Future of Interdisciplinary Digital Cultural Heritage Curriculum (oh yeah, and games as well)

May 19th, 2010 |

Well, it looks like there is a good number of campers (Julie, Jeff, Dave – just to name a few…and I know that Beth has a lot to say about mentorship) interested in teaching/curriculum (self paced, open access, formal, etc, etc).  My original proposals is in that domain as well.  Here is what I originally submitted:

We are beginning to see an increasing number of university programs and classes intended to equip students in the myriad disciplines that constitute the field of cultural heritage with both the practical and theoretical skills necessary to creatively apply information and communication technologies to historical and cultural heritage materials

The worry I have with many of these programs (or classes) is that they are very discipline specific. As one would expect, they are mostly populated by students from the department in which the program lives (students who are steeped in the epistemology of that specific discipline). The result is that the student’s outlook on digital cultural heritage might be insular, and lacking much of the vibrant interdisciplinarity of cultural heritage.

It is in this context, informed by my own efforts at Michigan State University, that I would like to engage in a discussion with other cultural heritage professions (academics, archivists, museum professionals, archaeologists, etc.) as to how we might go about constructing digital oriented curricula that embrace the interdisciplinary nature of cultural heritage and encourages cross disciplinary collaboration among future cultural heritage professionals.

If such a curriculum existed, what would it look like? What theory & practice would it investigate? What tools & platforms would it explore? How would it be taught?  Who would teach it?  Are there best practices and general models that can be developed which would serve to prepare students (either graduate or undergraduate) for a broad range of settings (public service, private sector, or academia)? Is such a curriculum even possible? It is these questions (and more) that I would like to explore with other interested THATCamp attendees.

blah, blah, blah…I know…this might seem to be a lot of yak, and not a lot of hack.  However, if you turn it on its side and look at it slightly different, its also about hacking curriculum, the domain of cultural heritage, models of content, identity, and interdisciplinarity.

There are a couple of important things that bear added (or emphasizing):

  • How do we create a culture of technological ingenuity (where students build stuff – especially stuff that might live outside of their comfort zone) in such a curriculum?
  • How do we create a culture of collaboration in such a curriculum? (this certainly falls into the domain of David’s proposal)
  • How do we create a culture of interdiscplinarity in such a curriculum?

(oh yeah, and games as well)

While I didn’t “formally” propose it, I would love to talk to people about serious games (meaningful play, playful interaction…whatever you would like to call it).  I’m PI on the NEH ODH funded Red Land/Black Land: Teaching Ancient Egyptian History Through Game-Based Learning project, co-founder of the Serious Game MA program at MSU, co-founder of the undergrad game design and development specialization at MSU, and a pretty big gamer myself – so I’ve got a fair amount of experience in the domain.  It bears mentioning that I’m not just interested in digital games…I’m also really interested in non-digital games as well (tabletop games, boardgames, collectible card games, collectible miniature games, etc.) for learning (mostly cultural heritage learning).  So, if there are people interested in exploring games (any aspect – best practices, approaches, nuts & bolts…whatever), I’m game (game…get it? har har har)

Comments Feed

5 Responses to “The Future of Interdisciplinary Digital Cultural Heritage Curriculum (oh yeah, and games as well)”

  1. Zach Whalen Says:

    So if discipline-specific epistemology constrains digital cultural heritage in a way that is better served by an interdisciplinary (or post-disciplinary) curriculum, are you implying that digital cultural heritage instantiates its own epistemology?

    If that’s your, I agree, and I think that perspective is probably a useful adjunct to Rob Nelson’s mention of arguing digitally. It might have to do with institutional infrastructure.

    Relatedly, does this mean we need a department of “digital humanities”? I know you teach out of a couple of different departments, right? I teach “new media” in an English department, but am sometimes asked why I’m not in Computer Science or even History because of what and how I teach.

  2. ethan.watrall Says:

    couple of quick thoughts. First, a word about terminology. I’ve used the term “digital cultural heritage” – which I actually don’t like that much (but use it out of convenience). I actually prefer the term “cultural heritage informatics.” Digital cultural heritage suggests the material and the medium…while Cultural heritage informatics (taking the definition commonly used by the IU School of Informatics) suggests (to me at least) the creative application of ICT to cultural heritage.

    Having said that, I’m not sure if cultural heritage instantiates its own epistemology. I’m not saying I think it doesn’t…I’m honestly saying I don’t know. That having been said, there is no doubt at all that institutional infrastructures (both tangible and intangible) will impact this discussion greatly.

    As for your second thought – I do not see this idea as a department. The only way a true interdisciplinary curriculum will work (in my opinion) is that if this is a program that exists outside of the realm of a single department…and perhaps even out of the realm of a larger unit (school or college).

  3. briancroxall Says:

    I’m all for exploring the uses of games in learning opportunities. At the risk of outing myself as someone who doesn’t know the field or scholarship of serious games very well, I’d be inclined to say that more of the work in this field seems directly applicable to history than it does to literary study. I’d like to think through how games can be used more effectively in literature departments. (Ivanhoe notwithstanding.)

  4. ethan.watrall Says:

    Brian – a good example of a more literary inspired game, I would suggest looking at Arden (

  5. Anastasia Salter Says:

    You definitely caught my attention at “games”: your Egypt project looks fascinating. I’m particularly interested in how you plan to overcome the problem of contextual knowledge–that is, a lot of studies on using Civilization for teaching history note that even as students retain the information they don’t necessarily translate it over to their ancient history courses or to a larger understanding of civilizations. The same problem perhaps arises in the literature context, as while I first encountered game studies in an English department I don’t think that is yet the norm despite the potential of games for exploring the nature of text itself.


  • Recent Comments

    THATCampers can use the blog and comments to talk about session ideas. Follow along by subscribing to the comments feed and to the blog feed!

    • thuyanh: A friend and I have actually made a video response that defends the “dumbest generation” and we...
    • Steven Hayes: Hi, just read your “project retrain” description as part of my background reading for...
    • Peter: Just curious: Is there a version of the National Register Nomination Form in some kind of database format,...
    • Samuel Teshale Derbe: This is excactly what I have been looking for.I have been recently invited to contribute to a...
    • plr articles: Just added more knowledge to my “library-head” :D
  • Twitter

    Here's what others are saying about THATCamp on Twitter

    • No items

    All Posts

  • THATCamp Prime Collaborative Documents
  • THATCamp Prime evaluation
  • New session: The THATCamp Movement
  • THATCamp on Flickr
  • Visualizing Subjectivity
  • More Twitter Visualizations
  • Remixing Academia
  • What THATCampers have been tweeting about (pre-camp)
  • Late to the Stage: Performing Queries
  • Humanist Readable Documentation
  • Zen Scavenger Hunt
  • The (in)adequacies of markup
  • One Week, One Book: Hacking the Academy
  • Analogizing the Sciences
  • Digital Literacy for the Dumbest Generation
  • Teaching Students Transferable Skills
  • Modest Proposals from a Digital Novice
  • Creative data visualizations
  • OpenStreetMap for Mapping of Historical Sites
  • soft circuits
  • Mostly Hack…
  • A Contextual Engagement
  • ARGs, Archives, and Digital Scholarship
  • Playing With the Past: Pick One of Three
  • DH centers as hackerspaces
  • All Courseware Sucks
  • HTML5
  • Dude, I Just Colleagued My Dean
  • The Future of Interdisciplinary Digital Cultural Heritage Curriculum (oh yeah, and games as well)
  • Project "Develop Self-Paced Open Access DH Curriculum for Mid-Career Scholars Otherwise Untrained"
  • what have you done for us lately?
  • Digital Storytelling: Balancing Content and Skill
  • Visualizing text: theory and practice
  • Plays Well With Others
  • Citing a geospatial hootenanny
  • Reimagining the National Register Nomination Form
  • documentation: what's in it for us?
  • Sharing the work
  • Digital Humanities Now 2.0 and New Models for Journals
  • Finding a Successor to Paper and Print
  • "Writing Space"
  • From Scratch
  • Cultivating Digital Skills and New Learning Spaces
  • Surveying the Digital Landscape Once Again
  • Building and designing projects for long term preservation
  • Collecting the Digital Story: Omeka and the New Media Narrative
  • Design Patterns for DH Projects
  • Chronicling America: They gave us an API. What do we do now?
  • Social Media and the History Non-Profit
  • THATCamp-in-a-Box
  • Teaching Collaboration
  • Geolocation, Archives, and Emulators (not all at once)
  • The Sound of Drafting
  • The Schlegel Blitz ("Only connect…")
  • Text Mining Scarce Sources
  • Applying open source methodology and economics to academia
  • What I'd Most Like to Do or Discuss
  • Hacking ethics for edupunks
  • Mobile technology and the humanities
  • Audiences and Arguments for Digital History
  • Open Peer Review
  • Who Wants To Be A Hacker?
  • Please advise
  • Greetings from the new Regional THATCamp Coordinator!
  • 2010 Applications Open!