Great Artists, Past and Present: A Work in Progress

Video interview with Orrin Evans from Great Artists Past and Present

Great Artists, Past and Present

This was a great day of supporting the presentations of colleagues, and seeing the outcomes of an academic year’s worth of work.

I am so intrigued about next steps and grateful for the insights of veterans in digital humanities, our keynote speakers, Dr. Ronald Bailey/University of Illinois and Dr. Gabrielle Foreman/University of Delaware.

What’s next?Franklin Institute presentation

I love Tony Frazier’s idea to stay connected with monthly engagement within and across our two cohorts of 2017-18 and 2016-17.

Thank you Franklin Institute for supporting the NCCU Fellows!



Mind-mapping teaching principles for Digital Humanities & Technical Communications

This year, I’ve been applying digital humanities approaches most intensively in my technical and professional writing courses:

  • ENG 2105 Introduction to Technical Writing (see post)
  • ENG 3105 Professional Writing (see post)
  • ENGG 5115 Advanced Professional Writing (see post)

The digital aspects of DH are an obvious fit for practical courses like these that focus on production of professional genre sets. Modes of digital composing and distribution are inherently relevant. In the back of my mind, however, I’ve been questioning how an applied field like tech comm can be justified as also fitting within humanities.

My doubts were mitigated during a presentation by Cecilia Shelton at the Symposium on Teaching Composition and Rhetoric at HBCUs.  There, Shelton reframed technical writing as also civic writing, showing multiple examples of social justice rhetorical production that could be read through the lenses of technical communication’s principles of design and usability. She also cited Erin Frost’s feminist redefinition of efficiency in relation to technical communication.  Shelton’s talk helped me think harder about ethics and tech comm, social justice and tech comm. I can now take a more assertively humanist angle to these courses.

Practicing what I preach:  Using DH methods for concept development

I recently started working on a conceptual framework for teaching principles that result when putting digital humanities and technical communication concepts into proximity.

I asked myself, “What makes it digital work?” “What makes it humanities work?”  “What makes it technical communication?”  I then considered what those definitions suggested for teaching principles in DH-infused tech comm classes.

To work out these ideas, I used a combination of analog and digital practices — much as I do in workshops with students.

stickynote mindmap
I first used a sticky-note wall chart to brainstorm and detect patterns in my ideas.


Pedagogical Framework for DH-TC
A mind-mapping template from Canva helped me further refine the concepts for distribution.

I’ll surely continue revising what I think it means to take a humanist approach to teaching technical communication.  Fortunately, I have the community and the tools to do so.

Transforming NCCU Rhetorics

My project, Transforming NCCU Rhetorics: A Curated Collection, was completed in my spring History of Rhetoric course. The course was made up of mostly junior and senior English (writing) majors; ten students contributed to the project. Because many of the digital projects I have assigned in the past did not have longevity or reach an audience outside of the classroom, I wanted students to create a digital text for a local, public audience. The assignment asked students to engage in writing rhetorical histories of NCCU. My main goals for the project was to encourage students to

  • Find historical university artifacts
  • Compose in different media
  • Expand their understanding of rhetoric and what is rhetorical
  • Collaborate in revising and editing the project

To showcase a variety of rhetorical forms, each student chose a different medium, including rhetorics of speech, protest, food, art, music, dance, fashion, service, and modeling. Then, students wrote articles introducing their rhetorical form, including contemporary and historical multimedia artifacts, and discussing their significance to NCCU. For more specific guidelines, see ENG 4510 Midterm Project S18.

Students completed full drafts of their articles by midterm, so we could spend the rest of the semester revising, editing, and designing each article. I posted all of the articles and artifacts in a shared Google Drive folder so students could easily view other articles and edit them during several peer review sessions. Here is the checklist we used for peer reviews:

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 1.18.48 PM

As a class, we created some style guidelines and decided to write in one collective voice, rather than attaching names to specific articles. We also decided to include a group photo at the end of the project:

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 12.52.38 PM.png

Once the writing was polished, I put the articles into Atavist, a multimedia publishing platform. I chose Atavist because it beautifully combines digital media with text, and it transfers well to computers and cell phones. In class, I showed students some of the design options, we played around with their articles, and we worked on the title page and introduction together. Finally, I conferenced with each student to determine the layout, captions, images, etc. for his/her article.

Reflecting on the project, I believe it was successful in expanding students’ understandings of rhetoric and in practicing polishing writing for digital publication. Throughout the semester, students saw both the process and content of rhetoric digitally–a central goal for integrating DH into rhetorical studies. Because it is important to me that the project is viewed beyond our classroom, I am currently looking for places to post it, including on the Museum of Durham History website and my department website.

Ripple effect for FHI-NCCU DH fellows

On Friday March 30, Russell Robinson and I presented at the United Negro College Fund on “Addressing Inequities: Forging Honest Relationships between HBCUs and PWIs” during the second national Symposium on Teaching Composition and Rhetoric at HBCUs.

During our panel, Dr. Robinson shared the experience of cracking open his pop culture class and experimenting with new ways of teaching.  I discussed disparities in bibliographic research access at NCCU and Duke.  The concepts, projects, and challenges we discussed were a direct result of our FHI-NCCU Digital Humanities Fellowship.

The occasion gave us an opportunity to reflect on what this partnership between Duke and NCCU affords and reveals in our ongoing work of addressing institutional inequities.


Making Progress

Hi All,

Project Update:

My project will include story maps as part of the overall landscape of my project.

My student researchers are working on aspects of my DH project with story maps. They are excited to learn new skills around story maps.  In February we visited the JHFI, and two students and I sat with Hannah for a couple of hours, walking through the steps to set up and navigate the story map set-up process.

Here is a draft of one of the maps created by a student researcher. It is only in the very beginning stages:

The idea is that a total of 12 artists in the disciplines of music, art, dance and theater who are either born in North Carolina or made a significant impact to the arts communities in North Carolina.

The artists to be featured on my DH project that are on the list so far are:

Romare Bearden (visual artist)

John Coltrane (music)

Chuck Davis (dance)

Roberta Flack (music)

Jimmy Heath (music)

Thelonious Monk (music)

Nancy Pinckney (dance)

Erik Olivera (visual artist)

Max Roach (music)

Yusef Salim (music)

I welcome all feedback and ideas!



Developing a case study to teach digital image use

I’ve been working a long time on developing course materials that help writers understand their obligations and rights when borrowing images to use in their own work. Serendipity gave me a chance to expand my teaching repertoire on this recently.

My usual approach: During my fall 2017 undergraduate professional writing course, I asked students to pay thorough attention to image reuse in online contexts.  I gave them  resources and tips and asked them to attend to principles of fair use.  I modeled and insisted they work with best practices in selecting and acknowledging image sources just as clearly as they work with quoted text.

This does not come naturally.

Our digital habits: Contemporary digital culture makes image borrowing as easy as breathing. Many images used and reused online don’t attribute their photographers or origins at all. Most social media tools don’t make it easy to caption images, either.  Complicating this is that longstanding creative practices of sampling, quilting, and otherwise picking up scraps of others’ work and repurposing it make direct source attribution feel to some like an impediment to the creative method.

Teaching fair use and image attribution techniques can sometimes feel like driving north in four lanes of southbound traffic. So I’m always looking for better ways to explain why these matter.

It matters when it’s YOUR work: An NCCU alumnus told me recently that this issue finally made sense to him when he noticed someone had picked up one of HIS photos and reused it without permission or attribution. Then he got it because he felt some type of way.

Last week,  an acquaintance described a more complex situation that illustrated multiple ethical issues around online image reuse. I won’t go into specifics because I’m seeking permission from the people involved to create a more detailed case study. Here’s my stab at doing so without identifying data.

In a nutshell: Professional X is told by friends that she should go visit a certain Facebook group because there’s an image of something unique of hers there.

Professional X visits the group and sees the image of her unique thing being used without credit by Grad Student Y to illustrate a survey.  Professional X contacts Grad Student Y and says “Hey that’s my thing.”

Grad Student Y says, “I found it on the internet.”

(This sounds familiar, doesn’t it? My students tell me that often when I ask about image sources.)

Professional X seems more bothered that her unique thing is posted without attribution than that the image is not credited to its source. She tells me she paid for the unique thing to be made custom for her use, then she paid a professional photographer to take the image and she uses it on her professional website.  On that site, she does not attribute the photographer, but then again, Professional X owns the image. That same image has been reused online in the context of a review of Professional X’s work and her unique thing.  The reviewer simply indicated “Image may be subject to copyright.”

Professional X and Grad Student Y are now in communication about how to proceed.  Professional X has asked my advice.

I suggested:

  1. In this case, the unique thing in the image is not the issue. Unattributed images of the thing are the issue.
  2. Professional X could credit photos on her own website as a professional courtesy, even if she paid for them.
  3. Professional X could request that Grad Student Y caption any reuses of the image: “Image by W. Used with permission of X.” (W being the photographer or studio. X being image owner Professional X or her website.)

Teaching this case: My suggestions above are not important when posing the problem to students, so I’ll leave them out of the case. I might share them after students analyze. My goal is to write up this case well enough that students can analyze it themselves, putting principles of fair use to the test in this complex situation. I’m excited about this opportunity to create a real world case study for my students. I’ll be learning something new.

For reference: