Andrew S · Education · Literature · Non-Fiction · Technology

Interdisciplining Digital Humanities | by Julie Thompson Klein

Interdisciplining Digital Humanities: Boundary Work in an Emerging Field

Interdisciplining Digital Humanities: Boundary Work in an Emerging Field by Julie Thompson Klein
(University of Michigan Press, 2015, 218 pages)

Digital humanities is a field that has emerged as computing technology and digital culture have been brought to bear on various disciplines in the humanities. One of the features most frequently highlighted about the field is its interdisciplinary character. As Klein points out, this is “an inevitable assumption given the marriage of technology and humanities in the name” (5).

However, while digital humanities brings together scholars from different disciplines and skill sets to work on issues that transcend any one discipline, there has been a lack of theoretical reflection on how this dynamic shapes the field. Klein applies “lessons from the literature of interdisciplinarity” (6) in order to help clarify terminology and define the field. In part, she looks to other fields, like American studies and feminist studies, which have established practices, institutions, and professional standards in order to help point the way forward for digital humanities.

One of the major themes of the book is the need for collaboration and openness amongst scholars working in this new-ish interdisciplinary field. Toward this end, Klein’s book is available in its entirety online, complete with annotating and commenting tools meant to “enrich the reading and learning experience of others and to facilitate community peer review” (xiii). Making the book available in this way reinforces the message of collaboration and promotes the open culture that is necessary to the establishment of digital humanities as a defined field of study.

Education · Graphic Novel · In the Library · Julia P · Libraries! · Non-Fiction · Quick Read!

Information Now | by Matt Upson, C. Michael Hall and Kevin Cannon

Information Now: A Graphic Guide to Student Research
by Matt Upson, C. Michael Hall and Kevin Cannon
(University of Chicago Press, 2015, 115 pages)

This graphic novel takes a different approach to making information literacy approachable. As a librarian, it seems like as soon as you say the words “information literacy” students immediately start to tune out. You have to admit, it doesn’t sound exciting. But being information literate is SO important. Not just in the academic world, but in life.

I read this book in preparation for a research class I’ll be teaching. I wanted to see if there might be some more engaging ways to convey aspects of information literacy to students. I definitely picked up some examples for how I could phrase things that might be a little more straight-forward, but overall I came away from the book feeling confident that I was pretty spot on with how I typically teach the concepts.

That being said, I think this would be a great text to offer to incoming college freshmen who are looking to understand and acquire information literacy skills. The graphic novel format and the conversational language make it accessible. Plus, each chapter ends with questions that have the reader apply what they’ve just learned in a way that builds as the book goes on.

Art · Education · Julia P · Non-Fiction · Quick Read!

Picture This | by Molly Bang

Picture This

Picture This by Molly Bang
(Turtleback Books, 2000, 96 pages)

I learned about this book when reading the March/April 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. This particular issue spotlights Illustration and has some great essays by a number of illustrators. Picture This by Molly Bang was referenced as a way to understand what goes in to making an illustration “work.” There’s a lot that has to be considered in order to get the right feeling across to the reader through an illustration. Bang breaks this down step by step in this slim but enlightening text.

Bang demonstrates to the reader how things like layout and color need to be taken into account to set the right tone. That sounds simple, but as she illustrates, there’s a lot that goes into getting the right effect. Using only three colors (and white) and basic shapes it’s pretty impressive how little it takes to change the whole feeling of an image. This book is a great way to understand the power of picture books and how/why they convey the feelings they do. I’m really glad I picked this up – it definitely gives you an appreciation for the talent that goes into creating visual elements in books, whether they’re in picture books for children or in the form of graphic novels aimed at adults.

Education · In the Library · Non-Fiction · Ying L

Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality | by Elizabeth A. Armstrong

Paying for the Party

Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality by Elizabeth A. Armstrong
(Harvard University Press, 2013, 326 pages)

This is a case study of about 50 young women who attended a large Midwest residential university. These women started out on the same floor but ended up in drastically different situations at the end of the five year study.

Both authors were affiliated with the University of Michigan at the time of research.  Elizabeth Armstrong was a sociology professor and Laura Hamilton was a graduate student in the sociology department. In addition to the authors, there were 7 graduate and undergraduate students who helped with data collection and analysis. The study began in fall 2004 at a university they called “MU” or “Midwest University.” The research team occupied a regular room on the floor. Observations and interactions were done throughout the academic year. In-depth yearly interviews were also conducted.  After initial data collection and interviews, the women were assigned into three college pathways. The party pathway is provided to support the affluent and socially oriented. The mobility pathway is intended for the realistic and vocationally oriented. The professional pathway is designed for ambitious students from privileged families.

The study showed the college experience can be quite different for students depending on their class backgrounds. The research team discovered that the less advantaged women faced many challenges. Most of them had to work one or two jobs to support themselves. They lacked the resources to participate in the party pathway. The party atmosphere and other forms of social exclusion made it difficult for these women to adjust to college. They were depressed and isolated especially during the first residential year. By the end of the study none of the working class women managed to graduate from Midwest University. Some dropped out; some left to attend regional campuses or community colleges. An encouraging discovery was that the women who left for community colleges actually fared better. They accomplished more academically and were happier than the ones who stayed at MU. The study also learned that MU actually worked around the academic scheduling to promote the Thursday through Sunday party culture. They offered fewer Friday classes and rescheduled Friday tests/exams to accommodate Greek events.

A quite disturbing finding is how insufficiently MU is serving students from under-performing high schools. A number of women arrived barely prepared for college and with little parental guidance. They had to repeat several remedial classes. Some described the instructions as really poor. These classes were not often taught by the most experienced or charismatic instructors.  Academic advising and “soft” majors are other issues raised in the book. Some women believed soft majors are practical career choices just because they are in the college catalog. For example, one woman switched from an education major to event planning (a major in the Department of Tourism Management.) She was hoping to work as a wedding planner after graduation.

However, it seems no one explained to Amanda the classed nature of certain jobs. People hire wedding planners to help them with decisions about aesthetics, and given her background, she lacked the right culture tastes and social networks to be hired by the sorts of people who could afford this service.

A few women were also channeled into majors (dental school, fashion design and public relations) that were not suited to their academic abilities and/or parental financial resources. A woman didn’t get into dental school, and her low GPA was an obstacle as she considered graduate school. Some could not afford to live in cities in order to work unpaid summer internships. It’s even harder for them to find jobs after graduation. They didn’t have relevant internship or job experience. They didn’t have money to move to cities. In small towns, they were far from their ideal job markets. Academic advising at MU failed at these students. The study suggested that advising need to be tailored to these students and focus on academic abilities evaluations as well as wealth/connections. It’s sadly true: family ties and resources played an important role in several women who succeed in finding jobs in big cities with soft majors and average GPAs. The authors acknowledged these challenging issues. They offered solutions but were not optimistic. Universities are unlikely to diminish soft majors and enforce strict party polices as they are relying on these to bring in full-tuition students.

This is a well written research book loaded with rich data and thorough analyses. The writing style is clear and elegant; and that kept me moving along through the chapters. I find the book provocative and enjoyable. This could be a good recommendation for a book club consists of administrators and advisors from universities and high schools ;).

Angie BK · Cats! · Education · Fiction · Humor · Juvenile · Quick Read!

Bad Kitty | by Nick Bruel

Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel
(Roaring Book Press, 2005, 40 pages)

Go along on the adventure of Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel. This picture book starts out telling readers why Bad Kitty wasn’t always bad, and then gives the reasons why “Good” Kitty turns bad. The fun part about this picture book is that it helps children to learn their ABCs because it lists all the reasons from A-Z about why Bad Kitty goes bad, what Bad Kitty does when he’s bad, and then all the good things Bad Kitty does when he becomes good again. A delightful read for children of any age—especially cat lovers.