Monthly Archives: April 2011

Divine Blogging

Professor Giuseppe Mazzotta’s course, ITAL310: Dante in Translation. “[attempts] to place Dante’s work in the intellectual and social context of the late Middle Ages by relating literature to philosophical, theological, and political concerns.” Carol Chiodo, Ph.D. candidate in Italian, led a section for the course. She decided to use a blog to help students develop their scholarly voices.

Rather than have students access the Divine Comedy through the lens of  secondary sources, one assignment urges students “[to] not look any further than what you have in front of you: a careful reading of the Comedy and portions of the texts you have selected should yield some intriguing arguments which you may later want to take up for your papers.” Within this structure, the students created a  number of high quality papers. Some of the papers were sent to another organization as candidates for awards.

Chiodo found that 50 minute sections weren’t long enough for the discussion.  The posts created a conversation and then set a boundary for the discussion. This helped to level the playing field for students in other disciplines. All came to the text with the same set of tools. The blog became organic to the group, morphing from being an assignment to a pool of resources. Using tagging to feed a tag cloud, the students created access to their own resources.  While Chiodo would have tagged more and even require tags on each post, she was able to use the tag cloud to tailor the secondary materials.

This is not a unique use of blogging software but it highlights the benefits of giving students an arena where discussions of course topics can be explored, outside of the sections.


War and the Environment

The War and the Environment teaching and research site went live this semester! This ITG project was spearheaded by Bruno Cabanes, an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Yale and specialist of post-war transitions in the twentieth century, and Gene Tempest, a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at Yale and specialist of the First World War and its cultural and scientific impacts on European societies and environments.

This site is designed to introduce students and researchers to the primary sources available at Yale relevant to environmental histories of war in the twentieth century. Sources are grouped by theme and type—from medical and culinary topics to entomological collections and beyond. Users can also choose to navigate by keyword, repository, or even search for a specific phrase. A working master list regroups all resources identified to date.

Unlike most existing environmental-military histories, the War and the Environment site is most influenced by the newest developments in the history of war, rather than springing from environmental history. This directly reflects the bias of the academic project directors: both are trained as cultural historians of war.

Instructional Innovation Interns [i3] were indispensable to the creation of this site. Sabina Mehmedovic worked with Bruno Cabanes and Gene Tempest to design the site while Ari Borensztein created the site structure using Drupal.

2011 Digital Humanities Student Poster Session

The Collaborative Learning Center was pleased to host Yale’s first digital humanities student poster session in Bass Library room L01 as the penultimate Teaching with Technology Tuesday of the spring 2011 semester. Robin Ladouceur of ITG gave a brief introduction of our convener, Kristjiana Gong (CLC intern and American Studies major).

After some brief remarks, Kristjiana first introduced Laura Wexler (Professor of American Studies; Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies; and Co-Chair of the Women Faculty Forum at Yale). Wexler noted that she was speaking on behalf of herself and Inderpal Grewal (Professor and Chair of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies) as teachers in the fall 2010 course WGSS 380, “Gender, Sexuality, and Popular Culture”, the source of some of the projects shown. She thanked Yianni Yessios of ITG for his presence in the course as a digital artist and teacher of the humanities lab portion of the course. The projects shown represented the completion of an assignment to create a digital street “somewhere other than here, some time other than now,” with an emphasis on using Yale University Library resources and on primary sources in particular. In particular, Wexler highlighted that the students brought an inspiring, impressive, and energizing “force of creativity” to their projects.

Our next panelist was Jessica Pressman (Assistant Profesor of English), introduced by Kristjiana. Pressman stated that she was pleased to show the positive results of teaching with technology, and echoed Wexler’s comment about students’ force of creativity and imagination. Her courses often center on, as she describes it on her website, “how technologies affect our understanding of literature, both in terms of aesthetics and reading practices.” Students in Pressman’s fall 2010 ENGL 391, “Digital Literature“ course were assigned the challenge of creating a web-based analytical essay. This avant-garde format extended her teaching about form and how form and content are inextricable. Put another way, student projects needed to embody and to discuss how content is presented and the reasons for presentational choices.

Finally, Kristjiana introduced Julie Dorsey (Professor of Computer Science). Dorsey is one of the founders of the Computing and the Arts major at Yale as well as of Creative Consilience of Computing and the Arts. In the Computing and the arts major, students take all the required courses for the Computer Science major and select a track in the arts (e.g. music or theater) to weave into their computing scholarship. Student projects showcased today were from senior class majors, demonstrating an interdisciplinary fusion researched, learned, and forged over their tenure at Yale.

Student projects showcased were very impressive. Among those featured:

  • A multimedia walk down a street in Pontochō district of Kyoto in 1958.
  • A hypertext with Blue Hyacinth as its starting point, composed of two sets of four paragraphs that can be shown independently and with integrity, or remixed on the fly in mousing over it.
  • An interactive map of Jamaica during emancipation (1834/1863), set in Google Earth and drawing heavily on images from Yale’s digital collections. Included a guided tour through the created world.
  • A complex game and game platform, “The Groov Cosmos,” involving elements of strategy gaming, combat gaming, puzzle gaming, and in-play musical adjustments, created in C#.
  • A web-based digital essay analyzing and building on the work of The Jew’s Daughter and Blue Hyacinth to create a destabilized text locating meaning in chunks below the discourse level. Added a game aspect by allowing user to re-arrange text in apparently the correct order (or, rather, the original order), but this is a mirage.
  • A close reading of the use of sound in three works of digital literature: Sooth, Nippon, and Project for Tachistoscope. The project also incorporates the tactic of close-writing, borrowed from the aesthetics of Sydney’s Siberia by inserting sound into a piece that was originally silent.
  • “All Roads Lead to Toads,” an interactive fiction that tries to capture the feeling of a branching structured game, taking the emphasis off of the completion of either puzzles or the game and placing it on exploring actions, environments, and characters.


Elihu Rubin,  Assistant Professor of Architecture and Political Science, and his students have been creating a New Haven building archive. His current course, “Urban Research and Representation” explores the utility of research and representation techniques and presents that work as a multi-media group exhibition in the form of  an interactive web-map of historic New Haven architecture, organizing five years worth of research by both graduate and undergraduate students. Professor Rubin’s students have been collecting New Haven building data since 2007.

The current website allows students to capture their drift in a particular neighborhood through images, maps, prose and other ephemera. Students enter data about a building such as original tenant and purpose, architect, year built, and architectural style. This listing of a particular building is added dynamically to a Google map of the area. This ongoing data collection will also include crowd-sourcing, allowing readers in the community to add images, anecdotes and personal histories associated with New Haven architecture. These practices of walking, flânerie, photography, and cinema give students a key role in understanding, participating in and portraying the city.