Is This Digital Humanagogy?

Project Participant Cole Heyn (right) with unknown Acme Packer.

Sometime early last year, I had an idea for a project related to the Green Bay Packers. I work at UW-Green Bay and the Packers are pretty much what people know about our city. When considering the meetings, the planning, and the brainstorming that led up to the project, I’d say that 90% of the work has been human, face-to-face collaboration. Even when doing digital work, we have on occasion been in the same room.

To wade further into the often senseless marsh of classification, we who worked on this project would call it a “digital humanities” project. Why? It’s built with Omeka: open-source exhibit/curation software designed with humanists in mind. And the spirit of the project itself–an exhibit built on narrative, memory, local culture, and artifacts–is speeding right down the center of the humanities highway.

All of that being said, I will quote Jentery Sayers who once said at a panel discussion, “In the end, no one cares if your project is called ‘digital humanities.’ They just care about whether or not it’s a good project.”  I’ve always interpreted this as “hack” over “yack,” or the work over the talk. Any reference to digital humanities now resides somewhere in the project’s deep structure.

Well, the project finally launched… at Lambeau Field! Please go browse and, more importantly, contribute. (But remember that the project is still a baby!)

A few things worth noting: Two students (Cole Heyn, Luke Konkol) and a former student (Kate Farley) did nearly all of the work for this project, and they arrived at this opportunity because digital humanities became an explicit part of our English, History, and Humanities curriculum, and we’ve pushed to incorporate more digital assignments in our classrooms. This digital focus has not been for show, solely tool-based, or in response to some vocational solutionism–it has been entirely pedagogical.

The Packer Project's First Team: Cole Heyn, Kate Farley, Luke Konkol
The Packer Project’s First Team: Cole Heyn, Kate Farley, Luke Konkol

Furthermore, we have a legislature in my state that is skeptical of research and antagonistic to the humanities and all non-economic intellectual pursuits. They could certainly look at a project like this and say, “Now there’s a partnership that promotes business.”

And while that might be true, what is not readily apparent in the interface is how essential humanities training has been to this project. Among other things, the team members: spent time in the university archives; collaborated with librarians; learned about metadata; took an Introduction to Digital Humanities course; worked on other public exhibits, projects, and visualizations; waded into humanities computing in the form of TEI, Omeka, HTML, and CSS; and on and on.

If this project succeeds, it won’t be because we ignored deep-humanities training and muted the curiosity that leads fools like us to study “the ancient mating habits of whatever.” It will succeed because we wholly embraced it.