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UCF to Host International Conference on Digital Learning

Collaborations of the digital and humanities worlds will be presented at an international gathering Nov. 3-4 at the University of Central Florida to look at new ways of teaching and research in an age when many say the printed word is no longer the main medium for education and its distribution.

The conference for the annual Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory [organizers pronounce the HASTAC acronym as “haystack”] will be hosted in Orlando for the first time by UCF and the Florida Digital Humanities Consortium. The 10-year-old conference previously was held at Duke University, UCLA, University of Illinois, York University in Toronto, the Ministry of Culture in Lima, Peru, and elsewhere around the world.

“This conference is a venue where digital humanists from across the world and across disciplines come together to share their research, their pedagogical methods, and their experiences. This sharing of knowledge in both the practical and the theoretical allows us to broaden our own world,” said Amy Giroux, managing director for the conference and a UCF computer research specialist at the university’s Center for Humanities and Digital Research.

This year’s conference theme, “The Possible Worlds of Digital Humanities,” highlights new opportunities for digital humanities and allows attendees from the more than 400 member organizations an opportunity to discuss and explore new research and creative work. The program will include scholars from around the globe interested in topics such as the humanities across disciplines, gaming, social media, archives, and other fields. There will be roundtables, demonstrations, maker sessions, workshops, media art projects, and other sessions.

“Having the HASTAC annual conference at UCF allows us to see the superb work being done in the digital humanities around the world, and to show off what we’re doing here at UCF to help interpret our meaningful world using digital tools,” said philosophy Professor Bruce Janz, conference director and co-director of UCF’s Center for Humanities and Digital Research. “HASTAC has always focused on the ways education and society have changed and must adapt in the Information Age, and this fits into the forward-looking and socially conscious orientation of programs at UCF such as Texts and Technology, Digital Media, and Digital History.”

One of the conference sessions asks: What can other disciplines learn from Digital Humanities and what can Digital Humanities learn from other disciplines?

“This particular panel is made up of a group of scholars who work both in traditional academia and also on the cutting edge of innovative digital spaces,” Giroux said. “They hope to foster a good discussion on how digital humanities practitioners can grow within institutions which may not be as interested in supporting digital humanities work and how the current institutional level research infrastructure may need to be modified to allow digital humanities research to flourish.”

Many digital humanities projects draw from a number of disciplines including history, anthropology, computer science, data science, digital media, traditional media, and other fields.

For example, Giroux said, one project her team will present at HASTAC is ELLE, the EndLess Learner, a second-language learning video game in which her colleagues from the Office of Instructional Resources (Don Merritt), the Games Research Lab (Emily Johnson), and modern languages (Sandra Sousa and Gergana Vitanova) teamed up with a group of computer science undergraduate students to create a database-driven learning game.

“It is this type of inter/multi-disciplinary project that allows the digital humanities to emerge from many different fields,” she said. “The five of us will be doing a roundtable discussion on the project and the undergraduate students will be displaying the 2-D and 3-D versions of the project.”

Other UCF students will showcase their research and work in front of the international audience and will serve as moderators at many of the conference sessions. HASTAC also has a scholars fellowship program, whose digital-age members blog, host online forums, develop new projects and organize events. UCF’s three HASTAC scholars – Nicholas DeArmas, Jennifer Roth Miller and David Morton from the Texts & Technology doctoral program – will host a professionalization workshop for conference attendees.

Some of the conference speakers are: Purdom Lindblad, assistant director of Innovation and Learning at the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities; Tressie McMillan Cottom, assistant professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University; T-Kay Sangwand, librarian for UCLA’s Digital Library Program, and Cathy N. Davidson, distinguished professor of English and director of the Futures Initiative and HASTAC @ CUNY at the Graduate Center, City University of New York.

Tours for registered attendees also are scheduled for the Orange County Regional History Center, the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College, and the Wells’Built Museum of African American History and Culture.

The conference will be presented at several venues around campus and is open to everyone. Advance registration is encouraged, but registration also can be done at the door at Classroom Building I. For the schedule and registration, visit hastac2017.org [1].