For this blog post, I elected to combine my passion for Jane Austen with my new found appreciation of Digital Humanities (DH). I felt this approach would help bridge my understanding of DH with the help of Jane Austen. The article “Teaching Jane Austen in Bits and Bytes: Digitizing Undergraduate Archival Research” by Bridget Draxler discusses how her undergraduate students used various digital tools to analyze Jane Austen from new and refreshing angles.The article examines four areas: the role of the archive, the use of a digital literary timeline, the impact of the digital archives in the classroom, and the future of Jane Austen studies in the digital age.
The article argues that approaching Jane Austen through the use of digital archives enables undergraduate students to access primary resources that enable them to approach assignments with a greater level of detail and thereby improving the quality of their work. I was most interested in how Draxler students curated their own digital exhibit to present their discoveries. She discusses the pros and cons of her approach to digital integration in the classroom.
Draxler does a wonderful job explaining digital literacy and important considerations when incorporating digital tools as part of the learning experience. As she points out, not everyone is well versed or at the same level when it comes to technology. The stereotype that every millennial university student is well versed in technology is false and needs to be addressed when creating a DH curriculum. This connects to her title of integrating the technology in bits and bytes. She provides concrete examples of programs incorporating digital literacy successfully and thereby strengthens her argument on how to thoughtfully create successful digital curriculum.
In the section of her article that covers the future, Draxler connects the future of digital studies of Jane Austen to collaborating with librarians, curators, and archivists. She points out the importance of creating these partnerships and recognizes their skills as essential to understanding the nuances of digital curation, digital preservation, publication, and metadata. Draxler, goes on further to encourage other researchers to collaborate with librarians, curators, and archivists and to credit them for their contributions to the researching process.
The article makes numerous connections to other sites and tools. Sometimes the layering of sources within the paper was slightly overwhelming. I felt like I was never going to finish reading this article because I had another link to follow and read. Furthermore, not all of the links were still working. The embedding of links requires constant maintenance to keep the article helpful and current.
This article is successful in connecting with its intended audience of researchers and educators. She provides strong arguments on the benefits of blending Jane Austen and technology in a thoughtful way. The article provides numerous embedded links to outside sources to reinforce her argument and provide a stronger context. Overall, this article highlights the potential new opportunities for digital analyses of Jane Austen and how the digital tools create new and engaging ways to examine the subject.
Other Recommended Readings:
The Digital Afterlives of Jane Austen: Janeites at the Keyboard by Kylie Mirmohammadi
An eBook examining the modern adaptations of Jane Austen’s work on the internet.
Digital Curation for Digital Natives by Elizabeth Yakel; Paul Conway; Margaret Hedstrom; David Wallace
An article examining University of Michigan’s School of Information implementation of digital curriculum.
A Lively Mind: Your Brain On Jane Austen
NPR article/radio clip of how a group of neuroscientists are studying “literary neuroscience” with the help of Jane Austen. An amazing blend of humanities, science and technology.
Cassandra Austen (1773-1845) – Owned by the Austen family; Kirkham, Margaret. “Portraits”. Jane Austen in Context. Ed. Janet Todd. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.