Featured Abstract: March 13

Check in frequently this week to view featured abstracts, leading up to the symposium! We welcome your comments.

Featured Abstract: “Modelling as a centre of Practice and Pedagogy”
Susan Schreibman, Trinity College Dublin

Last year I designed a MPhil in Digital Humanities and Culture for Trinity College Dublin. We are now in the second semester of the first year. Unlike teaching a single DH course that centres on a specific area (from introductory courses to more specific text encoding, digital scholarly editing, web technologies, etc) the longer timescale of a full year allows for significant cross-fertilisation in understanding how disparate technologies, methodologies, and theories interrelate to comprise the salient core of this new and somewhat abstract discipline of humanities computing.

Many of us have been in this field long enough to know that the technologies we teach our students today will be surpassed and replaced by the yet-to-be invented.  What is more lasting, however, is the understanding how to model the objects of our contemplation: from the narrative arc of a thematic research collection, to a TEI-encoded document, to a relational database. Models serve as an abstraction of an analogue object, its relationship to other objects, as well as a representation of what we think is important about them. By teaching our students how to model, we give them the tools to represent and re-present the yet-to-be-encountered.

The question then remains: how do we teach this interrelatedness of things and their properties. Should there be a knowledge representation course which covers modelling more abstractly, or should it be covered within context, when teaching subjects such as relational databases, TEI encoding, or virtual world construction. Should knowledge representation be the theme that binds the disparate strands of DH together, or a theme. If knowledge representation, as Willard McCarty suggests, is the coherent or cohesible practice that binds all of DH together, then it follows, that KR must be at the centre of our pedagogy.

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