Development Education and Digital Humanities?

What do Development Education and Digital Humanities have to offer one another?

Where is the intersection between these apparently diverse theoretical frameworks and how can they enhance one another”? A further question is “in what ways have new online technologies changed how ‘we do’ development and intercultural education and what impact does this have on educational outcomes?”

I feel that the answer is simple in its design but in my view is deeply important in its potential impact on both disciplines. I am interested in how many similarities there are between Digital Humanities and Development and Global Citizenship Education. Both emphasise critical thinking, analysis, collaboration, self-reflection and the development of skills. Traditionally universities and scholarship have tended to separate disciplines. Advocates of this approach argue that this enables scholars to specialise and understand their field at a deep level, which is one of the purposes of academic research. Others are of the view that an interdisciplinary approach adds a richness to an academic experience. There is however much lip-service to inter-disciplinary approaches to teaching and learning at third level. Often the structures, politics and resources are not available to provide a truly inter-disciplinary programme to students. Digital Humanities is I feel an area of academic discourse that can integrate well with other disciplines and so is Global Citizenship Education. At second level education for instance there is a strong history of integrating development issues across the curriculum, particularly in schools where there is a special interest in this approach to work. Ideally for an Development Educationalist this would also happen at third level. I believe that Development Education can be introduced into any academic discipline. I also believe that Digital Humanities can integrate well across the humanities and social sciences and beyond.

What Digital Humanities can offer Global Citizenship and Development Education

The immediate response is “digital tools”. Undoubtedly, as discussed previously the contribution which digital technology can make to Global Citizenship and Development Education is considerable. I have also argued that it is important not to undervalue and take for granted these tools. They are important. I have outlined many examples above. One particular tool I came across at a recent course was a mapping tool which enabled the student to search for conflicts around the world and filter these conflicts by country, region, participants, companies involved, numbers of conflicts, type of conflict and similar attributes. This is valuable as a tool not just in teaching but in the real world of advocacy, campaigning, trade, social movements, politics and economics. A knowledge of such tools adds huge value to the work of anybody engaged with civic engagement at whatever level. In addition to the tools digital technology there is an ethos amongst some sections in the digital humanities field, of collaboration and communication. There is also an interest amongst some segments of the digital humanities community in social justice issues. Having studied during different decades I am in a position I feel to assess the value of the way digital humanities engage and collaborate online. Not having grown up with such an ethos or such tools I do not take for granted what this means. For example in third level education in the past, as mentioned in this thesis, the student experience could be a lonely affair. While there were tutorials and group projects and there still are, I do think that digital humanities takes this further. I have seen students engage with their material in online discussion forums in a way never possible in the past. In my view it leads to a much richer experience where one has to defend position, show an ongoing interest in the subject at hand and make visible your thoughts and ideas. This does not have to replace group projects and tutorials and face-to-face discussion, but it does seem to create more discussion and add new dimensions to the learning experience. I see a vast difference now in how information, knowledge and ideas are shared and this is hugely beneficial to Global Citizenship where global inequalities have excluded large parts of the world and communities around the world. Such an ethos also forms the basis of good Development Education and the development of this ethos alongside the tools, can add value to Global Citizenship and Development Education.

What Global Citizenship and Development Education can offer Digital Humanities

Again the possibilities here are endless and this project can illustrate just a few examples. The first way in which Global Citizenship and Development Education can contribute to Digital Humanities is in the field of critical analysis and problem solving. Digital Humanities, often influenced by technological corporations, does emphasise critical analysis and problem solving, but this tends to be in the context of business and industry. Indeed this is important but it is not the only approach one can take to critical analysis and problem solving. Development Education as an approach to learning places emphasis on a different kind of analysis, it is a social justice analysis which is for many people in the world as important and the ability to analyse business and technological problems. So for example a Digital Humanities programme could include analysis of what a student’s work contributes to justice issues, it could explore how international corporations are influencing freedom of action and speech online and issues such as ownership of technological power and resources. It could include sections in courses which address issues such as how we use ethnicity or gender in selling messages, products and even people. Linked to this is the general contribution development education can contribute in terms of values and principles and ethics. One example that comes to mind from learnings in recent years was when a guest lecturer spoke to a class about marketing techniques that used very invasive practices such as using cameras to track customer’s eye movement on products and using black women’s bodies to sell a particular product in a manner which is not unusual but which for the Development Educationalist ought to be questioned and addressed. The worrying aspect of participating in this class was the neither the guest lecturer nor the course lecturer had any sense of questioning of these practices. The issue of ethics was not addressed. It is not surprising then that students in the class could not understand why one student found this so disturbing that he left the classroom, while I myself felt obliged to question and interrogate in a manner which seemed alien to those around me, in this case mostly young men and women who had evidently not had exposure to this kind of critical analysis.

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