Bringing Digital Humanities To Undergraduate Classrooms

It is time our undergraduate students think of the ways in which digital humanities can be introduced in our part of the global south.

Bringing Digital Humanities To Undergraduate Classrooms

The number of Digital Humanities (DH) programs has increased in the universities abroad. It is time we take an empirical perspective of this expansion and introduce this subject at the undergraduate level in humanities disciplines in Pakistan. Considering that big data and digital tools are altering various industries, universities in Pakistan must integrate DH into undergraduate curricula and highlight the need for collaborative learning through practical computational exercises in a classroom. 

Digital technology has bridged different boundaries and helped global communities reconfigure themselves on the demands coming from home and abroad. It has helped cultures to be recognized in the global space. 

It is time our undergraduate students think of the ways in which digital humanities can be introduced in our part of the Global South; what it is like to study topics under digital humanities and what are their pedagogical effects in the setting of the people of colour? How should we think of digital humanities as a field of learning which does not homogenize cultures and histories, but negotiates and consolidates meanings, while keeping the uniqueness of cultural, religious and political identities intact?   

To successfully introduce digital humanities at the undergraduate level in Pakistan, universities should design and incorporate new courses into their existing curriculum. 

First, these courses should host a series of topics, including ‘Introduction to Digital Humanities’, which should give an expanse of the field, its approaches, and its relevance to traditional humanities disciplines. Traditionally, humanities studies in Pakistan have focused on classical methods of textual analysis, historical research, and cultural studies. 

While these methods are important, the digital space has steered us to more possibilities for humanistic inquiry. In this way, digital humanities is the link between traditional humanities and the digital world, offering new tools and methods to interpret humanities disciplines.

The practice of digital humanities involves collaborative learning. Collaboration in undergraduate programmes can enable students to improve their communication skills and work as teams in solving humanistic problems. 

Furthermore, collaborative initiatives will encourage undergraduate students to see humanities subjects, such as literature, archeology, linguistics, history, anthropology, in tandem with computer science, physics, mathematics, and data analysis et cetera. Such a collaboration introduces students to a wide range of knowledge formation and its applicability in various fields of life. 

Secondly, an essential aspect of DH is the use of computational methods, involving text mining, data visualization techniques and, on an advanced level, creating algorithms. Beginning with courses on text analysis and data visualization can teach undergraduate students how to use computational tools to evaluate and visualize data. More broadly, these digital tools can teach undergraduate students how to convert portraits of information into panoramas of data.

Through incorporating computational methods into the curriculum, students can gain a deeper understanding of texts, and their social and cultural contexts. For example, students can use text analysis tools to identify patterns of meanings, analyze sentiments, or study the growth of political thought in a large corpus of humanities works. These practical exercises encourage critical and creative thinking in the process of solving big data problems. 

Such exercises allow students to apply theories and methodologies they learn in class to real-world situations. In the process of substantiating the subject matter, DH creates a bond between theory and practice. 

However, these activities demand stable internet facilities and a proper digital infrastructure. As a third-world country, we are facing challenges related to high-speed internet, access to fully functional computers and availability of digital tools in public sector universities.

Thirdly, courses on digital projects can explore the digitization and preservation of cultural artifacts, historical discourse, and serve public humanities. To make DH engaging, undergraduate programmes should incorporate small projects into the curriculum. DH projects involve teamwork, where students with diverse skill sets come together to understand problems and visualize their solutions. Such project-based learning can encourage students to apply their theoretical knowledge for the good of society. 

For instance, students can create digital archives of local literature, develop interactive storytelling platforms, make podcasts on more recent topics engaging humanities, or analyze social media data related to contemporary social and political trends. 

These projects not only reinforce the concepts learned in class, but also provide students with a portfolio of work that can be showcased to future employers. By designing interactive web applications, digital humanities prepare undergraduate students for careers in academia, publishing, cultural preservation, and data handling. 

However, budget constraints and limited funding for educational institutions in our country may limit the acquisition of necessary digital humanities resources, such as software licenses, databases, and hardware. Collaboration with international institutions and organizations is essential for overcoming resource constraints and enhancing the quality of digital humanities education in third-world countries. 

Incorporating Digital Humanities into undergraduate programmes in Pakistan is a must. By encouraging collaborative learning, introducing computational methods, doing hands-on projects, and designing new courses, universities can prepare students for understanding this onslaught of digital information. Embracing digital humanities in Pakistan is a giant leap towards a future where technology will shape our sense of truth, help us negotiate meanings with the outer world, and most of all, determine our economic well-being. 

In an age where data and digital tools are shaping our understanding of culture, society, and history, DH empowers students to be informed and adaptable to the ever-evolving world of humanities. The challenges to DH are not unique to third-world countries. Efforts should involve a combination of government initiatives, international partnerships, faculty development, and innovative pedagogical approaches to make digital humanities education more effective at the undergraduate level.