I stumbled across someone on the Twitter stream from the MSc in Elearning course at the University of Edinburgh (#mscel) who had asked the question:

@Soc_Imagination: The phrase ‘digital humanities’ comes up on my twitter multiple times a day. Is there a social sc equivalent

Excellent question and I immediately jumped to how the tenets of the digital humanities could be applied to the learning sciences (as a subset of the social sciences). I follow a lot of the digital humanities crowd/community and respect what they have to say. More than anything, I admire some of their conviction that the digital realm is culture, history, and society, not some ephemeral anomaly of technology. So, code becomes language and power; textual analysis of these elements of technology is research worthy. Video games are learning platforms encapsulating something about the society in which they arise from (even if it is a predilection towards zombies and Nazis). Using data analysis as a means to a collective textual analysis is not only valuable, it is necessary. 

Mosaic of ma femme

So there is already considerable work being done on the learning benefits of games so no need to tread there as people much smarter than myself are working on that (however, I would love to see mobile GPS games using cities as urban playscapes become more popular and more adaptable to learning communities-another question for another time). I do see some experimentation in open learning formats (MOOCs and #Change11 as macro and micro examples of that), sort of broadening the scope of what is permissable and possible as formats and sources of learning.

What I am talking about is more the power of the empowered, lifelong learner to manage and dictate the direction of their own learning. I generally don’t ascribe to a tools or even pure skills based approach to learning, but this is an instance where I think data analysis tools for individuals would be highly valuable. So, to kickstart/jump on the bandwagon of the discussion of the digital humanities approach to the learning sciences, here are a few things I think we need. 


Nothing original here. We have flooded these new territories with what is possible some time ago. What we need now are coupling strategies to overcome/mitigate current assessment paradigms. Don’t want to lose focus on writing skills? By all means, use these approaches as supplements to current pedagogies. But don’t ignore them. 

Understanding and manipulating data for analysis and understanding is what smart people do. It makes sense to them (notice I refer to this group as ‘them’ not ‘us’) and reads like a language. Like any second language, it takes practice. But it isn’t alchemy. It is a bit of an art, but there is a lot of pragmatic science here. Understand the elements involved (data), harness these (with tools), model behavior (here is a possible application), and reflect early and often. Empower your learners to be empowered learners.

These are just first thoughts on a complex, exciting subject so expect more, but many thanks for the question (further evidence of my love of Twitter and affinity circles for stimulating thought) and Digital Humanities for providing some direction. 

Tag galaxy for Seoul

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