The Digital Studies Center (DSC), established in 2013, is excited to welcome its inaugural director, Dr. James Brown, Jr., formerly of the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW). Dr. Brown will join Dr. Robert Emmons, Jr., associate director of the DSC, in charting the center’s course.
The DSC is an interdisciplinary, collaborative research, development, and education center, whose purpose is to help kick-start, facilitate, support, and promote projects that are made possible by the convergence of digital technologies with the humanities as well as the arts, natural, and social sciences. At the time of the center’s establishment and search for a director, Dr. Brown was an assistant professor of English at UW, and was not actively seeking other opportunities. However, the unique challenge to shape the center’s vision, and the “ability to make something,” intrigued Dr. Brown and led to his application, and eventual hire.
The DSC holds many possibilities for students, including the opportunity to earn an undergraduate certificate in the Digital Humanities, which will allow students to study digital media and how it intersects with the humanities. In addition to successfully completing the Introduction to Digital Humanities course, which was first offered in Spring 2014, students will take a minimum of four courses (12 credits) that have been designated as fulfilling the criteria for the Digital Humanities certificate. An example of such a course is Dr. Brown’s new Fall 2014 offering, Videogames and Literature, which will examine the relationship between literature and videogames by looking at a range of artifacts such as novels about videogames, works of interaction fiction, electronic literature, and modern digital games.
Ultimately, students will earn the certificate after completing a final project which requires them to build something, and then lead a workshop, open to the public, discussing the tools they used. These types of workshops are a way to allow the students to showcase their work, and also allow the whole community to engage with the DSC and learn together. Similar research opportunities will also be available to non-certificate seeking students.
The DSC’s physical space will also be a place that inspires learning and collaboration. Based out of the second floor of the Fine Arts Building, the DSC will have two office spaces, a communal space (FA215), and a computer lab (FA217) which, unlike traditional computer labs with rows of desktop computers, will promote collaborative enterprise. The communal space will be a place where everyone is welcome to go to receive help with projects and to brainstorm; the lab will consist of workstations that enable groups of 3 – 4 students to work together on projects and will also have tables that come together to form a large seminar table in the middle of the room.
Eventually, the plan is for the DSC to host the Rutgers-Camden Archive of Digital Ephemera (RCADE), a collection of old, defunct technology, such as original Nintendo sets and early models of computers, which students will be encouraged to take apart, study, and rebuild. In particular, the DSC’s communal space and mobile computer lab will well serve undertakings such as these.
Part of the DSC’s purpose is to support and encourage faculty to use and study digital technology. Six faculty members, from departments ranging from English to Public Policy and Administration, have been awarded Digital Studies Center Project Grants for the 2014-2015 academic year, and their projects range from producing a video for the” It Gets Better Project” to integrating an open-source digital bibliography tool into The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia, a project based at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities (MARCH).
Dr. Brown received his Ph.D. in English, with a concentration in Digital Literacies and Literatures from the University of Texas-Austin in 2009. After his graduation he served as assistant professor of English at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, for two years before transferring to UW. His research focuses on the ethical and rhetorical dimensions of new media technologies, and his work has been published in various journals and collections such as Computers and Composition and Rhetoric and the Digital Humanities. In addition to serving as the director of the DSC, Dr. Brown will be an assistant professor in the Department of English.
Written By Julie Roncinske