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Saturday, June 10 • 3:30pm - 5:00pm
Critically Making a Program: A Hands-on Workshop for Programmatic and Curricular Development from Digital Culture and Design at Coastal Carolina University

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Co-facilitated by Dr. Sarah Laiola, Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator of Digital Culture and Design, and Dr. Anna Mukamal, Assistant Professor of Digital Culture and Design, we propose a 90-minute discussion- and interactive activity-based workshop on critical making and social justice work in the program in Digital Culture and Design (DCD) at Coastal Carolina University, a public regional university located in Conway, SC. Housed in the College of Humanities and Fine Arts’ Department of English yet interdisciplinary by design, DCD is an undergraduate digital humanities program that situates “critical making”, collaboration, and innovative, inclusive pedagogy at its core.

Our goal in offering a workshop based on our program is to empower participants to incorporate critical making into their own programs and courses at structural, systemic, programmatic levels. Indeed, a social justice perspective informs us that to make real and lasting change, we must work systemically, not individually; therefore, this workshop takes seriously the possibilities for critical making as a tool to effect critical change within the field of digital humanities and its pedagogy.

The first half-hour of the workshop will offer a programmatic overview of the DCD program grounded in two short case studies of two different courses in the DCD curriculum. Our programmatic overview will introduce workshop participants to the DCD major as a whole, and highlight the ways critical making pedagogies are embedded in the major at every level: foundational (100- and 200-level) courses in DH theory and methods; a DH sequence of upper-level (300- and 400-level) courses on topics like digital interactivity, digital resources, and social media; and an upper-level methods sequence in text, visual, sound and motion, and interactive methods. In the first place, this sequence has the practical effect of preparing students for work in a wide range of humanities- and technology-related fields including (digital) publishing, marketing, social media (analytics), graphic design, and more. We achieve this practical outcome through a pedagogy that is inclusive and driven by equity, as it empowers students to develop skills in using digital technologies and platforms, but in a way that prioritizes both process over product and human experience over machine logic.

The two short case studies will focus on two upper-level DCD courses that explicitly center critical making and social justice. One course, DCD 309: Interactivity and Culture, sits in the DH Sequence, so is theoretical by name, while the other, DCD 496: Social Media Practicum, is practice-based by name. Yet, as our case studies show, critical making in both courses imbricates theory and method by design. First, DCD 309: Interactivity and Culture, explores how people interact in digital spaces around pressing political, social, and economic issues. In this course, critical making takes the form of students’ semester-long independent research project wherein they design and conduct an interactive online poll using Google Forms, create interactive data visualizations with the results using Excel and Tableau, and present their work in a multimodal essay in ArcGIS Story Maps. These community-based projects engage students in participatory research and design, as students put into practice the theories of effective and ethical data collection and display articulated in texts like Lauren Klein and Catherine D’Ignazio’s Data Feminism (2020). Data collection, in the DCD classroom, is more than an assignment for individual learning; taking ownership over their projects as they work iteratively on scaffolded assignments, students articulate a sense of responsibility not only to their respondent populations, but also to share their results with appropriate authority figures to influence change in macro-level systems.

Second, we turn to DCD 496: Social Media Practicum. This course is a hands-on, entirely practice-based workshop in which a small team of students produces public-facing social media content for both the DCD program and the English department. While the practicum introduces students to expected learning objectives of a purposeful, branded social media practice – for instance, designing cohesive visuals, evaluating engagement metrics, or strategizing content – approaching social media content creation through critical making actualizes many of critical making’s pedagogical values. Consider, for instance, the value of empowering students to demonstrate expertise through hands-on making practices, especially and including those un(der)recognized in university settings, or the pedagogical goal of learning complex theoretical concepts through hands-on engagement with materials. To the former, as students make content for a brand centered around digital culture and education, they become empowered to embody and perform their expertise through “learn with me” TikTok series or Instagram Reels discussing Internet culture. To the latter, as students have come up against the challenges of enacting a value system that is at odds with that of the platform – for instance, ensuring accessible content on Instagram before the platform enabled alt text – they have not just understood but experienced what it means to work against a system from within. Moreover, framing this lesson through the lens of equity and social justice, they’ve even encountered and responded to the limits of such a strategy; most recently they’ve opted to stop creating content on and for Twitter since Elon Musk’s takeover, given the unjust and unethical changes he’s made to the platform.

The last hour of the workshop will be split into 40 minutes of guided small-group discussion and 20 minutes as a full group. For the 40 minutes, participants will break into small groups on the following topics: sketching out contours of a similar program (major or minor) at their home institutions, discussing frameworks for course design and innovation within existing programs, and brainstorming ways to embed critical making and social justice into their own courses. The co-facilitators will circulate amongst these groups, sharing feedback and best practices informed by the DCD program. For the final 20 minutes, we will reconvene as a group to synthesize insights and ideas that arose in small groups, respond to questions, and articulate actionable next steps. Participants will leave the workshop empowered to argue for the importance of critical making work programmatically within the context of their own departments and institutions, and equipped with concrete curricular and assignment-level ideas.


Anna Mukamal

Assistant Professor of Digital Culture and Design, Coastal Carolina University

Sarah Laiola

Assistant Professor, Coastal Carolina University

Saturday June 10, 2023 3:30pm - 5:00pm EDT
PS 406 (Design Center)