Seminar Basics

The GSA is here! This post contains all the basic information sent to participants via email. Note: All posts related to preparation are available at

  1. Frame your 10-minute presentation around the questions for your category: Research, Teaching, or Methods. Please be considerate and do not exceed the established time limit. There will be plenty of time for discussion of each project and Q & A.
  2. Prepare the feedback questions on the other presentations in your category to share with your peers. Methods presenters should choose one or two projects in another category to provide feedback as well. This feedback can be delivered in hard copy, as comments on this site, or orally during Q & A.
  3. We ask that you review the MLA and AHA guidelines for evaluation of digital scholarship and the Young Researchers in Digital Humanities Manifesto.
  4. We will meet at the Terrace Cafe at Town & Country (Map: for drinks on Thursday evening. Happy hour starts at 4 and at least one of the conveners will be present starting around 4:30 /5 pm. Join us for as long or as little as you like!
  5. The schedule for presentations are posted under each category. Generally, the categories are divided as follows: Friday- Research, Saturday- Teaching, Sunday- Methods.
  6. Please feel free to contact me ( or Jared ( with any questions as you prepare!


Heiner Müller’s Presence in the German Public Sphere

Project Description:

The project that I want to present at the GSA is part of my dissertation, which is titled “Capitalizing on the Avant-Garde? An Analysis of Adversarial Authors’ Marketing Strategies in the Second Half of the 20th Century”. My research examines the establishment of avant-garde authors’ and artists’ public personae in the context of changing structures of the public sphere. In particular, I focus on the self-presentation and promotion of adversarial authors who draw on the ideals of the avant-garde and the artistic critique of capitalism. Such authors are known for their critical stance towards the bourgeois lifestyle and materialist values, an opposition that they express in their works and at times also through their own bohemian identification. Yet these same anti-establishment authors and artists present themselves in the mainstream public sphere and the media, arenas that are highly influenced by the laws of the market. I therefore examine whether these authors’ use of marketing methods and media environments undermines their outsider credibility and the credibility of their work, or, alternatively, how they may have been able to develop strategies of engaging with the media and marketing principles that allow them to remain subversive nonetheless. In particular, I analyze how East German playwright Heiner Müller (1929-1995) presented himself in public and how he was marketed and strategically positioned by his publishing houses, especially by the Suhrkamp Verlag. I draw on his television interviews, public readings, and speeches, as well as on marketing materials such as book covers, blurbs, and press releases by his publishers.

The materials that I will present at the GSA draw on this doctoral work of mine and consist of different graphs and visualizations concerning Heiner Müller’s presence in the German public sphere. I have collected metadata on the publication of his writings (essays, articles, speeches, etc. collected in his Schriften volume) and on the broadcasting of his interviews from the respective volumes of his edited works. Based on this data, I can illustrate the importance of literary awards (Büchnerpreis in West Germany 1985, Nationalpreis 1. Klasse in East Germany 1986) for the expansion of Müller’s public presence, since the amount of interviews and writings he published per year increases significantly after he accepted these two awards (please see the respective PDF files for better perceptibility):

Graph 1: Heiner Müller’s Publications 1960 – 1998 Cf. PDF Graph 1 & Dataset

I therefore claim that publicly accepting the aforementioned literary awards and thereby implicitly honoring the cultural authority of the granting institutions was crucial for the establishment of his public persona and for gaining access to the mainstream media.

The data also documents specific changes in Müller’s choice of publication venues for his writings over time. The visualizations that I generated with RAW  allow me to argue that Müller ceased from publishing his essays, articles, and interviews in theater programs – a publication type that he used in the 1960s and 1970s, but that usually only reaches small audiences of actual theatergoers – as soon as he got access to the mainstream media in the late 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s.

Screenshot 3
Graph 3: Where did Heiner Müller publish his Essays/Articles/Writings?
Cf. PDF Graph 2 & PDF Graph 3 & Dataset

Furthermore, I can show the significance of Müller’s collaboration with Alexander Kluge and Frank M. Raddatz for his experimentation with the interview genre. These two interview partners of his stand out of the array of people Müller did interviews with, since he met them very often and over long periods of time (Graph 4). Kluge and his television production company, DCTP, are moreover absolutely essential for Müller’s presence on television, as Graph 5 highlights:

Graph 4: Heiner Müller’s Interview Partners Cf. PDF Graph 4 & Dataset
Graph 5: TV & Radio Broadcasts of Heiner Müller’s Interviews Cf. PDF Graph 5 & Dataset

The process of collecting, refining, and visualizing this data was crucial for making the discoveries that I just mentioned. I had read and analyzed Müller’s interviews and writings before: I had taken notes on specific topics and I had interpreted certain pieces or passages, but only the data driven approach that I present here and the visualizations that I generated based on it allowed me to discover and document the broader patterns that are so critical for my thesis. I personally value this multifaceted research process as a very fruitful combination of traditional methods in the humanities (Hermeneutics, Critical Theory, Close Reading) and data driven DH approaches.

In a second step, I would like to apply some topic modeling and stylometric analysis to Müller’s interviews and writings in order to examine whether I can detect changes in Müller’s style and in the topics he addresses. My assumption is that Müller altered both his writing style and his topics when he began to reach out to more mainstream audiences in the late 1980s.

Black German History and Digital Humanities:

In May 2015, Afro-Italian activist Vittorio Longhi published a piece in the New York Times called “On Being African in Europe.” In the editorial, he argues that one of the greatest hurdles that Black European communities consistently confront is the problem of denial. For many white Europeans, the fact that Europeans of African descent exist at all is a contradiction, an ahistorical paradox that runs counter to their presumptions of the nation and who belongs to it. They dismiss, in other words, the presence of Afro-Germans in contemporary German spaces or the long history of Black French communities as outliers and outsiders to Europe. “In the United States,” Longhi writes, “there has been a comprehensive cultural construction of African-American identity, and a movement that responds when there is injustice or violence. We Euro-Africans still lack our own positive, inspiring symbols and leaders, our Martin Luther Kings, our Rosa Parkses, our Barack Obamas.”

Longhi’s references to pinnacle figures of African American history raise a simple but crucial question: Whither Black European history? Where are the iconic Black historical figures of Europe to challenge contemporary European myths of homogeneity, diaspora, and belonging? Although there are currently more than eight million people of African descent living in Europe (as far as scholars can surmise since most European states refuse to track their populations according to race), Black Europeans lack constructed narratives of their own pasts that are vital for community building. Their histories and their communities are rendered invisible. Moreover, there are few if any institutions, centers, or hubs dedicated to locating and discussing Black European history and studies. Black European histories, like the experiences of Black Europeans themselves, are stories of fragmentation, isolation, and marginalization.

My colleagues at the University of New Mexico, University College London, University of Missouri, Oberlin College, and I formed a collaborative in 2014 to advance the study and history of the Black diaspora to Central Europe. We sees to integrate Black history into Central European historiographies on nationalism, cultural formation, and race to illustrate that people of African descent have always been part of Central European history, and, thus, have always been European. In doing so, our program counters the popular notion that people of African descent are a new phenomenon in Europe – and thus are historical outsiders – and instead highlights the many different cultural forms of identity-making that were available to Germans and Austrians of all backgrounds in modern history.

Our dedication for educating the public about Central Europe’s own Black pasts has led to the creation of a website, Black Central Europe. Our website is a repository for primary sources in English and in German on the history of Black people in Central Europe. Modeled after other public history sites such as German History in Documents and Images and Interracial Intimacies our website offers links to other relevant digital humanities projects such as Swag Diplomacy or Mapping Ira Aldridge. We also share links to contemporary Afro-German social media sites and anti-racist organizations such as the Antonio Amadeu Stiftung, Initiativ Schwarze Deutsche (ISD), and Krause Locke. We also post Afro-German web series such as Schwarz Rot Gold or Polyglot on our website for the public to watch.

Being teachers ourselves, we offer pedagogical resources on our website as well so that teachers at the high school and college levels may better integrate Black German history into their course offerings. We post teaching modules on our site and share primary sources in English and in German for students to use.

Why I joined the GSA Seminar:
There are two reasons why I wanted to join the GSA’s seminar on digital humanities: one, to get feedback on our website and to discuss with people with more experience than I have how to organize and present large swaths of data – texts, images, videos, etc. Second, I have a project I undertook with my students in the spring of 2016 called “Mapping Black Germany” that I’d like to get feedback on as well.

Part I:
BlackCentralEurope screenshot
Modeled in part on GHDI, we offer documents, images, and videos for teachers and students to use in their courses on European history. The project is not “live” quiet yet, but we hope to launch it by the end of August. My main questions are pretty simple and somewhat naive but nonetheless perplexing to us organizers of
1. How does one organize a large body of primary sources from approximately 1000 AD to the present?
2. How does one present that material to the public in an accessible enough fashion?

Part II: Mapping Black Germany
Using CartoDB, my students in my “Germany and the Black Diaspora” class created a map to highlight where Black figures, communities, and organizations have resided in Germany since the medieval era.

mappingpage1_demo MappingImage1_GeorgeBridgetower

The purpose of this project was for students to see how much Germany has participated in global developments concerning the Black Diaspora since the medieval era. They created pins pointing to St. Gereon Cathedral in Cologne, which currently houses the relics of Gregorius Maurus, a 14th century Black mystic who gained a following after the Archbishop of Cologne discovered that Maurus regularly had religious visions, for example, and dedicated pins to contemporary Afro-German writers as well.

It became apparent to my students really quickly that mapping makes the invisible visible. We had many conversations on the political and historical meaning of rendering minorities visible in spaces that have erased their history. Using the map that we created, we asked questions about what it means that our digital map of Blackness does not correspond to the mental maps of most people who study European history. In short, students will see more clearly that the politics of what gets on the map is contingent upon who is making it.

Future Directions and Questions:
1. What do I do with this map for the long term? How do I maintain it and grow it?
This map will be a permanent feature of Black Central Europe. I plan to teach my “Germany and the Black Diaspora” class every winter semester and involve students every time in building onto and shaping the map. Because this is a long-term project, I hope that each time I incorporate the map into my class, we will be able to ask different questions about map-making and Black identities in Central Europe. Over time, as more information appears on the map, I hope to be able to manipulate the data to look for patterns and flows of migration. Moreover, because this map is a permanent fixture on the Black Central Europe website, I wish to know how to use this map as a service to the public. I envision the map functioning as a public history project hosted by the University of Michigan.
2. What is the relationship between geo-spatial technologies and minority history?
Is this the right tool for me to use to display the diverse and rich history of Black lives in Central European spaces? Can geo-spatial technologies help historians iterate the complex phenomenon of historical identity construction – or do they flatten those identities? What do I stand to gain and what do I stand to lose by placing the fourteenth century religious figure Saint Maurice and twentieth century Afro-German poet May Ayim in the same geographical space?

Digital Humanities and Public History as Teaching Tools

I am primarily interested in Digital Humanities as a teaching tool, in particular the intersection between DH and public history. In recent years, I have worked to integrate public history and museum studies projects into my courses. These assignments are designed to help students thing about history both as an academic discipline and as a discipline that engages with a broader public – through work in archives, libraries, and historical societies; the curation of museum exhibits; and the construction of historical narratives for broad consumption. DH tools have been useful in developing these sorts of assignments. They also expose students to different ways of presenting research, other than the traditional research paper, including in digital formats, and train students in working with technology – skills that help prepare them for a variety of careers.

Wende Museum Project

My first foray into DH was when I co-organized a special workshop with Wende Museum: “Museum & Material Cultures: Exhibiting the GDR.” The workshop brought together five LMU students and five students from the University of Leipzig to explore the history of the German Democratic Republic using the museum’s artifacts. This was an exercise in public history, as the students discussed the relationship between history and memory, the pedagogical function of public history, the role of museums, and questions of display, representation, and audience. Over the course of a month, the students did research in museum, with the goal of producing an online exhibit about the everyday life of East Germans in Berlin, Leipzig, and Halle-Neustadt. They selected the artifacts, researched them, wrote the texts, and designed – within the constraints of the museum website – the exhibit layout.

The culmination of the workshop was the production of a prototype for the online exhibition, “Living in a Socialist City,” with five sections, each curated by a pair of students (one German and one American): Marketing a Socialist City, Public Spaces & the Socialist City, Private Spaces, The Marketplace & Consumer Culture, and Social Experiences. The exhibit is now live on the Wende Museum website. I also wrote about the experience, including the benefits and challenges of such a community-based learning experience and international collaboration, for the blog on Undergraduate Research in German & European Studies (in 5 parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5). Two LMU students who participated in the workshop also wrote about their experiences for the blog: one about doing research in an archive and the other about the collaborative aspect.

Translating the Workshop Experience into My Classes

The workshop students learned how to work with artifacts as historical sources (rather than just with documents). They learned about the importance of audience, how authors must consider their likely audiences when crafting narratives. They learned how to think about the visual – about display and the integration of text and image. They also came to realize that History majors don’t just go to law school or become teachers, that their research and writing skills prepare them for a variety of professional opportunities.

My next step was to think about how to translate the workshop experience into all of my classes. I initially asked students to curate museum exhibits in the form of PowerPoint shows but then shifted to using online tools. A colleague and I, in a team-taught course on Ireland and Poland as European colonies, decided to require students to build a website (on WordPress) in lieu of doing a research paper. They were expected to work as a group (it was a small class) to develop the overall concept and design and to choose the themes. Individual students were then responsible for individual pages. The assignment proved a disaster. In the face of an unfamiliar assignment requiring technology skills, the students just shut down. They were intimidated and overwhelmed by the scale and nature of the assignment, which was compounded by the fact that they were dealing with unfamiliar histories, not having had much past exposure to Irish and Polish history.

I had a better experience in the world history course that I was teaching that semester, where I required students to develop a single webpage presenting their research on a chosen topic. The assignment included very specific parameters – that they had to include at least one audio/visual “artifact,” a link to at least one textual primary source, references to at least two secondary sources. The clear expectations helped students, many of whom produced pretty good webpages, including ones on: the partition of India, Chinese immigration during the Gold Rush, and the link between the Haitian revolution and a yellow fever outbreak in Philadelphia.

The lesson that I took from that experience was that students needed explicit instructions about what their webpages should look like. I also decided to try to lessen the technological obstacles that students might face, as building a webpage is far more challenging that using an app. So that they could concentrate on the narrative that they were crafting (for a broad audience, rather than just for me) and on the integration of primary sources and artifacts into that narrative, I switched from requiring students to create their own webpages to requiring students to do blog posts on a class website that I established. I have since required students both to write the traditional research paper and to write a blog entry in which they distill their research for a broader public: European Imperialism course and Weimar Germany course.

Moving Forward

My next step is to expand the assignment again, back in the direction of asking students to create a course website. In spring 2017, I am teaching a course on Nazi Germany, which will include a Spring Break trip to Berlin to explore how the Nazi era and the Holocaust are remembered in Germany and the ways in which Germans have developed a historical narrative around the Nazi era and the Holocaust geared towards public education and memorialization. Students will be required to develop a class website focusing on the history and memory of Nazi Germany. The website will require them to practice the craft of public history – to produce historical narratives and arguments for a broad audience. It will also require them to do work in DH, including blogs, virtual exhibits, videos, and a timeline. In particular, students will draw on their experiences in Berlin to map sites of importance, using GIS technology to layer places, images, and historical analysis. I plan to do a similar assignment when I next teach Honors History – to have students build a website around the social and cultural history of technology, including textual and audio/visual artifacts, historical timelines, historical essays, and video interviews with local experts.

My efforts are part of a broader departmental initiative to focus more on public history, museum studies, historical documentaries, and journalism as part of the LMU history major. Digital Humanities figure prominently in these discussions about presentation, representations, and audience, so I welcome the opportunity to learn more about what others are doing.

The Dialectic of Digital Humanities: A Methodological Reflection

This post examines an ongoing methodological project in the form of two examples: a research article, “Digital Humanities as Translation: Visualizing Franz Rosenzweig’s Archive,” and the results of a semester-long, in-class digital project, “‘The Poor Sinners’ Pamphlets.’” As the focus of this post, however, “method” signifies not just the specific technological tools and processes involved in each instance, but also the general theoretical contention that “digital humanities” means as much the potential enhancement of our study and teaching of German history, culture, and literature through digital tools as it does bringing the conceptual tools of German Studies to bear on the very transformation to our discipline signified by the digital. Such sentiments seek to expand on David Kim’s call for “hybrid methods” in pedagogy that mix digital and tradition techniques and participate in the foundational methodological discussions proposed in articles and led at conferences by Wendy Chun and Lisa Maria Rhody. In presenting the following examples, I contend that the methodical contribution of DH to teaching, learning, and research and its potential inclusivity in classrooms and scholarly communities lies in the dialectical movements between new, digital techniques and those already central to German Studies in particular and the humanities in general. In other words, I want to purpose a methodological vision of DH in which methods such as data visualization, mapping, and algorithmic text analysis can and must draw on, return us to, and allow for iterative revision by their interaction with the methods of our field, such as philology, hermeneutics, and critical theory.

Digital Humanities as Translation” employs and describes for other scholars how to employ a set of digital tools (e.g. Tabula, OpenRefine, Palladio) to visualize the network of correspondences contained in the collection of Rosenzweig’s papers held in the University of Kassel archive (see the archive’s finding aid). Using DH tools to copy, cut, paste, and scrub the archival data (see the final dataset) and plot them (see diagrams), “DH as Translation” serves, on the one hand, as an initial step towards a more detailed and comprehensive understanding of Rosenzweig’s intellectual biography and network, published editions and historiographies of which have come under scrutiny (see Graf and Pollock).

Palladio generated timeline of document dates in Rosenzweig’s archive.
Full network visualization, with Rosenzweig in the middle.

On the other hand, Rosenzweig also theorizes in his theological and philosophical writings the practice of the transformation of texts from one form to another, which, so is my contention, allows us to reflect critically on the acts of “copying, cutting, and pasting,” “scrubbing” and “plotting” required to create the visualizations themselves. If translation means for Rosenzweig radical formal fidelity to literary and religious texts, then, so I take as one potential guide, we should “translate” the data of his archive in such a fashion to retain as much of the structure and nuance of the original as possible. Yet, in practice, my attempt at a faithful rendition does not simply posit a “direct” translation that preserves each and every data point, but rather, by virtue of translation, reveals marginal, non-Rosenzweig voices in his archive that call into question the ideological underpinnings of his theory of translation, as well as our own. What translation theory, recalled in the visualization process, reveals is how the choices we make in the process of visualization are not arbitrary, but carry significant historical and ideological weight.

Twelve undergraduate and graduate students researched, designed, and built the online collection, the “’Poor Sinners’ Pamphlets’” in the digital humanities seminar I led at Michigan State University last spring. Starting with introductory readings in DH, our semester-long goal was to create an Omeka ‘archive’ of the so-called “Poor Sinners’ Pamphlets” (Armsünderblätter) held in the Criminology Collection in MSU Libraries’ Special Collections – a loose genre, consisting primarily of broadsheets sold at public executions mostly in the German-speaking lands during the eighteenth and nineteenth century (see van Dülmen), “programs” of a sort that described for the public what it was witnessing and what spiritual lessons it should draw from it.

Description of the sentence and execution of Caspar Rhain, accompanied by a “moral poem” (1771)

The course (with help from the DH specialists at MSU) taught students how to use a wide range of DH tools: spreadsheets and OpenRefine to normalize the Library’s MARC data (see the data for the 100 documents in our archive or the data for the 1421 documents in MSU’s Criminology Collection), cameras and Photoshop to digitize and color correct the pamphlet images, Omeka to host the collection, and tools such as Palladio, Voyant, RAW, and CartoDB to analyze our data. With each new DH tool, however, a class period was dedicated to a theoretical reading (Burton, Foucault, Derrida, Drucker, etc.) which framed our work within less technical and more critical and humanistic frames of inquiry: the technological manipulation of the body (both physical and textual), epistemology and exhibition, and techniques (and pitfalls) of translation. As much as DH allowed us to broaden access to a very public, but often forgotten moment of cultural history in Germany, so too the use of these DH tools thus returned students (and, for some, introduced them to) to salient questions in the humanities in order to understand better the processes that the use of these tools presupposes but often renders invisible.

Both of these projects raised a number of pressing technological questions concerning German Studies and DH – such as how these digital tools, often designed by English speakers for other purposes, systematically breakdown when they encounter untidy data and formatting, something as simple as diacritical marks and special characters. At this point, I am unsure what direction this larger methodological project will take. For our discussion at the GSA, however, I hope to lay the groundwork for a conversation on how we can establish robust yet also theoretically savvy foundations for the use of DH in German Studies that takes advantage of what the digital offers us interpretively and analytically, without losing sight of the interpretive, critical, and historiographical bedrock that constitutes our discipline.

“Teaching and Learning with Primary Sources”: A New Module to Complement German History in Documents and Images

The Fashion Conscious Man [International Men's Fashion Week in Cologne, 1986]. Coutesy of Inter-Nationes and the German Information Center.
The Fashion Conscious Man [International Men’s Fashion Week in Cologne, 1986]. Courtesy of Inter-Nationes and the German Information Center.
The German Historical Institute’s flagship digital project, German History in Documents and Images (GHDI), is currently being revised and relaunched. Conceived in 2002, GHDI is an online anthology consisting of ten chronological volumes that cover German history from 1500 to the end of the first Merkel cabinet in 2009. The site is completely bilingual; it includes approximately 1,700 primary-source documents (in German and English translation) and 2,300 images, all of which are accompanied by introductory texts that aid in interpretation. One goal of the relaunch is to enhance GHDI’s utility as a teaching tool; another is to make it more interdisciplinary, so that it better serves colleagues in neighboring disciplines, including German studies. In light of these objectives, the combined seminar on digital resources and teaching with authentic historical sources promises to be an ideal forum for discussing ways of presenting primary source materials in a digital environment for optimal pedagogical use.

GHDI recently went through an external academic review. Many reviewers commented that the site needs a hands-on introductory section on teaching and learning with primary sources. In response, the Institute will design a new pedagogical module that will introduce some common rubrics for source analysis, including “The 6 C’s of Primary Source Analysis” (content, citation, context, connections, communication, and conclusion). The rubrics will then be applied to select textual and visual sources in GHDI. To name one example, the writings of nineteenth-century author and women’s advocate Hedwig Dohm (“What the Pastors Think of Women”) could provide the basis for a lively classroom discussion of “communication” and point of view. The module will also include recommended assignments and classroom activities. Again, on the topic of gender, it would be interesting for students to compare the views expressed in texts by Franz-Josef Wuermeling, FRG Minister of Family and Youth Affairs, and activist film director Helke Sander. Another exercise might involve examining texts by authors who advocate opposing stances on crucial issues, such as the introduction of free markets in land, labor, and capital, a hotly debated topic in Vormärz Germany. Lastly, it might be interesting to invite three of four contemporary scholars to interpret a single source from differing interpretative and methodological points of view.

Questions for GSA seminar participants might include: which types of sources and activities tend to work well in classroom teaching; and how can technology be employed both to enrich traditional approaches to primary source analysis (such as the assignments described above) and to create new ones? With respect to the latter question, it would be interesting to discuss the potential of annotation applications, such as Hypothes.Is and Annotation Studio, in the context of source analysis and pedagogy. Multi-textual annotation tools could facilitate comparative approaches to sources; social annotations tools would aid in small group and classroom discussion. Annotation applications also include features that would allow students to create small sub-collections of documents and images from GHDI; this would make it easier for them to create their own historical narratives with select source materials.

The analysis of images will be given equal – and perhaps even greater – weight in the planned module. Today’s students, as is commonly observed, grew up in a media-rich environment; and this fact has given rise to the general idea that they are more visually attuned than earlier generations. But is that really the case? And, if so, then what does that mean with respect to source analysis in the classroom? Are students well versed in the formal analysis of images, and how could this more art historical approach be applied to history and German studies curricula? While most students could likely identify an obviously staged photograph such as the one featured above (published by a German textile lobbying group on the occasion of International Men’s Fashion Week in 1986), they might not be able to do so in all cases. This could be problematic when they are confronted with propagandistic imagery. One relatively common criticism leveled at the GHDI website is that is includes too many portraits (the implication being that they are boring). In response, the Institute plans to author more comprehensive image captions to help point out the richness conveyed by some of these sources. But these criticisms also point to a larger question: what types of images do students and teachers expect to see represented in a large digital collection? Do teachers, for instance, want headshots of politicians and writers to use as basic illustrations – as opposed to “real sources” – in PowerPoint slides? And can images even be responsibly separated into these two categories? Should a site like GHDI feature photos that already appear in countless Germany history texts and websites (e.g. Menzel paintings)? Whereas some scholars regard such images as tired, others view them as iconic or reassuringly familiar. What sort of mixture of the familiar and the new should a site like GHDI strive for?

The GHDI relaunch will involve not only revisions and additions to the academic content, but also the creation of a new technical infrastructure and user interface. The content revisions and the technical relaunch are inseparable, not least because the types of multimedia source materials that need to be included in a revised GHDI (e.g. sound- and video-clips) cannot be published on the current platform. In addition to providing basic information on source analysis, the planned pedagogical module will also include recommendations and activities based on multimedia sources, especially postwar German films. While film and television have long been used in teaching, there are still relatively few pedagogical resources geared toward their classroom application (compared with the resources devoted to texts and images). For this and other reasons, the Institute may develop a blog and an online discussion forum to promote an informal, two-way discussion about teaching with primary sources, particularly film and audio materials. At the moment, it appears that many scholars share interesting tips about current multimedia sources – references to the television shows Deutschland 83 or Ku’damm 56 – through private Facebook or Twitter accounts. Unfortunately, these recommendations are usually limited to the scholar’s personal “friends” or “followers.” Creating a forum where members of the profession could share links and information would ensure that tips about new multimedia sources reached a larger audience and did not disappear in a sea of individual social media accounts.





Investigating Historic Events through the Intersection of Public and Private Spheres – Claudia Lynn & Sibel Sayılı-Hurley

The analysis and interpretation of linguistic structures in authentic, digitized historic sources and materials with the help of data visualization tools has the potential to raise learners’ critical cultural awareness of the target culture while at the same time raising and expanding their linguistic awareness.

Byram’s Model for Intercultural Communicative Competence (1997) defined critical cultural awareness as “…an ability to evaluate critically and on the basis of explicit criteria perspectives, practices and products in one’s own and other cultures and countries” (p. 53) and posited that it enriches and facilitates the acquisition of a foreign language. This definition has also been incorporated into the ACTFL National Standards for Foreign Language Learning. Language serves as the prime vehicle to embed cultural perspectives in its structures and lexicon, describes and reports on the practices within culture(s), and contributes to the emergence of cultural products. Data visualization tools can aid FL learners -especially at the intermediate level -to untangle and decipher these complex, profound relationships between language and culture. By means of dual coding -verbal and non-verbal, learners process the abstract vocabulary and complex structures of authentic sources with a positive effect on comprehension, retention, and production. (Paivio, 2006, p. 181) Additionally, data visualization appeals to the multi-literacy competencies of digital natives since digital natives are “…operating at twitch speed (not conventional speed); employing random access (not step-by-step); parallel processing (not linear processing); graphics first (not text); play oriented (not work); connected (not stand alone).” (Pendergast, 2010, p. 3) Data visualization tools appeal to most if not all of these characteristics: they offer multiple entries to non-linear processing of texts, they produce images to supplement text comprehension and analysis, and they offer options for text manipulation that may appear rather playful on the surface but that can also be harnessed for critical engagement with course materials.

Our project aims to raise learners’ awareness of the multi-faceted nature of language and culture as well as cultural meaning embedded in language. In our project, learners in an intermediate German course at a postsecondary institution will employ text analysis tools for critical observation and reflection of linguistic choices within the source materials. Learners will use text analysis tools to decode embedded cultural perspectives in the target language, assess their own assumptions, and ultimately also reach a better understanding of their own culture. Additionally, our learners will be contributing to the body of knowledge of German language, culture, and history. We hope to achieve this while simultaneously raising learners’ awareness of the possibilities that Digital Humanities offers and introducing them to some of the learning tools used in Digital Humanities research. We believe learners will thereby also learn a transferable skill.

In this particular course, learners will engage with the history of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) through the novel Am kürzeren Ende der Sonnenallee.  Our presentation focuses on personal and public accounts of key events during the period of 1945-1990 that are referenced in the novel. We are especially interested in the intersection of public and private spheres as conveyed through historic sources. Our work with the novel for this project will be the culmination of our co-authored textbook Bewegungen (in preparation for submission), which implements an innovative fourth semester bridge curriculum and aims at revealing multiple perspectives within culture embedded in language.

Learners will examine digitized historic sources (digitized archives of newspapers, eye witness accounts, etc.) about significant events through both public and private accounts to complement the fictional account in the novel. This will provide learners with a multi-layered perspective: the sequence of events (reported facts) and the way the source/account frames and presents events linguistically, semantically, and visually and thereby frames meaning for the reader. Learners will be divided into two teams. One team will work with a selection of different public GDR accounts (e.g., newspapers, history textbooks, radio and TV reports etc.) of the events, while the other team will use a selection of private GDR accounts (eyewitnesses, photos, letters, etc.) of the events. Using data visualization tools such as Voyant. Learners will be able to compare the personal and public accounts in an exploratory qualitative data analysis and gain a better understanding of life in the GDR.

This project promotes not only FL acquisition and critical cultural awareness but also develops valuable research skills. Data visualization compels learners to develop what Kramer coined the bridge between evidence and argument because they will have to make decisions on how to select, evaluate and present data (Kramer, 2012). Thus, learners will become active participants in creating meaning in L2: they will make choices (from a selection of accounts), explain their choices, analyze the language, acquire a new skill through the Digital Humanities tools etc., that is, language acquisition will happen dynamically instead of passively. Learners will also become aware of the limitations of their research tools and methods. However, teaching with Digital Humanities in an intermediate foreign language class also poses certain challenges. We anticipate that learners’ limitations within L2 and their unfamiliarity with Digital Humanities will be among the most challenging.

 Future of the project

We have three goals for the future of the project. First, in the near future, we hope to expand our project by having future classes/learners contribute to the project.  Second, we hope to include non-textual accounts of historic events (e.g., photos, videos, artefacts) to develop models of how to analyze and interpret these digital sources. Third, we hope to be able to collaborate with other colleges/universities teaching the novel and have their learners contribute to our interactive and collaborative publishing platform (e.g., WordPress, Omeka, Scalar).

Screenshots of Text Analysis with Voyant

Voyant Screenshots


Byram, M. (1997). Teaching and Assessing Intercultural Communicative Competence. Clevedon, United     Kingdom: Multilingual Matters Ltd.

Kramer, Michael J. “What does Digital Humanities Bring to the Table” Issues in Digital History. 25 Sept.     2012. Web. 1 Jun 2016.

Paivio, A. (2006). Mind and Its Evolution: A Dual Coding Theoretical Interpretation. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Pendergast, D. (March, 2010). Connecting with Millennials: Using Tag Clouds to Build a Folksonomy from Key Home Economics Documents. Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal. 38 (3), 289-302.