Digital Humanities

at Michigan State University


Conference Report – MSU Well-Represented at HASTAC 2016

Conference travel is always a bit stressful for me. Between dealing with travel concerns, presenting, and networking, I’ve never found it easy to relax and enjoy the experience of just being at a new place. Happily, that was not the case at the 2016 HASTAC Conference, which I attended thanks to the HASTAC Scholars program. While HASTAC 2016 took place at Arizona State University, it was easy to feel at home, as the connections to Michigan State were present everywhere I looked.

The first day of HASTAC is dedicated to the HASTAC Scholars unconference. This half-day event allows junior scholars to meet and discuss major issues, trends, and concerns in an informal setting. Having had to opportunity to help with the unconference at MSU in 2015, I was asked to return in 2016 to help lead this year’s meeting. Joining me were Allegra Smith, who earned her MA from MSU in 2015, and Mirabeth Braude, who did the same this year. Together, we led an international group of graduate students as we discussed issues ranging from the ethics of community based projects to how to manage privacy concerns when working with students on digital projects. Over three breakout sessions, we learned about how our fellow Scholars applied for grants, used technology in their classrooms, and worked to advocate for change in their universities.

That evening was the opening mixer, and again MSU was well represented. While I was able to meet students and professors from Belfast, New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas, I also met people from MATRIX and H-Net, digital humanities groups at Michigan State. It was over these conversations where I learned that I didn’t need to travel to be exposed to new and innovated digital humanities work, as there is work being done on my own campus that I didn’t know about. I left that night with appointments to meet with both groups once we returned home.

The following day was the first full day of HASTAC 2016, and again MSU was well-represented. New WRAC professor Dr. Dawn Opel ran registration for the conference, and served as the first face that most people saw when they arrived on campus. She led a group of graduate and undergraduate students from Arizona State who helped keep the conference flowing smoothly. On the program for the day were a variety of talks and panels with MSU faculty and students, who covered a variety of subjects. Mirabeth led a lightning talk on student documentaries, Deborah Margolis, Aaron Collie, Robin Dean and Devin Higgins, from MSU Libraries, led a talk on archiving Holocaust photography, and I joined a panel on performing arts to talk about how we can bring lessons from arts projects into our teaching practices.

Friday again saw MSU take center stage, as Dr. Liza Potts, Director of the WIDE at MSU, gave the conference’s keynote talk. Her talk, which focused on MSU’s Experience Architecture major and the digital work taking place in the College of Arts and Letters. She spotlighted the work of graduate and undergraduate students at Michigan State, including Jack Hennes, Minh-Tam Nguyen, and Emily Dallaire, during her talk. The keynote was followed by another full day of talks, with more than a half dozen Michigan State students or faculty on the program.

That evening saw the end of my conference, though not the end of my HASTAC experience. After meeting Cody Mejeur, a PhD student in English at MSU, we discovered that we have overlapping research interests. Based on our conversation at this year’s HASTAC conference, we plan to collaborate across departments to develop a project for a future conference. Personally, I’m hoping that we have it ready in time for HASTAC 2017 in Orlando, so we can continue to keep our university well-represented at the conference.

Conference Report: The Land of HASTAC ’16


Photo credit: Cody Mejeur!

The steady dry heat of roughly 100 degrees fahrenheit in Tempe, Arizona may have slowed down our walking and upped our water intake, but it did not alter the participants’ enthusiasm for the 2016 HASTAC (humanities, arts, science, and technology alliance collaboratory) annual conference.

My HASTAC 2016 journey began with former MSU alum from the Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures Department and friend, Allegra Smith picking me up from the airport. Not long after, we met up with current MSU student Howard Fooksman to discuss, over margaritas and tacos, leading the HASTAC scholars unconference day the following afternoon. Divided into  three breakout sessions and one synthesis session at the end, the unconference kicked off with scholars from around the world collaborating and connecting over topics such as:

Some of the take-aways from these discussions were: allow students to do self-assessment on digital skills they offer to projects, teach process and not product, provide students with platforms they feel comfortable using in digital spaces (some suggested tools,, Furthermore, some of the keys to being in this field were to make one’s work public, create interdisciplinary projects that are recognizable in different fields for various grants and opportunities, as well as staying focused on the importance of one’s digital humanities work (i.e.

One of my favorite conference sessions was “Speculative Classroom Design: What’s Your University Worth Fighting For?” During this session lead by Cathy Davidson, Michael Dorsch, Lauren Melendez, Mike Rifino, Katina Rogers, Danica Savonick, Lisa Tagliaferri, and Kalle Westerling, participants were asked to draw their ideal classroom and post their picture on twitter. Outdoor spaces, open rooms, bookshelves, and diversified learners filled the screen as we observed what our fellow participants had created. This was followed with a conversation about how higher education needs to progress to be more inclusive, navigate-able, and supportive of all learners and leaders involved.

After that inspiring session, I trotted off to my own five-minute lightening talk, “Identity & Representation in Student Documentaries: Stories of Concern and Hope.” I highlighted the importance of letting students have time, creative freedom, agency, and collaboration as a way to create digital stories they care about.

The films for my talk are:

Opening Film:

Finding their Stories:

Being Personally Invested:

Having Creative Control:

Pride in their Accomplishments

The HASTAC annual conference continues to surprise and inspire many, myself included, as it pushes boundaries, asks deep questions, and plays with learning!

Photos from the conference, made possible by Bruce Matsunaga:

HASTAC Conference

Michigan State was delighted to host the HASTAC 2015 conference! See for videos of a number of sessions and for further information.