Realizing Inclusive Student Engagement in the Digital Humanities (RISE-DH)

Project Co-Directors: Jessica DeSpain, Connie Frey Spurlock, Kristine Hildebrandt, Howard Rambsy II, Margaret K. Smith

Project Funding: Social Science Research Council and National Endowment for the Humanities, Sustaining Humanities Infrastructure Program Grant

Realizing Inclusive Student Engagement in the Digital Humanities (RISE-DH) is an experiential learning and training program for African American students at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s IRIS Center for the Digital Humanities (SIUE). RISE-DH combines the study of Black literature and culture with technological components to increase access to and interest in the digital humanities among SIUE’s Black students. The project responds to the dearth of spaces on campus and in society for African American students to participate in learning activities like digital storytelling, database management, and the role of technology in society. During the 2022-23 school year, faculty mentored twenty-one RISE-DH fellows as they engaged with four projects that correspond to themes of DH technical mentorship and DH research in-action: The Black Tech Sandbox, Community-Oriented Digital Engagement Scholars (CODES), the E-Stories Project, and the Schaefer Edoid Archive.

As project co-director, I supervised students working with the E-Stories Project, an initiative of the Truth, Racial Healing, and Reconciliation Center at SIUE that uses digital storytelling to effect narrative change in East St. Louis. E-Stories primarily collects oral history interviews, which are presented as video and audio content on the project’s social media platforms. Our task for the school year was to use interactive storytelling tools to visually map the interviews, highlighting the importance of place and community. I guided the students through readings and conversations on topics like ethical storytelling practices, spatial and racial justice, and how (or if) we can responsibly turn humanistic sources into data. They explored a number of platforms and considered how the technology might mediate stories. They settled on StoryMapJS as the best option and created interactive maps using both their own lived experiences and the experiences of interviewees.