In April, I return to my old stomping grounds in New York to do some research, see some friends, eat some food, and visit my alma mater, The Graduate Center, City University of New York. Matt Gold, editor of the engaging and important Debates in the DigitalHumanities, has graciously extended an invite to give a talk at a CUNY DHI meeting: April 2, 6:30-8:30pm, CUNY Graduate Center, Rm. 6417.

During my sabbatical, I’ve been giving a lot of talks that cover a range of disciplinary areas, but each of the Digital Humanities and digital pedagogy talks have engaged with a different topic: digital pedagogy how-to, successes/failures, student responses, and some digital assignments. For this CUNY DHI talk, I’m ready to chat about the experiment with the Beard-Stair Project.

I carry a lot angst about passing along my DH failure to these students and have tried to give them a sense of productive failure. So, for this CUNY DHI talk, I want to focus on working with students outside the institutional boundaries and the different types of risk & failure for all of us.  They’re working on a traditional scholarly editing project, but it will eventually live in a digital world. There are lots of problems to solve, some I don’t have answers to. Let’s see what we can stir up at the CUNY DHI meeting.

Title: Risking Failure by Playing Around with Digital Pedagogy


In Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology and the Future of the Academy, Kathleen Fitzpatrick warns that academic futures need to be governed by expansive change: “We need to think less about completed products and more about text in process; less about individual authorship and more about collaboration; less about originality and more about remix; less about ownership and more about sharing” (83). If scholarly communication needs this type of revision, then I suggest so too does undergraduate pedagogy. But, something happens when we start incorporating Digital Humanities and digital pedagogy into the undergraduate classroom, something that’s not embraced in academia: failure. Digital Humanities scholarship requires collaboration and playfulness – both risky endeavors in any Humanities classroom because of the need for assessment, structure, rules, and bounded learning. But, what happens when we modify some of the institutional structures and student learning outcomes to accommodate these two methods for learning and add into the curriculum a requirement for building something, anything, within the undergraduate classroom? The students collaborate, screw around, and build materials for public scholarship, but we all risk failure – and then learn from it. Using the Beard-Stair Project as an example, I would like to discuss a student-driven project that is run outside the institutional boundaries of a traditional English Department curriculum and the inherent risks, failures, and disappointments that are integral to this type of productive learning environment. Though the students collaborate, screw around, and build materials for public scholarship, both I and the students have to accept some failures that are then assimilated into the project.