Today, Brett Bobley (CIO of the NEH & director of Office of Digital Humanities), tweeted a link to the 1976 documentary, “Hypertext: An Educational Experiment in English and Computer Science at Brown University.”

The 15-minute documentary, now available on the Internet Archive (thank you!), highlights the relationship between literature and use of computers to inspire an investigative gymnastics of poetry. The film interviews the faculty member along with several students, many of whom proclaim that they thought this method would be “cold” with the interruption of computers. However, the students found it fascinating to use  hypertext to mark up a poem along with all of their compatriots (other students). Use of hypertext meant that they had access to developing research and shared knowledge creation. The students felt the emotion of the poetic resonance even on the screen because they had to develop such an intimate relationship with the words, the form, the meaning. The professor goes on to discuss the community that’s built around this hypertextual version of the poem and the “creative graffiti” that now accompanies each version of the class’s version of the poem.

The film has received over 12,000 views on Internet Archive (April 29-May 3) — exploding because of a post on BoingBoing.

One of the project team members notes in the final report about this groovy experiment:

I think that the communication that they had with one another on the system, commenting one another’s work, reading one another’s work, appreciating it, admiring it criticizing it sometimes generated a kind of rapport among the members of the group that is very unusual. I can think of no way that can be duplicated without a system of this kind.

The NEH offers some background on the film and Jennifer Howard provides a synopsis, both of which are incredibly helpful in understanding the history of computers and literary study, expressly in the face of the recent LA Review of Books kerfuffle on defining and then castigating Digital Humanities for its use of digital tools in research and scholarly pursuits in the Humanities. Instead of a critique of that article, which completely elides my career-long work in Digital Pedagogy as a facet of Digital Humanities, I instead offer this testimonial that effectively celebrates discovery, collaboration, and literary study by students — did you hear me?


Digital Pedagogy FTW!