Digital humanities helping uOttawa students defy the conventional class project

Posted on Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Whether it’s by creating an immersive historical mobile phone game or an online interactive exhibit, uOttawa students Kevin Da Ponte and Jennie Long are pushing the boundaries of what’s considered a class project by applying the digital humanities to their Shakespeare studies.

“Our topic would have been quite dry to write about in a standard essay format, but by learning to use online visualization platforms such as StoryMapJS and, we’re able to make our content more accessible to a broader public,” says Long. She is working with fellow classmates Ruth Truong and Sarah Ruszala to create a locative, interactive exhibit on Toronto’s historical theatre culture from the time when Shakespeare plays were very traditional and followed traditional play scripts to the time of more modern Canadian interpretations.

“This exploratory way of learning makes my work more accessible—for the first time, I’ve been able to show my friends and family what I’m learning and working on in my studies at uOttawa.”

Their assignments were for their Elizabethan Shakespeare class that was part of a pilot project initiated by Department of English professor Dr. Irene R. Makaryk to incorporate digital humanities into traditional coursework. Both students credit the collaborative work of digital humanities librarian Nancy Lemay, subject librarian Ann Hemingway, associate University librarian for collections Tony Horava and Media Centre technician Roxanne Lafleur with helping to bring their projects to life.

“Nancy worked with me to figure out the methods I should use to create this game,” says Kevin Da Ponte. He will bring gamers to Ottawa landmarks such as the Canadian War Museum and the Parliament of Canada by combining sightseeing and digital storytelling in a mobile phone game that uses Shakespeare’s Richard III as a narrative.

“The Aris platform Nancy suggested opened up more possibilities than I had imagined—it allowed me to do more with my game than I had ever envisioned.”

Da Ponte shares Jennie Long’s interest in having his project accessible outside the world of academia by making his mobile game expandable to other cities with references to new locations in the play could be matched to historical landmarks in other cities.

“We’re really just starting to scratch the surface in terms of what’s possible as students, professors and researchers all begin to embrace the digital humanities,” says Lemay. “These students are really part of the first generation of academics working with these types of technologies, and the diversity and quality of their projects is incredible.”

You can to view Long’s project here. Da Ponte’s game is called Richard III - demo, available on the Aris app.

Visit the Library website to learn more about digital humanities at uOttawa.

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