UNE historians bring digital research methods to their teaching

Posted by | June 21, 2021 | Humanities, Research | No Comments

The natural step from using digital methods in research is bringing these very same methods to the classroom. Historians in the Department of Archaeology, Classics and History at UNE are doing just that.

Three UNE historians recently contributed to the Journal of World History (JWH) as members of research projects that have been using cutting-edge digital technologies that they are also harnessing as educators.

The Journal of World History has, for over thirty years, been at the forefront of publishing research that investigates historical questions on a global, comparative, cross-cultural, and transnational scale. The most recent volume, is “Digital Methods, Empire Histories” which deals with the topic of digital history in decolonising global histories of ‘empire’. The contributions to this volume paint a picture of the kinds of research and representation of digital technology that is being used in historical research. The primary aim is to reveal the key questions that are being asked and answered internationally about imperial power and resistance via these new technologies. If you would like to take a look at this edition of the journal, you can find it here. At the core of some of this issue’s discussions are three UNE historians – the first of which is Associate Professor David Andrew Roberts.

Associate Professor Roberts is a member of a project team that has contributed an article on ‘Inquiring into the corpus of Empire’, which involves the use of new technologies to analyse nineteenth century documents about the British colonies. The crux of the research is the use of a ‘computerised text analysis’ tool that identifies word meaning, sentiment, and psycholinguistic constructs in nineteenth century documents. This tool presents not only a boon to the research project, but it also has fantastic implications for exploring genres of colonial writing, and locating key language in similar historical documents, which greatly benefits both research and teaching practices. To read more about this article and its outcomes, you can find the article here.

Meanwhile, Professor Hamish Maxwell-Stewart and Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Dr Richard Tuffin, were part of a research team whose article describes how their team are using spatial analysis and life course histories to examine crime history and criminal transportation to Van Diemen’s Land (now known as Tasmania). The digital methods that they used in this research allow for thorough examination of hundreds of thousands of convict ‘life course events’ that are recorded in the Australian colonial archive – with the goal of better understanding the lives and labour of Van Diemen’s Lands convicts during the nineteenth century. Specifically, this contribution to JWH uses a combination of longitudinal and cross-sectional techniques to evolve the common understanding of the Australian convict experience, changing the way gender, class, labour mobility, and policing are thought about in this historical field. These life course datasets will be used in teaching at UNE to increase student’s analytical and digital skills. This forms part of a wider strategy to ensure that the study of the past can be used to ‘future fit’ our graduates, preparing them for participation in the 21st century economy. To read the article that Professor Maxwell-Stewart and Dr Tuffin contributed to in this way, you can find it here.

The fantastic contributions of these UNE historians represents only a portion of the amazing work occurring in the Department of Archaeology, Classics and History combining digital research tools and methods, and the classroom. Associate Professor David Andrew Roberts had this to say in relation to the contributions made to the journal- “All three authors are members of a Department which is strategically focussed on equipping undergraduate and postgraduate students with digital literacy, ensuring that digital tools and techniques are taught as part of all history and archaeology majors and awards, giving encouragement to students to experiment with such methods in their history research and writing.”

A fantastic example of how Archaeology, Classics and History are combining research and teaching is through the unit HINQ201/501 Researching History. This unit teaches student’s fundamental database management protocols and basic data manipulation techniques – all of which are geared around the standards that UNE historians are applying in their primary datasets and various research projects.

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