Making MITH a Reality: The Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities, Year Two

panel / roundtable
  1. 1. Martha Nell Smith

    Maryland Institute for Technology and Humanities (MITH) - University of Maryland, College Park

  2. 2. Charles Lowry

    University of Maryland, College Park

  3. 3. Lori Goetsch

    University of Maryland, College Park

  4. 4. Jo Paoletti

    Maryland Institute for Technology and Humanities (MITH) - University of Maryland, College Park

  5. 5. Lisa Antonille

    Maryland Institute for Technology and Humanities (MITH) - University of Maryland, College Park

  6. 6. Jason Rhody

    Maryland Institute for Technology and Humanities (MITH) - University of Maryland, College Park

Work text
This plain text was ingested for the purpose of full-text search, not to preserve original formatting or readability. For the most complete copy, refer to the original conference program.

Making MITH a Reality:
The Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities, Year Two
key words for session: digital libraries, feminism and writing technologies, film editing, intercultural learning center
Participants: Dr. Martha Nell Smith, MITH Director; Dr. Charles Lowry, Dean of Libraries, University of Maryland; Dr. Jo Paoletti, MITH Fellow; Jason Rhody, MITH Programs Coordinator & MITH Networked Associate; Lisa Antonille, MITH Networked Associate; Dr. Neil Fraistat, MITH Internal Advisory Board Chair & General Editor, Romantic Circles.

In December 1998, the University of Maryland (UM)'s College of Arts and Humanities, Libraries, and Office of Information Technology were awarded a $410,000 grant from the United States' National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to develop MITH (the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities) in order to foster faculty development and coordination of advanced technological resources and humanities applications of technology beyond early adopters into the university mainstream and out to the wider educational community and the community at large.

This roundtable will begin with a brief introduction by MITH's Director, Martha Nell Smith, followed by presentations by five of MITH's key participants.
- "READY, FIRE, AIM: Responding to the Paradigm Shift, the University of Maryland Libraries and MITH," Charles Lowry (Dean of the Libraries);
- "Intercultural Learning Center on MITH's Virtual Plaza," Jo Paoletti (MITH Fellow Spring 2000, Associate Professor of American Studies, UM);
- "Reconstellating Relationships: Practical & Effective Teamwork," Jason Rhody (MITH Programs Coordinator);
- "Symbiosis, Virtually and Face-to-Face: MNAP," Lisa Antonille, (MITH Networked Associate Fellow);
- Neil Fraistat (General Editor of Romantic Circles [ ] and Chair of MITH's Internal Advisory Board).
These members of the MITH team will discuss how their individual and institutional collaborations have worked during MITH's first year of operations, what unforeseen challenges they faced, and what unanticipated opportunities presented themselves so that MITH became operational four months ahead of time, and now offers support for faculty fellows at UM and networked associates within and without UM; faculty/student colloquia; a graduate student web-authoring collective; undergraduate Honors Humanities; and graduate English and Comparative literature courses.

UM, a designated national supercomputing and Internet2 center, is one of the best networked and computer-supported universities in the world. UM boasts more wired classrooms than most other institutions of higher learning. These include multi-platform teaching theaters and classrooms, foreign language teaching facilities, and a variety of technology-enhanced departmental classrooms and laboratories. Computing resources for scholarship and research in the humanities are comparably strong. The establishment of MITH gives critical mass to the UM's substantial and significant pioneering efforts. MITH creates an essential unifying physical presence as well as, through its web-based projects and programs, a virtual campus for this dispersed College, thereby creating an intellectual identity based on shared discourse and interests. Additionally, as a central (literal and virtual) coordinating facility dedicated to producing projects in the College's various departments and to providing access to materials, MITH provides an umbrella organization for the conception, production, maintenance, and enhancement of electronic resources indispensable for realizing UM's twenty-first century teaching, research, and outreach missions. As a laboratory for the humanities, MITH offers a center for sharing information, tools (hardware and software), and opportunities for synergistic development, creating a dynamic field for diffusion of innovation in humanities technology available to the world-wide community as ideas and projects of individual scholars influence one another in the production of new knowledge. The goals, then, of MITH are threefold:

to generate and foster the development of innovative projects that respond to the traditional interests of the humanities while nurturing emerging modes of scholarship and learning;
to guarantee aggressive outreach of these new technological approaches not only to the faculty members and students of UM, but also to the state educational community in grades K-12 and community groups committed to educational reform;
and, in support of goals one and two, to provide advanced technological resources for the creation, deployment, and dissemination of technology-based scholarship and instruction.

To begin the roundtable presentation, Dean Lowry will discuss the pragmatic institutional responses that the University of Maryland Libraries faculty are making with colleagues in the College of Arts & Humanities to the many challenges in the higher education environment, including teaching, information technology, and transformation of scholarly communication. Lowry's presentation highlights human, technological, and physical resources assembled in the effort and in initial project activities. Lowry's probative examples focus on the "price revolution" in the cost of scholarly information; diversification in scholarly information (such as GIS, online government information, e-journals, and the "electronic ephemera" of our time, internet resources); digitizing the Libraries own collections; the "informating process" and the transformational effects inside libraries (to organization and to staff). Via Digital Libraries Operations (DLO), the Electronic Text & Imaging Center (ETIC), and the support of an Instructional Development Coordinator, UM's Libraries are collaborating with MITH to present a range of projects video- and audio-streaming of the English department's Writers Here & Now Program, a decades-old series presenting major (Pulitzer and Nobel prize-winning) writers from around the U.S. and the world, as well as to produce digital archives of Beckett Directs Beckett, a UM Visual Press series featuring Beckett directing his own Waiting for Godot, Krapps's last tape, and Endgame, as well as presenting an extended televisual interview with the Nobel laureate. Another digital presentation involving film will be a critical treatment of Lovelace & Babbage, iconic figures in the early history of computing. Part of the award-winning Women & Power Series (Flare Productions), Lovelace & Babbage (under production in 2000) will be key to theoretical interrogations of a graduate seminar offered by one of the film's producers in MITH's computer studio in Spring 2000 as well as of UM's digital libraries project. MITH's collaborations with Flare contribute both to the making of the film and enhancing UM's digital libraries' project, and Lowry outlines future plans of UM's Digital Libraries projects and ways in which collaborations with MITH will augment both the faculty fellows and outreach (to K-12 teachers) programs in ways not anticipated in the original MITH proposal.

MITH Fellow Jo Paoletti focuses on her development of an Intercultural Learning Center (ICLC), which provides a crossroads where college and 7-12 students from diverse backgrounds interact through discussion groups, shared projects, and carefully designed exercises. Enabling teachers and students to discuss controversial issues of race, ethnicity, and identity in a "safe" space, learn about each other through shared papers and essays, and collaborate on meaningful community-oriented projects, the ICLC that Paoletti has been building during her semester at MITH elaborates and extends her leadership of and participation in UM's Web Initiative in Teaching (WIT), which developed four distinct but related distance-learning courses American Studies Department's Diversity in American Culture; the English Department's Cross-cultural Communication course; and two courses in English for speakers of other languages offered by the Maryland English Institute. The ICLC pilot spaces are situated in two different platforms, WebCT (a course management tool) and Active Worlds (a 3-D web browser with built-in communication features). The development of a web-based ICLC includes many of the features available in WebCT (i.e., chat, threaded conferences, space for individual and collaborative projects, readings, and other resources), plus others which are not available because of WebCT's design limitations, such as a queuing mechanism for partnering students as keypals or speaking partners. Having designed and tested a beyond-WebCT ICLC during her semester at MITH, Paoletti will critique the means and contents of knowledge production generated by college students serving as editors and mentors in their reading and responding to materials written by high school students; by high school students and college students sharing family histories and using bulletin boards to discuss the process of Americanization (the high school involved in this research project has a large immigrant population); and by groups of students listening to or reading interviews with former slaves, discussing them online, and publishing an online collection of their own poems and other writings in critical response to these personal histories.

MITH Programs Coordinator Jason Rhody describes the constantly reconstellating relationships involved in MITH's Fellows, colloquia, seminar, and distinguished speaker programs. Among the many functions MITH has served at UM is as a forum for teachers and researchers of diverse disciplines to come together in a collaborative setting to brainstorm, present, assess, share, and reconfigure work plans for the most effective knowledge transfers taking advantage of innovations in technology. As MITH Distinguished Speaker this past spring, Irvin Kershner, Director of The Empire Strikes Back, remarked "when one of my movies goes exactly according to my plan, turns out exactly as I envisioned it, then I know that something has gone terribly, terribly wrong," thus making explicit the dynamism and change necessary for successful (practical) implementation of virtual dreams. Illustrating what we have learned and what we know we must unlearn, Rhody draws on our first year's case studies Katie King's Feminism and Writing Technologies project, which analytically plumbs and extends pedagogical imaging and imagination by involving graduate and undergraduate students in research that places "new" technologies within a broad synthetic historical and cultural framework (specifically by building a virtual 17th-century women's print shop, one designed so that students working in the print shop can make their own broadsides, which, electronically translated into 17th-century styles of handwriting, instruct students in the paleography of manuscript study); the Dickinson Electronic Archives projects, in which four UM computer science undergraduates have embarked on a scholarly production of a 3-D Dickinson Homestead online, replicating her house to build a virtual study center, open to anyone with a web browser; John Fuegi's video biography of Ada Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron who invented the first computer, and MITH's critical edition of that; Mitch Lifton's Beckett Directs Beckett Digital Narrative project which brings research into the undergraduate classroom and MITH's collated outtakes to produce a critical edition of the video project itself by involving students in the production of digital resources and collaterally hones their critical assessment skills as they learn to evaluate both content and software; Classics 170, a web-based introductory humanities course housed at MITH; and our work on XML mark-up of selected documents from UM's Prange Collection of Japanese publications during the US occupation following World War II.

MITH Networked Associate Fellow Lisa Antonille analytically reports on MNAP, the MITH Networked Associate Fellowship Program, and how it makes a wide variety of resources available to graduate students, adjunct faculty, independent researchers, and researchers at other institutions. Currently, there are four Networked Associate projects, including two online journals (Schulkyll and ethos: Hypertexts in the Humanities; ), a Resource Center for Cyberculture Studies (RCCS; ); an Intercultural Learning Center (ICLC) with ties to the University of North London; and a web activism site mounted by the musical group Sweet Honey in the Rock. Nearly five more projects are beginning the application process. This unique program facilitates the growth of innovative projects that may otherwise suffer from lack of access to necessary hardware, software, technical support, and like-minded individuals and projects. Furthermore, MITH provides a physical space and a community of scholars committed to visionary and practical applications of technology to advance research and teaching in the humanities in which Networked Associate Fellows become active participants and via which they can bring their projects to fruition. For more developed associates, MITH also encourages a wider dissemination of projects and assists in the iterative process of project development and improvement. Conversely, MITH benefits from MNAP in the reciprocal, symbiotic exchange among fellows, associates, and staff.

Neil Fraistat, Chair of MITH's Internal Advisory Board and General Editor of Romantic Circles, will discuss ways in which his experimental peer-reviewed and peer-built scholarly website focused on the literature and culture of the British Romantic Period collaborates with MITH. Besides featuring a virtual Dickinson Homestead, a virtual Intercultural Learning Center, a virtual early twentieth-century artistic salon hosted by composer Arthur Schelling, a virtual Empire Strikes Back set, and a virtual platform for website activism, the MITH Plaza will feature a portal to Romantic Circle High School. Through reviewing various intersections between RC and MITH, Fraistat shows that there are enormous opportunities for each and both together to become important agents for change in the way the Humanities in the university, across grades K-16, and across the community at large reconceives its most fundamental goals, as well as its scholarly and instructional practices.

Smith concludes with brief remarks reflecting a bit on the extensive collaborations necessary to make MITH succeed, on unforeseen problems and possibilities, and by asking the audience for analytical feedback to improve MITH's future. MITH is especially interested in fostering and developing cross-institutional collaborations (and has already initiated connections with IATH at the University of Virginia and the Women's Writers Project at Brown University), and this session is designed to provide opportunity for analytical dialogue. Critical dialogue with the audience and with one another is a crucial component of our evaluation process so that we might share and analyze key failures and frustrations as well as key successes and thereby propose questions about institutional collaborations and their necessity for producing digital resources in the humanities, being realized particularly at UM in MITH.

If this content appears in violation of your intellectual property rights, or you see errors or omissions, please reach out to Scott B. Weingart to discuss removing or amending the materials.

Conference Info

In review


Hosted at University of Glasgow

Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom

July 21, 2000 - July 25, 2000

104 works by 187 authors indexed

Affiliations need to be double-checked.

Conference website:

Series: ALLC/EADH (27), ACH/ICCH (20), ACH/ALLC (12)

Organizers: ACH, ALLC

  • Keywords: None
  • Language: English
  • Topics: None