LMC Creates Calling Card with Humanistic Perspectives in a Technological World
School Shares Stories of How it Connects Humanities, Technology
While the nationwide push for STEM education has caused hand-wringing and eraser-gnawing in some English departments, Tech’s School of Literature, Media, and Communication (LMC) has long worked within this reality, as reflected in its first-ever book, Humanistic Perspectives in a Technological World.
Filled with photos and essays by LMC faculty as well as statements from academics and administrators across campus, the 140-page hardbound volume was the brainchild of LMC Department Chair Richard Utz.
“You will not find a single institution that has something like this, where every tenure-line faculty member, plus Brittain fellows, have contributed 1,000-word essays,” Utz pointed out. “You know why? Because people will say no!”
As an external candidate for department chair a few years back, Utz searched the internet for “LMC,” and the primary result was “large magellanic cloud.”
“It’s a nebula with a lot of star activity,” he explained. “And that seemed to describe what LMC is — a lot of great, fantastic individual researchers and groups, but not necessarily a unit that recognizes that it’s because we’re in the same place that many of our activities are possible. So how do you get people to think about what everybody else is doing? By creating a volume that ‘binds’ everybody together.”
His hope is that the book will spark more conversations and collaborations among faculty. He sees it as a “calling card” that will give other disciplines, alumni, and prospective students more awareness and appreciation for how LMC contributes to the Tech education and experience.
The majority of Tech students, regardless of major, take several LMC classes throughout their undergraduate career, but Utz's hope is that more students might consider LMC as a major if they were made aware of the school's research and scholarship.
“How can admissions officers and advisors recognize someone who would be a good student for our majors if they don’t have a clear picture of what we do?” he asked.
Humanistic Perspectives is a first step to garnering this understanding, portraying the depth and breadth of research and practice being conducted in the school. Launched at LMC’s 2014 alumni celebration in November, the book is comprised of over 30 essays that address the interplay between humanistic perspectives and technology.
The two are inextricably linked and always have been, according to LMC’s Alumni Project Director and Assistant Professor Krystina Madej.
“Human beings have never stopped wanting to tell stories, ever since the beginning of time. When we wrote in hieroglyphics, that wasn’t enough. We wanted to move forward. So we wrote stories in books [and] that wasn’t enough. We always want to share more through the ways that are around us, so the technologies and the narratives are very symbiotic.”
An example entry is ADAM, EarSketch, and I by Brian Magerko, which offers a look at the work done in his Adaptive Digital Media (ADAM) Lab, including EarSketch, a multidisciplinary research project that introduces high school students to programming code through music remixing.
Christopher Le Dantec introduces participatory design in Designing Community Engagement through discussing Cycle Atlanta, a smartphone app that collects voluntary data from local cyclists to better inform city planners' decisions. A former computer engineer, Le Dantec came to realize that "of the many things that are possible with technology, the only possibilities that truly count are those that resonate with human values."
Other entries range the gamut from Carol Colatrella discussing how students can benefit from the value and power of storytelling in their professional and everyday lives to Thomas Lux exploring his conception of good poems as not written, but “engineered.”
Just as Georgia Tech realizes that a humanistic perspective makes for better scientists, engineers, and business people, the fact that the faculty of LMC must continually find meaningful and creative ways to incorporate technology into their teaching makes them better humanists.
“We teach so many students from outside of the humanities, so we have to go back to the roots of the humanities — what does it mean to be a human being?” concluded Utz. “For those who are at institutions where [the importance of humanities] is established, you don’t have to explain yourself every day. But if I teach students from mechanical engineering, I need to create for them a path to the beauty of the language, the constructedness, and the craft of literature. [This is done] by selecting topics they can relate to, by opening the door for them.”