Florence As It Was is a digital reconstruction of the city that allows you to review, inspect, tour, and visit the streets, palaces, churches, shops, and offices that formed the fabric of one of Europe’s most vibrant cities. Here you will find images, people, payments, relationships, literary references, contemporary descriptions, and sometimes even music related to the individual structures that shaped a Florentine’s daily experience in 1492 – a year marked by monumental changes in the city and throughout Europe as a whole. See where one would go in order to see all the Florentine paintings by Giotto or Masaccio or Leonardo da Vinci, where Cosimo de’Medici spent much of his time, or where members of guilds and confraternities met. Visit the monastery ornamented by Fra Angelico, the sculpture courtyard filled with Donatello’s statues, or the neighborhood street Madonnas that people saw daily. Search for names, places, dates, and events, and see how links and connections can be made in unexpected ways.
Sara Sprenkle, Associate Professor of Computer Science, and Paul Youngman, Associate Professor of German, taught this project-based course, which introduced non-STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) majors to the use of digital technologies in humanities research and research presentation. The course was predicated on the fact that the digital turn the world has taken in the last several decades has drastically changed the nature of knowledge production and distribution. To call this turn a revolution is not an exaggeration. The class involved “talking” and “doing;” it integrated lectures on digital humanities (DH) and computer science with demonstrations of fully developed DH projects by guest speakers culminating in thrice-weekly lab sessions. At the beginning of the term, the lab sessions gave students hands-on experience with new tools and techniques but later evolved into inquiry-based, student-designed group projects in DH.
This course focused on the literary, cinematic, and historical representations of the encounters between East and West through the space of the hotel. Student read literature, viewed films, wrote interpretive essays, engaged in discussions, and produced a digital humanities project.
This course asked students, firstly, to create a hotel in the Orient using historical, literary, and cinematic hotels as design muses and guidelines, and secondly, to build the hotel not in the physical world but the virtual realm. By situating Hotel Orient in cyberspace, students bypassed the constraints of physical laws and were free to reshape hotel consciousness and to investigate what precisely constitutes a hotel experience. Moreover, the use of computing tools alleviated the need of prior experience or expertise in architecture, design, and IT on the part of students. The digital Hotel Orient is therefore a fun and fantastical nexus of technology, architecture, text, multimedia, and the human.