Curriculum DH

From Board Games to Pac-Man: Studying the Evolution of Gaming in ENGL 295

“Everybody plays games, even people who don’t think of themselves as gamers” -Professor Ferguson

At the invitation of Professor Andrew Ferguson, Stephanie Boluk and Patrick LeMieux gave a talk on video game culture and pedagogy as a part of the DH Speaker Series during spring term. They had recently published Metagaming: Playing, Competing, Spectating, Cheating, Trading, Making, and Breaking Videogames and spoke on video game culture and pedagogy. According to Professor Ferguson, Boluk and LeMieux “take things that are on their face incomprehensible and so embedded in cultural baggage and social knowledge and pick them apart so that their readers can know what’s going on.” For example, during their talk, they presented a few seconds of game play and gave the audience the context of what was going on and how that fits into larger cultural questions.

Also during spring term, Professor Ferguson taught ENGL 295: Video/Games, which surveyed the medium of the videogame, from the beginnings of the genre in board and card games, through early computing and cartridge-based consoles, through the highly sophisticated online formats of today. The students made games throughout the course, including videogame-related board and card games and digital story games on the Twine platform. Professor Ferguson emphasized that everyone can make and play games and was grateful to have been able to use a room in the library as a console room where anyone could go and play all kinds of games throughout the four-week semester.

Professor Ferguson had been interested in teaching video games for a while when a DH incentive grant and spring term’s shortened semester gave him the opportunity to teach exclusively video games and immerse the students in playing video games almost all the time throughout the course. During the course, the students considered the varying experiences that can result from video games. For instance, Professor Ferguson noted that when people play video games, they often default to one type of game and rarely stray from that type. To challenge this tendency, Professor Ferguson gave students different types of games to see what interested and surprised them as they tried things they never thought of as video games before.

“Andrew Ferguson’s video game class was a delightful study into the development of video games, not only as a form of entertainment but as an art.” -MC Greenleaf ’19

Additionally, the class took a field trip to three different arcades to demonstrate what actively maintaining and creating games could look like. The first stop on the trip was to an arcade in a dying mall, which sparked the question: are arcades dying out? Next, they traveled to an arcade with retro video games, such as Pac-Man, Pole Position and Pinball games, showing that if we take care of video games, even though it is difficult to do so, we can keep them alive. Finally, the class went to Dave and Buster’s, which featured shooting and driving games, showing one possibility for the future of arcades.

MC Greenleaf ’19, a student in the class, said, “We studied the history of games, from board games to arcade games to handheld consoles as we know them now. Through this investigation we gained knowledge on how the coding works, how to critically analyze games and game culture, and the decline of arcades. It has heavily inspired my senior thesis, to code a game of my own design, and I feel capable of doing so thoughtfully and effectively because of my experience in Professor Ferguson’s class.”

Considering the future of videogame studies, Professor Ferguson would like to hope that more people are studying games as a source of academic inquiry, akin to literature or media studies. “Studying videogames will become more and more interesting as people move towards playing games as a way of telling stories,” he said. In fact, videogame studies is growing slowly and unpredictably and could become increasingly popular like film or TV studies. According to Professor Ferguson, videogame studies is about five years away from becoming just as popular. Thanks to his spring term class, some students had the opportunity to get a head start.

This post was written using an interview with Professor Ferguson. 

-Jenny Bagger, DH Undergraduate Fellow

Curriculum DCI DH Pedagogy

Minor in Digital Culture and Information

We now have a new minor in Digital Culture and Information. This minor is an outcome of W&L’s digital humanities initiatives over the last six years.

We’re not abandoning the term DH. W&L will still continue to have a strong set of programmatic DH initiatives. We chose the term Digital Culture and Information (DCI) to recognize that our curricular efforts in DH extend beyond the humanities and into the social sciences, pre-professional fields (such as accounting, business administration, journalism, and strategic communication), and STEM disciplines. (And, yes, over the years we had huge debates over naming the minor.)

From our proposal for creating the minor:

An interdisciplinary program in Digital Culture and Information (DCI) allows students to deeply explore how the digital age impacts knowledge and society. Students will discover how software transforms information into valuable resources as well as the dangerous potential of algorithmically biased tools. Through courses that integrate theory with hands- on practice, students will develop creative projects that demonstrate their emerging expertise in digital media. The program is designed to teach students concepts and methods that will enhance their academic success within any major. Students participating in the program will gain significant experience with technological platforms, complex information resources, and visual design. The course of study nurtures critical reflection on the underlying structure of information and not merely technical proficiency. A minor in Digital Culture and Information provides the foundation for a career in any field and for life as an informed citizen in a digital society.

For those who are interested, here’s the full 23-page proposal for creating a minor in Digital Culture and Information (pdf).

Course of Study Requirements

Update: View the W&L site for the updated course of study.

A minor in digital culture and information requires completion of 18 credits, as follows. In meeting the requirements of this interdisciplinary minor, a student may not use more than nine credits (including capstone) that are also used to meet the requirements of other majors or minors. [The nine credits limitation is a W&L policy.]

Required courses:
DCI 102: Data in the Humanities (offered every Fall) 3 credits
DCI 108: Communication through the Web (offered every Fall) 3 credits

At least six credits chosen from the following:

DCI 110: Web Programming for Non-Programmers (offered every Winter) 4 credits
DCI 175: Innovations in Publishing (offered alternating Spring Terms) 4 credits
DCI 190: DH Studio [offered as needed] 1 credit
DCI 393: Creating Digital Scholarship (offered every Winter) 3 credits
DCI 403: Directed Individual Study (as needed) 3 credits
History 211: 19th-Century Scandal, Crime, Spectacle. 3 credits
Journalism 341: Multimedia Storytelling Design (offered every Winter) 3 credits

At least three credits chosen from the following:

Business 306: Seminar in Management Information Systems
Business 310: Management Information Systems
Business 315: Database Management for Business
Business 317: Data Mining for Sales, Marketing and Customer Relationship Management
Business 321: Multimedia Design and Development
Classics 343: Classics in the Digital Age
Computer Science (any course)
DCI 180 First-Year Seminars (offered every Fall and alternating Winter)
English 453: Internship in Literary Editing with Shenandoah
German 347: Goethe–Sentimentality to Sturm and Drang
German 349: Digital Goethe
Sociology 265: Exploring Social Networks
Sociology 266: Neighborhoods, Culture and Poverty
and, when approved in advance, DCI-designated courses offered in other disciplines.

Capstone project:
Three credits chosen from DCI 393, 403 (not used above), or a capstone or honors thesis in the major field of study, of sustained intellectual engagement using digital tools or methods and approved one term in advance of beginning by the core faculty of the minor

At least three projects or assignments, in addition to the capstone, from courses in the minor which demonstrate attention to design, user experience, awareness of audience, and professional or academic context, and including both reflection on and analysis of each work in the portfolio.

Organizational issues

One of the distinguishing characteristics of the DCI minor is that it is based in the library though we still view it as an interdisciplinary minor with broad participation of faculty from other departments. Librarians at W&L have faculty status and the University Library is organized as an academic department within the College. The library faculty are teaching the required courses in DCI, coordinating the capstone and portfolio experiences, as well as teaching many of the DCI electives.

The official approval of this minor is a significant milestone for DH at W&L. It truly has been a collaborative effort over the years involving a lot of conversations, often with challenging viewpoints in those discussions. Collaboration is a process, and dissent is a critical element towards improving any initiative. Over time we talked it through, and we’re all better for that.


A huge thanks to Dean Suzanne Keen, who championed the digital humanities and provided the vision for DH in the undergraduate curriculum. We will miss her dearly and wish her the best in her new role at Hamilton.

Tremendous gratitude goes to Paul Youngman (Professor and Chair of German, Russian, and Arabic) for his brilliant leadership of the DH Committee.

Sara Sprenkle (Computer Science) for her enthusiastic support of a minor all along, for co-teaching with Paul the very first DH course at W&L in 2014, and all her efforts in DH here.

The library faculty have been remarkable in pulling together to create a curriculum. Jason Mickel (Director of Library Technology) came up with the term digital culture and information, and he eagerly embraces teaching at every possible opportunity. Mackenzie Brooks (DH librarian) shouldered the burden of co-teaching two DH courses with me, and she has demonstrated a remarkable aptitude in working with undergrads and developing her own courses. And thanks to all the librarians at W&L who are contributing to the new minor. The DCI minor is now a significant aspect of library instruction and belongs to all of us. The University Librarian John Tombarge deserves particular thanks for allowing us to even pursue this type of curricular initiative.

A special appreciation goes out to the two people who have served as Mellon DH Fellows at W&L. Brandon Walsh provided essential input into the structure of the minor. Sydney Bufkin thought deeply about the capstone experience and devoted significant effort this past year to co-drafting the proposal.

Thanks to our faculty colleagues who have contributed to DH at W&L and especially to those who provided feedback on the proposal, particularly Sarah Horowitz (History), Toni Locy (Journalism), Steve McCormick (French), and Jon Eastwood (Sociology).  We’re excited for future collaborations with faculty across campus as we make the DCI minor into a suitable complement for any academic major.

Of course, we do this for our students. It’s about them. We’re fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from these students. They make us better teachers.