HACKS are visual interruptions of the Historical Narrative its Social Constructions. Humanities students at SDSU create these pieces of deFORMANCE to critique course material, engage with different ideas, and express their unique VOICE. Their latest work is featured on the American Culture (HUM370) Tumblr.
Inception: HACKS were originally created in the planning process for a digital redesign of History 110 in the fall of 2014. San Diego State University’s Center For Teaching and Learning as well as the CTL Faculty Working Group on Digital Communication sponsored M.A. student Linnea Zeiner’s Digital Humanities expertise to come to this project with the technological vision and knowledge necessary to create new experiential learning activities to coincide with departmental learning outcomes. The “Hack Your World” assignments (later known as HACKS) were designed-digital assignments that were intended to replace traditional quizzes-encouraging undergraduate History students to engage with their world around them in a 21st century way.
Evolution: Following the organic creative process inspired by her inverted classroom, Linnea Zeiner in the early Spring of 2015 developed the HACK as a measurable and creative learning activity for Sections 1 and 2 of History 110 (approximately 60 students). The students own creations served as the approach-architecture to dissect lecture subject matter and secondary-source readings. The constantly evolving blueprint that Linnea created from her student’s work is secondarily rooted in a design called DeFormance, inspired and respectfully borrowed from her Digital Humanities History Mentor, Dr. Michael J. Kramer of Northwestern University. [deFormance], utilizes the inspiration and method of the Dadaists and Surrealists movements, which has been mostly aptly been demonstrated in “zine” culture of the late 20th century in the U.S. [deFormance] is used both in the aesthetic or media disruption, as well in the textual composition of the artifact (Hack).The HACKS at this evolution are a fluctuating design of both [deFormance], and student creativity. It is Linnea Zeiner’s intention for the HACKS to continually be in a see-sawed state of liminality and structure, in order to continue to adhere to prescribed learning outcomes, but to accommodate the creativity and abilities of the students that engage History, by HACKing it.
WTFH (What The Fuck is a HACK): Hacks have many definitions. They are best known for their breaking and entering extensions (Hacking into computer and computer networks). They are also a programming language all their own, a computer science term for solutions to computing problems, and they represent a subculture (counterculture) all their own. In the spirit of their multiple definitions, identities, and deployments, HACKs in this definition are considered to be multi-dimensional attacks on the Historical Narrative; by disrupting the Historical Narrative (HISstory/HERstory/etc) students suspend the traditional one-dimensionality of the traditional History Class and its components (activities, secondary sources, and tests). These ingredients are put under a microscope of the student’s own creation (informed by the recognition of socio-cultural created categories) and are torn apart. TRUTH is a primary casualty, and instead, new interpretations and perspectives are given voice that reflects an intellectual and intimate relationship with gender, race, religion, ethnicity, sexuality, and cultural/counter-cultural identities. Students create their HACKS by directly engaging with media and using Media-Specific Analysis and Digital Humanities Practices to deconstruct historical topics, events, and people. To engage, students use a variety of media such as Mp3s, Mp4s, Jpegs, Pngs, etc. coupled with creative writing, hashtags, and/or ransom statements to create a unique digital artifact that is, on its own, a primary source to interact with. The media used IN the HACK can be altered and manipulated through programs such as Preview or Adobe Photoshop®, or deployed in its original format, to serve as the deconstruction. That HACK is then posted digitally on a technology platform publicly visible, but often has a material life and is “posted” on campus to intersect first and second-dimensional social media spaces. The result of the student’s work is a creation and recapturing of the Ephemeral. By using the digital (sources and publishing platforms) intangibles are recovered and discovered. New voice is given to the Aesthetic experience and social power within the History course and of that classroom, uniquely informed by the student’s own experience and perspective.
Late in the semester of Spring 2015, Linnea created a new assignment inspired by HACKS to incorporate heavier writing skills that demanded Historical knowledge and a demonstration of Digital Humanities analyzation of images. Students in H110 Section 1 & 2 HACKed their own syllabus and voted unanimously to have a new digital assignment to replace a Clicker Quiz (multiple choice) that they had taken earlier in the semester in large lecture. The new assignment, microessay/MACROHACK, named (yelled out) by Linnea’s student Ryan Stamper in Section 1, incorporated the [deFormance] values instilled in the original HACKS and combined a 350 word essay to accompany the digital piece. These assignments were posted digitally to the class blog, and open for comments and insight from other classmates. This assignment was an opportunity to showcase deeper perspectives that were already explored in longer essay assignments, and, most often, a chance to explore something totally new in the historical context of the class, inspired by a media examination by the student.
Reloaded: On May 12, 2015, Linnea Zeiner presented her History 110 Student’s work and the digital redesign of her two sections at the CTL Digital Pedagogy Showcase at San Diego State’s Love Library. As the only student member and presenter (the rest of the showcases were presented by faculty) utilizing multi-modal platforms of presentation, this was an exciting opportunity to share the hard work of creative students. The showcase was interactive, displaying student HACKS and microessay/MACROHACKS materially and digitally with selected student projects explained by their creators and video-recorded. These projects and interviews will serve as HACKs Reloaded 1.0; an interactive rubric and approach-architecture that Linnea plans to take forward into future teaching projects. In this way, student HACKs and their own explanation-rubrics and interpretations will serve as the creative benchmark for a new cohort of students to explore their perspective of History.
Evolution 2.0: HACKing The Humanities Lesson
HACKS were introduced on October 24, 2015, to SDSU’s NEH Level I Start-Up grant, Building and Strengthening Digital Humanities Through a Regional Network. HACKS became the focus of the Hacking the Humanities Lesson Working Group, transforming HACKS into learning activities for a variety of Humanities classes at different higher-learning institutions in the San Diego area.