(Below is just the abstract.)

Below is the information we submitted for our session proposal, including short biographies and description of the panel. If we are accepted we plan to post the papers and link to resources here.

Detailed Description:

Drawing on the idea that Habermas’ public sphere is an as yet unachieved ideal, scholars such as Nancy Fraser and Michael Warner have argued for the need to recognize alternative or parallel publics. Amid discourses regarding the value of the humanities, this session takes for granted that digital tools and platforms may be combined with engaged civic pedagogy to facilitate counterpublic formation for marginalized populations, activist organizations, and community outreach.

Each of these papers presents a project which argues, in one form or another, that a different type of pedagogical experience is produced by involving students in “making” and “doing” things which engage social spaces beyond the walls of the classroom or the time allotment for the class. This is an experience which not only enhances the students’ learning but seeks to actively engage the public, re-imagining the space academia might inhabit in 21st century education and civic discourse.

Presenters will explain the structure of their specific project as well as articulate the pedagogical and community theory informing the practice. Each paper will be limited to 10 minutes, as one of the goals of the session is to provoke a discussion regarding future projects, and to answer questions about successes and failures of these types of endeavors.

Lee Skallerup Bessette, “Ed Reform by Undergrads: Giving Rural Students a Voice”

Skallerup teaches at Morehead State University, in the heart of Appalachia. According to the Federal statistics, every county in Morehead State’s service area is either “distressed” or “at risk.” Rural Eastern Kentucky schools have low graduation rates and low test scores and Kentucky ranks 40th out of 50 states for high-speed internet access. All of this adds up to a population of students who come to Morehead State underprepared, unfamiliar (at best), and uncomfortable with (or even hostile to) technology.

Skallerup’s goal with her students was to both get them to think critically about their educational experiences thus far, as well as familiarize them with the power of a limited number of digital tools. She created a space ( for the students to publish op-eds addressing education reform. The assignment gave students a more public voice for their dissatisfaction over their educational experiences. The quality of their work, as well as their confidence, was noticeably stronger, and the site continues to receive a strong number of visits per month.

Matthew K. Gold & Emily Sherwood, “From MOOC to POOC: Plurality, Participation, and JustPublics”

The JustPublics@365 ( initiative seeks to create informed citizens by acknowledging that issues of inequality cannot be addressed by the media, academics, social activists, community leaders, or policy makers who work in isolation. Instead, “hybrid” practitioners, who combine the best of these worlds, must work together for the public good.

To this end, one of the main components of JustPublics@365 is an open online course, “Reassessing Inequality & Reimagining the 21st Century: East Harlem Focus.” Rather than build upon the MOOC model, which emphasizes massiveness of scale, we underline the necessity of deep participation and collaboration in education and activism. Our Participatory Open Online Course (POOC) has as its central goal the creation of a space that fosters multiple levels of engagement and dialogue with multiple publics around issues of inequality in East Harlem.

Through an emphasis on participatory, interdisciplinary, and public dialogue, JustPublics@365 pushes against the boundaries of (digital) humanities practice and points towards multiple possible futures for collaborative research and public debate, ultimately fostering academic work that harnesses digital media, research, and teaching in the service of social change.

Aimée Knight, A Beautiful Social Collaborative

In the digital media collaborative, Beautiful Social (, students perform the public work of digital literacy instruction to co-create social media strategies with nonprofits and community based organizations. In its first two years, students have run more than 45 projects, free of charge in the Philadelphia area. Beautiful Social fosters a sustainable, economical, and effective model for teaching and learning where organizations receive free assistance and students gain real experience.

While working with clients, students learn useful digital skills including how to engage and build communities online. Perhaps more importantly, however, students learn how to link self to others and develop a sense of place in their communities and in the broader world.

This way of learning changes the ways students think about the technology they (already) use. As creators and designers, they see that what they create fosters specific cultural values. They see that what they make is a reflection of their own ethics. Like community literacy scholar Jeff Grabill, Knight understands this kind of work to be “a type of civic rhetoric for those who write with advanced information communication technologies (ICT) for community action – including our students” – whom he calls the civic rhetors of the 21st century.

Kim A. Knight, “Fashioning Alternative Publics: Student Maker Spaces”

 Knight will discuss Fashioning Circuits, a project in the Emerging Media and Communication program at UT Dallas. Coursework for Fashioning Circuits is completed through independent studies in which students read and discuss theories of fashion, gender, and global labor. Students perform critical analysis of wearable media on a group blog ( and produce wearable media objects, most commonly with the open source Lilypad arduino. Knight’s presentation will focus on how the project helps students envision themselves as makers. The supportive and inclusive environment in which all participants are amateurs dedicated to co-learning fashions an alternative public that draws upon the ideals of Pierre Lévy’s “collective intelligence” while challenging dominant discourses of hyper-masculine brogrammer culture.

 Knight suggests that students are learning through processes of experimentation and failure while in a state of distraction, similar to that described by Walter Benjamin in “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” In addition to their own practice, students extend the project beyond the classroom by participating in community workshops and summer camps introducing young girls to making and coding through electronic fashion.

Information on Panelists:

Lee Skallerup Bessette is the co-founder of #FYCchat, a Twitter-chat for those teaching Freshman Composition. Her blog, College Ready Writing, which started as a blog about her experiences teaching writing, is now housed at She has written about issues of technology and pedagogy in Hybrid Pedagogy, including on issues facing rural students. Dr. Skallerup Bessette has taught at public universities that serve traditionally under-represented populations in three states. Her PhD is in Comparative Literature, and she is currently an English instructor at Morehead State University, Kentucky.

Matthew K. Gold is Associate Professor of English and Digital Humanities at City Tech and the Graduate Center, CUNY. At the Graduate Center, he holds teaching appointments in the Ph.D. Program in English, the M.A. in Liberal Studies Program (MALS), and the Interactive Technology and Pedagogy Doctoral Certificate Program, and he serves as Advisor to the Provost for Master’s Programs and Digital Initiatives, Acting Executive Officer of MALS, Director of the CUNY Academic Commons, Co-Director of the CUNY Digital Humanities Initiative, and Director of the GC Digital Scholarship Lab. He is editor of Debates in the Digital Humanities (University of Minnesota,2012) and has published work in The Journal of Modern Literature, Kairos, and On the Horizon, as well as in the edited collections Digital Humanities Pedagogy: Practices, Principles and Politics (Open Book Publishers, 2012), From A to : Keywords of Markup (University of Minnesota, 2010), and Learning Through Digital Media: Experiments in Technology and Pedagogy (iDC, 2010). His digital humanities projects, including “Looking for Whitman,” “Commons In A Box,” and “JustPublics@365” have been supported by grants from the NEH Office of Digital Humanities, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the Ford Foundation. He was recently elected to the Executive Council of the Association for Computers and the Humanities. He can be found at and on twitter @mkgold.

Aimée Knight is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Saint Joseph’s University. Aimée received her B.A. in English from Michigan State University, her M.A. in Central and Eastern European Studies from Jagiellonian University, and her PhD in Rhetoric and Writing from Michigan State University. With a field concentration in Digital Rhetoric, Aimée’s teaching and research focus on rhetoric and technology, digital composing, and visual rhetoric. In addition to her teaching and research, her many civic engagement projects include the Beautiful Social Collaborative, TEDxSJU, Peace Corps, Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World), PhotoVoice and Michigan State University’s Public Humanities Collaborative.

Kim A. Knight is an Assistant Professor of Emerging Media and Communication at University of Texas at Dallas. Her research broadly centers on technology and social media in relation to art, identity, politics, and education. More specifically, her current book project, Media Epidemics: Viral Structures in Literature and New Media, addresses the role of digital media as it circulates outside of broadcast paradigms and empowers or oppresses subjects in network society. She also has multiple research projects in progress on the topic of gendered identity and digital media, including her blog The Spiral Dance ( Knight is a reviewer for Digital Humanities Quarterly, has curated for In Media Res, and has multiple entries in the forthcoming Johns Hopkins Guide to Digital Humanities. She can be found on Twitter as @purplekimchi.

David Parry is an Associate Professor of Emerging Media and Communication at the University of Texas at Dallas. His work focuses on analyzing how literacy and knowledge change as we move from analog to digital structures, and more importantly how these changes disrupt our traditional knowledge institutions. He has published on digital pedagogy, the future of academic publishing, and reaching the public through digital scholarship. He has been a featured speaker at Open Access events and keynoted the Computers in Writing Conference in 2012. He regularly blogs at on practicing an engaged digital scholarship and pedagogy. He can be found online at and on Twitter as @academicdave.

Emily Sherwood a Doctoral Candidate in the Ph.D. Program in English at the Graduate Center, CUNY, Emily holds an Instructional Technology Fellowship from Macaulay Honors College and is the Project Assistant for JustPublics@365. Her teaching experience includes courses in Early British Literature, Shakespeare, and Shakespeare on Film at Hunter College. Emily is a member of the planning committee for the Society for the Study of Women in the Renaissance. Her chapter “Words meet Worlds: Multi-Media Digital Contextualization in the Classroom” is forthcoming in Old Words New Tools: Shakespeare’s Language in Digital Media. Her dissertation focuses on ways that women define themselves beyond the socially privileged category of wife in medieval and early modern literature and culture. She can be found on Twitter @emilygwynne and