Digital Fluencies 01: Databases

Please join us for lunch on Wednesday, April 4th, from 12 pm-1:30 pm in the CTLR Lounge for the first meeting in our Digital Fluencies series. Sign up below to receive link to PDFs of readings and so we know how much lunch to order.

Digital Fluencies 01: Databases

Databases undergird almost every digital project, platform, interface, and tool; but not all databases are alike. How might we better understand what databases are—and what they can be—as core components of digital liberal arts scholarship? How can becoming more fluent in database design improve the digital liberal arts? We’ll gather to explore the topic. Faculty, students, and staff at all levels are welcome to attend participate regardless of digital skills.

READINGS (pdfs provided through sign up below):

N. Katherine Hayles, “Databases,” in How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012), 37-40

Lev Manovich, “Database as Symbolic Form,” Convergence 5, 80 (1999), 80-99

Christiane Paul, “The Database As System and Cultural Form: Anatomies of Cultural Narratives,” in Database Aesthetics: Art in the Age of Information Overflow, ed. Viktorija Vesna Bulajic (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007), 95-109


Sarah Whitwell, “Resistance, Racialized Violence, and Database Design,” Sherman Centre for Digital Scholarship, McMaster University, 26 February 2018

Matthew E. Davis, “The Database as a Methodological Tool,” Digital Medievalist, 10 August 2017

Matthew Lincoln, “Best Practices for Using Google Sheets in Your Data Project,” Matthew Lincoln, PhD Art History and Digital Research Blog, 26 March 2018

Hadley Wickham, “Tidy Data,” The Journal of Statistical Software 59 (2014)


Ryan Clement, Data Services Librarian, will lead us through a comparison of two different database structures, how they have been used and why they were chosen as a way to consider how we might use databases more critically in digital liberal arts projects.


Michael J. Kramer, “It’s All Related: Thinking About Flat File & Relational Databases@ Digital Fluencies 01”

What Is the Digital Fluencies Series?

The Digital Fluencies Series investigates what it means to develop more critical facility and engagement with digital technologies. Meetings usually combine 1-3 readings (a link to materials will be provided when necessary) and a case study for hands-on exploration. Faculty, students, and staff at all levels are welcome to attend participate regardless of digital skills. Upcoming topics include: Bots, Data, Platforms, Archives, Gender in Code, Digital Racism, Open Access, Podcasting, Remix, Publishing and Peer Review, Animation, Glitching and Deformance Tactics, Memes, Web Design, the Template, Data Visualization, GIS and Spatial Data/Thinking, and User Experience. Feel free as well to suggest a topic as well. Co-sponsored by DLA, CTLR, Davis Library, and DLINQ. Organized by Leanne Galletly, User Experience & Digital Scholarship Librarian, and Michael J. Kramer, Assistant Professor of the Practice, Digital History/Humanities and Associate Director of the Digital Liberal Arts Initiative.

Flier PDF.

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What Is Digital Fluency & Why Does It Matter?: Some Initial Explorations

By Bob Cole, Exploratory Initiatives and Partnerships, DLINQ

Cross-posted from This Week in DLINQ: March 12-16, 2018.

On Tuesday, March 13, Amy Collier (Associate Provost for Digital Learning), Mike Roy (Dean of the Library), and Bob Cole (DLINQ Exploratory Initiatives & Partnerships) convened faculty and staff at the College and at the Institute via video conference to explore critical digital fluency. The Academic Roundtable/DLA Behind the Scenes event was co-sponsored by the Center for Teaching, Learning & Research (CTLR), the Digital Liberal Arts initiative (DLA), and the Office of Digital Learning & Inquiry (DLINQ).

Amy Collier kicked off the session by first problemetizing the web as a place that is highly networked and “platformed” via hyperlinks, syndicated content, and black-box algorithms. She emphasized that the web isn’t neutral. In fact, much of the web that we and our students experience through social networks and mainstream news sites is highly consolidated and centralized. With a critical lens we begin to understand that there are systemic biases hard-coded into the digital platforms we frequent which are driven by private commercial interests. Where we find examples of digital platforms serving as places of social connection and public dialog, we also find as many cases where the same platforms have enabled the intentional weaponization of information by bad actors.

Amy discussed her teaching—in which she brings students into contact with critical digital fluency through a variety of focused investigations of truth and trust in digital spaces inspired by Mike Caulfield’s work on digital polarization and web literacy for students as fact checkers. The framework for these investigations invites students to practice what Caulfield calls “the four moves” of verifying claims found online in news feeds and social networks. The trustworthiness of news stories, memes, videos, and websites can be further interrogated by introducing students to fact-checking sites like Snopes and web tools like reverse Google image search,, the fake news codex, and that help reveal metadata about information sources and creators. A result of these critical investigations is a heightened awareness of the structural issues that shape trust in our digital environments and how, without a critical disposition, we may be complicit in the spread of misinformation.

The session closed with small groups considering a variety of statements describing concepts like information literacy, digital fluency, and digital citizenship while making important connections with disciplinary studies of intercultural competence and cultural media literacy. Although the groups did not reach a consensus on a definition of critical digital fluency, DLINQ initiatives like “Information Environmentalism” led by Amy Collier and the forthcoming “Digital Fluencies” workshop series led by Michael J. Kramer and Leanne Galletly offer examples of emerging ways Middlebury is critically exploring the digital.

Request access to the google slides from the roundtable.