The Computational Literary Studies Debate: Thoughts from the Fall 2019 Class, Writing in Digital Humanities

Digital Humanities: Literature That Even Millennial College Students Can Read

Computational Literary Studies (CLS) connects the humanities and literature to the digital world. It is the bridge between two distinct fields and shows how computers can be used to create new methods of analyzing and understanding literature. According to Wan Ng, an associate professor from the University of Technology in Sydney, “digital literacy is the awareness, attitude and ability of individuals to appropriately use digital tools and facilities to identify, access, manage, integrate, evaluate, analyze and synthesize digital resources, construct new knowledge, create media expressions, and communicate with others, in the context of specific life situations, in order to enable constructive social action; and to reflect upon this process (Ng 3).” However a question remains of whether or not digital literacy actually improves one’s understanding of the humanities. Is it truly accurate? How will digital literacy be implemented in the classroom? Many studies have been enacted in order to prove the importance of CLS and how it can be taught and applied in a classroom setting.

Wan Ng’s piece called “Can we teach digital natives digital literacy?” provides evidence to the fact that digital literacy can be taught to others and be useful. The work is described by the author personally as a focus “on digital literacy development as the underlying principle for eLearning, that is, the equipping of students with a repertoire of tools and cognitive capabilities to help them live in a technologically oriented society that would inevitably require them to be able to adopt new technologies or adapt to changes to existing technologies (Ng 13).” This journal piece discusses if digital natives from later generations are aware of educational technology and how it affects the way people learn. “Technologies unless they are introduced to them and/or there is a need to use them for a useful purpose. The ability of digital natives to embrace information and communication technologies (ICT), in particular the use of mobile phones and social media technology, means that they possess a certain level of digital literacy (Ng 2).” This quote depicts why it is important and possible that people who grew up surrounded by technology can and should learn about computational literary studies. The undergraduate students included in this study were analyzed for their experience with technology and how they can learn and use it as a resource for their own projects. It found that the students were able to easily use the unfamiliar tech but did not understand how to come up with an opportunity on their own to use it properly. 

"Technologies unless they are introduced to them and/or there is a need to use them for a useful purpose. The ability of digital natives to embrace information and communication technologies (ICT), in particular the use of mobile phones and social media technology, means that they possess a certain level of digital literacy( Ng 2)"

It has been debated whether or not if digital literacy is a good idea and how it will affect education in the future. However, this journal takes a dive into the question that if digital literacy can even be taught to people who have grown up in the dot-com revolution. The article also described the importance of teachers also adapting to the computational literacy tools. According to Ng, “an implication of the study is that educators need to have knowledge of the affordances the various technological tools offer that are beneficial for their own teaching and their students’ learning. They will also need to know how to use the tools and model their uses or explicitly teach their students about the technologies and their uses (Ng 13).” These students knew how to use the technology but did not know the proper resources in which technology could be used for its potential. This proves that digital literacy can be effective, especially for the students who grew up in the dot-com revolution.

While “Can we teach digital natives digital literacy?”, discusses the possibility of  teaching literacy, Yu-Liang Ting’s  “Tapping into Students' Digital Literacy and Designing Negotiated Learning to Promote Learner Autonomy” gives an overview and results of how digital literacy can be implemented in a university setting as well as how it can connect to the real world and one’s personal experience. Ting’s journal takes a different look into whether or not digital literacy would be effective by comparing it to a student’s school curriculum. Thirty-six university students from an engineering multimedia course were evaluated and analyzed. The goal of the experiment was to see if digital literacy skills developed outside the classroom can help students learn how to implement them in an educational setting.  According to the article, there is some negativity in the computational literacy and stresses the importance of finding a proper educational platform. “That is, the proposed learning design has negative impact on students' attitude toward self-developing a plan to satisfy their learning. In one-to-one interviews, students mentioned that the tasks they had to finish in this study involved much work and successful completion of the assigned tasks would require good planning and group work (Ting).” Making the program as appealing and encouraging towards self-studying is vital to ensuring that digital literacy can be implemented. They are also attempting to connect the school’s learning plan to digital literacy skills to find a balance in which they can be connected to improve learning.


This research journal by Ting reflects an interesting perspective on how to implement digital literacy. Unlike other journals, it describes how the skills of students can be improved.  “Given the digital natives' autonomy in developing this kind of digital literacy, the attitude aspect of autonomy and skill aspect of digital literacy should be explored for their educational potential as more and more ICT tools are available to them (Ting).” This quote  provides the reasoning towards the possibilities in educational potential. This would be helpful in a paper to prove how digital literacy could be useful in classroom settings by providing evidence of a successful implementation. However, the journal can be very tedious and hard to follow. It also contains a repetitive abstract which lacks a proper thesis.  

The evidence presented through the studies done by Lu-Liang Ting and Wag Ng proved the hypothesis that digital literacy can be useful in a class setting. It also shows how it can be implemented and  what type of demographic it would be helpful for. CLS is the future of literature. These studies could someday become the foundation for a new use for technology that will forever affect the way one analyzes the humanities. 


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