High Tech with Appeal

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Davidson delves further in to digital studies.

The high-tech, high-touch liberal arts experience unfolding daily at Davidson got a boost this fall with the arrival of a professor who will focus on new teaching and research possibilities offered by digital technologies.

Visiting Associate Professor of Digital Studies Mark Sample joined the faculty Aug. 1.

An early computer aficionado, Sample recalls that his favorite store growing up in Akron, Ohio, was Radio Shack. Yet his academic background is primarily literary.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Ohio’s Miami University, a master’s in communication, culture and technology from Georgetown University, and master’s and doctoral degrees in comparative literature and literary theory from the University of Pennsylvania. Most recently, Sample served as associate professor of English at George Mason University.

Though he never studied programming formally, Sample’s passion for computers has kept pace with technology as well as with his love of literature, from the days of his family’s first home computer in 1982 to co-authorship of 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10 (MIT Press, 2013). The book is about a single line of code that generates a continuously scrolling random maze on the Commodore 64.

10 PRINT is aimed at people who want to better understand the cultural resonance of code,” Sample writes on his blog, Sample Reality. “But it’s also about aesthetics, hardware, typography, randomness, and the birth of home computing.”

At Davidson, Associate Dean for Curriculum Pat Sellers and many others have been considering how to incorporate digital tools, culture and practices across the curriculum. The process got a jump start with a $45,500 Mellon Foundation Grant in 2012. The Davidson community then spent the next six months exploring how leading practitioners nationwide use new technology to investigate questions of innovation in teaching and research.

These days, stakes are high in the marketplace. Digital fluency is critical to students’ success as well as to the success of the institution.

“We want students to create and contribute, not just read, watch, listen and consume,” Sellers said.

Teaching and learning possibilities continue to emerge at an exponential rate since the days when Socrates first expressed his distrust of the newfangled technology of writing.

Said Sellers, “We’re asking new questions we haven’t been able to ask before.”

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About Author

John Syme '85

Senior Writer John Syme graduated from Davidson with a French degree in 1985. After gigs in newspaper, advertising, translation in France and cross-country travel writing in the United States, he returned to alma mater in 2001. He has no immediate plans to graduate again.

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