Teaching Digitally with the ARSP

By David Stowe
Professor in Religious Studies, Michigan State University

Having been involved in the first stages of what has developed into the American Religious Sounds Project, what excites me most about the latest iteration of the archive is its potential for use in the classroom. The homepage features a Teaching Resources pulldown that includes seven class activities.

Last fall my colleague Amy DeRogatis brought to my attention Activity 1, which asks students to listen to sounds from the Archive and classify them into three categories: sounds that are religious, sounds that may be, and sounds they think are not religious. Then, explain and compare their choices in the full group. I used this toward the beginning of the semester and was pleased by the results, as students recorded their choices on the board and explained their thinking.

ARSP First Runner-Up "Best DH Pubic Engagement"

We are thrilled to announce that we have been named 1st runner up in the category of "Best DH Public Engagement” in this year's Digital Humanities Awards! 

Thanks to the DH Awards and to those who voted for us, and congratulations to the winner, "Representations of Cyprus." 

The other winners this year were:

Upcoming ARSP Exhibitions

The ARSP team visits a Columbus arts venue.

We're excited to announce that in 2021, the ARSP will launch two public exhibitions about religion and sound. The first, an immersive audio installation, will be staged at a Columbus (OH) arts venue, and will officially open in conjunction with the ARSP 2021 Sound and Religion Symposium. Additionally, we will partner with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service to create a poster exhibit about the ARSP that will be available for display -- and listening! -- at venues around the world.

ARSP at the 2019 AAR


From left: Lauren Pond, Caroline Toy, Rosalind Hackett, Finnian M. M. Gerety, Alison Furlong, Amy DeRogatis, and Isaac Weiner

In November, the ARSP team traveled to San Diego, California, for the American Academy of Religion (AAR) Annual Meeting. Each November, the AAR conference brings together thousands of scholars, journalists, artists, publishers, and others from around the world for several days of workshops, panel discussions, and exhibits.

This year, with the generous support of the Luce Foundation, the ARSP was excited to be able to sponsor a pre-conference workshop about religion and sound. Throughout the day, approximately 25 participants heard from presenters including:

New ARSP Partners Meet!

On October 24, the ARSP leadership team gathered at OSU for an all-day workshop with our four newest partners. Jake Johnson (Oklahoma City University) has already begun working with his students on the project this term, and in Spring 2020 he will be joined by Harold Morales (Morgan State University), Pierce Salguero (Penn State Abington), and Homayra Ziad (Johns Hopkins University).

Over the course of the day we discussed numerous aspects of managing the project from audio recording and editing to tagging and uploading materials into our archive. We shared experiences of incorporating digital humanities projects into our courses and discussed how best to support our students as well as the communities they study.

Demonstrations in Cleveland during the 2016 Republican National Convention

Safe and Productive Field Research

This summer and fall, the ARSP staff have been working on revising the materials we provide to coordinators at sites that are joining the project, including our manual of best practices. The manual covers everything from the project philosophy to recording technology to strategies for introducing undergraduates to ethnography via sound. Alongside that, we’ve also given a lot of thought to the ethical implications of our work. One practical ethical concern we’ve been thinking about lately is how to ensure that our students have productive, safe learning experiences in the field. In this blog post, ARSP Project Coordinator Alison Furlong and Graduate Project Manager Caroline Toy talk about keeping fieldworkers safe.

Alison: Obviously, there’s a difference between keeping students safe and becoming paranoid or over-protective.

Kate Topham

Kate Topham joins ARSP as Digital Archivist

We are delighted to announce that, effective June 26, Kate Topham will be joining the American Religious Sounds Project in the role of Digital Archivist! Kate is uniquely qualified for this position, having just graduated from the University of Michigan’s School of Information with a MSI in Digital Curation and Archives and Records Management. Past projects include the “Michigan Latin Archive,” a digital exhibition of materials on Latin education at Michigan, and  “Music Time in Africa,” a tool to visualize data from recordings of the Music Time in Africa radio program, including interactive map and word cloud visualizations. Besides her 50% appointment with ARSP, she will be an Academic Specialist in DH@MSU, which includes faculty, staff, and students across the university and is housed in the College of Arts and Letters.

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