Humanities on Demand

Humanities on Demand
2012 to 2013
Emerging Networks

Most humanities faculty members unilaterally determine the themes, authors, books, blogs, and other materials to appear in an undergraduate level syllabus. Conversely, within most humanities classrooms, the same faculty members apply a more student-centered approach, where students are viewed not as passive receptacles of instructional data but as active contributors.  The conveners of this project could think of no sound pedagogical reason for summarily rejecting student input at the course-building phase. Consequently, they constructed a cutting-edge website that provided students with the opportunity to suggest material for their pilot course, Humanities on Demand: Narratives Gone Viral. Approximately six months before this course opened for enrollment, undergraduate students – whether they planned on enrolling in the course or not – were invited to visit theHumanities on Demand website (see snapshot below) and suggest course content befitting the class subject (see course description/content submission guidelines).

In the pilot course, two primary instructors interrogated narrative’s innumerable modes – literary, religious, historical, musical, political, mechanical, and digital – and, in so doing, introduced students to critical methods humanists employ to analyze them. Throughout the semester, project collaborators were invited to provide targeted presentations. Some of the questions asked included: What does it mean when something “goes viral”? Why do some narratives rapidly reach a high level of distribution in society and culture, and not others? What are the typical properties of these viral narratives? Do our stories conform to a few underlying fundamental structures or represent an irreducible plurality? How do different means of transmission shape the way we tell stories, their content and meaning?

In order to make this an integrated exploration of narrative, they asked students to upload narratives that they found meaningful, amusing, perplexing, and/or interesting. Online submissions chosen by the faculty were combined with already established course materials.


Benedikt Bscher
undergraduate student, Economics
Cavan Concannon
ACLS New Faculty Fellow, Religion and Classical Studies
Tomas A. Matza
ACLS New Faculty Fellow, Cultural Anthropology and Slavic and Eurasian Studies
Jakob Norberg
Assistant Professor of Germanic Languages and Literature
Michael P. Ryan
ACLS New Faculty Fellow, German Studies and the Program in Literature
Alex Schulman
ACLS New Faculty Fellow, Political Science
Andrew Stershic
Graduate Student, Civil Engineering
Shannon Withycombe
ACLS New Faculty Fellow, History


"Crowdsourcing" the Humanities
"Crowdsourcing" the Humanities
-- May 21 2013

One of the early projects supported by Humanities Writ Large, Humanities on Demand, allowed ACLS Fellow and Visiting Assistant Professor Michael P. Ryan the chance to experiment with students... Read More

Humanities Writ Large word cloud
What are you watching, listening to, thinking about, obsessing over?
-- Oct 8 2012

What video have you been watching obsessively on YouTube? What meme popped up on your Facebook feed today for the hundredth time? What crazy forwarded email did you get from your grandmother... Read More