Beyond buttonology: Digital humanities, digital pedagogy, and the ACRL Framework

John E. Russell, Merinda Kaye Hensley


There is a danger with digital humanities instruction of falling into the trap of buttonology. By buttonology, we do not mean the study of buttons, nor do we intend the derision of August Strindberg, who, in his story “The Isle of the Blessed,” coined the word buttonology to mock scholarly pedantry.

Buttonology is, in its simplest terms, software training that surveys different features of an interface in an introductory manner. In a library one-shot, teaching the library discovery system or showing how to perform an advanced search in a database would be buttonology. Knowing how to upload texts into a tool like Voyant does not help researchers think about what texts should be uploaded, how selecting data relates to a research question, or even what constitutes an effective research question. This type of teaching does not encourage critical thinking, yet digital humanities instruction, in our experience, is frequently focused on showing how to use software rather than reflect on the broader context.

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Copyright John E. Russell, Merinda Kaye Hensley

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