Digital Futures of History

Winter 2017 • HIST 399-006
info | readings


This syllabus is still under construction and changes frequently. You can, however, consider this a generally accurate guide to the topics the course will cover and the kinds of activities we’ll be doing.


  • MW 2:30 - 4 @ 1469 Mason Hall
  • Fred Gibbs ( @ 1703 Haven Hall
  • Office Hours: W 1:30-2:30 & 4-5; Th 12-1.

Course Description

This interdisciplinary course explores the effects of the digital age on producing and consuming history. The questions that we will try to answer:

  • How are historians adapting research and publication practices to use digitized archives and historical data?
  • How does technology shape our access to the past?
  • How does the Web change the kinds and forms of history that should be produced?
  • How does the Web (and resources like Wikipedia) change perceptions of history?
  • How much can new media (which is always new), serve the aims of history?
  • How can historians engage with these methods to improve information literacy?

In addressing these questions, we’ll draw from contemporary readings in history, public history, historiography, digital humanities, literary studies, media studies, and library and museum studies. Along with our readings, we will investigate a variety of digital history, archival, and journalistic projects that feature various digital methods (such as topic modeling, mapping, data visualization, and so on). We’ll critique the various facets of these projects (data, design, interface, utility, etc.) to understand the technologies and data involved. Based on this work, we’ll collaboratively design and publish a website that showcases our rigorous reviews of these digital projects.

Student Learning Outcomes

  • Think critically about how history is produced, disseminated, and consumed in the digital age.

  • Appreciate the theoretical possibilities and practical limitations of digital archives and new research and publishing technologies.

  • Begin to experiment with new tools, workflows, methods, and techniques for large-scale research questions in history.

Work Requirements and Grading

  • Thorough preparedness and engaged participation in every class meeting. This is a class that’s focused on discussing and making things, not just memorizing and regurgitating information. (50%)

  • Serious effort and on-time completion of the many class assignments. Some of these are critical website or project reviews, others are slightly more technical challenges (no prior experience required), others are design challenges. We also do considerable peer review in the class, and you are graded on those efforts as well. (50%)

While I try to provide feedback throughout the semester, particularly on the various assignments, you are heartily encourage to speak with me at any time to learn what I think of your performance in the class and how it can be improved (if at all).


  • Keith Jenkins, Rethinking History 3rd. ed. ISBN: 978-0415304436 amazon
  • Ellen Lupton, Thinking with Type 2nd. ed. ISBN: 978-1568989693 amazon; (also online here)

You will also need to subscribe to the course Zotero library to access assigned articles. This will be discussed in class, but for reference, please see the instructions for connecting. The URL for the group library is, but you must have clicked on the link in your invitation to access the library!