Introduction to Digital Humanities

Winter 2017 • HIST 698-002
info | readings


This syllabus is a living document and changes frequently, depending on what’s going on in the course, though the general workload will remain more or less as indicated. If you print it out, you’ll need to keep your paper version up to date with the online version.

In general, we will spend the beginning part of classes talking about the assignment due that day, addressing questions or concerns that arose while completing it, troubleshooting, and discussing more technical aspects of the tool/method and its practical utility. Then we’ll move on to the next tool/method with a general introduction, discussion of its potentials and limitations, work through some tutorials, and go over the assignment for the next meeting (and make sure everyone is ready to tackle it).

Very rarely are all readings listed required (though all assignments are); I try to list relevant readings that I think are worth knowing about and allow everyone to focus on what’s most interesting to them and bring their interests and perspectives to our discussions.

Spy on your colleagues

1: Ethos of Digital Humanities / Digital Historiography

Before Class

William Cronon, The Public Practice of History in and for a Digital Age.

Julia Flanders, The Productive Unease of 21st-century Digital Scholarship.

Stephen Ramsay, DH Types One and Two.

Mark Sample, The Digital Humanities Is Not About Building, It’s About Sharing.

Lisa Spiro, “This Is Why We Fight”: Defining the Values of the Digital Humanities

In Class

2: The Command Line

Some of the most powerful tools you might use for digital research and publishing don’t have a GUI (Graphical User Interface) for many reasons that we’ll discuss. If you haven’t used a command line interface before, it can be disorienting, but we’ll try for a very gentle introduction.

If you have Windows, you’ll need to use PowerShell; if you have a Mac, you’ll need to use your Terminal application. For our purposes, they are functionally equivalent.

Before class

Review Sample and Spiro from last week (since we didn’t get to them).

Jim Mussell, “Doing and Making: History as Digital Practice,” in Tony Weller (ed.), History in the Digital Age (London: Routledge, 2013), 79–94.

Read through (but don’t worry about completing) the in-class tutorials beforehand; we’ll go through them in class with some deviations. Please come to class with questions about the terms and concepts so we can be most efficient with our work time.

In class

We’ll work through some basic examples with the Command Line and Pandoc and troubleshoot any issues you run into.

Useful References

GitHub Markdown Reference Guide and a more stylized PDF. This Markdown sandbox allows you to experiment and see what your Markdown will look like in HTML and on a webpage.

If you haven’t found it already, I highly recommend that you use Atom as your text editor.

3: Digital Publishing

We’ll use our new knowledge of the command line and several tutorials to help us install Jekyll (which is what GitHub uses) and manage our websites more easily. First, we’ll talk about different strategies for and reasons why you might want to be more hands on with your own digital presence.

Before class (why you might care about your own website)

It is not necessary to read each of these in great depth, but you should skim through each to take away what you find interesting. This reading list is a bit long simply to provide a number of perspectives and considerations, not because they are all absolutely essential readings.

For your response essay: please comment on what you found attractive or repulsive about the readings in terms of professional identity? Any interesting perspectives you hadn’t considered? Particularly specious arguments? Omissions?

Christopher P. Long, The Googled Graduate Student.

Jentery Sayers, Do You Need Your Own Website while on the Job Market.

Patrick Iber, A Defence of Academic Twitter.

Katrina Gulliver, 10 Commandments of Twitter for Academics.

Chuck Tyron, Blogging, Scholarship, and the Networked Public Sphere.

Kim Barbour and David Marshall, The Academic Online: Constructing Persona Through the World Wide Web.

Also, read through the tutorials below so that you can start to conceptualize what we’ll be doing. Come to class with lots of questions about these, which we can address before we start and as we go. If you’d like to jump into the tutorials and do them, that’s great, but it’s more important to build familiarity with the various tools and steps to get them running.

In class

We’re going to set up our websites locally (that is, on our own computers) so that we don’t have to do everything via GitHub. We’ll install Jekyll, the software that GitHub Pages uses to make our websites (but first we have to install some software that Jekyll requires). The tutorials can get confusing, we’re going to go through them together with some deviations.

For another perspective and for reference, see Keith Miyake, Create Your (FREE) Website Using Github and Jekyll.

Remember: once you start using git on the command line, you can always undo just about anything.

4: Typography + HTML + CSS

Getting a handle on the fundamentals of design and typography goes a long way in improving communication. We’re going to practice typography with our CVs.

Before class

In class

5: Digital Spatial History

Before class

Richard White, What is spatial history?

Anne Kelly Knowles, A More Humane Approach to Digital Scholarship

David J. Bodenhamer, “The Spatial Humanities: Space, Time and Place in the New Digital Age,” in Tony Weller (ed.), History in the Digital Age (London: Routledge, 2013), 23-38.

In class

After we get a little more situated with our portfolios we’ll turn to the mapping articles for this week. Then, playing around with maps:

6: Mapping with QGIS

Before class

I. N. Gregory and A. Hardie, “Visual GISting: Bringing Together Corpus Linguistics and Geographical Information Systems,” Literary and Linguistic Computing 26, no. 3 (2011): 297–314.

Matthew Wilkens, “Geolocation Extraction and Mapping of Nineteenth-Century U.S. Fiction.”

In class

7: GIS and Portfolio Questions

Before class

In class

8: Portfolio Critiques

Before class

In class


9: Text Mining

Under what circumstances are these techniques useful? How can they be used most effectively? We’re going to talk about the different formats of data these tools require, problems moving from one to the other; pros and cons of their various approaches, and whatever you newly discovered about your sources from taking a broad view of your sources/data.

Before class

Skim through some OCR readings

In class

10: Topic Modeling

The best way to get a handle on topic modeling is to read a variety of explanations. Most aren’t very long, and the longest tend to be overviews of topic modeling in practice rather than technical explanations.

Before class

Megan R. Brett, Topic Modeling: A Basic Introduction.

Ted Underwood, Topic Modeling Made Just Simple Enough.

David M. Blei, Topic Modeling and Digital Humanities.

Andrew Goldstone and Ted Underwood, What Can Topic Models of PMLA Teach Us about the History of Literary Scholarship?. For a much and longer and more nuanced development of these ideas, see Andrew Goldstone and Ted Underwood, “The Quiet Transformations of Literary Studies: What Thirteenth Thousand Scholars Could Tell Us.”

Rachel Sagner Buurma, “The Fictionality of Topic Modeling: Machine Reading Anthony Trollope’s Barsetshire Series”

Cameron Blevins, Topic Modeling Martha Ballard’s Diary.

Want more? You’ll find plenty more links to different kinds of articles (and some of the ones above) with Scott Weingart, Topic Modeling for Humanists: A Guided Tour.

In class

11: Network Analysis

Before Class

Scott B. Weingart, Demystifying Networks, Parts I and II.

Elijah Meeks and Maya Krishnan, Introduction to Network Analysis and Representation.

Dmitry Paranyushkin, Identifying the Pathways for Meaning Circulation using Text Network Analysis.

Skim through the documentation for Palladio, especially via the help page.

In Class

12: Critiquing Digital Scholarship

What are the fundamental criteria for critiquing digital history projects? How much does the traditional peer review model need to change to accommodate new types of historical work/projects?

Journal of American History, Digital History Reviews.

Modern Language Association, Guidelines for Evaluating Work in Digital Humanities and Digital Media.

Todd Presner, Evaluating Digital Scholarship.

Cameron Blevins, The New Wave of Review.

Fred Gibbs, “The Poetics of Digital Scholarship,” in Matt Bernico and Manuela Kölke (eds.), Ontic Flows: From Digital Humanities to Posthumanities, 101-122. (New York and Dresden: Atropos Press, 2016).

13: Digital Literacies/Pedagogy

Johanna Drucker, Humanities Approaches to Graphical Display.

John Theibault, Visualizations and Historical Arguments.

Elijah Meeks, Infoviz and New Literacies.

Flowing Data

14: OPEN

15: Loose ends, conclusions, etc.