Introduction to Digital Humanities

Winter 2017 • HIST 698-002
info | readings

Spy on your colleagues

Angelica, Imani, Jonathan, Josh, Kaitlyn, Marisol, Nicholas, Paula, Sarah, Scott

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.

  • Zotero, Zotfile, and Dropbox
  • Review of previous technologies and a few related examples.
  • Brief introduction to GitHub Desktop and review of branches.
  • We are going to work through Amanda Visconti, Building a static website with Jekyll and GitHub Pages. There is some review of what we did last time, so it should seem familiar, and you can skip some of the steps. Follow the relevant Mac or Windows instructions when they diverge under the “Installing Dependencies” section. - Stop at the “Setting up Jekyll” section because we’ve already got a website to connect to.
  • We won’t be using the automatic blog feature of Jekyll for now, so you should read through that section, but don’t worry about doing it.

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

  • Zotero, Zotfile, and Dropbox (neglected last time)
  • Command line + pandoc review; ImageMagick
  • GitHub Desktop tour
  • Using branches to edit your CV
  • Using git on the command line
  • Review and clarify the HTML and CSS tutorials
  • Fork demo repository for sample code
  • Jekyll, Markdown, HTML, CSS localhost review
  • Introduction to Jekyll includes and templates
  • CSS Frameworks (like
  • Begin fleshing out and styling your own site/pages
    • Home (
    • About
    • 698-Portfolio
    • CV
  • Start playing with more complex web frameworks (like Bootstrap)

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

  • Zotero, Zotfile, and Dropbox (neglected last time, again)
  • Using branches for working copies of files
  • More on Jekyll layouts and themes
    • Default installation and minima theme.
    • Creating your own layouts to minimize maintenance
  • Using and learning from CSS Frameworks (like skeleton)
  • Continue fleshing out and styling your own site/pages
    • Home (
    • About
    • 698-Portfolio
    • CV
  • Start getting familiar with more complex web frameworks (like Bootstrap)

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.”

  • So as not to lose your hard-earned knowledge from last time, continue fleshing out and styling your own site/pages. Don’t be afraid about breaking anything. You should break stuff. Remember, you can use branches to keep good working copies of your files as you experiment.
  • Complete the Google Maps tutorial. Compared to what you’ve been doing, this is going to be SO EASY.
  • Download and install QGIS.
  • MAC USERS: When you open the disk image that you download, you’ll see 4 .pkg files that you must install in the order they are numbered.

In class

  • Jekyll gems themes review
  • Layouts and includes review
  • CSS frameworks and boilerplates (like skeleton or milligram)
  • Consider the Nav Bar (like
  • Readings discussion
  • Google Maps and Earth questions
  • More on historic maps in Google Earth
  • Troubleshoot any installation issues and go over the QGIS interface and other basic GIS concepts.

  • Web map tools/resources to be aware of:

7: GIS and Portfolio Questions

Before class

  • Gergely Baics, Mapping as Process: Food Access in Nineteenth-Century New York.
  • Scan through 3-5 Humanities GIS Projects. It’s a mixed bag. They may be defunct, overly technical, totally confusing, or kind of awesome. Be prepared to highlight for everyone else the intriguing and questionable features of the sites you explored. Questions to keep in mind:
    • How does mapping/GIS figure into the project? Is it necessary?
    • What kind of data is being used? Where is it from? Is it accessible or reusable?
    • How much does the design of the site matter in taking it seriously?
    • How would you rate its usability?
  • Work on your portfolios! Keep in mind the criteria below. In general, aim to do simple things well. See how simple you can make your site, but with a clear and consistent design aesthetic (and required content, of course). Bring questions to class! This is your best chance to get technical help before you are largely on your own before the portfolio review. It’s also usually the case that people benefit from hearing explanations even if they haven’t encountered or care about that particular issue at that time; so it’s good for us to do this together.

In class

  • GIS Project critiques and discussion
  • Portfolio questions (includes, layouts, HTML, CSS, Markdown, typography, design, etc)
  • Work through 3 simple Mapping with QGIS tutorials
  • For future reference, you get stuck or have questions, consult the QGIS Training Manual, the QGIS wiki, and an array of tutorials
  • MapBox Demo and data movement
  • Start your own maps (for your portfolio). When gathering and organizing data, you might consider using Google Sheets or Airtable (read through the introductory guide or watch the 12-min. intro video) to organize your data. You can use Excel, but ultimately you need to get your data into CSV format, which Excel does not do well, especially with non-English characters. Airtable is especially good for helping you (and others) create normalized data (so you won’t have something like “Detroit” in some places and “detroit, MI” in other places.)

8: Portfolio Critiques

Before class

  • Work on your portfolios! Keep in mind the criteria below. In general, aim to do simple things well. See how simple you can make your site, but with a clear and consistent design aesthetic (and required content, of course).

In class

  • Part 3 of the QGIS tutorials (geo-rectifying and overlaying images)
  • MapBox Demo and data movement
  • Portfolio critiques. You’ll show off your portfolio for the rest of the class and explain what you’re trying to do and where you’ve had trouble. There are two main goals here: 1) to have a deadline to keep portfolios moving forward; 2) get ideas from other people (from their own sites as well as questions/comments). Questions we will address in class for each site:
    • Existence of basic pages and content
    • Is there a consistent layout and navigation scheme?
    • Typographic crimes? Consistency?
    • Where does the design help or hinder the site and content?
    • What is extraneous? What is missing?


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, and the pros and cons of their various approaches.

Before class

Skim through some OCR readings

We won’t be discussing OCR correction in great detail, but you should be aware of the various challenges it presents and how people are dealing with it.

In class

10: Topic Modeling

The best way to get a handle on topic modeling is to read a variety of explanations. Most are pretty short, and the longest tend to be overviews of topic modeling in practice rather than technical explanations.

Before class

In class

  • Install and use MALLET to topic model some of your sources.
  • As you get some results, you’ll want to consult this guide on interpreting results.
  • Load up some of your sources into Overview, and compare what you can learn from “raw” topic modeling with MALLET and Overview’s presentation of your documents.
  • Create a timeline with Timeline Curator
  • Create a timeline with TimelineJS
  • Demo on structured data and Bookworm

11: Network Analysis

Before Class

In Class

  • Create data (remember: the process, not the data is important here) and create a network graph with Palladio
  • Download, install, and model texts with Gephi, using Martin Grandjean, Introduction to Network Analysis and Visualization. You might also consult another set of tutorials for additional perspectives.
  • As usual, our goal in surveying the tools is not methodological expertise in a week, but to understand the process of creating data, the basic functionality, and the better evaluate how it’s used in the real world.

12: Critiquing Digital Scholarship

At least in my review, critical discourse about digital humanities projects remains impoverished compared to its analog counterparts.

13: Digital Literacies/Pedagogy

Today we’ll explore how various digital methods can be incorporated into the undergraduate classroom.

These readings focus on visualization, obviously, but the broader question they should help us address is: how well can visual representation (modeling, graphing, design, etc) help communicate digital literacies and fundamental concerns of the humanities? Building on last week: are these digital humanities concerns, or just humanities?

Eye Candy

But potentially useful for thinking about data? Or just critically evaluating data visualizations?

14: Topics TBD!

Follow the steps outlined here: Quick start: Setting up a custom domain - GitHub

I highly recommend: Reclaim Hosting

In step 3, you’ll probably want to use the first link: Setting up an apex domain - GitHub

In order to complete that step, you’ll want to consult the Reclaim Hosting instructions: Domain Mapping to GitHub

15: Loose ends, conclusions, etc.