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Online responses

There are 14 remaining classes in the Coronavirus era of this class.

For five of them, I want you to post a short (~250 words) reading responses that zeros in on a point or two in the readings. Don’t try to be comprehensive; try to be focused and interesting.

These responses must be posted by 6pm the evening before class.

For a different five of them, write a peer response to your peers in the time period before class meets. (Leave me a half hour before class to read everything).

Readings and classroom participation

You must complete all the readings for the course and attend class prepared to discuss them. Your peers are counting on you to do so. If for any reason you can’t do the reading done by class, you should let me know in advance and still attend class.

This course relies on active, engaged participation in class activities and discussions. We will not be building toward an exam, but we will be calling back through the semester to the base of knowledge we have gained. You should come to every class having read all of the required reading (or watched the required videos, etc.) and prepared to discuss them with your colleagues. We will assess your reading and course engagement through in-class writing exercises (some collected for a grade and others not), reading quizzes, in-class group work, and related assignments.

Maintaining an active class conversation also requires that the class be present, both physicallyvirtually and mentally. To that end: you may miss two classes without penalty over the course of the semester. Please note: We make absolutely no distinction between excused and unexcused absences, so use your allotted absences wisely. You may not miss two classes early in the semester and then petition for additional excused absences afterward. When you must miss class, it is your responsibility to find out what you missed and to make up any pertinent assignments. You may not make up quizzes or in-class work. If you take one of your excused absences, we simply will not grade any in-class work you missed. If you miss an applied computing activity due to an excused absence you should attempt to make up the work. Once beyond your allotted absences you will receive a zero for any in-class work or computing activities missed.

Participation Self Assessments

The second self assessment is in flux as we see how online discussions can be carried out.

It’s hard to talk in class. But it’s as important a form of intellectual engagement as any other.

You will complete two self assessments of your participation over the course of the semester. Instructions will be passed out in the second week of class.

Note that these are “self assessments,” not “self-assessments.” That is, I am not asking you to assess yourself personally, but to give an honest assessment of the quality and quantity of your engagement and also of your peers and myself. We are all working together to build a constructive discussion environment.

In-class responses

These are frozen. We will not be doing any more.

Several times over the semester, I will ask you to write a short paragraph or two of response at the beginning of class. These will take no more than fifteen minutes. They serve two purposes. One is to get you to think about the issues on your own in a focused way. The other, frankly, is to build a form of incentive to do readings.

I estimate there will be about 10 of these over the course of the semester. The two lowest scores will be dropped.

Archival Project

Your first project will grow out of this, and involve a brief in-class presentation followed by a paper on an archival source of data from one of the many outstanding research libraries in the Boston area.


You will write one 6 to 8 page paper for this class, based on the readings; no outside research is expected.

Final Project

Final project assignments will be distributed in late March, but you should start thinking early about which one you will want. It will consist of either 1) an 8-10 page paper in which you extend one of the weeks of the course with additional readings; or 2) a digital project in which you analyze a data set created before the year 1994 using modern tools. In either case, you must discuss the project in advance with me.


You are required to be respectful to your fellow classmates and professors: listening attentively, not interrupting, and maintaining a civil discourse. Personal attacks, hostility, and mockery will not be tolerated. If you have any issues, please talk to me directly so that I can address them. You are also welcome to consume drinks or minimal food in class, provided they are not distracting. (Use your common sense, please. A quick roll of sushi is fine; a heaping bowl of ramen is not.)

Technical Snafus

This course relies heavily on access to computers, specific software, and the Internet. At some point during the semester you WILL have a problem with technology: your laptop will crash, a file will become corrupted, a server will go down, a piece of software will not act as you expect it to, or something else will occur. These are facts of twenty-first-century life, not emergencies. To succeed in college and in your career you should develop work habits that take such snafus into account. Start assignments early and save often. Always keep a backup copy of your work saved somewhere secure (preferably off site). None of these unfortunate events should be considered emergencies: inkless printers, computer virus infections, lost flash drives, lost passwords, corrupted files, incompatible file formats. It is entirely your responsibility to take the proper steps to ensure your work will not be lost irretrievably; if one device or service isn’t working, find another that does. We will not grant you an extension based on problems you may be having with technological devices or the internet services you happen to use. When problems arise in the software we are all using for the course, we will work through them together and learn thereby.

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