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Readings and attendance

You know the basics: you should complete the required readings and attend class prepared with questions and criticisms. This is a large class for a seminar; it is more likely than usual that you will need to be prepared before class to make useful interventions in it.


Most of the assignments for this course will need to be done on a computer; a number of the worksets will ask you to install software for the lab section at the end of class. If your computer is nonexistent, very old, or is in any other way unable to fulfill some particular assignment, you may need to complete certain assignments in a computer lab and arrange to share with a colleague during class. I have an old laptop and some desktop site I may also be able to make available. Everyone, including me, will encounter some technological problems in the class; the important thing is that you take them on in advance.


You are expected to contribute almost every week to a blog that will syndicate to the rest of the course. Over the course of the semester, you should have at least 12 posts which cumulatively reach about 4,000-5,000 words. These are not expected to be completely polished pieces of writing, but they should show your engagement with the texts and your peers, and create a ground you can build on in later work and discussion. The word limit is not particularly high; try to stick to the genre, avoid all throat clearing and generalizations; either get right to the point, or keep your digressions interesting. Write for the audience of the class and anyone like you who might stumble across the pages.

You should read your peers’ blog posts for at least the weeks that you post.

Posts should available by 1pm the day of class.

Topics would typically include things like:

  1. Reactions to the reading: questions you want your peers to answer, things you don’t understand, or angry denunciations of what you think the writers got wrong.
  2. Reflections on connections between the readings and issues you’ve encountered in digital history in other courses or online.
  3. Responses to questions posed by your colleagues.

I also highly encourage you to the think about the image analysis overlaps as part of your posting regimine. Over the course of the semester I’ll periodically ask for some short reflections on various questions

Required posts

Most of your posts will be on topics of your choosing. Others, though, may be required as listed in the syllabus.

Blog Privacy

You may have good reasons not to want your name associated with your blog posts or Internet presence–if so, we can make your posts private or (preferably) pseudonymous. But remember, conversely, that building up a strong professional online presence can be enormously beneficial. Student blog posts from this class have, in the past, ended up on the syllabi for graduate courses at other universities. There is much to gain, as more senior graduate students will tell you, from developing a public professional identity beginning early.


Each week we will begin a practicum, learning to use some set of tools. At the end of class you’ll receive a short list of tasks to accomplish. By the end of the course, you will know how to make a map, mine a text, create a network diagram, and set up an online exhibition.

Completing each workset is required, but the individual tasks will be handled on a pass/fail basis. If you do every workset, you get full credit for this portion of the course. I encourage you to talk to other students while completing the worksets (much frustration can be avoided not doing it alone), but unless otherwise indicated you must do the tasks yourself, even if someone else tells you how to do it.

You should give evidence of having completed the assignment to me before the start of the next class. This may be screenshots, some brief textual reflections, or a description of a website you visited. Use common sense here. Late or incomplete worksets can receive partial credit.

If you want to go above and beyond the basic assignment–adding a colored layer to the maps we build, say, you can post to the blog. Certain worksets will tell you to create a blog post–in those cases, you’ll get credit for completing practicum as well as towards your blog post quota.

Final Projects

As we take on classroom exercises in the second third of the course, you should think about which one(s) you want to expand into a longer form. We’ll also try to get a trip to the archives in so that you can practice some digital curation on your own.

Projects may be collaborative. In general, public history students should be predisposed towards a collaborative project, and world history or comparable students towards an individual one. Collaborative projects should have a sensible division of labor, and include individual statements of the work done.

You will submit a proposal for your project by in early November: projects are due a week before the semester ends.


  1. Class participation/attendance (and blog comments): 25%
  2. Blogging assignments: 20%
  3. Practicums: 25%
  4. Projects: 30%

Required Texts

Most of the texts for this class are available online; digital humanists are good that way. Some are also available for physical purchase.

  • Tufte Envisioning Information.

Tufte, Edward R. Envisioning Information. Cheshire, Conn. (P.O. Box 430, Cheshire 06410): Graphics Press, 1990.