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Unit 1: Digital sources

In the first unit, we’ll be exploring how digitization changes the sort of sources–primary and secondary–that historians work with. What are the biases and inherent assumptions in digital scholarship? What gets digitized, and what doesn’t? What sort of answers are computational works of scholarship bringing to historical practice?

Week 1 (Sep 11): Introductions

  • Cohen et al. “Interchange.”

Practicum: Building a website and blog for this course.

Week 2 (Sep 18): Digitization as a social condition

  • Benjamin “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Mechanical Reproducibility (Third Version, 1939).”
  • McLuhan Understanding Media., Introduction and chapters 1-2.

Digital Humanities as a social obligation

  • Liu “The Meaning of the Digital Humanities.”
  • Cecire “When Digital Humanities Was in Vogue.”

Practicum: What’s been digitized? And Manipulating Images.

Week 3 (Sep 25): Digitization as a practical endeavor

Practicum: Digitizing a a historical object.

Week 4 (Oct 2): Data as a source – the slavery debates

  • Gibbs and Owens “Hermeneutics of Data and Historical Writing.”
  • Haskell, Review of Time on the Cross
  • Ruggles “The Transformation of American Family Structure.”
  • Hilt “Economic History, Historical Analysis, and the “New History of Capitalism”.”
  • Gitelman "Raw Data" Is an Oxymoron., Introduction

Practicum: Tapping into the world of social science historical data from IPUMS, OECD, ICPSR, etc. Practicum w/ blog post: Crowdsourcing participation.

(No class October 9: Columbus day)

Unit 2: Historical Computing

For years, much of what’s now called the“digital humanities” was called, instead, “humanities computing.” The term tended to denote a more circumscribed set of practices than all the digital publishing, public history, and new media studies that are now part of digital humanities; it was, specifically, about the the possibility of digital techniques to transform the ways we do research. This unit aims to get your hands dirty with some of the research techniques you might be able to use taking full advantage of your computation.

Week 5 (October 16): Texts

  • Stephen Ramsay, “The Hermeneutics of Screwing Around”
  • Witmore “Text.”
  • Funk and Mullen “The Spine of American Law.”
  • Goldstone and Underwood “The Quiet Transformations of Literary Studies.”
  • Tressie McMillan Cottom, “More Scale, More Questions: Observations from Sociology”

Look at two websites, and skim the associated papers if you like. * (Michel et al. “Quantitative Analysis of Culture Using Millions of Digitized Books.”) * William Hamilton, Jure Leskovec, and Dan Jurafsky. ACL 2016. Diachronic Word Embeddings Reveal Statistical Laws of Semantic Change.


  • Voyant Tools (no installation needed, online)
  • Install R-Studio on your computer.

Week 7 (October 30): Maps

Guest: Cameron Blevins?

  • Richard White, What is Spatial History
  • Knowles “Placing History.”, Chapter 1 and Dust Bowl chapter.
  • Blevins “Space, Nation, and the Triumph of Region.”
  • Browse through the Orbis Project, Stanford.


  • Install QGIS from here (this can be complicated, particularly on OS X: leave an hour, at least).
  • Review Map Projections at

Week 8 (November 6): Networks

Image lab stock-taking. Maybe more image readings? We’ll see.

  • Weingart “Demystifying Networks, Parts I & II.”
  • Winterer “Where Is America in the Republic of Letters.”
  • Shin-Kap Han,“The Other Ride of Paul Revere”

Software: Install Gephi.

Unit 3: Creating Digital Scholarship.

The sort of work historians create and share matters as much as the sort of work they do.

You could use the techniques from unit 2 and produce a wholly conventional work of scholarship; and you could create a groundbreaking multimedia installation without using any algorithms or even programming. This unit focuses on the opportunities for scholarly communication afforded by the web and other digital media.

Week 9 (November 13): Digital Collections and exhibitions.

  • Wyman et al. “Digital Storytelling in Museums.”
  • Sharon Leon: Layers and Links: Writing Public History in a Digital Environment

We’ll be doing presentations on born-digital exhibitions.

There are a wide variety of professional digital collections and exhibitions. Rather than have each of you explore all of them, find one and explore it at length, bringing several URLs to class to discuss as successes or failures of design, narration, and public engagement.

Some possible online archives/exhibits to present on will be listed in the “Handouts” section of the website.


  • Workset: Building with Omeka.

Week 10 (November 20): Visualizing Data

Project proposals due Friday 11/11

  • Theibault “Visualizations and Historical Arguments.”
  • Tufte Envisioning Information.
  • Drucker “Humanities Approaches to Graphical Display.”
  • Klein “The Image of Absence.”
  • Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren F. Klein, “Feminist Data Visualization” (2016)

Practicum: visualizing in R: the “grammar of graphics”

Week 11 (November 27th): Stories in New Media

  • “Snow Fall.”
  • MacAskill and MacAskill “NSA Files Decoded.”
  • Something TBD, hopefully something released this fall; suggestions welcome.

Practicum: Workshop on Public History project

Week 12 (December 4): Publishing and sharing research

  • Ayers “The Valley of the Shadow.”
  • Thomas and Ayers “The Differences Slavery Made.”
  • Glanz “Writing a Digital History Journal Article from Scratch.”
  • Dan Cohen, “The Social Contract of Scholarly Publishing,” Gold Debates in the Digital Humanities.

Practicum: none

Ayers, Edward. “The Valley of the Shadow: Two Communities in the American Civil War,” 1995.

Benjamin, Walter. “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Mechanical Reproducibility (Third Version, 1939).” In Selected Writings, edited by Howard Eiland and Michael W Jennings. Vol. 4. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2002.

Blevins, Cameron. “Space, Nation, and the Triumph of Region: A View of the World from Houston.” Journal of American History 101, no. 1 (May 1, 2014): 122–147. doi:10.1093/jahist/jau184.

Cecire, Natalia. “When Digital Humanities Was in Vogue.” Journal of Digital Humanities 1, no. 1 (February 9, 2012).

Cohen, Daniel J., Michael Frisch, Patrick Gallagher, Steven Mintz, Kirsten Sword, Amy Murrell Taylor, William G. Thomas, and William J. Turkel. “Interchange: The Promise of Digital History.” The Journal of American History 95, no. 2 (August 1, 2008): 452–491. doi:10.2307/25095630.

Drucker, Johanna. “Humanities Approaches to Graphical Display” 5, no. 1 (2011).

Funk, Kellen, and Lincoln Mullen. “The Spine of American Law: Digital Text Analysis and U.S. Legal Practice.” American Historical Review 123, no. 1 (2018).

Gibbs, Frederick W., and Trevor Owens. “Hermeneutics of Data and Historical Writing.” In Writing History in the Digital Age, 2011.

Gitelman, Lisa. "Raw Data" Is an Oxymoron. Infrastructures Series. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2013.

Glanz, James. “Writing a Digital History Journal Article from Scratch: An Account".” Digital History Project (November 2007).

Gold, Matthew K. Debates in the Digital Humanities. U of Minnesota Press, 2012.

Goldstone, Andrew, and Ted Underwood. “The Quiet Transformations of Literary Studies: What Thirteen Thousand Scholars Could Tell Us.” New Literary History 45, no. 3 (2014): 359–384. doi:10.1353/nlh.2014.0025.

Hilt, Eric. “Economic History, Historical Analysis, and the “New History of Capitalism”.” The Journal of Economic History 77, no. 2 (May 2017): 511–536. doi:10.1017/S002205071700016X.

Klein, Lauren F. “The Image of Absence: Archival Silence, Data Visualization, and James Hemings.” American Literature 85, no. 4 (November 1, 2013): 661–688. doi:10.1215/00029831-2367310.

Knowles, Anne Kelly. “Placing History.” ESRI Press, 2008.

Liu, Alan. “The Meaning of the Digital Humanities.” PMLA 128, no. 2 (February 2013): 409–423. doi:10.1632/pmla.2013.128.2.409.

MacAskill, Ewen, and Ewen MacAskill. “NSA Files Decoded: Edward Snowden’s Surveillance Revelations Explained. the Guardian,” October 1, 2013.

McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. McGraw-Hill, 1964.

Michel, Jean-Baptiste, Yuan Kui Shen, Aviva Presser Aiden, Adrian Veres, Matthew K Gray, Joseph P Pickett, Dale Hoiberg, et al. “Quantitative Analysis of Culture Using Millions of Digitized Books.” Science (New York, N.Y.) 331, no. 6014 (14 2011): 176–182. doi:10.1126/science.1199644.

Putnam, Lara. “The Transnational and the Text-Searchable: Digitized Sources and the Shadows They Cast.” The American Historical Review 121, no. 2 (March 1, 2016): 377–402. doi:10.1093/ahr/121.2.377.

Ruggles, Steven. “The Transformation of American Family Structure.” The American Historical Review 99, no. 1 (January 1994): 103. doi:10.2307/2166164.

“Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek,” 2012.

Theibault, John. “Visualizations and Historical Arguments.” In Writing History in the Digital Age, by Jack Dougherty, 2012.

Thomas, William, and Edward Ayers. “The Differences Slavery Made: A Close Analysis of Two American Communities.” The American Historical Review 108, no. 5 (November 2003): 1299–1309.

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

Weingart, Scott B. “Demystifying Networks, Parts I & II.” Journal of Digital Humanities 1, no. 1 (February 15, 2012).

Winterer, Caroline. “Where Is America in the Republic of Letters.” Modern Intellectual History 9, no. 03 (2012): 597–623. doi:10.1017/S1479244312000212.

Witmore, Michael. “Text: A Massively Addressable Object,” November 31, 2010.

Wyman, Bruce, Scott Smith, Daniel Meyers, and Michael Godfrey. “Digital Storytelling in Museums: Observations and Best Practices.” Curator: The Museum Journal 54, no. 4 (September 1, 2011): 461–468. doi:10.1111/j.2151-6952.2011.00110.x.