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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.


Because of Coronavirus, none of us want you dragging yourself to sick with something you’re sure is just a regular cold.

That said, participation is part of your grade, and it will be much harder to particpate without being here.

If you are not present, you must actually e-mail me before class explaining why. The policy for remote attendance will be worked out as we go.

Collaborative Notetaking

Each student will be responsible for serving as note-taker for a single class session. This entails two things.

  1. Taking minutes of any lecture and discussion as it occurs. This can be hard. You may use recording devices if necessary, but please destroy any recordings once you are done.
  2. Writing up a short (say, 200-300 words) summary of the class directed at a hypothetical student who did not attend class. This is not a summary of the notes, but instead an effort to step back, think about what we talked about and what sort of connections to earlier weeks it might raise.

The minutes will be kept in a single, public Google Doc. The summary is due in discussions on Brightspace before the next class meets.

Reading Responses.

You should post short reading responses in the discussion areas. These responses need not be lengthy or comprehensive, but must:

  1. Demonstrate a substantial engagement with the reading(s).
  2. Pose questions, criticisms, or connections for further discussion.
  3. Draw connections or comparisons with earlier readings.

These responses may reflect your personal opinions. Towards the end of the semester you will be writing a short position piece on contemporary issues in historical context.

You should post 13 times in all. If you have a brainstorm after class, you may post it in the previous discussion area, but don’t do this more than twice.


You’ll have four major written assignments in this class:

  1. A description of a historical piece of data collection from the period 1800-1945.
  2. A 6-8 page paper putting several readings in conversation with each other. (Maybe. I might drop this one if the reading responses are good enough overall.)
  3. A close reading of a historical advertisement from the period 1960-1990 about data use, control, or analysis.
  4. A short paper due in finals week in the style of an op-ed making an argument about data in contemporary life, without any citations from outside this class.


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. Because of COVID, no food or drinks are permitted in the classroom.

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.