HIST 8770 (Spring 2019)


***REVISED AS OF 3/29/19***

Theory and Practice of Digital History

HIST 8770 – CRN 20784

Dr. Alex Sayf Cummings

Wednesdays 4:30-7:00PM Spring 2019

25 Park Place 2040


HIST 8770 is meant to introduce students to the evolving field of digital history, which is part of of a broader intellectual and methodological shift known as digital humanities. The course has three broad aims. Students will learn about basic concepts of historiography and media studies, as well as the history of the intersection of scholarship and technology.  Students will encounter and experiment with a variety of key technologies used by historians as they convey their work in new forms.  Finally, they will consider ways to engage professionally within the field of digital history–not only using new technologies but understanding the social and institutional arenas in which humanities scholars work.

Learning outcomes include:

  • Exploring the history of different approaches to researching, composing, and distributing historical literature
  • Experimenting with a variety of innovative technological platforms and attaining new skills
  • Considering the ethical issues that arise in terms of sharing oral history and other forms of research in public forums, as well as the legal issues that arise in digital culture, particularly regarding intellectual property law
  • Designing and presenting a coherent, thoughtful project of public history that operates on an online or other electronic platform

Required Reading

Most readings will be available online, with links embedded in this syllabus.  The instructor may send additional readings and links via email, so please remember to check your GSU email account frequently.


HIST 8770 is the epitome of an interactive class, because it is about the ways we interact with the past and use technology to engage with others in this pursuit.  You must do the reading and come to class prepared to engage seriously with your peers, the instructor, and any other outside speakers, guests, or communities that become involved with the course. In other words, participation is a must.

Participation includes posting a comment of at least 500 words (about two double-spaced pages) each week on the readings before 9am on the day of class. Points will be deducted for lateness.  The response paper is a short assignment – Gravity’s Rainbow it is not, but it should show A. that you read the material and B. you gave careful consideration to the issues raised. You should read all of the readings each week, but you need only specifically address at least two of the readings or assigned media in your weekly post.

Also, in the spirit of crowdsourcing, we are interested in having students contribute to the corpus of knowledge for the course. To that end, please include a link to an article (academic or otherwise) that is relevant to the readings each week. Do some browsing around in order to find an item that expands our understanding of whatever we are discussing. Try to make an effort to check out the readings suggested by your peers; these suggestions will be incorporated into future versions of the course.

Participation also involves creating a Twitter account (or documenting that you already have one), and signing up to follow at least seven different accounts by scholars, museums, historical societies, or other academic sources.  Students will be expected to explore the ways historians use Twitter over the course of the semester.

The final project could take any number of forms–a digital archive or exhibit using Omeka, Scalar, or WordPress; a blog; a podcast; a photo essay; a mapping project; or any combination of different media and platforms–but it must be developed in close consultation with the instructor, while observing the appropriate norms for citation, intellectual property rights, and, if relevant, oral history research.

Note: Spring 2019 students are strongly encouraged to enroll in a free Time Travel Conference at Georgia State, February 2-3, 2017.

This syllabus is a general plan for the course; deviations may be necessary. All students are expected to comply with University and History Department policies on academic honesty. I will report any violation of these standards to the Dean of Students, and any act of plagiarism will result in a grade of “F” for the assignment and, possibly, the course. Multiple infractions of the GSU policy on academic honesty can result in more severe consequences, including expulsion from the University.

Students who wish to request accommodation for a disability may do so by registering with the Office of Disability Services. Students may only be accommodated upon issuance by the Office of Disability Services of a signed Accommodation Plan and are responsible for providing a copy of that plan to instructors of all classes in which accommodations are sought.

Weekly Schedule

Wednesday 1/16. Week One. Introduction

Wednesday 1/23. Week Two. How do data tell stories? with guests Joe Hurley and Spencer Roberts

Wednesday 1/30. Week Three. Understanding media

Wednesday 2/6. Week Four. Data visualization with guest Dr. Jeffrey Young

Wednesday 2/13. Week Five. Understanding digital history

Wednesday 2/20. Week Six. Blogs: The Big Picture with guest Dr. Lauren MacIvor Thompson

Wednesday 2/27. Week Seven. Blogs: In Practice

Wednesday 3/6.  Week Eight. Interfaces: Omeka Demonstration with guest Dr. Robin Wharton

Wednesday 3/13. Week Nine. Podcasts with guest Nicolas Hoffmann

Wednesday 3/20. Week Ten. Spring Break.

Wednesday 3/27. Week Eleven. Projects discussion

  • Project Proposal Due
  • Post about your projects

Wednesday 4/3. Week Twelve. No class — work on projects and/or attend the Somers Lecture with Quinn Slobodian.

Wednesday 4/10. Week Thirteen. Social Media, Online Discourse, and Digital Presences

Wednesday 4/17. Week Fourteen. In-class work session. Come prepared to work on your projects and collaborate/troubleshoot during class time.

Wednesday 4/24. Week Fifteen. Recap discussion.

Normal Accidents 2019: Digital Project Symposium, 5/1/2019, 10am to 2pm in 25 Park Place, 2150.

Friday 5/4. Final Project and Portfolio Due

Recommended (Not Required) Reading, Viewing, Listening