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
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.
- Participation 20%
- Project Review Assignment 10%
- Videri Book Review 20%
- Portfolio 10%
- Final Project and Presentation 40%
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.
Wednesday 1/16. Week One. Introduction
Wednesday 1/23. Week Two. How do data tell stories? with guests Joe Hurley and Spencer Roberts
- Visit Videri.org and Omeka.org (we will discuss this platform in greater depth later in the semester, but in the meantime it would be wise to begin to get familiar with Omeka).
- Lev Manovich, “Database as a Genre of New Media“
- Nina Simon, “Discourse in the Blogosphere: What Museums Can Learn from Web 2.0,” Museums & Social Issues 2, no. 2 (November 2007): 257-274
- Sheila Brennan and T. Mills Kelly, “Why Collecting History Online is Web 1.5,” March 2009
- Explore these projects:
- Cleveland Historical
- Pam Enlow, Stone Mountains Petroglyph Path (2017)
- Steven R. Garcia, “Bombs Don’t Kill: Telling the Story of Puerto Rican Radicalism through Digital History” (2018)
- Recommended by Hurley and Roberts: David Rumsey and Meredith Williams, “Historical Maps in GIS”
Wednesday 1/30. Week Three. Understanding media
- Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1935ish)
- Janet H. Murray, “Inventing the Medium” (2003)
- Sardar and Van Loon, Introducing Media Studies, 1-49
- Bolter and Grusin, “Immediacy, Hypermediacy, and Remediation” (1998)
- The Economist, “From Papyrus to Pixels” (2014)
Wednesday 2/6. Week Four. Data visualization with guest Dr. Jeffrey Young
Wednesday 2/13. Week Five. Understanding digital history
- Browse the website of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media.
- Create a WordPress page and begin adding content related to a potential final project topic. We will share our pages with each other on 2/27.
- Hayden White, “The Problem of Narrative in Contemporary Historical Theory” (1984)
- Dan Cohen, “The Ivory Tower and the Open Web: Introduction: Burritos, Browsers, and Books [Draft]” (2011)
- Ryan Cordell, “How Not to Teach Digital Humanities” (2015)
Wednesday 2/20. Week Six. Blogs: The Big Picture with guest Dr. Lauren MacIvor Thompson
- Ralph Luker, “Were There Blog Enough and Time,” Perspectives on History (2005)
- Check out the Unofficial Archives series (2017-8) and Age of Fracture roundtable (2013) at Tropics of Meta (2014) – no need to read all of this material; just browse around
- RE Fulton, “‘She Looks the Abortionist and the Bad Woman’: Sensation, Physiognomy, and Misogyny in Abortion Discourse,” Nursing Clio (2015)
- Alex Cummings and Jonathan Jarrett, “Only Typing? Informal Writing, Blogs, and the Academy,” in Writing History in the Digital Age (2013)
- Recommended by Dr. Thompson:
- Cara Delay, “The Girl and the Grotto: Remembering and Forgetting in Irish History”
- Claire Jones, “Website Review: Nursing Clio”
- Project Review Assignment Due
Wednesday 2/27. Week Seven. Blogs: In Practice
- Share your starter page with the rest of the class. No need to post about the readings this week.
- Come to class prepared to work on, reshape, and expand your site.
- Alex Wichowksi, “Survival of the Fittest: Folksonomies, Findability, and the Evolution of Information Organization” (2009)
- Sadie Bergen, “From Personal to Professional: Collaborative History Blogs Go Mainstream” (2017)
Wednesday 3/6. Week Eight. Interfaces: Omeka Demonstration with guest Dr. Robin Wharton
- Diane Hillmann, “Using Dublin Core” (2005)
- Tom Scheinfeldt, “Omeka and Its Peers” (2010)
- Sample projects:
Wednesday 3/13. Week Nine. Podcasts with guest Nicolas Hoffmann
- Videri.org book review due
- “Los Frikis,” Radiolab (2015)
- “Fountain Drinks,” 99% Invisible (2015)
- “How the Patriarchy Ruins Everything for Women, Even Beer,” Dig (2018)
- Listen to part of a Doomed to Repeat episode, such as “The Anti-Vaccination Movement” (2017) or “Trapped in the Ivory Tower” (2019)
- “Truth and Reconciliation in Museums,” Museopunks (2018)
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. Social Media, Online Discourse, and Digital Presences
- Look for personal websites of historians and find an example that you consider effective to discuss in class.
- For example: Natalia Mehlman Petrzela or Brandon Byrd. What works well, and what doesn’t?
- Check out #twitterstorians
- Vanessa Varin, “Mapping the History Twittersphere” (2014)
- Ana Stevenson, “How Can Historians Best Use Twitter?” (2016)
Wednesday 4/10. Week Thirteen. TBD
Wednesday 4/17. Week Fourteen. TBD
Wednesday 4/24. Week Thirteen. TBD
Wednesday 5/1. Symposium?
Friday 5/4. Final Project and Portfolio Due
Recommended (Not Required) Reading, Viewing, Listening
- Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, “So the Colors Cover the Wires: Interface, Aesthetics, and Usability” (2004)
- Daniel J. Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig, “Designing for the History Web” (2005)
- Mary W. Elings and Gunter Waibel, “Metadata for all: Descriptive standards and metadata sharing across libraries, archives and museums,” First Monday 12:3 (2007)
- Ethics, Ownership, Oral History
- “Sight Unseen,” Radiolab (2015)
- Roy Rosenzweig, “Should Historical Scholarship Be Free?” (2005)
- Laura Clark Brown and Nancy Kaiser, “Opening Archives on the Recent American Past,” in Doing Recent History (2012)
- Gail Drakes, “Who Owns Your Archive? Historians and the Challenges of Copyright Law,” in Doing Recent History (2012)
- Speakers and listeners: Cultural democracy vs. professionalism
- Stacy Schiff, “Know It All,” The New Yorker (2006)
- Roy Rosenzweig, “Can History be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past,” Journal of American History 93:1 (June 2006), 117-146
- Leslie Madsen-Brooks, “‘I nevertheless am a historian’: Digital Historical Practice and Malpractice around Black Confederate Soldiers,” Writing History in the Digital Age (2012)
- “Truth and the World of Wikipedia Gatekeepers,” Talk of the Nation (2012)
- Claire Bond Potter, “When Radical Feminism Talks Back: Taking an Ethnographic Turn in the Living Past” in Doing Recent History (2012)
- Other interesting projects: