HIST 8885 (Spring 2017)


Theory and Practice of Digital History

HIST 8885 – CRN 15538

Dr. Alex Sayf Cummings

Mondays 4:30-7:00PM Spring 2017

Required Reading

Most readings will be available online, but you should also purchase Renee Romano and Claire Bond Potter’s Doing Recent History: On Privacy, Copyright, Video Games, Institutional Review Boards, Activist Scholarship, and History That Talks Back (UGA Press, 2012).


HIST 8885 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 in your weekly post.

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%
  • Project Proposal 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; 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 2017 students are strongly encouraged to enroll in the free GSU Conference on Digital Literacy at Georgia State, February 2-3, 2015.

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

Monday 1/9. Week One. Introduction

Monday 1/23. Week Two. Understanding media

Monday 1/30. Week Three. Understanding digital history

Monday 2/6. Week Four. Blogs with guest Dr. Lauren MacIvor Thompson

  • Project Review Assignment Due

Monday 2/13. Week Five. Interfaces: Omeka Demonstration with guest Dr. Robin Wharton

  • No post necessary this week

Monday 2/20. Week Seven. How do databases tell stories? with guest Ximin Mi

Monday 2/27. Week Eight. Tags: ontology and taxonomy

Monday 3/6. Week Nine. Podcasts and social media with guest Nicolas Hoffmann

Monday 3/13. Week Ten. Spring Break.

Monday 3/20. Week Eleven. Projects discussion

  • Project Proposal Due
  • Post about your projects

Monday 3/27. Week Twelve. Ethics: Oral history, privacy, and copyright

  • “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)

Monday 4/3. Week Thirteen. No class: work on final projects

  • No posts this week

Monday 4/10. Week Fourteen. Speakers and listeners: Cultural democracy vs. professionalism

Monday 4/17. Week Fourteen. Project demonstrations

Monday 4/24. Week Fifteen. Project demonstrations