Digital Humanities Playground
[or ENG 395: Studies in Literature, Theory, and Writing]
prerequisites: ENG 195 or instructor approval
“The heart of the digital humanities is not the production of knowledge. It’s the reproduction of knowledge.”–Mark Sample
Technical skills required:
1) Ability to attach a document to an email. 2) Ability to use a search engine.
Emotional skills required:
1) Ability to recognize frustration and panic and remain calm.
Have you found yourself asking from time to time, “What in the world is “Digital Humanities?” Have you ever wondered about the intersections possible between humanistic inquiry (as found in literature, history, philosophy, and social science) and technology? Do you like combining critical thinking with play? Have you wondered about how to make teaching and learning more interactive for yourself or future students? Then this is the course for you.
While the definition is always a source of heated debate, we do know that the digital humanities (DH) seeks to build a relationship between the humanities and the ever-evolving digital technologies that dominate our lived experience. In this course, we will explore the historical and cultural emergence of DH as a scholarly practice through reading the scholarship of DH practitioners, engaging with some pioneering DH projects, playing with and teaching each other how to assess and use DH tools, and building things collaboratively. As a field, DH is vibrant, intersectional, and interdisciplinary and has made a name for itself by challenging precedents about how we learn best, teach effectively, and share our work with our audience, be it our classmates, our colleagues, our students, or anyone with internet access. Speaking of access, we will consider the debates in the field, such as the implications of the term “open-access” and the politics around who gets to see, use, and learn from what, the problems with defining the digital humanities, issues with working collaboratively, and new models for research, analysis of data, visualization practices, and the ever-looming “death” of the printed book. We’ll consider the role of the archive in its traditional and evolutionary forms. We’ll interrogate the ways in which the digital impacts not only our educational environments, but also our everyday narratives, our social networks, and our contemporary and globally-integrated cultures.
You will be an integral and necessary member of our learning community and will be expected to actively participate in class discussions, bring your own scholarly interests into the conversation, contribute regularly to our course blog, play with, assess, and teach us how to use a DH tool, and create and present a digital research project. (As this course is introductory, you will not need to know how to code or use markup languages, though we will touch on what they are and why learning how to read them might be useful for you. All digital tools and platforms used in this course are open-access and free.)
–Gain an historical appreciation for the emergence of the field and the work of its practitioners over the past two decades.
–Investigate current trends and debates in the field, especially pertaining to issues of access (ie: race, class, gender).
–Obtain (or build upon) basic technical computing skills to integrate with critical thinking and problem solving abilities.
–Develop awareness of audience and hone persuasive rhetoric through digital writing and publishing.
–Employ digital tools to present, analyze, and appropriately credit research material.
–Refine ways to collaborate with your colleagues at every level from theorizing to building by using an agreed-upon and democratic workflow.
–Become a responsible digital citizen.
Access to a computer with Chrome and/or Firefox.
An arsenal of accounts including, but not limited to: Gmail, Twitter, Zotero, Dropbox, WordPress, Evernote
Digital Humanities Tools (list by Alan Liu)
DIRT (Digital Research Tools)
All readings for this course are available online. I will be creating a repository for us by linking readings to our Zotero group library as we go along, but you can find almost anything listed on this syllabus through a Google search. And, if you find I haven’t linked something, yet, feel free to do so. Readings that are not online will be posted on the blog under the password protected “Readings” page.
Social Media/Internet Presence and Privacy
You will be asked to create a number of free online accounts to access the DH tools we’ll be experimenting with in the course. I highly suggest you create a new or use your existing gmail account. Additionally, your internet footprint cannot be removed, scrubbed, or deleted completely . . . ever. That said, crafting a professional internet presence requires your careful consideration of how you present yourself. You need not use your real name for any of these accounts, but do consider the appropriateness of the nicknames you do choose. Additionally, you need not post profile pictures of yourself and may instead use avatars. Keep a list of your usernames and passwords in a safe place.
Participation and Preparedness: 10%
Weekly online writing: 25%
DH journal report (1-2 pages): 10%
DH tool presentation and lesson for use (2-3 pages): 10%
Digital Research Project: 45%
product’s code validity/stability and aesthetics: 10%
methods and rationale (collaborative post): 20%
A note on working collaboratively in a cluster
Contrary to the perception of academic work as that which is done in solitude, the digital humanities is a highly collaborative practice. Much of your work in this course will be shared with your cluster-mates. Part of your challenge is to work out what we’ll call a “democratic workflow” through which each member of your cluster will take on responsibility for completing tasks, but nothing will be done in isolation. Your cluster will be your first level of support before you take anything to the group as a whole.
Our course blog serves as a multi-authored space in which we will continue critically engaging with the questions, ideas, and probably, confusion that we stir up in class discussions. Each week, I will offer a set of questions to prompt your blogging. These questions will come out of the readings for the week and from the discussions we’ve been having in class. Over the course of the semester, you’ll write ten (10) 500-word posts. However, everyone should write on our blog each week by commenting on the posts of your peers. These comments should be about 50 words long and critically engage with the content of the parent post. Please refrain from comments that solely offer compliments. Rather, use the comments to build upon an idea that your classmate brought up, ask them a question, take a stab at a new way of seeing something, air your confusion and ask for help. Blog posts will be due by end of day Friday of each week. Comments can be rolling, and you are free to go back to past weeks to comment on something that has new meaning for you. Blog posts and comments will be assessed for their clarity, use of evidence (from the readings or by citing something heard in class discussion and/or blogged by one of us). Your blog posts and comments should work on a number of levels including helping you understand new material by remediating verbal conversation into prose and leading you toward ideas for the final project. You may reblog anything from our course blog onto your own blog for further use or archiving. Always give credit where credit is due. [Parts of this blogging description are informed by Jentery Sayers’ intro to DH syllabus who developed his description from Mark Sample’s “Pedagogy and the Class Blog.”]
Presentation on a DH Journal:
DH is a fairly young field, and as such, has made some attempts to change the way digital humanists read/view each others works. The most significant of these changes is that most DH scholarship is published in open-access digital journals. Thus, you need not have a university library’s financial backing to access a lot of this new work. You’ll each choose a DH online publication from a list I’ll provide and write up a 1-2 page report on the publication to teach us about its audience, publication requirements, peer-review standards, types of works represented etc… You’ll present your report in class on the day it’s due. Sign up for this report will appear on our Blackboard shell. Specifics of the assignment will be on the course blog.
Presentation/Lesson on a tool:
Each of you will choose and present on and teach us how to use a digital tool, one relevant to the concepts we’re discussing. Lists of tools will be provided on the sign-up sheet (BB). While each of you will present and teach on a tool of your choosing, your cluster-mates will help you build your lesson-plan and troubleshoot the tool. Thus, you’ll all have the opportunity to work quite closely with three digital tools and gain a basic knowledge of about seven or eight over the course of the semester. Specifics of this task will be detailed on the course blog, but your basic structure will be offering an overview of the tool’s specs, a demonstration of the tool’s most interesting features, a walk-through of how to use it, and then a guided playtime. You’ll post an instruction sheet or video to our blog once you’ve done your lesson and have had an opportunity to work out any kinks.
Your final project offers an opportunity to work with your cluster to start to build something complicated that showcases a line of inquiry you think is important and would benefit from digital remediation. Using the skills you’ve learned from the tool lessons and other ideas you’ve developed, your cluster’s task will be to come up with a viable DH project that, with more time and resources, could grow. You’ll incorporate at least three visualizations into your project (a map, a timeline, a graph, a video, a wordle). A detailed assignment sheet will be available on the course blog once we get closer to the end. In addition to the digital product, your project will include an oral presentation (with your cluster) a written component, which you’ll be able to use in a digital portfolio, on your blog, etc…
Digital Humanities Showcase: If all falls into place, you will have the opportunity to showcase your projects at an event at the end of the semester–open to members of the UNC community, friends, family, and the community at large. [branding #uncodh]
Grading Scale: A 95-100 A- 90-94 B+ 87-89 B 84-86 B- 80-83 C+ 77-79 C 74-76 C- 70-73 D+ 67-69 D 64-66 D- 60-63 F 0-59
Engagement: Because this course is designed to be post-pedagogical, meaning we are all responsible for teaching each other and are equally dependent on each other’s presence, attending class is expected. If you cannot make class, be sure to alert your cluster-mates ahead of time. Exchange phone numbers on day one.
Late and Make-up Work: In the event of a serious illness, family crisis, or religious holiday, please discuss with your cluster and me before the work is due how to get it done in a timely manner for credit. This is part of developing a democratic workflow.
Discussing Grades: Remember, you are in charge of earning your grades. Even though your writing will be in digital form, you still need to pay attention to the clarity of your prose, employ grammatical acuity, appropriate tone, and syntactical grace. Be proactive; draft your writing, and make use of your cluster-mates, the writing center, and my office hours. Show your writing to a friend or your mom or dad for proofreading. Post your best, cleanest, and most lucid work.
In some cases, you may want to discuss a grade with me, which I am happy to do. However, I maintain a 24-hour policy concerning discussion of any grade. This means that I will not discuss any grade until 24+ hours after you have received a graded item. Within the 24+ hour window, you should make sure you read all my comments so that you have a logical series of questions when we meet to discuss the grade. If it seems evident that you have not read my comments, I will ask you to return at a later date to continue the conversation.
Resources: Me—I hold office hours every week and you can make an appointment. I like meeting with you. Come see me.
Michener Library—Become familiar with the library and our research librarian for English.
Writing Center—Ross Hall 1230 –visit the link to set up appointments online and read WC policies and guidelines.
Counseling Center Services—Cassidy Hall; 970.351.2496
Disability Support Services—Michener L-80; Any student requesting disability accommodations for this class must inform the instructor and give appropriate notice. Students are encouraged to contact the DSS 970.351.2289 to certify documentation of disability and to ensure appropriate accommodations are implemented in a timely manner.
Cell Phones: You may use your phone as a reading device should you neglect to bring your laptop or tablet, but please keep it silenced and refrain from texting. Studies show that even a quick disengagement to respond to a text results in missing a lot of the present moment.
Laptops/tablets: This is a digital humanities course! Yes, you may use your device in class for class-related activities. Please bring it every day.
Academic Honesty Policy: One of the pleasures and responsibilities of scholarship is learning how to learn from others and to give them the credit for what you have learned. Plagiarism is a betrayal of the uniqueness of your mind. It is also a violation of university policy and is, in some cases, a criminal offense. It and other forms of cheating will not be tolerated. I expect you to do your own work. Please see the Dean of Students webpage for a full description of UNC’s Academic Integrity Policy. Some forms of plagiarism are easy to commit unwittingly. For example, it is a form of plagiarism if you borrow a phrase or syntax from a source, even if you cite the source correctly. Furthermore, turning in a written assignment for two classes constitutes plagiarism, even if from different semesters. If in doubt, ask. I will be happy to clarify.
UNC’s Honor Code: Honor the Pillars
All members of the University of Northern Colorado community are entrusted with the responsibility to uphold and promote five fundamental values: Honesty, Trust, Respect, Fairness, and Responsibility. These core elements foster an atmosphere inside and outside of the classroom, which serves as a foundation and guides the UNC community’s academic, professional, and personal growth. Endorsement of these core elements by students, faculty, staff, administration, and trustees strengthens the integrity and value of our academic climate.
Schedule of Events (Detailed schedule on Schedule Page)
Weeks 1-5 emphasis on reading scholarship, building theoretical scaffolding for DH debates, and learning to write about, annotate, and discuss ideas digitally
Weeks 5-8 emphasis on building toolkit through experimentation and discussion of tool use-values
Weeks 9-15 developing research agenda, articulating research methods and practice, building digital projects using advanced platform (probably SCALAR)