Course logistics

Classes: Mondays and Wednesdays, 2:30-3:45PM, HLG 205. Instructor: John Laudun, HLG 356, 482-5493, Office hours: Mondays and Wednesdays, 9-11AM and by appointment.

Course Description

In general, there is a cluster of issues that concern humanists: all of them revolve around the production of cultural expressive forms and the relationship between individual expression and the communities in which these forms emerge. The digital humanities represent the merging of two areas of activity that have run for a long time as distinct concerns: humanities computing and the use and study of digital media — sometimes known as new media. The digital humanities have the potential both to develop new kinds of analyses and publications as well as to re-invigorate present practices, and even to renew practices (e.g., indices) that have become disused in our current era. This course surveys issues and activities in order to acquaint students with the overall landscape of the digital humanities. We will, over the course of the semester examine textual markup and its uses, databases and their uses, approaches to visualization and distant reading, network theory, and corpus methodologies. The course requires no prior knowledge of the digital humanities, but it does assume familiarity with computers and their standard uses (word processing, web browsing, etc.). Participants engage in a number of exploratory activities and small projects, which are intended to make it possible for them to choose a larger project on which to work which suits their own interests and expertise as well as the requirements suggested by the research itself — which is something that the digital humanities can offer: matching the publication — text, photo gallery, audio or video netcast — to the topic being considered.

Course Texts and Other Accessories

The texts I plan(ned) to use for this seminar are below, but only buy the first one. The Schriebman et al. text is expensive, and I am trying to determine if there is an alternative.


We will be reading a lot of e-texts. Participants must decide for themselves how they want to interact with those documents – remember either to figure printing costs into the costs of the course and/or the time required to print for free on campus in the various venues. (Be aware of any printing restrictions.) We will also be using two web applications/services, and, both of which offer better experiences with some kind of broadband connection. A lot of the software we will be using in the course of the seminar is open source. That does not necessarily mean that it runs on any platform. In the lab we have the advantage of machines that can boot both into Mac OS X, which is a Unix, as well as Windows. If participants wish to use the software elsewhere, they will need to calculate the cost, either monetarily or in terms of time (and perhaps both), to set up their own systems. In addition to these potential costs, there is also the matter of portable storage. Media production, especially video, can take up quite a bit of storage space. (One hour of compressed video takes up about 5GB.) Participants interested in working with large resolution image, audio, or video files will want to invest either in a very large flash drive or in a modest external hard drive. The Macintosh Pros in the lab support both USB and Firewire 800 devices.

Assignments and Grading

This is an exploratory course in the digital humanities and for the digital humanities at the university. As such it depends greatly upon your participation, which includes your willingness to try a wide variety of things out, some (or even many) of which may not appear to you either at first glance or ever to have a meaningful outcome. To some degree this uncertainty in meaning is a function of how new the “field” of digital humanities is not only to you but also in the academy. For example, I will require all of us, including me, to free write for five minutes at the beginning of every seminar. I do so not only because I think free writing is an important life skill, one useful far beyond the immediate impact it may have on making you a productive scholar, but also because we will, later in the course, need some data with which to work. If nothing else, you will have a data set consisting of your free writing. So that’s at least two activities upon which you will be graded. In addition to these activities, I will ask you to write a pre- and a post-seminar essay in which you describe what you know and what you wish to know, as well as later what you learned, about the digital humanities. Again, some of you will recognize this as the KWL activity, and I offer it as something useful not only in your own work, both in your scholarship and in your teaching, but also something useful no matter what career your pursue. The larger assignment you have in this course is an essay/project in which you try out some of the ideas and methods we explore in the course of the seminar to a topic or a body of content with which you are familiar. The essay should document the methodology you used, the results you acquired, and how these results relate to results of more traditional forms of scholarship. (Remember, scholarship itself has undergone radical changes in the last fifty years, and so we should never imagine in the course of this seminar that we are working from a static base.)

Course Schedule

To make it easier to maintain and to reference, the course schedule is here.