Data Cultures

Bates College - Fall 2018

Section A: Tu/Th 11:00-12:20 Pettengill 329

Section B: Tu/Th 2:40-4:00 Pettengill G63

My office: Pettengill G11

Schedule office hours:

Data is not neutral. Data is not naturally-occurring. Data is made, processed and analyzed by people. Understanding the different cultures of data helps us to more thoughtfully engage with it.  This class provides an opportunity for students to immerse themselves in semester-long projects in digital environments, moving from ‘analog’ archives, through data structuring, and quantitative analysis, and culminating with a public-facing data project.

The DCS program strives for digital and computational spaces that are radically inclusive (e.g. anti-racist, anti-sexist). In order to cultivate these spaces, DCS explicitly values:

These values inform the learning objectives of this course:


This syllabus is a collaborative document. We might decide, as a class, to cut readings, or add them. We might decide to move deadlines, or add assignments. We might make other changes in service of a more equitable classroom. I will never make unilateral changes to the syllabus. I will never add readings or assignments without cutting elsewhere.  If you have questions or suggestions, please let me know.


Many of us learn in different ways, and this course is designed accommodate each student differently. For example, you may prefer to process information by speaking and listening, so while lectures are quite helpful for you, some of the written material may be difficult to absorb. I understand that speaking in class can be a stressful or daunting experience for some students, so I expect that everyone contribute to making the classroom a comfortable and respectful intellectual environment in which everyone can participate.

Please talk to me as soon as you can about your individual learning needs. If you do not have a documented disability, remember that other support services are available to all students.

Similarly, I know that certain topics or themes can be so traumatic as to be disruptive to learning. I will strive to flag topics that might be distressing, but if you know that some material could be disruptive to your learning, please come check in with me.

Finally, this class is conceptualized as a collaborative and community effort. Everyone should strive to be constructive in their discussion, to make space for experiences different from their own, and open to alternative ideas. Talking over and interrupting your colleagues will never accrue you more credit. If you feel like the classroom environment is not conducive to your learning, please come check in with me.

If you have already been approved for accommodations through the Office of Accessible Education (link), please meet with me so we can develop an implementation plan together.


This course uses a contract grading model. This means that we will collectively agree on a grading schema, and work to build a set of criteria for exceeds expectations/meets expectations/needs revision. Each student can then make an informed decision about how to allocate their time for this class.


On average, plan to budget for 5 hours of reading and writing responses and 2.5 hours for the homework.  The work for some weeks might take less time than this, but in weeks when you are working on your final project, expect to put in more time than this. If you find that the reading is taking up more time than that, come meet with me to discuss reading and study strategies.


This is a new class in a new program. We are going to learn and play with new things. This might not look like other classes you’ve taken. If you are anxious or uncomfortable, come see me and we can talk about how to go forward. Some (probably) new things we will explore:


These policies take effect from the first day of class, regardless of when you begin attending the course. For example, if the first time you attend class is during the second week of the semester, you will have already been marked absent from two class meetings.

Attendance: You are permitted three absences during the semester, and at your own discretion. There is no excused/unexcused absences policy – each of you gets to decide which classes you wish to miss. More than three absences will impact your final grade.  Regardless of your reason for missing a class, you will be responsible for the material covered that day.

Drafts: I am happy to look at drafts and homework assignments, but in order to get my comments you must come to meet with me in person.  You are responsible for scheduling an office hours appointment.

Writing guidelines: You are expected to write clearly and master one of the citation styles that is common to different disciplines.  This might include MLA, Chicago or APA.  

As we move into digital scholarship, you will find that there are not clear guidelines for citing in digital formats.  We will discuss appropriate citations in class – however, a lack of clear consensus among scholars does not mean you are not required to cite.  Rather, you are required to develop your own coherent system for citations.

Submissions: This class is piloting a program called Domain of One’s Own. As part of this program, plan to submit all of your work through your course site.

Readings: You are responsible for having all of the readings in class.  Bring them in whatever format best suits you. Before each reading, you should highlight and comment on one concept or sentence from each starred reading that really resonated with you, and one that really confused you. We’ll use these to help guide the discussion.

The readings are posted under the relevant weeks on Lyceum.

Distractions: While computers are an essential part of this class, you are not expected to use them for non-class activities.  These include, but are not limited to, e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, , Instagram.

Access and response times: You must come by office hours to check in during the first few weeks of the term.  You are encouraged to come by at other times as well – feel free to discuss concerns or drafts, or to ask questions about things we have covered in class.  While you can drop into office hours, I encourage you to check to find and reserve a time that works for you.  If none of my regularly scheduled office hours fit your schedule, please e-mail to set up an alternate meeting time.

I can be reached by e-mail during normal business hours (9-5, m-f), and will generally respond to e-mails received during those hours within 24 hours of receipt. It is very possible that I will not respond to e-mails on the weekends or over breaks.

My office hours might move around campus depending on your preferences - and I am also very happy to meet over lunch in commons or the den.

Other resources: Academic support resources are also available through Academic Resource Commons (Writing), Math and Stats Workshop (Octave & LateX), the Library (R), and Curricular Resources and Computing (link). DCS is also working to provide coordinated peer support, and we welcome your feedback and collaboration on these efforts.

Academic Integrity: Your academic work is governed by The Bates College Statement on Academic Integrity (link). Collaboration in this course is encouraged, but the result must be in your own words and or voice, and collaborators should be acknowledged openly. If an assignment product is submitted as a group, I expect that each of you has participated equally in the creation of the final product.  I expect honesty and communication from you, so that you may get the most benefit from your investment of time in this course.


Course communication: All course announcements and individual email are sent to your Bates email accounts. Therefore, you MUST check your Bates email on a regular basis (at minimum, once a day) for the duration of the course.

Domain of One’s Own: We will be using a new tool called Domain of One’s Own this semester. We are one of four classes piloting DoOO at Bates. This means that you will have the opportunity to create and curate your own web presence. You can do this under your own name. You can also do it anonymously. The points is to introduce the idea of digital ownership and give you a curricular space to explore the possibilities of that ownership.

The Course Website: As part of our DoOO pilot, we will be using a non-moodle course site:





Reading Due

Assignments Due (By the Start of Class)


Thursday, September 6, 2018


Part I – Making Data


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

What is data? Who owns data?

Kin Lane.  “What I Mean When I Say Domain Literacy”*

Safiya Umoja Noble. “Searching for Black Girls” in Algorithms of Oppression*

Cathy O’Neil. “Civilian Casualties” in Weapons of Math Destruction.*


Thursday, September 13, 2018

Visiting the LA Museum

Listen to “Detective Stories” episode of Radiolab

Practice Exercise # 1 – Personal Data Census

Part II - Theorizing Data


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Structuring Information

Thomas Padilla. “Collections as Data: Conditions of Possibility” (video of a talk at the Library of Congress)

Lev Manovich, “Database as Symbolic form” (1999)*

Introduction and Chapter 2 in Studying Programing (posted on Lyceum)

Visit me in office hours.

Scaffold # 1 - Set up Catapult account


Thursday, September 20, 2018

Relational databases

Jason Crawford. “Data Modeling for Humans: Developing A Learnable Conceptual Model for Relational Data” (video of presentation at CSV conf)

Jacob Gabourey. “Becoming NULL: Queer Relations in the Excluded Middle” in Women and Performance (2018)*


Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Archives, Data and Power

Marisa Fuentes, “Introduction” and “Chapter 1” in Dispossessed Lives: Women, Violence and the Archive *

“Eviction Lab Misses the Mark”*


Thursday, September 27, 2018

Working on our data

“Your First Program” and “The Nature of Errors”  in Studying Programming (posted on Lyceum)

Scaffold  # 2 – Oral Histories Data Structures 

Part III – Analyzing Data


Tuesday, October 2, 2018


Isaac Asimov, “The Psychohistorians” Foundation*

Stanley L. Engerman and Robert W. Fogel, “Guest Editors’ Forward,” Journal of Social Science History 6 (Autumn, 1982)*

“It All Gets Interesting” in Studying Programming (posted on Lyceum)

Scaffold  # 3 - Set Up Course Blog


Thursday, October 4, 2018

Exploratory Statistics

Pew. “The Changing State of Recidivism: Fewer People going back to prison” (article and methodology)*

Michael E. Martell. “Differences Do Not Matter: Exploring the Wage Gap for Same-Sex Behaving Men” in Eastern Economic Journal (Winter 2013)*


Tuesday, October 9, 2018


Rofier A. Kievit, Willem E. Frankenhuis, Lourens J. Waldorp and Denny Borsboom. “Simpson’s Paradox in Psychological Science: A Practical Guide” in Frontiers in Psychology (August 2013)*

Timothy W. Guinnane, Cormac Ó Gráda, “Mortality in the North Dublin Union During the Great Famine” The Economic History Review 55 (August, 2002)*

Practice Exercise  #2 – Structuring Dataset


Thursday, October 11, 2018

Categorical variables

I. Theodossiou. “The effects of low-pay and unemployment on psychological well-being: a logistic regression approach” in Journal of Health Economics 17 (1998)* 


Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Text mining

Jeffrey M. Binder, “Alien Reading: Text Mining, Language Standardization, and the Humanities” Debates in the Digital Humanities 2016*

Maciej Eder. “Words That Have Made History, Or Modeling The Dynamics Of Linguistic Changes” in DH2018 abstracts.*


Thursday, October 18, 2018



Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Text analysis

Matthew L. Jockers and Ted Underwood “Text Analysis and Visualization” in A New Companion to the Digital Humanities*

Bing Liu. “Sentiment Analysis and Subjectivity” in Handbook of Natural Language Processing (2010)*


Thursday, October 25, 2018

Topic modeling

Scott Weingart and Elijah Meeks. “The Digital Humanities Contribution to Topic Modeling”  in Journal of Digital Humanities Vol 2. No. 1 (2012)*

Sharon Block. “What, Where, When, and Sometimes Why: Data Mining Two Decades of Women’s History Abstracts” in Journal of Women’s History (2011)*

Practice Exercise  # 3 – Quantification


Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Extracting networks

Lauren Klein. “A Report Has Come Here’: Social Network Analysis in the Papers of Thomas Jefferson *

Christopher N. Warren, Daniel Shore, Jessica Otis, Lawrence Wang, Mike Finegold, Cosma Shalizi. “Six Degrees of Francis Bacon: A Statistical Model for Reconstructing Large Historical Social Networks” in Digital Humanities Quarterly (2016)*

Scaffold # 4 - Final project ideas


Thursday, November 1, 2018

Analyzing networks

Kieran Healy, “Using Metadata to find Paul Revere”*

Matthew Lincoln. “Continuity and Disruption in European Networks of Print Production, 1550-1750” in ArtI@s Bulletin (2017)*


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The challenges of data visualization

Johanna Drucker. “Graphical Approaches to the Digital Humanities” in A New Companion to the Digital Humanities*

Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren F. Klein. “Feminist Data Visualization”*

Hans Rosling. “200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes” (video)

Practice Exercise # 4 – Text Analysis


Thursday, November 8, 2018

Histograms and other graphs

Lincoln Mullen. “Lynching, Visualization, and Visibility,” Journal of Southern Religion 17 (2015)*

Vejune Zemaityte, Deb Verhoeven and Bronwyn Coate. “Understanding the dynamics between the United States and Australian film markets: testing the ‘10% rule’” in Studies in Australasian Cinema (2018)*


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Extracting geospatial data

Counter mapping


Lauren Tilton, Taylor Arnold, Courtney Rivard. “Locating Place Names At Scale: Using Natural Language Processing To Identify Geographical Information In Text” DH2018 abstracts*

Exercise # 5 – Networks


Thursday, November 15, 2018


Raphael Sonenshein and Mark Drayse. “Urban Electoral Coalitions in an age of immigration: time and place in the 2001 and 2005 Los Angeles mayoral primaries.” in Political Geography (2005)*

Tom Elliott and Sean Gillies. “Digital Geography and Classics in Digital Humanities Quarterly Vol. 3. No. 1 (2009)*

Scaffold # 5 - Final project idea


Tuesday, November 20, 2018



Thursday, November 22, 2018

Part IV – Presenting Data


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Making things

 Stephen Ramsay and Geoffrey Rockwell, “Developing Things: Notes toward an Epistemology of Building in the Digital Humanities” in Debates in DH (2012)*

Exercise # 6 – Data visualization


Thursday, November 29, 2018

Sharing things

Guiding Principles for Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Re-usable Data”*


Tuesday, December 4, 2018



Scaffold  # 6  – Final Project Rubric (Due after our meeting - we will build it during our meeting)


Thursday, December 6, 2018

Doing things in public

“Twittertorial” on Data Privacy

“What You Can, Can’t and Shouldn’t Do With Social Media Data”

Exercise  # 7 - Mapping