Spring 2019- Temple University

HIST 4400/HIST 5152- Digital History Syllabus

Instructor Information

·      Name: Cynthia Heider

·      Office address: Gladfelter Hall 925

·      Office hours: Thursdays 8-9pm or by appointment

·      Email: cynthia.heider@temple.edu

·      Telephone: XXX-XXX-XXXX

Course Information

·      Course number: HIST 4400/HIST 5152

·      Course title: Digital History

·      Course Canvas site: https://templeu.instructure.com/courses/53718

·      Course syllabus:


·      Course time: Thursdays 5:30-8pm, from 1/17/19 to 4/25/19

·      Course location: Gladfelter Hall 925

Course Overview and Goals

The definition of digital history is amorphous, broad, and often debated. Digital history projects may refer to everything from an online exhibition to a podcast to mapping and geographic information systems. This class will explore digital history in terms of the questions of narrative, shared authority, access, and historical analysis that arise when using digital tools for working with history. We will discuss the major issues involved in digital history initiatives and gain familiarity with various technologies often used in such projects.

Course goals include:

·      Examine evolving theory and major debates within digital humanities and digital history, including issues of transparency, ethics, accessibility, authority, and legitimacy

·      Discover how to use digital projects to engage with multiple stakeholders and audiences and encourage conversations and collaborations

·      Evaluate and critically assess digital methodologies and tools through hands-on technical experimentation and skillbuilding

·      Determine how methods of digital history might contribute to the advancement of research interests, scholarship, and professional goals

Key Questions:

  1. What is digital history? How do methods of the so-called digital turn intersect with the work of doing history?
  2. What are some of the pros and cons of using digital tools in the production of historical scholarship?
  3. How can I do cool things with digital tools and resources? Who else in the field is currently doing cool things?
  4. Where can I go for help if I have questions or need guidance, instructions, or inspiration for my projects? How do I keep updated on developments in the field?

Course Materials

Required Textbooks & Materials

All course materials are available free-of-cost online, or otherwise will be provided to students by the instructor. Class readings are accessible through the course’s Canvas site.

Course Policies

Your success in this class is important to me. If there are circumstances that may affect your performance in this class – including personal, health-related, family-related, or any other type of difficulty - please let me know as soon as possible so that we can work together to develop strategies for adapting assignments to meet both your needs and the requirements of the course.


Additionally, any student who may have a need for accommodation based on the impact of a documented disability has the right to guidance and resources made available free-of-cost by Temple University Disability Resources and Services. For example, DRS can arrange for use of assistive technology, provide alternate format materials, and help determine appropriate and reasonable classroom accommodations. If applicable, please get in touch with DRS to initiate the formal accommodation process. DRS is located in 100 Ritter Annex and can be reached at 215-204-1280 or online at https://disabilityresources.temple.edu/contact.

Attendance and Tardiness

This course will meet only once per week for 13 weeks. Because class participation accounts for a significant part of your grade, consistent attendance is particularly important. If you will be unable to attend a class due to religious holiday, illness, or emergency circumstances, please let me know by phone or email as soon as you anticipate the absence.

Due Dates for Assignments

Due dates for all assignments are listed in the syllabus and on the course Canvas website. All assignments besides course readings and annotations have an automatic three-day grace period, no questions asked. Following that, you’ll incur a one-letter-grade penalty and will need to work out a plan with me for completion of the assignment.

Incomplete Grade Policy

Temple University guidelines for incompletes maintain that an instructor may file a grade of “I” (Incomplete) for a student only if a student has completed the majority of the work of the course at a passing level and only for reasons beyond the student’s control. Please consult the Bulletin for the details of the formal process governing the distribution of incomplete grades (Policy #02.10.13).

Academic Honesty/Plagiarism

Plagiarism is defined in the TU Bulletin as “the unacknowledged use of another person's labor, another person's ideas, another person's words, and another person's assistance.” Academic cheating, generally defined, means engaging in behavior that gives a student or students an unfair academic advantage- including but not limited to fabrication of data, resubmission of work already submitted for another academic assignment, or doing the work of another person.

Plagiarism and academic cheating are serious infractions of the Academic Honor Code. Suspected instances may be referred to the University Disciplinary Committee; I also reserve the right to assign a grade of “F” for the given assignment.

Statement on the Student and Faculty Academic Rights and Responsibilities Policy

Freedom to teach and freedom to learn are inseparable facets of academic freedom. The University has a policy on Student and Faculty and Academic Rights and Responsibilities (Policy #03.70.02).

Technology Usage Policy

Since technology is a focus in this class, we’ll be using computers each week for the lab portion of that class. If it’s an option for you, you may bring your own computer to class, or I can arrange for the use of university-issued laptops. Please note that consistent access to a computer and an internet connection is necessary for the completion of assignments for this course.

Course Requirements

Time required to complete activities related to and required for this course is estimated at 155 total hours over the course of the spring 2019 semester (or, roughly 11 hours per week).

This includes:

·      39 hours of class time (3 hours per week x 13 weeks)

·      26 hours engaging with course readings (2 hours per week x 13 weeks)

·      90 hours completing course work (6 hours per week x 15 weeks)

Assignment 1: Skillbuilding (20%)

This unit of assessment is composed of smaller assignments with their own due dates (all dates also have an automatic 3-day grace period).

·      Due February 7: “Get it and assess it” (5%)

·      Due February 14: “Clean it up” (5%)

·      Due February 21: “Treasure hunt” (5%)

·      Due February 28: “Worth 1000 words” (5%)

Assignment 2: Digital Project Review (20%)

Pick one of the “featured projects” from the course of the semester, or another digital history project that corresponds to your interests. Review the project following the guidelines outlined in the Journal of American History and the NCPH Digital History Project Review Guidelines. Your review may take the form of a blog post, a YouTube or video review, a digital exhibit, an oral presentation, etc. or some other type of creative medium (just clear it with me first, please!). Please email it to me or otherwise provide a link to where it may be found, if applicable. The review should be ~500-750 words (if written). Due: March 14 (plus automatic 3-day grace period)

Assignment 3: Final Project (30%)

Your Final Project contains two parts: a Project Proposal and a Project Plan. In effect, the first assignment will state a problem, and the second will present a solution. Together, these elements will provide you with a solid plan for producing a digital project that meets your needs and wishes. The Final Project materials can also serve as a blueprint for creating effective documentation in your professional life; conference presentations, white papers, process papers, and applications for employment or grant funding will require similarly formatted documents.

Detailed parameters for producing the Project Proposal and Project Plan can be found on the course Canvas site.

·      Due March 25: Rough project proposal via email (ungraded but with feedback)

·      Due April 4: Polished project proposal via blog post (15%)

·      Due April 25: Project plan and brief presentation (15%)

Assigned Readings (15%)

Readings are assigned weekly and should be completed before each class. In addition, the class will work to collaboratively annotate the readings through Canvas using the Hypothes.is tool. We will discuss more about Hypothes.is on the first week of class. Readings and annotations will help you prepare for class discussions; for this reason, they will be worth 15% of your grade (or, 1% each class).

Class Participation (15%)

Participation in discussion and lab work will similarly comprise 15% of your total grade (again, at 1% each class).

I would like every student to have the opportunity to participate and share their reactions to a reading or discussion. Quality is more important than quantity. While an individual’s participation will naturally vary from class to class, students are encouraged to improve their participation each class and contribute to class discussion every week. I will assign a grade for a student’s participation in each class and then average the grades over the course of the semester to reach a letter grade that counts toward the final assessment for the course. Class participation will be assessed according to the following rubric:

A– Prepared for every class and familiar with readings and sites for review, contributes questions and discussion points that are not simple reiterations of statements from the readings, makes connections between readings for this class and previous classes, responds to other students’ comments and extends the analysis, analyzes and challenges readings and class discussion in a respectful, evidence-­based manner.

B–Prepared for most classes, engaged listener who contributes but requires occasional prompting, analyzes readings but comments may focus more on restating author’s opinions rather than building upon them with unique statements, respectfully listens to other student comments but does not respond directly to issues they raise.

C–Minimally prepared for classes, does not volunteer comments or questions, provides comments indirectly or not at all connected to the topic when called upon, inattentive listener

D–No evidence of preparation, cannot provide comments on the subject matter when called upon, disrespectful to other students’ comments, inattentive listener

Grading of Assignments

The grade for this course will be determined according to the following formula:


% of Final Grade

Readings and annotations


Class participation


Digital Project Review


Skillbuilding assignments

20% (5% each)

Final Project assignments

30% (15% each)

Letter Grades

Letter grades for the entire course will be assigned as follows:

Letter Grade





Example: 92.5% and higher



Example: 90.0 – 92.49%



Example: 87.5% - 89.99%



Example: 82.5% - 87.49%



Example: 80% - 82.49%



Example: 77.5% - 79.99%



Example: 72.5% - 77.49%



Example: 70% - 72.49%



Example: 67.5% - 69.99%



Example: 62.5% - 67.49



Example: 60% - 62.49%



Example: 59.99% and lower

About this Syllabus

This is a living document! Please feel free to add your comments or questions, as they will allow the syllabus and the work of the class to grow and change if needed. On that note: Dates, assignments, readings, or lab tutorials are subject to change throughout the semester. I will contact you by email at least a week prior to the affected class if I make a change in the syllabus.

To give credit where credit is due: I am indebted to the expertise of many scholars who came before me. This syllabus borrows ideas from digital history and digital humanities classes taught by Adina Langer, Cameron Blevins, Scott Selisker, Jason Heppler, Sharon Leon, Trevor Owens, Fred Gibbs, Jim McGrath, Caleb McDaniel, Miriam Posner, Lauren Tilton, Ben Schmidt, Lincoln Mullen, Purdom Lindblad, Jeremy Boggs, and Deb Boyer.

Course Schedule

Week 1: Thursday, January 17, 2019 | Digital History: Why You’re Here

Topics: What is Digital History? Introduction to course structure and syllabus; Course goals, requirements, and assignments

Lab: Intro to collaborative annotation

How and why to annotate your course readings with Hypothes.is in Canvas

Week 2: Thursday, January 24 | Joining the DH Conversation [Class overview]

Topics: Questions guiding this course; principles of DH (collaboration, interdisciplinarity, transparency); overview of major theoretical debates within digital history and the digital humanities

Discuss: “Eternal September of the Digital Humanities” (Nowviskie); “Is (Digital) History More than an Argument about the Past?” (Dorn); “Digital History and Argument” (Mullen and Robertson)

Lab: Your professional identity in the digital context

Week 3: Thursday, January 31 | Harvesting for Historians: Gathering Data [Class overview]

Topics: Finding and creating data(sets); processes for creating structured data; metadata and paradata

Discuss: “Humanities Data: A Necessary Contradiction” (Posner); “The Transnational and the Text-Searchable: Digitized Sources and the Shadows They Cast” (Putnam); “Reading the Grand Tour at a Distance: Archives and Datasets in Digital History” (Kelly)

Lab: Digging up data

Pick a dataset for use throughout the semester labs from this list

// OR //

Identify a dataset from your own research that you want to explore

Assignment for next class: “Get it and assess it”

1. Assess your dataset by answering the following questions:

How, why, when, and by/for whom was this dataset created?

What questions can I explore with this dataset?

What is missing from this dataset? Are there other sources that could help me fill in gaps to explore the questions I’m interested in?

What kinds of manipulation will this dataset require to make it meaningful (Formatting? Standardization of spelling?)?

// AND //

2. Blog about your dataset and your assessment (250-500 words)

Week 4: Thursday, February 7 | Getting It Together, Taking It Apart: Organizing and Transforming Data [Class overview]

Due: “Get it and assess it”

Topics: Organizing data; transforming data

Discuss: “Reading Strategies for Coping with Information Overload, ca.1550-1700” (Blair); “Thinking with Linked Data; Representing History” (Leon); “Tidy Data” (Wickham); “Against Cleaning” (Rawson and Muñoz)

Featured projects: Historical Violence Database; What’s on the Menu?

Lab: Cleaning up data

Getting started with OpenRefine” (Posner) walkthrough

Assignment for next class: “Clean it up”

1. Use OpenRefine or Excel to manipulate the dataset you picked last week

// AND //

2. Blog about the choices you made when organizing your data (250-500 words)

Week 5: Thursday, February 14 | Mining for Text (and Treasure): Analyzing Data Part I [Class overview]

Topics: Computation of research data (textual analysis, topic modeling, data modeling); using textual analysis tools to discover and develop research questions

Due today: “Clean it up”

Discuss: “Big Data for Dead People: Digital Readings and the Conundrums of Positivism” (Hitchcock); “Seven ways humanists are using computers to understand text” (Underwood); “Topic Modeling: What Humanists Actually Do With It” (Roland); “How 21st Century Tech Can Shed Light On 19th Century Newspapers” (Shipman)

Featured projects: Text Mining Martha Ballard’s Diary; Homesteading the Plains: Toward a New History

Lab: Textual Analysis

Using Voyant to analyze a corpus of text

Voyant Tools walkthrough

Assignment for next class: “Treasure hunt”

1. Use Voyant on your own dataset (or one provided in class) and analyze the results

// OR //

Practice topic modeling your data using MALLET (and this tutorial)

// AND //

2. Blog about your findings (250-500 words)

Week 6: Thursday, February 21, 2019 | Seeing Is Believing: Analyzing Data Part II [Class overview]

Topics: Visualization (charts, graphs, timelines, network analysis)

Due: “Treasure hunt”

Discuss: “Information Visualization Manifesto” (Lima); “Chapter 1: Telling Stories with Data” in Visualize This: The FlowingData Guide to Design, Visualization, and Statistics (Yau); “The Image of Absence: Archival Silence, Data Visualization, and James Hemings” (Klein)

Featured projects: Visualizing the History of Fugazi; The Knotted Line

Lab: Visualization

Charts and graphs with Tableau Public; Network analysis with Palladio

Assignment for next class: “Worth 1000 words”

1. Use Tableau Public on your own dataset and analyze the results

// OR //

Perform network or other analysis on your data using Palladio

// AND //

2. Blog about your findings (250-500 words)

Week 7: Thursday, February 28, 2019 | Representing Space and Place: Analyzing Data Part III [Class overview]

Topics: Re-creation and spatial analysis (maps, 3D modeling like SketchUp, 3D printing, virtual reality, AR)

Due: “Worth 1000 words”

Discuss: “What is the Spatial Turn?” (Guldi); “The Spatial Turn in History” (Guldi); “What are the differences among virtual, augmented and mixed reality?” (Johnson); “Apprehending the Past: Augmented Reality, Archives, and Cultural Memory” in The Routledge Companion to Media Studies and Digital Humanities (Szabo); “Digital Summer School: Renewing Inequality” (The Metropole); “Decolonizing Geographies of Power: Indigenous Digital Counter-Mapping Practices on Turtle Island” (Hunt & Stevenson)

Featured projects: Mapping Indigenous LA StoryMaps; Layers of London; Mapping Inequality: Redlining in New Deal America & Renewing Inequality: Urban Renewal, Family Displacements, and Race 1955-1966

Lab: Narrative Mapping

Plug and play with StoryMapJS; Esri Story Maps overview

Assignment for next class: Digital Project Review via Canvas, blog post, or other creative medium (see assignment details)

Week 8: Thursday, March 7, 2019 | SPRING BREAK

Week 9: Thursday, March 14, 2019 | Interpretive Avenues: Presenting Data Part I [Class overview]

Topics: Web publishing (e-books, social media, blogging, CMS tools like Omeka and Mukurtu); collaborative scholarship (wikis, annotation, “writing in public,” crowdsourcing); storytelling and interactives (Twine, JuxtaposeJS, mobile apps)

Due: Digital Project Review via Canvas, blog post, or other creative medium (see assignment details)

Discuss: “Scholarly Authority in a Wikified World” (Cronon); “Making History Go Viral” (Onion); “Decolonizing The Digital Humanities In Theory and Practice” (Risam); History Respawned Episode 32: Twine and Gaming in the History Classroom

Featured projects: Queering the Map; Writing in Public; Purchasing the American Dream: Buying a Home in 1960 Chicago; Sweet Chariot

Lab: Playing with Narrative

When Rivers Were Trails, Surviving History: The Fever, Golden Threads, Venti Mesi/Twenty Months,Confetti with the Brick Bats

Week 10: Thursday, March 21, 2019 | Project Management: Presenting Data Part II [Class overview]

Topics: Best practices for planning and executing a project

Discuss: “A Hybrid Model for Managing DH Projects” (Tabak); “On Digital Solitude” (Gibbs); Selections from Communicating Design: Developing Web Site Documentation for Design and Planning (Brown)

Lab: Tools for thinking ahead

Socio-Technical Sustainability Roadmap overview

Prototyping/wireframing with Balsamiq

Sketches and flowmaps with Draw.io

Assignment for March 25: Draft project proposal

Assignment for next class: Polished project proposal

You’ve got some data, some analyses, and some ideas about debates and topics in digital history. What are you going to do with it all? It’s up to you! Guidelines for the proposal are available via the course Canvas site.

Week 11: Thursday, March 28, 2019 | On Your Own (I’ll be at NCPH)

Week 12: Thursday, April 4, 2019 | Transparency, Labor, and Ethics: Presenting Data Part III

Topics: Ethics and DH work; credit where credit is due- whose labor went into this project? Proper sourcing and citations, copyright and intellectual property

Due: Polished project proposal

Discuss: “Introduction,” in Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism (Noble); “The Carework and Codework of the Digital Humanities” (Klein); “Before You Make a Thing” (Sayers); “Crowdsourcing, Open Data and Precarious Labor” (Mayer); “Your Family’s Genealogical Records May Have Been Digitized by a Prisoner” (Bauer)

Featured projects: Scripto and the Digital Newberry; FemTechNet Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Pedagogy Workbook

Lab: Contribute to a Smithsonian Transcription Center project

Week 13: Thursday, April 11, 2019 | Advocacy, Accessibility, User Experience: Presenting Data Part IV

Topics: Advocacy by design; accessibility (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, 7 Principles of Universal Design); User Experience (UX) principles

Discuss: “Markup Bodies: Black [Life] Studies and Slavery [Death] Studies at the Digital Crossroads” (Johnson); “Digital History’s Perpetual Future Tense” (Blevins); “From Transformative Works to #transformDH: Digital Humanities as (Critical) Fandom” (Lothian); PolicyViz Podcast Episode #142: Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren Klein [authors of Data Feminism]

Lab: User experience and design for accessibility in action

UX Apprentice walkthrough; WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool; vote on next week’s adventure

Week 14: Thursday, April 18, 2019 |  Choose Your Own Adventure

Topics: Digital oral history

Discuss: “Slowing Down to Listen in the Digital Age: How New Technology Is Changing Oral History Practice” (Sheftel and Zembrzycki)

Lab: Editing Audio with Audacity tutorial

Assignment for next class: Project plan and brief presentation

Week 15: Thursday, April 25, 2019 | Loose Ends

Topics: Tying things up

Due: Project plan and brief presentation