Dr. Kirstyn Leuner (firstname.lastname@example.org)
New 17 Winter Course: COLT 18.02
Meets at 10A (Tues/Thurs 10:10-12:00)
Office hours: TBD in Sanborn 014
course website: http://leunerwinter17.wordpress.com
The Humanist in the Computer:
Digital Humanities and Social Justice
What can digital technologies do to our words? What can they do for our words, as activism? In this course, we will use computers to create, share, and analyze different kinds of digital texts in order to discover together—through, reading, writing, and entry-level programming—how our use of these technologies changes our relationship to language and politics. Desires to think, experiment, and collaborate are required; programming experience is not.
Introduction and Course Rationale
Since the 1940s, humanists have been studying the advantages and constraints of using computing technologies for communication. Roberto Busa, one of the first people to undertake this kind of work, writes, “humanities computing is precisely the automation of every possible analysis of human expression (therefore, it is exquisitely a ‘humanistic’ activity), in the widest sense of the word, from music to the theater, from design and painting to phonetics, but whose nucleus remains the discourse of written texts.” In this course, we will use computers to create, share, and analyze different kinds of digital texts in order to discover how these technologies alter our understanding of language and literature.
Scholars have dubbed this new field of inquiry the Digital Humanities (DH), and it comprises a growing and changing set of theories of and practices for teaching, learning, and performing humanities work with digital tools and resources. Conversely, DH also encompasses analysis of the use of technologies to do humanist work—that is, the work of understanding what it means to be human. This course will provide an introduction to many aspects of DH work. We will investigate what computers enable us to do differently, and sometimes better, with text when we read, write, analyze, visualize, play, edit, create, experiment with, archive, annotate, publish, perform, and share our machine-readable work. For example, we will discover what new kinds of questions we can answer when a computer turns pages of novels or poetry into data. We will experience how we write differently when we create and publish our own texts and podcasts online according to best practices for digital publishing and archiving. We will also consider the digital and literary properties of new kinds of texts and stories that computing has given rise to, such as video games and interactive fiction. And, on the flip side, we will think about what traditional modes of humanist inquiry teach us about our use of technologies—both digital and analog.
But that’s not all, and it’s also not enough. This course is organized as a survey of different methodological approaches to the Digital Humanities as a way to analyze texts. What will make these methods especially meaningful (and not just a group of methods) is that we will interrogate how they can be used to promote equality and social justice. Digital technologies, when paired with humanist enquiry, can help citizens organize, work together, produce works of cultural critique, reach new audiences, and effect social change. They have the potential to disrupt traditional modes of knowledge acquisition and distribution that favor privileged majorities. At the same time, digital technologies also offer platforms for those in power to control media outlets that reach large audiences.
In the course title, I emphasize the “humanist in the computer” in order to critique technological determinism, or, the idea that technologies shape the social. Rather, we will insist that people craft hardware, software, and virtual networks—with varying degrees of success—and it is human employment of digital tools that makes things happen with computing. In each class, and for each topic, we will study examples of digital activism that accord with the DH methodology we are studying. Search the preliminary course schedule for “digital activism” for examples.
Are you ready to collaborate? We will lean on one another in order to answer questions, solve problems, and make things happen. This is one of the things I love most about DH as a field and as a practice. This discipline turns the image of the solitary genius typing alone into a networked lab or workshop—sometimes even an intellectual party. With every new tool or program, we will learn how to use it together and share these skills with our classmates. We will also generate a lot of error messages together, fail to make things work properly, and help each other troubleshoot. Each topic we cover will feature an invited guest speaker to model the practice of gathering knowledge from our wider community of experts. Similarly, our coursework will ask you to gather and share knowledge with your classmates. While some of our assignments will be completed individually for a grade, others will be collaborative. It follows that participation online and in the classroom constitutes a significant percentage of your final course grade.
Required Texts: All readings will be provided electronically on our course website or Canvas.
Required Skills: No programming knowledge/experience required. Willingness to experiment, laugh, learn how to troubleshoot, and work together to solve problems is mandatory.
- Understand, employ, and analyze basic concepts, methodologies, and tools of the Digital Humanities
- To explore and evaluate a diverse corpus of DH projects that address social justice issues
- Participate in, with guidance, and reflect critically on public DH scholarship related to social justice
Midterm Essay: 20%
Final Project: 25%
Participation – in class: 15%
Participation – on-line: 15%
- Daily Blogs: Each person in our class will join HASTAC (hastac.org, Humanities, Arts, Sciences, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory) as part of our class group that I administer. HASTAC is a community of over 14,000 individuals and institutions dedicated to advancing digital scholarship and learning. Our blog posts will respond to the texts, projects, or videos assigned to prepare for each class, due by midnight the night before class. Each blog post will have an optional prompt to help you get started writing. Posts should be at least 300 words long, include at least one link, and include one embedded image, video, or sound byte.
- Practicums: There will be a Practicum due each Tuesday by classtime. I borrowed this idea from Alan Liu’s assignments in his course “Hacking Literary Interpretation.” They are “hands-on, small-scale exercises that ask students to learn at a beginner’s level about the concepts, methods, and tools of the digital humanities” and each practicum needs to be “turned in” by writing about it on your blog. (Daily blog posts and practicums are separate assignments, though they both “report” in the medium of the blog.)
- Midterm Essay (length: 5 pages in Word, but published on your blog): Find the text of at least two speeches on social justice/social engagement issues that you would like to analyze in Voyant. Identify three questions that you hope your analysis can answer about those texts. In a blog post, discuss how you decided which texts to use, how you prepared the text files for analysis in Voyant, what your questions are and how you came up with them, and what you learned from your analysis. Be sure to include screen shots to illustrate your blog post. Your midterm essay will report on the findings of your analysis and will walk your reader through your analysis, as you see the sample post do here http://hermeneuti.ca/now-analyze-that.
- Final Project and Presentation: You will design and complete a final project that is in some way collaborative and that addresses the theme of social justice in DH. For example, you can take one of the modules or skills learned in our practicums and turn that into a larger project, or you can propose a different project. Final projects will be collaborative.
Read this schedule as a list of due dates of readings and assignments. All readings will be provided for you. You do not have to purchase any texts. Assignments will always have more detailed instructions presented in class and on our course website. This schedule will change and grow as the term progresses, and I will announce these changes clearly in class and online. Our course material has two parts: (1) infrastructure and creation, and (2) analysis.
Meeting times: We will meet every Tuesday and Thursday from 10:10am-12:00pm. Our weekly X-hour period is each Wednesday from 3:30-4:20pm. I have kept the x-hour time slots open on our course schedule, and we will use them regularly for practicum workshops, midterm essay workshops, or final project workshops. I will always be available to assist you during X-hour even if we do not meet as a class.
Part I: DH Infrastructure and Digital Data Creation & Display
Thurs 1/5: Course introduction, syllabus review
- Don’t worry, there’s nothing due for class today! We will get to know one another, and I will introduce the syllabus. In our remaining time, we will read and discuss selections from Amanda Visconti’s “Digital Humanities: What? Why? How?”; Tara McPhereson’s “Why Are the Digital Humanities So White? or Thinking the Histories of Race and Computation”; and/or watch Elijah Meek’s “What is Digital Humanities?” video (10 min).
- Digital Activism for Day 1: Alex Gil, Around DH in 80 Days (you will find a very large sampling of DH projects from different parts of the world)
Tues 1/10: Hardware, Software, Internet, People
- Reading: “Between Bits and Atoms” (ANC, PDF provided); “Embodiment, Entanglement, and Immersion” (ANC, PDF provided); Can Digital Humanities Mean Transformative Critique? (Alexis Lothian and Amanda Philips); Optional: For more on DH methods and making: browse Miriam Posner’s “How did they make that?”
- Digital Activism: hastac.org (be sure to explore some blog posts)
- Practicum, in class: blogging troubleshooting practicum, together, on hastac.org. You do not have to do this ahead of time.
Thurs 1/12: Texts, from Page to Screen, Interfaces
- Reading: Yin Liu, “Ways of Reading, Models for Text, and the Usefulness of Dead People” [PDF or HTML]; Andy Stauffer “My Old Sweethearts: On Digitization and the Future of the Print Record”; View: William Warner, Kimberly Knight, and UCSB Transliteracies History of Reading Group, “In the Beginning was the Word: A Visualization of the Page as Interface” (Flash animation)
- Digital Activism: American Prison Writing Archive
- Guest expert: Michelle Warren
Tues 1/17: From Page to Screen, cont.: HTML, CSS
- Reading: Bethany Nowviskie “On the Origin of ‘Hack’ and ‘Yack’”; Mark C. Marino “Why We Must Read the Code: The Science Wars, Episode IV”
- Reading/doing/viewing: Mozilla Developer Network “Introduction to HTML”; Mozilla Developer Network “Introduction to CSS.” Or, if you prefer, watch this video series: Travis Neilson, of Dev Tips for Designers, has put together a series of friendlyvideo tutorials on HTML and CSS. Check them out here: HTML 5 Basics and CSS Basics.
- Digital Activism: http://chicanapormiraza.org/ Chicana por mi Raza: Uncovering the Hidden History of Chicana Feminism (1965‐1985); Two Plantations
- Practicum due: American Prison Writing Project transcription
- Desired guest speakers: from the DALI Lab
Thurs 1/19: Structured Data on the Web, part 2: Markup and Digital Editions (XML, TEI)
- Reading: Kirstyn Leuner “Markup Theory and Practice” lecture; Laura Mandell “Gendering Digital Literary History: What Counts for Digital Humanities” (PDF); Optional: James Cummings, “The Text Encoding Initiative and the Study of Literature”
- Explore Module 1 (“Common Structure and Elements”)of the TEI By Example Tutorial
- Digital Activism: The Orlando Project (Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present)
- Desired guest speaker: Shannon Rose Smith on TEI encoding literature
Tues 1/24: Databases
- Reading: Stephen Ramsay, “Databases”; Julia Gaffield, “Haiti’s Declaration of Independence: Digging for Lost Documents in the Archives of the Atlantic World”; Michael Christie, “Computer Databases and Aboriginal Knowledge,” Learning Communities 1 (2003): 4-12.
- Digital Activism: Emory University, The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database: The Voyages Database
- Practicum due today: HTML & CSS Practicum, Codeacademy Learn HTML & CSS Part I, lessons 1-4.
- Desired guest speaker: TBD
Thurs 1/26: From Database to Digital Archive
- Reading: Kate Theimer, “Archives in Context and as Context”; Matthew Kirschenbaum, “The .txtual Condition: Digital Humanities, Born-Digital Archives, and the Future Literary”
- Digital Activism: 1947 Partition Archive; The Stainforth Library of Women’s Writing
- Desired guest speaker: Caitlin Birch, Dartmouth Vietnam Project Digital Archivist
Tues 1/31: Collaboration and Crowdsourcing
- Reading: Julia Flanders lecture on Collaboration and Dissent in creating electronic editions for the Women Writers Project (watch video, 1 hr) (2010); Queer OS; David Auerbach, “Encyclopedia Frown” on Wikipedia’s editing disputes, Slate (11 Dec 2014)
- Digital Activism: Boston Marathon Bombing Project; The Counted: People Killed by Police in the US; Wikipedia
- Practicum due: TEI Encoding
- Desired guest speakers: TBD
Thurs 2/2: Social Media
- Reading: Lisa Nakamura, “The Unwanted Labour of Social Media: Women of Color Call Out Culture As Venture Community Management”; Pew Research Center, “Social Media Conversations about Race”; Optional: Pedagogies of Race: Digital Humanities in the Age of Ferguson
- Digital Activism: White Violence, Black Resistance
- Desired Guest Speaker: Joe DiGrazia
Part II: DH Projects & Analysis
- Reading: Miriam Posner “What’s Next: The Radical, Unrealized Potential of DH”; Stéfan Sinclair and Geoffrey Rockwell, “The Measured Words: How Computers Analyze Texts,” in Hermeneutica; Franco Moretti, “‘Operationalizing’: Or, The Function of Measurement in Modern Literary Theory” [PDF](Stanford Literary Lab Pamphlet #6, 2013)
- Digital Activism: Voyant analysis comparing how Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright address race: http://hermeneuti.ca/now-analyze-that. We will play with Voyant in class.
- Practicum Due: Wikipedia editing
- Desired guest expert: Emily Klancher Merchant
Thurs 2/9: Text Analysis 2: Algorithms and Topic Modelling
- Reading: Benjamin M. Schmidt “Do Digital Humanists Need to Understand Algorithms?”; Ted Underwood “Where to start with text mining”; Megan R. Brett “Topic Modeling: A Basic Introduction”; (For the intrepid, optional) Scott Weingart “Topic Modeling for Humanists: A Guided Tour”
- Digital Activism: Lisa Marie Rhody “Why I Dig: Feminist Approaches to Text Analysis”
Tues 2/14: Text Analysis 3: Exploring Error (Happy Valentine’s Day!)
- Reading: Liz Losh et al. “Putting the Human Back into the Digital Humanities: Feminism, Generosity, and Mess”; “Messy Data and Faulty Tools” and “The Syuzhet Blog Posts” (Joanna Swafford, Matt Jockers) [Note: these blog posts contain technical jargon that I do not expect you to fully understand. But I do expect you to read for the gist of this important debate between two scholars. It may help to annotate as you read.]
- Digital Activism: FemTechNet Collective
- Practicum due: Text analysis with Voyant
- Desired guest speaker: Annie Swafford
Thurs 2/16: Mapping
- Reading: Franco Moretti “Maps” in Graphs, Maps, and Trees (PDF provided); Ian Gregory et al. “Crossing Boundaries: Using GIS in Literary Studies, History and Beyond”
- Activist Reading/Digital Project: Read Jonathan Hsy “Language Ecologies: Ethics, Community, and Digital Affect” (PDF provided) & Explore Endangered Languages; Mapping Police Violence; Geotagged Hateful Tweets
- Desired guest speaker: James Adams, Dartmouth’s Visualization Librarian
Tues 2/21: Network Analysis
- Reading: Scott B. Weingart “Demystifying Networks, Parts I & II” (if you want more, here’s more!”; Toran Hansen “Applying Social Network Theory and Analysis in the Struggle for Social Justice” (PDF provided); Optional – Martin Grandjean “Introduction to Network Visualization with GEPHI”; Optional – Miriam Posner “Visualizing a network of film casts and crews”
- Digital Activism: Kindred Britain (Is this activist? Why/why not?)
- Practicum due: Create a timemap of your last term (real or fictional) with 10 different dates on it and 10 distinct geo-coordinates using http://timemapper.okfnlabs.org/.
- Desired guest speaker: TBD
Thurs 2/23: 2D and 3D, Performance Studies
- Reading: “Visualizing Theatrical Text: From Watching the Script to the Simulated Environment for Theatre (SET)” in DHQ; Melissa Terras, “Image Processing in the Digital Humanities”
- Digital Activism: Performing Archive: Curtis + “The Vanishing Race” ; Act.Feminism: A Performing Archive ; Apartheid Heritages/Projects/Soweto ’76 3D
- Desired guest expert: James Dietrich, on 3D modeling
Tues 2/28: Sound Studies and Podcasts
- Reading/Listening: Tanya Clement, “Distant Listening: On Data Visualisations and Noise in the Digital Humanities.”; Sterne et al., “The Politics of Podcasting”
- Digital Activism: The Body Modification Podcast – listen to 1 episode (or more!)
- Practicum due: Network analysis with pre-made data set in either Gephi or Cytoscape (refer to 2/21 readings for step-by-step instructions)
- Desired guest speakers: Kes and Memory, hosts/creators/editors of The Body Modification Podcast
Thurs 3/2: Games
- Reading: Mary Flanagan, Chapter 1, Values at Play in Digital Games; Liz Losh, “#GamerGate 101,” Virtualpolitik (blog) (17 Oct 2014).
- Digital Activism & Play: Tiltfactor.org; Elizabeth LaPensée http://www.elizabethlapensee.com/#/games/
- Desired guest expert: Mary Flanagan, Tiltfactor
Tues 3/7: Electronic Literature
- Reading: Leonardo Flores, “What is E-Poetry?”; Lori Emerson, “Activist Media Poetics: Electronic Literature Against the Interface-free”; “Digital Poet Jason Nelson urges other to forge new frontiers in electronic literature”; View (optional) Leonardo Flores “E-Poetry as Code and Data Remix”
- Digital Activism/Poetry: Judd Morrissey, and Lori Talley, “The Jew’s Daughter”; Mary Flanagan [theHouse]; Any 2 additional poems of your choice tagged “Activist” in EL3; Optional: Roderick Coover, Canyonlands: Edward Abbey in the Great American Desert
- Desired guest speaker: Leonardo Flores (via Skype), on I © E-Poetry
- Practicum due: Game or story creation in Twine or Inkle
Wednesday 3/8: X-hour (Wed. 3:30pm)
- Reading: Bethany Nowviskie, DHSI 2014 keynote, “Digital Humanities in the Anthropocene” (find also here, or on Vimeo as a talk with slides);
- Final reflections, discussion, and debate
March 11-14 Final Exams
We will have a final project presentation and party; peer evaluations of final projects will also be due. (These will not count toward their grade, but they will count toward your final project grade.)