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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Jentery F Sayers
CHID 498
Seattle Campus

Special Colloquia

Each colloquium examines a different subject or problem from a comparative framework. A list of topics is available from the CHID office.

Class description

FOR SPRING QUARTER 2009: MAPPING THE DIGITAL HUMANITIES

STUDENTS FROM ALL MAJORS ARE ENCOURAGED TO ENROLL. NO PREREQUISITES.

What is the role of digital technologies in learning and taking humanities classes at the university? How are these technologies influencing humanities scholarship and research practices, as well as facilitating critical, collaborative, and creative inquiry? With these questions as a framework, this course provides you with the opportunity to develop your own digital humanities project throughout (and ideally beyond) an entire quarter.

More specifically, the class is structured around two approaches to mapping in the digital humanities: geographical mapping and textual mapping. In the first instance, as a class, you will collaboratively compose an interactive, digital map of the University of Washington’s Seattle campus through a combination of photography, video, sound, text, and Google Maps and Earth. In the second instance, you will pursue individual projects, where you will use a blend of qualitative and quantitative approaches to produce a digital model of your own research on a particular text or texts. Put this way, both the collaborative and individual projects will function as vehicles for animating information and moving audiences toward new ways of engaging humanities research.

This class is an introduction to the digital humanities. No technical competences are required, and the course content stresses technology-focused critical methods and computer-aided approaches to culture, history, and literature. That said, while I will assume that you have no technical competences in computing (specifically in XHTML, CSS, GIS, or data modeling), I will ask you to further the humanities work you have already done. Regardless of what individual project you ultimately choose, I ask that you think of this class both as a direct extension of your previous studies and as a tangible means of preparing you for future studies at the intersection of things digital and things humanistic. Try being a computer geek and a book nerd, simultaneously, if only for a quarter.

Mapping the Digital Humanities will be a quarter-long project on a number of registers—individual and collaborative, methodical and experimental, technical and critical. And as for that peculiar title: mapping the digital humanities implies not just the maps you will be producing, but also locating possibilities for the digital humanities in your own undergraduate education. This act of locating should allow you a great deal of leeway in making your own choices in this class; it should also allow me to learn a great deal with you in the process.

"W" credit is an option, arranged on a case-by-case basis.

Student learning goals

Become familiar with a markup language (XHTML) and a stylesheet language (CSS) and write in both of them (at a novice level) without the use of a computer.

Collaboratively construct a geographical map (of the UW, Seattle campus) through a set of shared and agreed-upon standards for composing in a networked environment.

Individually produce a textual map (e.g., of a city depicted in a novel, of the relations between texts in an archive) and articulate (in an abstract of no more than 300 words) the map’s critical motivation, its classification system, and the method used to produce it.

Research aspects of a print text (e.g., a novel, a geographical map), refashion and animate them in a digital text, and assess (in 750-1250 words) how that animation affords a novel way for audiences to perceive, navigate and interpret your research.

Sample a variety of software and systems (e.g., ArcGIS, WordPress, and Google Visualization, Earth and Maps) and identify what software and systems are most appropriate for your own digital humanities project.

General method of instruction

The class will be workshop-driven, using studio-based modules for participatory learning, and conducted in a PC lab (OUGL 102).

Emphasis will be placed on the development of student projects and the acquisition of critical and technical skills through in-class modules. That said, out-of-class reading will be kept to a minimum.

Class time (consisting of modules on technical skills and software, critiques, workshops, and discussion) will be split equally between the collaborative and individual mapping projects.

There will be no text books. Students will access course modules via the course blog.

Recommended preparation

Peruse the Companion to Digital Humanities (http://www.digitalhumanities.org/companion/).

Contact Jentery Sayers (jentery@u.washington.edu) with your project ideas, questions, and concerns.

Visit the course site (http://mappingthedigitalhumanities.org/) and leave a comment, if you wish!

Class assignments and grading

The course is project-based. See below (about how grades will be designed) for more on the assignments.

Based upon the course outcomes (see above), student work will be graded as follows (on a 4.0 scale):

Class participation (30% of the grade): Class time will include hands-on modules on humanities computing, group conversations, short talks, workshops, and critiques. Aside from these components, the class participation grade will also include the timeliness of your work, your participation in three conferences with me, and the quality of your collaboration with your peers.

Blogging and collaborative project (20% of the grade): You will be blogging throughout the quarter. Since the collaborative project is for the most part housed on the blog, it is also included in this portion of your grade. Factors for assessing the blogging and collaborative project include timeliness, how persuasively your work responds to the prompt at hand, and how concretely the ideas and applications from class modules are mobilized in your writing and compositions.

Quiz (5% of the grade): There will be one quiz—announced in advance—administered and taken in class. It will emerge from the modules and will cover the basics of XHTML and CSS. You can only take it once.

Final presentation (5% of the grade): At the quarter’s end, you will present your individual project (see next bullet point) to the class or to a wider audience. (We’ll decide on the audience at the beginning of the quarter.) That presentation will be graded on how concisely you articulate your work, the clarity of your method, and the appropriateness of the presentation’s content for the context.

Individual project (40% of the grade): Individual projects will consist of six stages (i.e., thought piece, needs assessment, work flow, abstract, data model, and final digital model and assessment). Aside from the final digital model and assessment, you will be able to revise each stage of the project based upon the criteria in the prompt, comments from and conferences with me, and feedback from your peers.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Additional Information on the course website
Last Update by Jentery F Sayers
Date: 03/27/2009