On doing digital history – thoughts for new grad students

I’ve been asked this morning to talk to our new cohort of MA students on ‘doing digital history’. I thought about how I might do this. Typically, I’d throw together a powerpoint and begin talking about various tools, trends in the field, try to get a sense of what people are interested in, tailoring my comments to those topics.

Today though, I’m trying a different approach. I want students to understand that the choice of tool, and the way data gets represented or manipulated in a computer, are not inconsequential choices. To that end, I’m working with Prezi. Its metaphor – zooming – couldn’t be further from Powerpoint – recreating the 35 mm slide.  It’s a simple example, but I think it should make the point elegantly. Now, as to ‘getting started with digital tools’, I could’ve just sent the students to the DiRT wiki (which I am indeed doing), leaving it at that, but again, I wanted to make my larger point have more resonance. In which case, I’m going to take them through my digital workflow as I use topic modeling to try to understand deeper structures in the corpus of ancient writers. I’m not pretending to comprehensiveness this morning. Rather, I am using my own research (and how I came to this research) as a trajectory for launching students into their own research. Below is my prezi; please feel free to use, adapt, alter accordingly to your own needs.

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