HIST3907O ‘Digital History Research Methods’ or, Crafting Digital History

cc Dave Catchpole

(I really need to work on my course titles.)

Registration is open! Non-CU students can sign up until February 25th if they wish to obtain formal credit

Update Jan 10: Class is underway! Join our Open Access Slack Community Space: http://slackinvite-hist3907oa.rhcloud.com/. Read the syllabus, explore the workbook at your own pace.

Join me next winter, right now, online, to learn how to craft digital history. You can just follow along if you don’t want to pay tuition – all my materials will be openly available/copyable/remixable. If you need a university transfer credit, that (probably) can be arranged too. I especially welcome folks who do not consider themselves to be techy.




HIST 3907O  Crafting Digital History Winter 2015

Professor: Shawn Graham with guest appearances by Ian Milligan and probably others too!

Introduction: “We’ve spent millions digitizing the world’s historical resources. Let’s work together to figure out what they can teach us” – Adam Crymble

How do we find, analyze, and visualize the patterns in historical data? Is the internet a historical source? How do people talk about history online? Is Google changing our historical consciousness? What happens when people off-load their historical memory to Wikipedia? How do we regain control over our digital identity as historians? What does open access research mean for me?

Crafting Digital History explores these questions and more over the term through a series of hands-on exercises and individual project work. You do not need to be ‘techy’ to succeed in this course. I know that digital skills come in all shapes and sizes. What is far more important is that you are willing to try, and willing to say ‘I don’t know – help?’ I expect you to talk to each other in this class. Share your work. Collaborate. Help each other!

Digital history is a kind of public history. What’s more, the skills you will learn in this class will make you a better historian, a more critical consumer of online media, and more employable. If you want to do more with your computer than post on Facebook, this class is for you.

Class Format: We will be meeting face-to-face, virtually, once a week via a modified Google Hangout. These meet-ups are not obligatory, but you will get more out of the course if you do. They will help you stay on task. The class is divided into two-week modules that mirror the digital history workflow. There will be a menu of exercises to complete within each module (precisely which exercises will depend; in general terms, the exercises are pitched at different comfort levels, and so I will expect you to push yourself to do as many as possible). You can see an earlier iteration of the class materials here on github (note that the order of elements on a github page updates to put the most recent changes at the top; start with the ‘syllabus‘ folder! Note also that I will be revamping these materials in light of our experience this term, so that the fully online version is more polished.)

I anticipate being able to provide server space for you to set up your own digital platforms, blog, and digital identity. You will keep an online research notebook of your work, and a digital repository for your project. You will be expected to comment/learn/draw inspiration from the work of your peers, by leaving reflections in your own notebook. Your final project will be posted online (individual format and approach will be determined).

Aims and Goals: By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  1. Identify and define the limitations of useful sources of historical data online
  2. Compare and employ appropriate tools to clean and manipulate this data with a critical eye to how the tools themselves are theory-laden
  3. Analyze data using various tools with an awareness of the tendency of tools to push towards various historiographic or epistemic perspectives (ie, the ‘procedural rhetorics’ of various tools)
  4. Visualize meaningful patterns in the data to write ‘good history’ across multiple platforms, with critical evaluation of the limitations
  5. Model best practices in open access data management as mandated by SSHRC and other research agencies
  6. Develop an online scholarly voice to contribute data and reflection to the wider digital history community

Assessment: online notebook; reflection pieces; final project. There will be no final examination in this course.

 Text: An online workbook will be provided. Readings will be via online materials, provided within the workbook. You might topic model them… You may wish – but you are in no way obliged – to obtain a copy of ‘The Historian’s Macroscope’ (http://www.amazon.ca/Exploring-Big-Historical-Data-Historians/dp/1783266376 please note that the price listed in Amazon is not correct; do not purchase until I can confirm the correct price). A draft version of the text is available for free at http://themacroscope.org

Questions? Please email me at: shawn dot graham at carleton dot ca or find me on twitter @electricarchaeo.

One thought on “HIST3907O ‘Digital History Research Methods’ or, Crafting Digital History

Comments are closed.