Digital History

Professor Shaw taught “Digital History” as part of Wesleyan’s “Digital and Computational Knowledge Initiative” in the Fall of 2015.

Course Description:

“This course offers an introduction to the emerging field of digital history, part of the broader digital humanities (DH), the application of computing techniques and new media to humanities disciplines. DH has important implications for teaching, research, and the presentation of cultural artifacts to the scholarly and general public. Digital humanists employ a wide-ranging set of techniques, from text- and data-mining to network analysis, topic modeling, GIS, and visualizations. DH also offers opportunities for cross-disciplinary collaborations among humanists, computer scientists, media specialists, and others. As a result, this course seeks to bring together students with a variety of skills and backgrounds (history, writing, programming, web and graphic design, sound and video, etc.) who share an interest in historical communication and making things.

Through readings, conversations, and hands-on work with DH tools and historical resources, we will examine questions pertinent to historical scholarship and consider how they may be reconfigured by new media and new applications of computing power. How does DH allow us to ask new questions as historians, and what perils do digital techniques pose for the discipline of history? Together, we will cultivate our skills as practitioners of history in the digital age.

A central component of the course will be collaborative DH projects of our own devising. Much of the course will have the character of a digital history research lab as we take real problems and relevant sources to advance historical knowledge as well as our skills. This might involve projects in which we conceive, design, build, publicize, and launch a tool, website, or other contribution to digital history. Students should be prepared to collaborate in and out of class, to teach and learn from each other, and to cope with a dynamic and flexible syllabus and group of tasks.”