Computer-Integrated, Project-Based Course (designed and taught with assistance from Matthew W. Wilson, with support from a University of Washington Graduate School Huckabay Teaching Fellowship, and with approval from the University of Washington’s Comparative History of Ideas program)
Full Course Title: “Special Topics: Mapping the Digital Humanities”
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.
By the quarter’s end, students should:
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.
This senior-level course was my first opportunity to articulate a concrete approach to teaching digital humanities (broadly understood) to undergraduates. While collaborating with geographer Matt Wilson (including our joint application for the Huckabay Teaching Fellowship, which gave us an entire quarter to design the course), I learned how geographers (namely those who study qualitative GIS) study the intersections of culture, technology, maps, and information systems. Wilson also gave me a sense of how he teaches project-based curricula, and he helped me draft prompts for this course. While—in the classroom—I did the teaching, Wilson offered support throughout the quarter. By the conclusion of the course, I felt that students had a basic understanding of how to blend technical competencies with critical theory, and I learned from their projects, which were presented during an informal public symposium. Today, I still use many of the materials and methods from this course in my teaching, talks, and project design.
Available upon request.
(The second image on the left is a screen shot of Kelsey Uy’s final project, which geographically maps the diaspora of overseas Filipino workers, comparing data from 1992 and 2006. The third image is a screen shot of Nishali Nanayakkara’s Prezi-based, final assessment of her digital project. Both images used with permission. The fourth image is a cropped visualization (which I designed) of the course motivations, trajectories, and outcomes. All remaining images are screen shots of the collaboratively authored course blog, which I designed.)