Assignments

3/17/2020 – Changes to this page are marked in RED, in light of the COVID-19 policies enacted by state and university officials

The purpose of each assignment is to offer you an opportunity to see how history can be done in different, multi-sensory, multi-disciplinary, and purposeful ways. Technology opens up new doors that historians have (for the most part) either ignored or tepidly stepped through.

Each assignment (although, to a less extent the blog task) is not necessarily planned to demonstrate your technical competence. Instead, each one is designed to expose you to a variety of ways that historians are using technology to make their research accessible to a wide number of people. Thus, growing pains, struggles, frustrations, and (hopefully) elation are intrinsic to digital history projects. In each project you should consider: audience; alternatives tools (and why you did not use them); detailed descriptions of the project itself; ideas for increasing the project’s visibility (outreach and publicity); academic literature on both the subject matter (historical topic) and methodology (digital humanities, SoTL).

Weekly Readings

For a list of weekly readings, access this Google Doc.

[Please note that readings are subject to change at any time, so check the Google Doc on a weekly basis.]

Projects

(1) Blogs
Doing history means engaging with the public. We are not silo scholars – stockpiling our research and findings for an audience of 1+evaluator. Blogging offers a semi-public way of sharing ideas, analysis, and questions on the Web. [Microblogging platforms like Twitter increase visibility; however, nuance and Twitter don’t mesh well]

For this class, a significant amount of our conversations happen online before we meet on class on Tuesdays. Each week …
• Four (4) students will write a post to the class website. These “bloggers-for-the-week” will provide the first word and initiate points for conversation in class.
• Another four (4) students will record their thoughts on the in-class conversations via a shared Google Doc, which will allow the instructor to post a “post-discussion” recap on the week’s topic.
• The remaining four (4) students have the week off.

Roles rotate every three (3) weeks. However, all students are expected to leave at least one (1) weekly comment about their peers’ blog posts. Peer comments should be engaging responses that directly speak to the readings and the blogger’s comments.

Keep the conversation going! The best approach to this assignment is to truly engage with the arguments laid out by the authors, speak to recurring topics or themes, make the post accessible to a wide audience, and, when people comment on your post, acknowledge their interest in your writing by providing a substantive response. [Posting is not the end of the assignment]

Note: Life happens. If a personal emergency prevents you from fulfilling your role, we can reach out and see if someone can step in for you (and you return the favor back at a later point).

Remember: When it comes to online or in-class conversations, the goal is to provide substantive remarks (quality) rather than to speak more (quantity).

(2) Collecting and Archiving the Past
In this project, we will survey the wide variety of digital tools that allow historians to organize their research and produce innovative scholarship. Although the preferred tools we will use is Omeka, participants may opt to collect and curate their research collection using Zotero or developing a website/webpage. This project involves key elements – research, collecting, writing – in order to produce an online exhibit or collection.

The goal is to tell the story of X in a limited (i.e. artificial) number of entries by providing viewers with details, historical background, and historical context (why it matters) for each entry. Note: Try to establish a broad research topic for this semester, and then think about specific strands of your research for this Collecting & Archiving the Past assignment, as other stands for the next assignments listed below (Visualization and Conference Poster).

(3) Visualization Product
This research-based assignment is fun, challenging, and open-ended. Your goal is to share your research as if you were writing a standard 5-page paper … but primarily through images, with as little text as possible (text should focus on highly informative captions and image citations).

Examples include (but are not limited to): a curated photo essay using Flickr, Google Photos, or other image-collection platforms that allow you to make your collection public; a data-heavy visualization product that either makes use of data through a series of graphs-maps-trees-charts OR represents your research through geo-mapping and data display (i.e. Tableu, Timeline JS, ClioApp, Google Map); a series of annotated historical images with text overlay (i.e. ThingLink); photo collages that capture several areas of your research topic (Adobe Spark offers an easy way to do this); visual layouts-illustrations via cartoon strips or annotated storyboards; a multi-media poster with hyperlinked videos, .mp3 audio clips, images, links to external sites (i.e. Prezi, Glogster). If you have other ideas, feel free to share!

(4) Conference Poster
One part of scholarly communication that continues to grow in popularity is the conference poster. The culmination of our class is going to be our own version of a conference poster sessions on the last day (April 28). Half the class will present their posters for the first half of class while the rest of the class visits the posters. Then we will swap roles for the second half of class. The guiding question is this: “How do new media tools enhance, or limit, our understanding of (your semester research topic)?”

This should be a relatively painless process. The easiest way to do this is to make your poster as a single slide on a presentation tool. Other approaches can include a 16:9 screen size graphic with multi-media hyperlinks and/or embedded media, or, a multi-media and multi-sensory approach in a physical poster format. Do not put limits on your imagination!

For further guidance on conference posters, see our selected course readings on this topic.

(4) A final blog post
Being part of a scholarly community means sharing your research and work. The culmination of our class – originally designed as a poster presentation – will now occur as a long form blog post, with links to your projects for HIS 5595 (and any other valuable sources you reference in your post) and end notes at the bottom of the page.

We will use our final class session (April 28) to present your projects and talk about how to best present your summative blog post to a wide audience (i.e. no “insider” language to our course; you will craft a blog post meant to be read widely among fellow historians).

This should be a relatively painless process meant that will hopefully attract comments when shared via Twitter (through my account, and yours if you have one).