Hi, everybody! Welcome to Western, welcome to the History Department, and welcome to History 9808: Digital History. Our first class meeting will be on Wednesday, September 15th, from 12:30 to 2:30 pm, in the History Department seminar room (SSC 4317).
Your reading assignment for the first week, and a note about bringing computers to class, are (as they say in the blogosphere) below the fold:
[Edited to add: It is very bad form to do this it the last minute, but I have added one more blog post to the reading list: Amanda French’s “Make 10 Louder.” If you see and read this addition before class, great – if not, no worries, the fault is mine.]
Bring Your Computers!
You will obviously be using computers in this course. Please bring your notebook, laptop, or other portable computer to class if you have one. If you don’t have a portable computer you can easily bring, that is OK. If you don’t have a computer at all, you can use a machine in one of the campus computing labs. If possible, however, I encourage you to bring and use your own computer during our class meetings. Sometimes we will be doing exercises on our computers. Other times we will simply be engaged in discussion, but even then you are encouraged to take notes, look things up on the web, blog about the ongoing discussion, send tweets, and so on. To get the most out of this course, you will want to experiment with new forms of learning and interaction.
Week 01 Readings
There is a reading assignment for our first week. Please read the following blog posts, articles, and short pieces, and come to class prepared to discuss them. (Yes, there are a lot of them, but they are short, and easy to read!) They all revolve around the most recent annual meeting of the Modern Language Association (MLA), which is the major professional organization for scholars of language and literature in the United States. Reading these items and piecing together the story they tell will introduce you to many of the themes of our course, and to many of the places where conversation about digital humanities and digital history is happening right now.
This is also an exercise in reconstructing a historical narrative using online sources. These links will take you to a variety of different sites and authors. Which are the most useful? Which seem the most trustworthy? What is the best order in which to read them? You may be blocked from reading some pieces by a pay wall. There are ways for you to read everything I have linked to online, legally, and for free. But can you figure out how? The last link here does not go to a website but to an archived file of Twitter messages. Can you access this data? If you do, how might you make sense of it? What could a future historian learn from a source like this about academia and the humanities in 2009-10?
- Tamar Lewin, “At Colleges, Humanities Job Outlook Gets Bleaker,” New York Times, 17 December 2009.
- Brian Croxall, “The Absent Presence: Today’s Faculty,” BrianCroxall.net, 28 December 2009.
- William Pannapacker, “The MLA and the Digital Humanities,” Brainstorm (@ Chronicle of Higher Education), 28 December 2009.
- Jennifer Howard, “Missing in Action at the MLA,” Chronicle of Higher Education, 28 December 2009.
- Bitch Ph.D., “Auld Lang Syne,” Bitch Ph.D., 29 December 2009.
- Serena Golden, “Tweetup at the MLA,” Inside Higher Ed, 6 January 2010.
- David Parry, “The MLA, @briancroxall, and the Non-Rise of the Digital Humanities,” Academhack, 6 January 2010.
- George H. Williams, “Academics and Social Media: MLA and Twitter,” Profhacker (@ Chronicle of Higher Education), 9 January 2010.
- Brian Croxall, “On Going Viral at the (Virtual) MLA,” Chronicle of Higher Education, 7 March 2010.
- Christopher Beam, “#Posterity: How Future Historians Will Use the Twitter Archives,” Slate, 20 April 2010.
- MLA 2009 Twitter Archive (all Twitter posts containing the hashtag “#mla09”): as an Excel Spreadsheet, as a CSV file, as a Twapper Keeper Archive. (But what happens if you search Twitter for “#mla09” now? Can anyone find a similar archive from the most recent meeting of the American Historical Association (AHA)?)
- Added at the last minute: Amanda French, “Make 10 Louder, or, The Amplification of Scholarly Communication,” AmandaFrench.net, 30 December 2009.
If you have comments or questions while doing the reading, please post a comment here. (For this week, at least, this is optional.) Good luck with the reading, and above all: don’t panic! This course may push you out of your comfort zone at times, but we are all in it together–and the material we will be exploring is important, exciting stuff. I look forward to learning with you.