MALS 78100 – The Digital Humanities in Research and Teaching
Spring 2012
CUNY Graduate Center
W 4:15pm – 6:15pm
Room 7395

Steve Brier (
Matthew K. Gold (

Course Website:
Course Group:
Course Hashtag: #cunydh12

Course Description:

The dramatic growth of the Digital Humanities (DH) over the past half dozen years has helped scholars re-imagine the very nature and forms of academic research and teaching across a range of scholarly disciplines, encompassing the arts, the interpretive social sciences, and traditional humanities subject areas. This course will explore the history of the digital humanities, focusing especially on the diverse pioneering projects and core texts that ground this innovative methodological and conceptual approach to scholarly inquiry and teaching.  It will also emphasize ongoing debates in the digital humanities, such as the problem of defining the digital humanities, the question of whether DH has (or needs) theoretical grounding, controversies over new models of peer review for digital scholarship, issues related to collaborative work on digital projects, and the problematic questions surrounding research involving “big data.” The course will also emphasize the ways in which DH has helped transform the nature of academic teaching and pedagogy in the contemporary university with its emphasis on collaborative, student-centered and digital learning environments and approaches. Along the way, we will discuss broad social, legal and ethical questions and concerns surrounding digital media and contemporary culture, including privacy, intellectual property, and open/public access to knowledge and scholarship. Students will be expected to participate actively in class discussions and online postings (including on blogs and wikis) and to research and write, either individually or in collaboration, a final multimedia presentation on a key topic in the digital humanities. Students completing the course will gain broad knowledge about and understanding of the emerging role of the digital humanities across several academic disciplines and will begin to learn some of the fundamental skills used often in digital humanities projects.


Weekly discussion on blogs and twitter
Collaborative projects
Collaborative Zotero Bibliography
Experimentation with various DH tools
Final Project
Class Presentation

Regular participation in class discussions across the range of our online course spaces is essential. Some of our assignments will offer an opportunity to work collaboratively as part of a group or as individuals; other assignments will involve working collaboratively with our class as a whole to produce a shared resource. A significant part of our course will involve experimentation and play with various digital humanities tools.

There will also be an emphasis throughout the course on online participation through various projects and weekly online discussions that will contribute to your final grade.

Before the semester starts, all students should register for accounts on the following

sites: CUNY Academic Commons, Twitter, and Zotero. Remember that when you register for social-networking accounts, you do not have to use your full name or even your real name. One benefit of writing publicly under your real name is that you can begin to establish a public academic identity and to network with others in your field. However, keep in mind that search engines have extended the life of online work; if you are not sure that you want your work for this course to be part of your permanently searchable identity trail on the web, you should strongly consider creating an alias. Whether you engage social media under your real name or whether you construct a new online identity, please consider the ways in which social media can affect your career in both positive and negative ways.

Books to Purchase:

Note: We encourage you to purchase books via the link to Amazon at the bottom of the GC’s Mina Rees Library homepage (, which nets a 5 percent contribution to the Mina Rees Library for book and electronic resource purchases for the benefit of all GC students.

  • Fitzpatrick, Kathleen. Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy. New York: NYU Press, 2011.
  • Gold, Matthew K., Ed. Debates in the Digital Humanities. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012.
  • Lima, Manuel. Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton UP, 2011.
  • Moretti, Franco. Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for a Literary History. London: Verso, 2005.

Additional readings will be made available online or through library reserve.

Course Schedule (subject to change):[1]

Weeks 1-3: Definitions and Debates

Objectives: Familiarize ourselves with various definitional debates surrounding the digital humanities and arrive at our own working definitions of DH.

Date Readings Assignments
Week 1 Intro to the course Introductory blog post
Week 2 From Debates: Read all of Part 1: “Defining the Digital Humanities,” plus Kirschenbaum, “As/Is” from Part VI Short weekly blog post
Week 3 From Debates: Part IV: “Practicing the Digital Humanities”+ Ramsay, “Who’s In, Who’s Out” & “On Building Long blog post on defining the digital humanities.

Weeks 4-7: Project Exploration and Critique

Objectives: Explore and critique some prominent digital humanities projects. Gain a sense of the field through an analysis of the projects produced under its aegis. Collaborate with a partner on a project critique to be posted on a Commons wiki page.

Date Readings Assignments
Week 4 New Networked Platforms for Scholarly Communication
Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Planned Obsolescence. Fitzpatrick, “Networking the Field” and “Giving It Away
Explore peer-to-peer review sites, academic uses of twitter/blogs
Week 5 DH in the Classroom
From Debates: Part 5, “Teaching the Digital Humanities” + Folsom, “Database as Genre”
Explore The Walt Whitman Archive and the Looking for Whitman projectShort weekly blog post
Week 6 Distant Reading
Moretti, Graphs, Maps, TreesFrom Debates: Drucker, Manovich
Network Analysis, Information VisualizationShort weekly blog post
Week 7 Geospatial HumanitiesReadingReadings:
* Jo Guldi, “What is the Spatial Turn?”
* -David Rumsey – Digital Humanities 2011 (DH 11) Opening Keynote – (start at minute 38)
* Todd Presner, “HyperCities: A Case Study for the Future of Scholarly Publishing,” The Shape of Things to Come, ed. Jerome McGann (Houston: Rice University Press, 2010), 251-71.
Geospatial/GIS ProjectsProjects to check out:
* David Rumsey Historical Map Collection –
* Mapping the Republic of Letters –
* NYPL Map Rectifier –
* Historypin –
* Hypercities –
Week 8 Opening the Archives
* Ben Vershbow, “Hacking the Library”* Steve Brier and Joshua Brown, “The September 11 Digital Archive. Radical History Review. Issue 111 (Fall 2011)* Claire Potter, “Because it is Gone Now: Teaching the September 11 Digital Archive” (OAH Magazine of History, Vo. 25, No. 3: 31-34.
September 11 Digital Archive/NYPL MenusCollaborative Project analysis due by end of week 7

Weeks 9-11: Playing With Code

Objectives: Begin experimenting with a range of DH tools of analysis. Overcome fear of code (if any). Explore building as a way of knowing. The emphasis here is on doing and making with a sense of play.

Date Readings Assignments
Week 9 Text Mining/Visualization Tools
From Debates: Ramsay and Rockwell, Wilkens. Also, Galey and ReuckerExplore Bamboo DiRT
Explore two of the following text mining/ visualization tools: Tapor Tools, Voyant , Google N-Grams, Juxta, WordSeer other tools from the Bamboo DiRT
Week 10 Info Visualization Tools
Stone, Information Visualization:  Challenge for the Humanities; Journalism in the Age of Data, Tracking the 18th Century Social Network
Explore two of the following visualization tools: CultureVis, Exhibit, NodeXL, ManyEyes, SEASRGraphViz, other tools from Bamboo DiRT
Week 11 Geospatial Tools
Farman, “Mapping the Digital Empire: Google Earth and the Process of Postmodern Cartography”; Croxall, “Collaborating on Geospatial Timelines With Students”
Explore two of the following geospatial tools: HyperCities, Google Earth, Google Maps, GeoCommons, Social Explorer, Neatline, ArcGIS, OpenStreetMap,  other examples from the Bamboo DiRT

Weeks 12-15: Project Planning and Collaborating

Objective: Consider the realities of project planning, management, and preservation. Come up with a proposal for a digital humanities project of your own.

Date Readings Assignments
Week 12 Project planning and management Scheinfeldt, Intro to Project Planning and Management Notes; Nowviskie, Ten Rules for humanities scholars new to project management Create a draft project plan; Identify two potential funding sources for your project; read, review, and critique a sample proposal from a grant competition you’re considering.
Week 13 Project Implementation and Assessment
Readings TBA 
Begin project implementation; Informal project discussions and collaborative advising
Week 14 Project Preservation and Sustainability
Digital Humanities Quarterly Cluster: “Done” (Spring 2009). Ithaka S+R “Funding Sustainable Digital Resources”Jerome McGann, “The Elephant in the Room: Sustainability.”; Nowiskie and Porter, “Graceful Degradation”
Construct a data management plan using the DMP Tool
Week 15 Final Project Presentations
Readings TBA
Final Project DUE: Date TBA
Online project proposal, posted on the Commons blog or, if ready, on Kickstarter


[1] The structure of this syllabus was modeled on Stefan Sinclair’s “Digital Humanities: New Approaches to Scholarship” course, offered in Fall 2011 at McGill University.