Syllabus: Digital Methods for Historical Projects

spring 2020 @ suny brockport.

HST 380

Instructor

Dr. Michael J. Kramer

Course Description

Students explore the emerging field of digital public history through a hands-on collective project, investigating the ethical use of digital tools—database development, content management systems, digital publishing platforms such as WordPress and Omeka, multimedia storytelling, mapping, timelines, podcasting. These are used for prototyping, curating, and sharing diverse scholarly histories with broader audiences. Projects vary by semester. In the spring of 2020, we will explore Digital Labor History, exploring workers at SUNY Brockport from faculty to librarians to staff to administrators. Students will conduct oral history interviews and then curate them into audio documentary podcasts and/or multimedia websites. No previous digital skills required, just an eagerness to experiment and learn.

Required Materials

Available at SUNY Brockport bookstore, online retailers, and on reserve at the library (be sure to purchase or use the proper editions).

  • Terkel, Studs. Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do. 1974; reprint, New Press, 1997. ISBN: 9781565843424
  • Pekar, Harvey and Paul Buhle. Studs Terkel’s Working: A Graphic Adaptation. The New Press, 2009. ISBN: 9781595583215
  • Additional readings on Blackboard
  • Note: Additional readings, listenings, and viewings added to course as interests and needs develop.

Evaluation

Students are expected to engage critically and creatively with their required course readings and assignments and discuss them during class. Constructive participation and thoughtful and respectful dialogue are heavily emphasized and measured into the final grade.

Grades breakdown

Reading

This course features reading and listening, roughly 2-3 hours per week.

Assignments

Students must complete all assignments to pass the course. These are designed to be fun, but they are also demanding. Weight is placed on process and experimentation with digital methods, but all assignments should feature effective use of evidence and analysis.

Rubric

Digital history is a new field, with evolving modes and norms of expression and evaluation. Your work should strive to do the following:

  • Collect and organize data effectively and ethically.
  • Present data in effective modes of digital communication.
  • Analyze and interpret data as historical evidence, linking facts to arguments and positions.
  • Make creative and compelling use of the forms of digital history by harnessing their specific qualitative strengths. Forms of digital history include text, images, databases, timelines, maps, networking analysis, multimedia storytelling, video, and audio. Each can communicate historical ideas, interpretations, and narratives based on its particular qualities of that form.

Grading Standards

A-level work is outstanding and reflects a student’s:

  • regular attendance, timely preparation, and on-time submission of assignments
  • thorough understanding of required course material
  • insightful, constructive, respectful and regular participation in class discussion
  • clear, compelling, and well-written assignments
  • credible arguments integrated with relevant evidence in own compelling analysis
  • excellent formatting of assignments and citations
  • academic integrity and honesty

B-level work is good, but with minor problems in one or more areas

C-level work is acceptable, but with minor problems in several areas or major problems in at least one area

D-level work is poor, with major problems in more than one area

E-level work is unacceptable, failing to meet basic course requirements and/or standards of academic integrity/honesty

Learning Goals

The Power of History

By exploring how our world came to be, the study of history fosters the critical knowledge, breadth of perspective, intellectual growth, and communication and problem-solving skills that will help you lead a purposeful life, exercise responsible citizenship, and achieve career success.

Learning Goals

  • Acquire practical and conceptual knowledge of digital, multimedia, and multimodal methods.
  • Develop digital skills and knowledge that are applicable to scholarly, civic, and professional development.
  • Develop knowledge of the past, including factual knowledge but also a sense of existing historical interpretations and debates.
  • Improve skills of articulating a thesis or argument based on evidence and in response to a historical problem or question.
  • Advance in logical sequence principal arguments in defense of a historical thesis.
  • Provide relevant evidence drawn from the evaluation of primary and/or secondary sources that supports the primary arguments in defense of a historical thesis.
  • Evaluate the significance of a historical thesis by relating it to a broader field of historical knowledge such as historiographical debates or rethinking of popular assumptions about the past.
  • Express yourself clearly in new digital forms that push forward a historical analysis.
  • Use disciplinary standards (Chicago Manual of Style) of documentation when referencing historical sources.

Other Policies

Attendance

Attendance is mandatory—though students are allowed two “free” absences for the semester.  Special consideration will be given to absences due to serious illness, religious commitment, or family crisis (BE SURE to contact me as soon as you know you will miss a class—preferably before that class—and if possible provide written documentation from a doctor, etc.). Each additional absence (and/or several excused absences) may lower your grade at the instructor’s discretion. Four unexcused absences are grounds for course failure.

Technology

Computer laptops and other devices will be not only be allowed in class, but are required for this class. Please bring your laptop or tablet. If you do not have access to a laptop, please consult with Professor Kramer about arrangements for borrowing one.

Disabilities and Accommodations

As the father of a child with neuroatypicality, Professor Kramer recognizes that students may require to accommodations to learn effectively. In accord with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Brockport Faculty Senate legislation, students with documented disabilities may be entitled to specific accommodations. Brockport’s Office for Students with Disabilities makes this determination. Please phone the Office at (585) 395-5409 or e-mail at osdoffic@brockport.edu to inquire about obtaining an official letter for the instructor detailing any approved accommodations. You are responsible for providing the course instructor with an official letter. Faculty work with the Office for Students with Disabilities to meet the needs of students with disabilities.

Discrimination and Harassment

Sex and gender discrimination, including sexual harassment, are prohibited in educational programs and activities, including classes. Title IX legislation and College policy require the College to provide sex and gender equity in all areas of campus life. If you or someone you know has experienced sex or gender discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault, intimate partner violence, or stalking, we encourage you to seek assistance and to report the incident through resources at https://www.brockport.edu/about/title_ix/index.html. Confidential assistance is available on campus at Hazen Center for Integrated Care and RESTORE. Faculty are NOT confidential under Title IX and will need to share information with the Title IX & College Compliance Officer. For these and other policies governing campus life, please see https://www.brockport.edu/support/policies/student.php.

Emergencies

In case of emergency, the Emergency Alert System at SUNY Brockport will be activated.  Students are encouraged to maintain updated contact information using the link on the College’s Emergency Information website, https://www.brockport.edu/support/emergency.  Included on the website is detailed information about the College’s emergency operations plan, classroom emergency preparedness, evacuation procedures, emergency numbers, and safety videos.  In addition, students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the Emergency Procedures posted in classrooms, halls, and buildings and all college facilities.

Schedule

UNIT 01 – Getting Started

WEEK 01 – Introduction

Thursday 01/23

Introduction

In Class:

  • Welcome
  • Info cards

WEEK 02 – What Is Digital History?

Tuesday 01/28

Digital, History, Public, Methods, Projects

Required:

In Class:

  • Discussion of articles

Thursday 01/30

Historical Data: Conceptualizing It and Managing It

Required:

In Class:

  • Getting set up with laptops and OneDrive
  • Discussion of how to manage your data using OneDrive, spreadsheets, databases, journaling, notetaking

WEEK 03 – Digital History: Two Case Studies and Getting Started with WordPress

Monday 02/03, midnight

Assignment 01: Syllabus and course goals review worksheet

Tuesday 02/04

Big Data for Dead People

Required:

In Class:

  • Discussion of Hitchcock article
  • Getting set up on WordPress

Thursday 02/06

Shelf Life Community Story Project

Required:

In Class:

  • Discussion of Shelf Life Community Story Project
  • Getting set up on WordPress

UNIT 02 – Working with Studs Terkel

WEEK 04 – Working as Text

Monday 02/10, midnight

Assignment 02: WordPress Multimedia Review of Case Study

Tuesday 02/11

Working as Text

Required:

  • Terkel, Working, Introduction, Preface I: Who Built the Pyramids, Preface II; Who Spread the News?, Book Two: Communications

In Class:

  • Discussion of Working
  • How might we think about Working as data?

Thursday 02/13

Working with Text

Required:

In Class:

  • Discussion of Working
  • Experimenting with digital annotation

WEEK 05 – Working Graphically and Sonically

Tuesday 02/18

Working as Graphics

Required:

  • Pekar and Buhle, Buhle’s Introduction, Roberto Acuna: Farmworker, Billy Talcott: Organizer, Barbara Terwilliger, Delores Dante, Waitress, Bud Freeman, Jazz Musician, Tom McCoy, David Reed Glover, Beryl Simpson, Hots Michaels: Bar Pianist, Maggie Holmes: Domestic, Ruth Lindstrom: Baby Nurse, Gary Bryner: Lordstown Local UAW President

In Class:

  • Discussion of Working as visual storytelling

Thursday 02/20

Working as Sound

Required:

In Class:

  • Discussion of The Working Tapes of Studs Terkel audio
  • Beginning to think about digital oral history and podcasting

Week 06 – Working Digitally

Tuesday 02/25

Working America

Required:

In Class:

  • Discussion of Working America

Thursday 02/27

Required:

  • If I could explore one topic at SUNY Brockport that interests me most, it would be… (optional WordPress post, one point extra credit)

In Class:

  • Open

UNIT 03 – Working at SUNY Brockport: Storymaps

WEEK 07 – Working with Storymaps

Tuesday 03/03

Exploring Storymap.js

Required:

In class:

  • Workshopping Storymap.js

Thursday 03/05

History of SUNY Brockport with Dr. W. Bruce Leslie

Required:

In Class:

  • Discussion with Dr. Leslie

WEEK 08 – Storymaps for SUNY Brockport History

Tuesday 03/10

SUNY Brockport History and Stopymap.js

In Class:

  • More discussion of SUNY Brockport history and Storymap.js

Thursday 03/12

SUNY Brockport History and Stopymap.js

In Class:

  • More discussion of SUNY Brockport history and Storymap.js

WEEK 09 – Spring Break

UNIT 04 – Projects

WEEK 10 – Developing an Oral History Proposal

Monday 03/23, midnight

Assignment 03: SUNY Brockport HistoryStorymap.js Experiment

Tuesday 03/24

Digital Oral History: Conceptualizations and Practicalities

Required:

  • Richard Cándida Smith, “Publishing Oral History: Oral Exchange and Print Culture,” The Research Handbook for Oral History, eds. Thomas L. Charlton, Lois E. Myers, and Rebecca Sharpless (Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press, 2006), 411-424
  • Douglas A. Boyd and Mary Larson, “Introduction,” Oral History and Digital Humanities: Voice, Access, and Engagement. Palgrave Studies in Oral History (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 1-16
  • Lynn Abrams, ” Turning practice into theory” and “The peculiarities of oral history,” Oral History Theory (New York: Routledge, 2010), 1-32

In Class:

  • Discussing digital oral history concepts, methods, and ethics
  • Discussing practical issues of digital oral history

Thursday 03/26

Developing a Proposal Workshop

In Class:

  • Proposal workshop

WEEK 11 – Developing Your Podcast

Monday 03/30, midnight

Assignment 04: First proposal for oral history interview and podcast

Tuesday 03/31

Podcasting

Required:

*above readings courtesy of Erin Davis, podcast expert, Middlebury College

In Class:

  • “What makes for a good podcast?” discussion

Thursday 04/02

Podcasting

Required:

  • Good time to contact oral history interviewee and schedule interview for coming weeks

Listen to one or more of the following:

In Class:

  • Discussion of podcasts

WEEK 12 – Back to Digital Oral History: Workshops

Monday 04/06, midnight

Assignment 05: Second Draft of Proposal and Oral History with Omeka

Tuesday 04/07

Workshop

Required:

  • Good time to conduct first interview

In Class:

  • Working with microphones
  • Working with oral history data and metadata
  • Working with Audacity

Thursday 04/09

Workshop

Required:

  • Good time to conduct first interview

In Class:

WEEK 13 – Onward with Podcasting: Workshops

Tuesday 04/14

Workshop

Required:

  • Good time to conduct follow up interview if needed

In Class:

  • Podcasting experiments and exchange

Thursday 04/16

Workshop

Required:

  • Good time to conduct followup interview if needed

In Class:

  • Podcasting experiments and exchange

WEEK 14 – Open: Where are the Trouble Spots?

Tuesday 04/21 – Addressing Trouble Spots

Readings:

  • As needed

In Class:

  • Oral history and podcasting work

Thursday 04/23 – Addressing Trouble Spots

Readings:

  • As needed

In Class:

  • Oral history and podcasting work

Friday 04/24, midnight

Assignment 06: Omeka Oral History Transcript and Audio with Description

WEEK 15 – Adding Multimedia and Other Elements

Tuesday 04/28 – Multimedia Supplements for Oral History and/or Podcasts

Readings:

  • As needed

In Class:

  • Oral history and podcasting work

Thursday 04/30 – Multimedia Supplements for Oral History and/or Podcasts

Readings:

  • As needed

In Class:

  • Oral history and podcasting work

Week 16 – Conclusions

Monday 05/04, midnight

Assignment 07: Podcast and Multimedia Page Draft, Script and Outline

Tuesday 05/05

Conclusions

In Class:

  • Reflections and conclusions.

Final Project

Wednesday 05/13, midnight

Final Project — Oral History Audio, Transcript and Podcast Audio, Outline, Source List and Multimedia Page

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