Syllabus: Digital Methods for Historical Projects

spring 2020 @ suny brockport.

HST 380

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.

  • 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

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

Tuesday 02/04

Big Data for Dead People

Required:

In Class:

  • Discussion of Hitchcock article
  • Getting set up on WordPress

Assignment:

  • Syllabus and course goals review worksheet

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

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?

Assignment:

  • WordPress Multimedia Review of Case Study

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 — Try to Story Map a chapter of Working

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

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

Assignment:

  • SUNY Brockport HistoryStorymap.js Experiment

Thursday 03/26

Developing a Proposal Workshop

In Class:

  • Proposal workshop

WEEK 11 – Developing Your Podcast

Monday 03/30, midnight

Tuesday 03/31

Podcasting

Required:

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

In Class:

  • “What makes for a good podcast?” discussion

Assignment:

  • First proposal for oral history interview and podcast

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:

Listen to an episode from one or more of the following:

In Class:

  • Discussion of podcasts

WEEK 12 – Back to Digital Oral History: Workshops

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

Assignment:

  • Second Draft of Proposal and Oral History with Omeka

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

  • 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

Assignment:

  • 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:

  • Simple multimedia website supplements in WordPress for oral history and podcastingOral history and podcasting work

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

Readings:

  • As needed

In Class:

  • Simple multimedia website supplements in WordPress for oral history and podcasting

Week 16 – Conclusions

Monday 05/04, midnight

Tuesday 05/05

Conclusions

In Class:

  • Reflections and conclusions.

Assignment:

  • Podcast and Multimedia Page Draft, Script and Outline

Final Project

Wednesday 05/13, midnight

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


COVID-19 REVISED SYLLABUS

WEEK 10 – Developing an Oral History Proposal

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

Assignment:

  • SUNY Brockport HistoryStorymap.js Experiment

Thursday 03/26

Digital Oral History: Case Studies

Read/Listen to/Explore It:

You can browse these. You don’t have to listen to everything. Pick something out and think about the digital layout, the content, the voices, the audio, the text, other multimedia.

Do It (On Discussion Board):

  • Write a brief comment (1-2 paragraphs). How does the digital oral history fit audio and written material together (or not)? What was it like to dive in to this material as a reader/listener? Connect to our readings and their themes thus far in the course. How do these projects seem similar or different from Studs Terkel’s Working or other examples of digital or oral history we have explored?

WEEK 11 – Podcasting History

Tuesday 03/31

  • Open

Thursday 04/02

Podcasting

Listen to It (One episode):

Do It (On Discussion Board):

  • Write a brief review of the podcast to which you listened. What did you like about it? What didn’t work to your ears? Would you keep listening to the whole season? What would you want to be different about it? How does it work (or not) in terms of developing a historical interpretation based on evidence?

WEEK 12 – Omeka as a Digital History Platform

Tuesday 04/07

Omeka and Other Digital History “Platforms”

Read it:

Do it (On Discussion Board):

  • What do you make of Morgan’s argument in her essay? What are the consequences of the current framing of digital humanities tools as easy to use? Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not? How do you think we can more effectively learn about digital tools such as Omeka and use them?

Thursday 04/09

Omeka: Case Studies

Read It:

  • Please select one Omeka website from the Showcase.

Do It (On Discussion Board):

  • Review one Omeka website you explored (500-1000 words approximately). Develop an argument about what you noticed on the website and support your argument with specific evidence. What do you make of the website? What is its topic? What does it do well? What does it not do well? When was it confusing and when was the design effective? Did it make you think differently about the topic on whic it focuses? If so how or why? Be precise in your analysis, try to revise your review to create an effective evidence-driven argument about how we should consider the Omeka website you examined in detail.

WEEK 13 – Podcasting as Digital History

Tuesday 04/14

Podcasting as Digital History

Listen to It:

  • Choose another podcast from Week 11 in addition to the one you listened to previously.

Do It (On Discussion Board):

  • Write a brief review of the podcast to which you listened. What did you like about it? What didn’t work to your ears? Would you keep listening to the whole season? What would you want to be different about it? How does it work (or not) in terms of developing a historical interpretation based on evidence?

Thursday 04/16

Podcasting as Digital History

Do It (On Discussion Board):

  • In 1000-2000 words, develop a comparison of the new podcast with the one you listened to and wrote about in Week 11. How are the two podcasts similar? How are they different? Which do you prefer, and using specific evidence from them, why or how? Most of all, taken together, through your comparison, what is a conclusion you would currently draw about podcasting as a form of historical analysis and communication?

WEEK 14 – Assessing Recent Digital History Scholarship

Tuesday 04/21

A Space Case Study

Read It:

Do It (On Discussion Board):

  • What is Blevins argument in his essay to your reading? What evidence does he employ to support his argument? How does he use digital approaches? With whom is Blevins arguing? Did you find his interpretation convincing? Write a brief response, between 500-1000 words.

Thursday 04/23

Digital Approaches to Transatlantic Slave Trade

Read It:

  • Jessica Marie Johnson, “Markup Bodies: Black [Life] Studies and Slavery [Death] Studies at the Digital Crossroads,” Social Text 36, 4 (2018), 57-79, on course website

Do It (On Discussion Board):

  • What is Johnson’s argument in “Markup Bodies”? What evidence does she use? With whom is she arguing? What is her specific critique of digital approaches to the topic of the transatlantic slave trade? Write a 500-1000 review of Johnson’s essay in which rather than decide if she is right or not, you identify an aspect of further inquiry in her essay in relation to digital approaches to history? What else does her essay suggest we need to ask, explore, investigate, do, or not do in terms of digital approaches to historical study?

WEEK 15 – More Assessing Recent Digital History Scholarship

Tuesday 04/28

What Is Gained and What Is Lost in Digital History?

Read It:

  • Lara Putnam, “The Transnational and the Text-Searchable: Digitized Sources and the Shadows They Cast,” American Historical Review 121, 2 (April 2016): 377-402, on course website

Do It (On Discussion Board):

  • Write a 1000-1500 review of Lara Putnam’s essay. What is her argument? What evidence does she employ? What does she view as beneficial about digital approaches to the past and what concerns her? Be specific and develop both a sense of her perspective and what you make of it in response.

Thursday 04/30

Revise a Discussion Board Review

Do It (On Discussion Board):

  • Revisit one of your longer review essays from the past few weeks and revise it to improve your analysis. Try to crystallize your argument more compellingly. Are you drawing on evidence from the essay effectively? Try reading your review out loud. Does the language flow? Does it make sense? Revise and resubmit to the discussion board.

Week 16 – Digital History During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Tuesday 05/05

Historicizing Coronavirus

Read it:

Do it:

  • Start to develop final project. See final project instructions below.

Final Project

Digital Public History in the Time of Coronavirus, Online Mini-Exhibition

Do It (Place in OneDrive Folder– Due Friday May 15th by midnight):

  • I would like to propose that we turn adversity into opportunity by collectively curating a digital mini-exhibit about your experiences of the coronavirus pandemic as history.
  • For our final week and as the final for the course, I thought we could do something about the current coronavirus pandemic. How might we harness digital history’s capacities to archive the moment? How might we use digital tools to think about the present as it becomes the past?
  • Your task is to “curate” one artifact (**defined broadly, anything from a photo to audio to video to a song to social media meme to a memory you have written out as text**) about the current situation and describe it for a general audience.
  • Select the artifact.
  • Write a one-paragraph wall label that:
    • identifies the object (title, date, description of it)
    • explains what it means to you in the historic moment of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. Why did you pick this artifact? What does it mean to you about the larger historical moment of the coronavirus pandemic?
  • Some examples (choose one or more as you feel able to do so):
    • A photograph or set of photographs of something and description (chalk drawn on the sidewalk, a sign, an object from material culture such as a mask). Write a one-three paragraph description of what it tells you about the history through which we are living. You may write a longer narrative if you wish, but try to do so below a short description (imagine your short description as a museum label next to a work of art and your longer narrative, if you write one, as an essay in a catalog).
    • A digital artifact or collection of digital artifacts: a tweet, Facebook post, image from television show, audio from a podcast, etc. Take a screenshot or download the digital artifact and, as above, write a one-three paragraph description of what it tells you about the history through which we are living. You may write a longer narrative if you wish, but try to do so below a short description (imagine your short description as a museum label next to a work of art and your longer narrative, if you write one, as an essay in a catalog).
    • A personal narrative or written example of a story from the Coronavirus pandemic that you wish to write. Consider recording it as audio and creating a script, or just write it. Add multimedia if possible, but not required.
    • Interview someone, post the audio of interview if you can record it (Audacity is good free audio editing software, Prof. Kramer can help you with the technical issues) and write up a transcript of the interview (Try out Otter for transcription).
    • Let’s see if as our final projects in the class we can create a little mini digital history exhibition on life during the Coronavirus Pandemic.
    • So, your task is to think about an object, story, online article or essay or meme, digital artifact, image, news report, YouTube video, Storymap, interview with family member, audio diary…anything that speaks to your experience of COVID-19. It can be a story of loss or a moment of hope. Whatever you most want to explore, go for it.Write a paragraph about it, as if you were writing a museum label for a wall in an exhibition. Identify what the object is and tell us about its significance. Why is it being put on display to tell us about life during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic?
    • You may write a longer essay or record audio or video that offers more reflection about the object, record audio, but this is not required.
    • You may contribute more than one artifact/object, or create a sequence of materials, but also this is not required.
    • Send your materials (if you are writing something, please put in a word processing document) to the OneDrive folder I will set up for us to place these “assets” for our digital public history exhibition.
    • I will then curate the material into a small mini-exhibition.
    • In other words, let’s respond to the Coronavirus pandemic by putting together a little glimpse of the historical moment from our own lives.
    • I will curate our exhibit on our WordPress website and we can share it with the Brockport community and beyond.
    • Remember something basic is fine for this. Do what you are able to do and know that this is enough right now!
    • Once again here is the OneDrive Folder for placing objects (images, audio, video, word processing document with text, etc.).
    • If you can’t do the above, that is fine. As an alternative assignment, reflect on what we’ve studied this semester. What do you know about digital history that is different from the start of the semester? What is your sense of the study of history in general? Write a 1000-1500 word reflection. Draw upon at least three readings, websites, podcasts, or other assignments we have done. Finally, what would you like to do next in continuing with ideas, approaches, methods, and concepts we studied this semester? What would be your next steps in becoming a digital historian?

Life During Covid-19 Digital Pop-Up Exhibition

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *