Week 15 and Finals Week: Individual Project Presentations and Wrapping Up the Semester

I can’t believe how quickly this semester has flown by! We’re almost at the end, and I hope you feel the same sense of satisfaction I feel about the work you’ve done this semester. I’ve been incredibly impressed by your collegiality, your willingness to push yourselves out of your comfort zones, and the projects you’ve created.

Speaking of projects, your individual projects should be almost ready to share with the world. I know the end of the semester is always stressful, but I encourage you to finish it on a high note. Here are the last few tasks and deadlines you need to complete:

  • On Tuesday, we’ll enjoy the rest of your project presentations, then complete course evaluations. The SPOT survey is important, but I’m especially interested in getting your feedback about how I could improve this course in the future, so please be ready to share a few ideas to might help.
  • Because you’ll be submitting your final projects online, we will not hold a formal final exam. Just remember to submit your final project no later than Thursday, December 17, at 1:05 p.m. (our university-appointed time for the final exam). Please review the instructions for submitting your memo of transmittal and make sure that your project is live and viewable on the web before the deadline.

And that’s it. Congratulations, you’re all certified digital humanists. Now go and build something amazing!

Week 14: Individual Project Workshop and Presentations

The end is near! Once we return from our relaxing Thanksgiving break (and please, make sure you take some time to relax), we’ll have just three more class sessions. From this point on, all of your energy for this course should be directed toward your individual project. As you complete that assignment, I hope you’ll stay in close contact with me if you run into any roadblocks or just want another opinion on your work.

Here’s a quick overview of how we’ll spend our time during Week 14:

  • On Tuesday, we’ll spend the entire class session in workshop mode, with each of you focusing on your individual project. You can use the time in any way that helps you make progress on your project, and I will be available to answer questions and help you address any problems you’ve encountered. The only requirement for Tuesday is that you have a focused, productive work session, so please bring any materials (physical or digital) that you might need.
  • On Thursday, we’ll enjoy final project presentations from five of you. Here’s the fun part: in order to keep things fair, we won’t determine which five until the beginning of class. That means everyone needs to be ready to present on Thursday, regardless of the state of your final project. You will have 10 (and only 10!) minutes to share your project with us. Although the format of these presentations is flexible, they are presentations, so don’t just wing it. Whatever approach you take, please make sure you prepare something.

As always, if you have any questions about these items, please drop me a line. I’ll be traveling during part of Thanksgiving break, but I’ll do my best to respond ASAP.

Week 13: Workshop Extravaganza! Scalar, Hypothesis, and a Peer Critique Session

Week 12 marked our final day of reading discussions, so from this point on, we’ll be in workshop mode until we enjoy your final presentations during our last two class sessions. You’re almost done with the Documented Exploration of a DH Tool project, so be sure to give that assignment the attention it needs this weekend. Next week, we’ll conduct two different kinds of workshops; here’s a quick overview of our plans:

  • On Tuesday, Amanda French from University Libraries will join us to lead a workshop on two DH tools we haven’t explored yet: Scalar and Hypothesis. In preparation for the workshop, please create accounts on both sites and email me your Hypothesis username before we meet. Also, please remember that Tuesday is the deadline for your Documented Exploration project. To submit your tutorial, follow the instructions on the assignment page.
  • On Thursday, we’ll hold an Individual Project peer critique workshop. I know most of you are still in the early stages of completing this project, but please come to class ready to show what you’ve done on one of the lab computers and talk through your project with your classmates. If you have a written component you would like us to review, please feel free to bring that, too.

Questions? Concerns about your individual project? Come see me during office hours (slightly adjusted this week: Wednesday 9–12 and Thursday 2–5) or email me.

Week 12: Revising Tutorials and Considering the Future of the Digital Humanities

With our three web development workshops behind us, you should be thinking about what form your final project will take and what resources you’ll need to bring it to life. If you need to register a domain name, set up a web hosting account, or install software on the CATH server, please drop by during my office hours or email me to schedule an appointment. The end of the semester will be here before we know it, so don’t procrastinate these technical aspects of your work.

During Week 12, we’ll help you wrap up our third assignment so you can focus on your final project from here on out. Here’s our plan for the week:

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about where we’re headed, just let me know.

Week 11: Models for Publishing and Sharing Digital Humanities Work

I hope our last two class workshops have been useful as you consider how you will share your final projects with the world, and perhaps they’ve even helped you think about how to approach the tutorials you’ll write for the Documented Exploration assignment. I’ve adjusted a few dates and deadlines on our course calendar to give you more time for these projects, so please take a look at where we’re headed and pace yourselves accordingly. (For instance, you need to have a draft of your Documented Exploration tutorial by Tuesday, November 10.)

During Week 11, we’ll have our last big reading day of the semester (we may tackle a few shorter readings in the coming weeks), then talk about the nuts and bolts of online publishing. Here’s what you need to do to prepare:

  • On Tuesday, Kayla and Jenna will lead us through Part III of Between Humanities and the Digital. Please focus your attention on the following chapters: 26 (Kirschenbaum), 27 (Nowviskie), 28 (Earhart), 31 (Losh), 33 (Fitzpatrick), and 35 (McPherson).
  • On Thursday, our workshop will focus on the final piece of the web design puzzle: putting your content online. You may want to review some of the resources on my HTML & CSS for Beginners site before you come to class, and you should also create an account on Medium. (If you’re new to the site, the easiest way to get started is to create your account using your Twitter credentials.)

Finally, another reminder about keeping yourself on track during the final weeks of the semester: If you’d like to stop by my office to discuss your individual projects at any point along the way, I’d welcome those conversations. Please don’t let yourself fall behind!

Week 10: Cross-Disciplinary Work in the Digital Humanities, Plus More HTML and CSS

Now that I’ve approved the MOUs for your final projects and you’ve selected tools for your Documented Exploration projects, you should be pacing yourselves to complete those two assignments by the deadlines listed on our course calendar. Expect to encounter the inevitable technological challenges that arise when doing DH work, and don’t hesitate to come see me when you get stuck or just need a second opinion on something you’re doing.

To give you ample time to work on these two projects, I’ll continue to scale back our reading assignments during the coming weeks. In Week 10, I’ve reduced the number of assigned pages by more than half, so let’s make sure that what we do read, we read thoroughly.

Here’s a quick overview of our plans for next week:

  • On Tuesday, Zak will lead our discussion through Part II of Between Humanities and the Digital. Please focus on the following chapters: 13 (Trettien), 15 (Montfort), 17 (Hjorth), 18 (Olofsson), 20 (Heng and Widner), and 23 (Phillips and Rachman).
  • On Thursday, we will pick up where we left off with our HTML and CSS workshop. Please make sure you have access to the files you created and modified during Week 9.

Questions? Concerns? Just let me know.

Week 9: The Beginning of the End

I know we’re only at the midpoint of the semester, but in many ways, Week 9 marks the “beginning of the end” of the semester. From this point on, all of your individual work should build toward your final project, and our class workshops will be designed to help you develop the skills you need to publish that project online. We won’t spend any more time in class working on The Gray Jacket, but I’ve extended the deadline for that project to October 22nd, so you and your partner can finish your assigned issue to your satisfaction.

Here are a few reminders about deadlines and where we’re headed during Week 9:

  • Your MOU for the Individual Final Project should be in your shared Google Drive folder before you go to bed on Sunday night. I’ll review these memos on Monday and try to approve all of them before we meet on Tuesday. Please be sure to include any questions you have for me in the memo so I can address them early on.
  • On Tuesday, we will begin discussing our next book, Between Humanities and the Digital, with Natalie and Abbey serving as our discussion leaders. We’ll be covering Part I of the book, but to make your reading assignment a little more manageable, I’d like for you to focus on the following chapters: 1 (Sterne), 2 (Liu and Thomas), 4 (Presner), 6 (Drucker), 8 (Cong-Huyen), 9 (Bogost), 10 (Davidson), and 12 (Goldberg). At 1:15, we’ll leave our classroom and walk to Newman Library for a panel discussion on “Data and Digitization for the Liberal Arts and Human Sciences,” part of this year’s Open Access Week. The event runs from 1:30–3:00 p.m., and I hope you’ll stick around for the entire thing, but if you have other obligations and need to leave early, I understand.
  • On Thursday, we will hold our first web design workshop, learning some basics of HTML and CSS. You don’t need to do anything to prepare for this workshop other than bring your laptop, but please remember that Thursday is the deadline for your Collaborative Class Project memo (this should be in your shared Google Drive), and the also the deadline for selecting a tool for the Documented Exploration assignment. [Update: When you get to class, please download the HTML workshop files.]

If you have any questions about wrapping up your Gray Jacket work or want to discuss options for your Documented Exploration assignment, please come see me during office hours on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Week 8: Wrapping Up Macroanalysis and a Second Gray Jacket Workshop

I’ve really enjoyed meeting with each of you this week to discuss ideas for your Individual Final Project and the Documented Exploration of a DH Tool assignment. As you refine your plans and work on your MOU for the final project, please let me know if another conversation would be helpful — I’m always happy to chat.

Our Gray Jacket workshop yesterday seemed to go smoothly, and I hope your work on that project continues apace during the coming week. If you run into any problems with the website, let me know ASAP, and remember to use our shared Style Guide to refine the process for adding new items to the collection.

My travel plans for later in the month have shifted, so I’ve adjusted our course calendar to give us an extra Gray Jacket workshop day. Here’s how Week 8 will proceed:

  • On Tuesday, we’ll conclude our discussion of Macroanalysis, with Peter and Lee leading the conversation. Please read Chapters 8–10 (pp. 118–75) and come to class ready to discuss a few specific charts/graphs that you found interesting in these chapters.
  • On Thursday, we’ll spend the entire class session in a second workshop for The Gray Jacket. By this point, you and your partner should be finished transcribing and editing all of your text files, which will allow us to spend the workshop building the site and fine-tuning our metadata. Thursday is also the deadline for your Individual Final Project MOU, so please make sure that document is located in your shared Google Drive folder before you come to class.

As always, let me know if you have any questions about these plans, or if I can do anything to help you with your Gray Jacket work or your individual projects.

Week 7: More Macroanalysis, Plus a Publishing Workshop

We’re at a busy point in the semester, with our Collaborative Class Project well underway, and our two final assignments—the Documented Exploration of a DH Tool and the Individual Final Project—right around the corner. I hope you’ll spend some time this weekend thinking about those projects and how you might be able to connect them. Next week, I’ll meet with each of you for 20 minutes to discuss your early plans for these assignments. (Please sign up for an appointment ASAP.)

During class next week, we’ll return to Macroananlysis and make some headway on our class project. Here’s a quick review of our plans:

  • On Tuesday, we’ll review Chapters 6 and 7 of Macroanalysis (pp. 63–117), with Kristin and Joel serving as our discussion leaders. If time permits, we’ll also talk a little more about the Individual Final Project (in preparation for your conferences with me), and I’ll introduce you to the administrative interface for Omeka, which powers our Gray Jacket site.
  • We’ll spend the full class period on Thursday working in Omeka to build The Gray Jacket, so please come to class ready to work. You and your partner should have scanned, OCRed, and created individual text files for each item in your assigned issue, and (ideally) checked and double-checked your text for errors. If all of us have reached this point by Thursday, we’ll be able to focus on adding metadata and publishing in Omeka.

Questions? Concerns? Just let me know.

Week 6: Experimenting with Computational Literary Analysis

For the first portion of the semester, we’ve talked broadly and philosophically about writing and reading, the history of print culture, and the rise of digital culture. Starting in Week 6, we’ll begin exploring specific tools and strategies for doing digital humanities work in an English department today. We’ll also get a lot of hands-on experience with the complexities that accompany DH projects as we work to build The Gray Jacket website. If you haven’t reviewed the assignment details for our collaborative class project yet, please do this weekend. You should also make plans to scan your assigned issue of The Gray Jacket with your partner. (Check your email further instructions.)

Here’s a quick review of our plans for next week’s class sessions:

  • On Tuesday, we’ll turn our attention toward methodological issues related to textual analysis, with Kayla and Joel serving as our discussion superheroes. Please read the first five chapters of Macroanalysis (pp. 1–62) and be ready to discuss them in class.
  • On Thursday, we’ll start experimenting with some text analysis tools. To prepare for the workshop, you should download a “plain text” version (not some other format, like HTML or ePub) of a novel you know well from Project Gutenberg before you come to class.

If you have questions about our plans for Week 6, or if you encounter any problems with your Gray Jacket work, please email me or stop by during my office hours (T 2–5, W 9–12).

Week 5: More Musings on Textual Media; Kicking Off Our Class Project

Thanks for a great set of presentations today! I know they were rushed, but I hope they gave you a chance to learn more about what your classmates have been working on and perhaps discover a project or two you’d like to investigate more. (I’ll update the assignment description with links to all of the projects soon.) I’m looking forward to reading your analyses, and I’ll give each of you some feedback in Google Drive within the next week.

Now that our first project is behind us, we’re ready to try something new. Here’s the plan for Week 5:

  • On Tuesday, we’ll cover the second half of Comparative Textual Media (pp. 155–309), with Kristin and Jenna leading our discussion. As we discovered during our discussion this week, we probably won’t have enough time to thoroughly review every chapter, so please come to class ready to advocate for your favorite chapters. And let’s try a little harder to connect our discussion to the text itself by referencing specific passages whenever possible. After our discussion, I’ll briefly introduce the Collaborative Class Project in preparation for Thursday’s class session.
  • On Thursday, we will meet in the Library’s Special Collections (near the coffee shop on the first floor) to learn more about our collaborative project and receive some training on digitizing historical artifacts. Please do not come to our regular classroom; go directly to Special Collections at 12:30 p.m.

If you have any questions about our agenda, just let me know. Otherwise, I’ll see you in class on Tuesday. Enjoy your reading this weekend!

Week 4: Theories of Text (and txt?); Project Analysis Presentations

Now that you’ve experimented with various systems for following digital humanities conversations and managing your research assets, I hope you’ll settle on a few tools and stick with them throughout this semester (and, hopefully, long after the semester ends). I’ll check in with you in a few weeks to see how your systems are working and what they’ve taught you about your digital research practices.

I misspoke at the end of class today — we will not have a dedicated peer-critique day for this first assignment, since I’d like to move on to our other projects as quickly as possible. That said, we’ll try to dedicate some time to a brief peer review session at the end of class on Tuesday. Here’s the rundown for Week 4:

  • On Tuesday, we’ll discuss the first half of Comparative Textual Media (Introduction, plus pp. 1–154), with James and Peter leading the way. We’ll also review our plans for Thursday’s presentations, and you’ll have a chance to get some feedback from a classmate on a draft your essay. Please be ready to share what you’ve written.
  • On Thursday, your analysis of a digital humanities project is due. Make sure your essay is uploaded to your shared Google Drive folder and converted to Google Docs format before you come to class. During class, each of you will have 3–5 minutes to tell us about the project you analyzed and help us understand why we might (or might not) be interested in learning more. The format for your presentation is up to you, but if you plan to use a PowerPoint file, please upload it to your Google Drive folder, too.

I can’t wait to read your essays and see your presentations next week! If there’s anything I can do to help you finish up, don’t hesitate to ask.

Week 3: Predicting the Future of Writing; Developing a Systematic Approach to Research

I hope our first workshop was useful, and I hope you’ll give Twitter and Feedly (and other similar tools) a genuine chance to become part of your regular reading routine. Remember, you don’t have to follow everyone and read everything, but you should try to identify a few key individuals and publications that will help you keep up with ongoing conversations surrounding digital humanities — and other topics you’re studying.

Now that everyone has confirmed their topic for our first assignment, you should immerse yourself in the project/site/application you’re analyzing. The assignment description includes some questions that should help guide your analysis and critique, but if you need help narrowing your focus, feel free to drop by during my office hours next week. We’ll only have a bit of in-class time for working on this project, but Week 3 is when the bulk of your analysis should take place, so don’t procrastinate!

Here are a few reminders about our plans for Week 3:

  • On Tuesday, we’ll wrap up our first book, Does Writing Have a Future? (pp. 79–167), with Natalie and Josh serving as our discussion leaders. If time allows, we’ll collectively explore a digital humanities project in order to model what your analyses might look like.
  • On Thursday, we’ll hold a workshop that will help you establish a workflow for doing digital scholarship. Before you come to class, spend some time reviewing Miriam Posner’s excellent guide to managing research assets and William J. Turkel’s collection of posts on digital research tools. You don’t need to install every piece of software recommended by Posner and Turkel, but I hope you’ll test (or at least bookmark) a few of them that look interesting to you. After our workshop, you’ll have some time to review early drafts of your first assignment with your classmates. I don’t expect you to have full, finished essays at this point, but please bring something substantive enough to share with others.

Good luck with your reading and your project analysis this weekend! Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns about how things are going.

Week 2: Tracing the History of Writing; Joining the Digital Humanities Conversation

Thanks for two great days of conversation this week. I can already tell we’re going to have a very engaging semester. I promise I’ll do a little less talking and a little more listening from this point on, and I hope you’ll call me out if I forget about that commitment.

During Week 2, we’ll dive in to our first book, confirm your subjects for the first assignment, and conduct our first workshop. Here’s a quick overview of what we’ll be doing each day:

  • On Tuesday, be ready to discuss the Introduction and pp. 1–78 (through “Poetry”) in Does Writing Have a Future?. Zak and Abbey will serve as our discussion leaders for the day. In addition, please take some time this weekend to familiarize yourself with a variety of possible projects for our first assignment and come to class with a ranked list of three projects you’d like to analyze. (I’d like to make sure that everyone is analyzing a different project, so the rankings might matter.) We’ll compare lists and finalize those assignments in class.
  • On Thursday, we’ll hold a workshop designed to help you establish a personal system for following the many ongoing conversations surrounding the digital humanities. For this workshop, it will be helpful if you’re using your own computer, so bring your laptop unless you absolutely can’t. And if you’re new to Twitter this semester, it’s important that you create your Twitter account before the workshop.

If you have any questions about these plans, please let me know. Otherwise, I’ll see you in class on Tuesday. Happy reading!

Welcome to Introduction to Digital Humanities!

Welcome to English 5074: Introduction to Digital Humanities. This website will function as the online headquarters for our class this semester. I will use Virginia Tech’s Scholar site to record your grades, but otherwise, everything related to this course will be posted here. You should bookmark this site on your laptop, your tablet, your phone, etc. — whatever you use to get online.

A bit about me: I’m starting my fourth year at Virginia Tech, and I love it here. My research focuses on how people use rhetoric in online environments, and all of the classes I teach have something to do with technology. I think academics have a tendency to downplay the importance of the tools they use, so I work hard to correct (overcorrect?) that problem in my work. I spend a lot of time thinking about the technologies that shape my research and teaching, and I love comparing workflows with other academics — especially my students. When I’m not staring at a computer screen, I like to cook, read, and spend time with my wife, a brilliant freelance writer, and our two daughters.

Each week (typically Thursday evening or Friday morning), I will add a post to this website that explains what we will be doing in class the following week and what you need to do to prepare for those class sessions. The Week 2 post will be up soon, but for now, here are a few things you can do to get a jump start on the semester:

  • Create a Twitter account, if you don’t have one already. (We’ll talk about using Twitter in the coming weeks, but for now, you just need to create an account, add a photo, and customize your profile.)
  • Create an account on Medium, if you don’t have one already. (I recommend creating your Medium account by signing in with your Twitter account, just to keep your online identity for this class consistent.)
  • Get familiar with your Google Drive account, which is connected to your vt.edu email address.
  • Purchase copies (print or electronic) of the textbooks listed on the Course Policies page.
  • Read “As We May Think,” by Vannevar Bush. (Be sure to take a look at this PDF scan of a condensed version of Bush’s article, which includes some important illustrations.) Please be ready to discuss this article in class on Thursday.