(Worth 10% of your grade; due on September 17)
Your first assignment is to familiarize yourself with several “mature” digital humanities projects, then select one to analyze and critique. Your investigation of the project should include not only the finished project itself, but also any supporting materials you can find — blog posts, press releases, early drafts, software documentation, etc… Your final analysis of the project will take the form of a short essay (1,000–1,500 words) and a brief in-class presentation (3–5 minutes).
Completing the Assignment
Before you select a project, you should survey a wide range of options. Here are a few good directories of digital humanities projects that will help you see what’s out there:
- DHCommons Projects
- Maria Popova’s “Digital Humanities Spotlight”
- Alan Liu’s “Examples of DH Scholarship”
- Virginia Tech’s Center for Applied Technologies in the Humanities
- Quinn’s digital humanities bookmarks
Once you find a project that piques your interest, begin bookmarking and/or downloading everything you can find related to this project. (Generally speaking, you’ll be better off analyzing a large project that has been carefully documented and widely promoted.) You should immerse yourself in your chosen project, doing your best to understand the original inspiration for the project, the ways in which the project fits (or doesn’t fit) into some larger field or scholarly conversation, the tools used to create the project, the funding sources that supported the project, and the current state of the project (i.e., completed or still under development).
Your essay should provide a brief overview of the project, but it should move quickly to analysis and critique. You may want to use the following questions to guide your thinking:
- Why did the author(s) pursue this project as a digital humanities project? What about this project makes it “DH”?
- What does this project tell us about its subject that a “traditional” research project couldn’t?
- Why did the author(s) choose these particular tools and methods to complete the project? Do you think the tools were chosen to match the subject matter? Or was the subject matter selected to match the tools?
- If the project has gone through multiple iterations, what did the previous versions of the site look like? How has it changed over time. (The Wayback Machine can help you find out.)
- What are the strengths of the project? How does it enrich our understanding of the subject?
- What are the shortcomings of the project? What additional work could the author(s) do to overcome these problems?
At the conclusion of this assignment, you will submit your essay using your shared Google Drive folder. In class, you will deliver a brief presentation (3–5 minutes) designed to make your classmates aware of the project you analyzed and draw their attention to anything particularly compelling about the project.
I will evaluate your project using the following criteria:
- Does your essay provide a sufficient amount of background information to familiarize readers with your chosen project?
- Does your essay analyze and critique your chosen project rather than merely describe or summarize it?
- Does your analysis account for and draw upon all available materials related to your chosen project?
- Does your presentation successfully introduce your classmates to the project and help them situate the project within the field of digital humanities?
- Does your presentation effectively incorporate visual elements (especially screenshots of the project)?
- Do the essay and presentation meet the minimum requirements for length?
- Does the essay adhere to the conventions of standard written English (i.e., spelling, punctuation, grammar)?
Links to Sites that We Analyzed
- Abbey: Corpus of Contemporary American English
- James: ORBIS: The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World
- Jenna: Slave Revolt in Jamaica, 1760-71: A Cartographic Narrative
- Joel: The Diary of Samuel Pepys
- Josh: The Carmichael Watson Project
- Kayla: Unbuilt Blue Ridge Parkway
- Kristin: The Willa Cather Archive
- Lee: Dialect in British Fiction (1800-1836)
- Natalie: LangScape
- Peter Charles Darwin’s Library
- Zak: To See or Not to See