2018 Hist 696 – Clio Wired

Dr. Jessica Otis
Class: Innovation 336, M 7:20-10pm
Office Hours: Research 463, M 4-6pm & by appointment

Course Description:

Digital history encompasses a wide variety of computationally-assisted historical scholarship methods, tools, and publications. As with the larger digital humanities community of practice, it is often–but not always–associated with an ethos of collaborative, iterative, open, and/or public-facing scholarship. This course will introduce the rapidly evolving field of digital history with the goal of enabling students to incorporate digital history into both their current research agendas and their future teaching experiences. Students will learn how to use and critique digital methods; assess and employ digital tools; evaluate the merits and pitfalls of digitally publishing various forms of scholarship; and generally navigate this digital research environment.

Honor Code:

By putting your name on your assignments, you are acknowledging the integrity of your work. If you have any questions about academic integrity, please either consult with me or go to https://oai.gmu.edu/mason-honor-code/


If you have learning needs and have been evaluated or are in the process of being evaluated by Mason’s Disability Services (http://ds.gmu.edu), please let me know so that I may make certain you are receiving the support you need.

Should you require other accommodations during the semester, particularly if it involves obtaining access to the necessary technology to perform your coursework, please contact me as soon as you are aware of the issue.

Privacy and Safety:

Students must use their MasonLive email account to receive important University information, including communications related to this class.

Because many of this course’s activities will require you to have an internet presence, please contact me immediately if you have privacy concerns or experience online harassment doing class activities during the course of this semester. Aliases may be an appropriate solution and/or alternative activities may be substituted for required course activities, as necessary. While I believe that your education will benefit from your participation in the online digital history community, your privacy and security is a higher priority than any particular course activity.


My goal is to create a supportive learning environment for students with diverse backgrounds and lived experiences. As such, I fully support the Mason Diversity Statement.

Mandatory Reporting:

As a faculty member, I am designated as a “Responsible Employee,” and must report all disclosures of sexual assault, interpersonal violence, and stalking to Mason’s Title IX Coordinator per University Policy. If you wish to speak with someone confidentially, please contact one of Mason’s confidential resources, such as Student Support and Advocacy Center (SSAC) at 703-993-3686 or Counseling and Psychology Services (CAPS) at 703-993-2380. The 24-hour Sexual and Intimate Partner Violence Crisis Line for Mason is 703-380-1434.

You may also seek assistance from Mason’s Title IX Coordinator by calling 703-993-8730 or email titleix@gmu.edu.

Required Course Books and Expenses:

  • Constance Crompton, Richard J. Lane, and Ray Siemens, eds. Doing Digital Humanities (DDH) (Routledge, 2016).

Optional Course Books and Expenses:

  • Reclaim Hosting (https://reclaimhosting.com/shared-hosting/) personal website plan or sign up for a free WordPress plan through http://www.wordpress.com
  • Safiya Umoja Noble, Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism (NYU Press, 2018) or watch Safiya Noble’s 2015 Digital Library Federation keynote (linked below)

Requirements and Grading:

Readings, as well as detailed instructions for assignments and projects, will be posted on the course website. As many of these readings and assignments are web-based, students should have a device capable of connecting to the internet that they can bring to class. On occasions, a laptop (rather than a tablet, e-reader, smartphone, or other device) will be necessary to run specific websites or software.

Grades for the course will be based upon the following:

  • Course Participation: 30%
  • Weekly Blog Posts: 30%
  • Project Environmental Survey: 10%
  • Project Work Plan: 10%
  • Project Presentation: 10%
  • Final Project: 10%

Class attendance is counted as part of the course participation grade, however students will be excused for family emergencies, serious illness, and weather-related transportation difficulties provided they notify me by email in a timely manner.

Students will write weekly blog posts (ca. 500-1000 words) reflecting on the week’s readings, discussion, and technical assignments. These will be due every Thursday night. Students will then have until Sunday night to comment on a minimum of three other students’ blog posts. Late work will be accepted but will cost a 1/3 of a letter grade per day.

Class projects will be done in small teams and are due in stages throughout the semester. These projects will be graded on a combination of effort, process, and self-reflective writing. In other words: don’t be afraid of breaking things and failing to accomplish a specific technical task as long as you work hard, can explain what you’ve done, and learn something new along the way.

Technical Assistance:

In addition to consulting with me during office hours, students can receive technical assistance at the Digital Scholarship Center (https://dsc.gmu.edu/) in the University Libraries.

Tutorials can also be found on the Programming Historian at http://programminghistorian.org

Class Schedule, Topics To Be Finalized in First Class Meeting:

Aug. 27 – Course Introduction and Technical Groundwork

In-class activity: set up a WordPress instance through Reclaim Hosting (instructions can be found here) and begin creating a website for your class blog and academic portfolio (Lynda.com WordPress tutorial)

Sept. 3 – Labor Day, no class
Sept. 10 – Digitization, Data, and Databases
Sept. 17 –Spatial History, Mapping, and GIS
Sept. 24 – Networks and Ontologies
Oct. 1 – Digital Exhibits and Copyright
Oct. 8 – Fall Break, per the university calendar, class to be held Tuesday instead
Oct. 9 – Digital Storytelling and Digital Games

Note: enough of you were interested in Digital Storytelling that I want to point out UMW’s “open course” on Digital Storytelling, if you want to dive deeper into this.

Oct. 15 – Data Visualization, Interfaces, and Design Basics
Oct. 22 – Ethics, Biases, and Diversity in a Digital World
Oct. 29 –DH and Pedagogy I: Introduction
  • Claire Battershill & Shawna Ross, Using Digital Humanities in the Classroom.
Nov. 5 – DH and Pedagogy II: Teaching with Crowdsourcing and Wikis
Nov. 12 – DH and Pedagogy III: Designing Your Own DH Assignments
Nov. 19 – The Past, Present, and Future of Digital History
Nov. 26 – Project Presentations
Dec. 3 – Project Presentations
Dec. 17 – Final Projects Due