Critical Theories, Methods, and Practice in Digital Humanities


catalog description

Critical Theories, Methods, and Practice in Digital Humanities examines the history, theory, and practice of digital humanities, while interrogating how digital humanities transforms knowledge across the humanities.

course description

Critical Theories, Methods, and Practice in Digital Humanities is an interdisciplinary examination of the history, theory, and practice of digital humanities, paying special attention to the ways in which digital humanities is transforming and constructing research, digital tools, modes of analysis and inquiry, and access to knowledge across disciplines. Topics include: origin stories of digital humanities; tools and techniques used by digital humanists; the ethics of open access; diversity in digital environments, design and infrastructure, networks and tool building, and the crossover between critical theory and digital humanities methods. The course begins with a survey of the emergent field of digital humanities and its intersection with traditional disciplines. We will examine how critical cultural theories have influenced the use, practices and construction of digital environments, discourses and methods used under the umbrella of DH. While students are not expected to be proficient in any one technology, digital tool or product, we will explore how these tools are used, how humanities scholarship has changed with and in response to them, and the challenges and changes that they bring to critical inquiry. Given the interdisciplinary nature of the course students across the humanities and social sciences are encouraged to bring their interests and topics to the discussions. Major projects and assignments will be adaptable to field-specific issues and goals and students will be encouraged to tailor their projects to the needs of their disciplines. Openness to tinkering, playing, failing and making are required.

required materials

  • Books
    • A Prehistory of the Cloud, Tung-Hui Hu, 2015
    • The Undersea Network, Nicole Starosielski, 2015
    • Network Sovereignty, Marisa Duarte, 2017
    • Networking Peripheries, Anita Say Chan, 2014
    • Feminist in a Software Lab – Tara McPherson, Feb 2018
    • Debates in the Digital Humanities, edited by Matthew K. Gold, University of Minnesota Press, 2012 and 2016  (online versions)
  • Articles (as PDFS) will be available on the course website
  • A Twitter account. Remember to use #dtcp560
  • A blog – platform is your choice

student learning outcomes

  1. Illustrate a working knowledge and understanding of digital humanities literature, theory and methodologies through critical reading, analysis and engagement with multiple types of texts.
    • This SLO will be assessed through written assignments on blogs, short reflection papers and in class presentations.
  2. Apply a critical literacy of digital humanities literature by placing texts and scholars in conversation with one another and with themes of the course by creating, updating, and analyzing multiple types of texts (digital and analog).
    • This SLO will be assessed through written assignments, in class participation and projects.
    • This SLO will be assessed through short presentations and projects
  3. Successfully create texts in varied formats using both digital and analog tools to construct theoretically engaging arguments.
    • This SLO will be assessed through the projects and presentations.


  • Attendance: Because we will be working collaboratively on many assignments, and because learning is a communal effort, your regular attendance is important. You can miss two classes with no questions asked. After two absences, in order not to lose points you must contact me and explain your reasoning for the absence. More than five absences will result in a failing grade for the course.
  • Late work: No late work will be accepted.
  • Students with Disabilities: I am committed to providing assistance to help you be successful in this course. Reasonable accommodations are available for students with a documented disability. Please visit the Disability Resource Center (DRC) during the first two weeks of every semester to seek information or to qualify for accommodations. All accommodations MUST be approved through the DRC (Admin Annex Bldg, Rooms 205). Call 509 335 3417 to make an appointment with a disability counselor.
  • Academic Honesty: All students are expected to act in accordance with the WSU policies on Academic Honesty found in the Student Handbook. These policies include falsification of information, fabrication of information, plagiarism, multiple submissions, and various others. Academic integrity will be strongly enforced in this course. Any student caught cheating on any assignment will be given an F grade for the course and will be reported to the Office Student Standards and Accountability. Cheating is defined in the Standards for Student Conduct WAC 504-26-010 (3). These policies will be discussed in class and students will be asked to acknowledge that discussion and a basic understanding of the policies. For additional information on plagiarism, WSU has a great new site, check it out. You are responsible for knowing and abiding by the WSU policies. If you are caught violating any academic honesty policy, you will fail the course and may be turned over to the proper WSU authorities.
  • Technology: If you bring a laptop to class please only use it for class-related purposes. IM-ing, checking email, web surfing (unless you’re looking something up related to class), etc, are incredibly disrespectful of our time together. But, you CAN tweet if it’s class related. No texting.
  • Safety and Emergency Notifications: Washington State University is committed to enhancing the safety of the students, faculty, staff, and visitors. It is highly recommended that you review the Campus Safety Plan and visit the Office of Emergency Management web site for a comprehensive listing of university policies, procedures, statistics, and information related to campus safety, emergency management, and the health and welfare of the campus community.



Students are expected to do all course readings and prep with digital platforms or tools prior to class and come prepared to discuss them in depth. Class will be run in a seminar-style with the expectation that students will actively engage in and drive the discussions.

blogging and tweeting

Students will be responsible for weekly blog entries/reflections/short writing assignments. The topics will be directed by the readings, digital platforms, and weekly discussion questions. Everyone will be expected to join in the discussions with thoughtful remarks on at least 3 other posts during the week prior to the in-class meeting. Students are required to tweet regularly each week based on the course readings, assignments, and topics using #dtcp560.

lightening presentations

Students will have several opportunities throughout the semester to present short “lightening talks.” Students will present using various technologies and on topics related to the readings and overall seminar topic. Specific assignments will be posted in advance.


There will be two main projects due during the term.

Project one: Students will work using the Scalar platform to produce a publication based on the themes of the course. Students will have short term project goals and assignments throughout the term resulting in the final project demonstration in class and a link to the Scalar site on the course website.

Project two: Each student will create a syllabus for DTC 101 or 201 incorporating the DTC core modules used in the course sequence. Each syllabus will contain at least1 new assignment for a module. The assignments will incorporate the practical, theoretical, and methodological insights from the course. Students will be expected to make sure the assignment meets the SLOs for whichever course they choose. Students will have an opportunity during the semester to visit a DTC 101 or 201 course.

student evaluation & assessment

Students will be evaluated based on their critical engagement with the reading assignments, the sophistication and rigor of their written assignments and the professional quality of their oral presentations.

  • Participating 20%
  • Blogs & tweets 20%
  • Presentations 15%
  • Project One 25%
  • Project Two 20%

NO LATE ASSIGNMENTS are accepted except in the case of a documented emergency, a documented university sponsored event or a documented observance of a religious holiday.

grading scale

Final grades will be based on the assignments as well as participation. Participation is based on your attendance, your level of attentiveness in and preparedness for class, your participation in class discussion, and your respect for others. The breakdown is as follows:

  • A: 93-100
  • A-: 90-92
  • B+: 88-89
  • B: 83-87
  • B-: 80-82
  • C+: 78-79
  • C: 73-77
  • C-: 70-72
  • D+: 68-69
  • D: 60-67
  • F: 59 and below


We will break the semester up into three blocks. The first block will examine the foundational and emergent themes, methodologies and tools within digital humanities. The second block will examine digital networks, how they function, how they have emerged, the politics around them, cultural and social implications, etc. Finally, the last block you will apply the theories, methods, and practices in the first two blocks to two projects: one pedagogical and one research oriented.

unit 1: foundations

wk1 in-class due by classtime
1/9 intro: course overview, blog set up, tweeting, group assignments Read:

1/11  discussion: contours of DH Read:

  • Blog Prompt (see Assignments tab)
wk2 in-class due by classtime
1/16  discussion: collaboration  Read:

Blog Prompt (see Assignments tab)

1/18 5 minute lightening presentations  Read:

View before class, and choose at least two projects to engage with in your blog post:

  1. The Real Faces of White Australia
  2. The Walt Whitman Archive
  3. The Plateau Peoples’ Web Portal
  4. The Bracero History Archive
  5. Documenting Ferguson
  6. Voices of the Holocaust
  7. Digital Transgender Archive
  8. Slave Societies Digital Archive
  9. Mapping Indigenous LA
  10. The Yale Indian Papers Project

Blog Prompt (see Assignments tab)

wk3 in-class due by classtime
1/23 discussion: design choices, difference, diversity and DH  Read:

Blog Prompt (see Assignments tab)

1/25 Individual presentations on a Vectors sites
  •  View and analyze Vectors sites

Blog Prompt (see Assignments tab)

wk4 in-class due by classtime
1/30 discussion: maps, mapping, scale and scope Read:

Blog Prompt (see Assignments tab)

2/1 Scalar introduction in class hands on workshop  view Scalar website and look at sample sites
wk5 in-class due by classtime
2/6 In class: Story Maps visualization tools workshop  review Story Maps website
2/8 In class presentations and critiques Blog Prompt (see Assignments tab)

unit 2: networks

wk6 in-class due by classtime
2/13 Scalar workshop #2 design and content  Read:

  • Networking Peripheries
2/15  discussion: peripheries  Read:

  • Networking Peripheries

Blog Prompt (see Assignments tab)

wk7 in-class due by classtime
2/20  discussion: sovereignty  Read:

  • Network Sovereignty chapters 1-4
2/22  discussion  Read:

  • Network Sovereignty chapters 5-conclusion

Blog Prompt (see Assignments tab)

wk8 in-class due by classtime
2/27  discussion  Read:

    • A Feminist in the Lab (ALL)
  • Blog Prompt (see Assignments tab)
3/1 Scalar project workshop #3 project outlines
  •      project outline draft (drafty-draft due on blogs)
wk9 in-class due by classtime
3/6  discussion  Read:

    • The Undersea Network
3/8  CDSC symposium
  • Blog Prompt (see Assignments tab)
wk10 in-class due by classtime
wk11 in-class due by classtime
3/20  discussion  Read:

    • Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism
  • Blog Prompt (see Assignments tab)
3/22  Final Scalar in class workshop  

  • Scalar project outlines due on blog

unit 3: collaborations

wk12 in-class due by classtime
3/27 Scalar project workshopping with partners  project draft
3/29  In class project presentations and critiques  -blog prompt (see assignments tab)
wk13 in-class due by classtime
4/3 DTC 101 or 201 class visits
4/5 DTC 101 or 201 class visits
wk14 in-class due by classtime
4/10 Pedagogy discussions
4/12 Scalar project workshop
wk15 in-class due by classtime
4/17 Finish Scalar projects
4/19 Finish Scalar projects
wk16 in-class due by classtime
4/24 Scalar project previews
4/26 Scalar project presentations at DTC showcase  final blog prompt (see assignments tab)






BLOG PROMPT – DUE Friday 01.12

After reading Trevor Owens’ blog post on where to start research questions in the digital humanities, go back to Joe Maxwell’s 5 components of research design (in Owens’ post), answer all 5 questions and make a diagram (however you choose) depicting each area as it relates to your imagined (or real) project. After answering the questions follow up by using at least two of the other readings this week to define your thoughts on what you want to gain from this class that will aid in your research or how you will pursue your graduate studies and how digital humanities theories, methods, and practices would contribute.

BLOG PROMPT – DUE Wednesday 01.17

We’ve been discussing different types of collaboration and the ways that projects can be set up, managed and sustained based on collaboration, partnerships and shared responsibilities. Using a project that you are either working on currently or one you would like to work on, create a collaboration document for your project. Your document must include a vision statement (what the larger goals of the project are), a code of ethics (expectations for behavior), a scope of work (what needs to be done), a set of roles and responsibilities (ie: project director, graphic designer, etc), and a timeline for production that includes various iterations, analysis, updates and launch date.


Choose one of the digital archive projects and in class present a brief overview of the project: its main goals and aspirations, collaborators (or various stakeholders), navigation and design elements that engage with or make a theoretical or methodological intervention or argument. Then choose two features or aspects of the project to highlight. You will have FIVE MINUTES.

BLOG PROMPT – DUE Friday 01.20

Choose two of the digital archive projects listed and put them in conversation with the readings this week. Discuss the projects’ goals, motivations, guiding questions, interfaces, categories, navigation schemes, interactive functions, etc. Think about their audiences, the stakeholders represented, the intended outcomes and unintended ones. Explore the material aspects of the project and think about the labor, time, and different collaborators involved. How long has the project been going? Is there an iterative framework?What types of sharing are allowed and are these ethical or cultural decisions? Examine how the projects frame the content and how the form/format, design choices, and platform promote or inhibit types of relationships, knowledge creation/use, or appropriate reuse.

BLOG PROMPT – DUE Wednesday 01.24

In both Gallon and Posner’s articles, we see calls to interrogate the structures of DH at all levels in order to make cultural critique (in all its forms) central to the methods, theories and practices of the field. Gallon specifically challenges the baseline construction of “humanity” calling on DH scholars to begin by unpacking its very construction and re-inscription in tools, platforms, etc). Similarly, Posner says DH has not gone far enough to upend the systems of inequity that permeate the field. Specifically she calls out DH’s reliance on normative models of time and space within data analysis and the construction of data models in DH projects. Finally, focusing on the interface as a site of theoretical and practical intervention, Drucker suggests that, “as we attend to formal and technical affordances, we need to keep our critical foundations in view.” (3) Taken together these scholars lay the ground work for fundamental shifts in the way DH operates. Using one of the projects we have looked at thus far in the course, or a DH project you found on your own, examine how the fundamental categories, structures, and foundations upon which the project is built undermines, reinforces, calls into question, upends, refigures, or begins to challenge (perhaps simultaneously and in very messy and unpredictable ways)  these enduring structures and frameworks.


Choose one project in Volume 2 or 3 and explore the project in relation to the issues of structural interventions into DH we have been discussing. Use the readings thus far to highlight 1-2 themes in relation to: collaboration, sustainability, diversity and inclusion, decolonization and critical race studies, design challenges and the interface, restructuring of knowledge creation, circulation and exchange, remaking systems of power, challenging dominant modes of scholarship, knowledge creation and creativity, exploring alternative modes of time, space and narration, or any others.Make sure you read and incorporate the Author’s Statement, Designer’s Statement, Producer’s Statement, View Peer Response + Discuss, and Project Credits into your post and engage with at least two readings from the week as part of your exploration.

You will have 10 minutes for your presentation with 5 minutes of follow up questions and discussion with your peers. You can use this feedback for your final post on Friday (see below).

BLOG PROMPT – DUE Friday 01.26

The Vectors Journal, started in 2005, proposes a new way of imagining and producing scholarship–that is, making theoretical arguments through multimodal scholarship. The journal is one of the first to push online publication away from merely putting text up online as a form of digital scholarship. Instead, Vectors provides a platform for scholars to create and make arguments, engage in the creation of knowledge, intervene in methodological debates, etc by making use of the interface, design, navigation and non-textual components of publication. View and interact with the projects in Volume 2 or 3: issue 1: Ephemera and issue 2: Perception or volume 3 issue 1: Difference or volume 2 Memory. Once you have navigated around, viewed, interacted, etc, choose one project and narrate your experience with the project (in any format you wish) and engage with it in relation to the themes in DH we have discussed thus far: how the interface created, defined or allowed for interaction, how the arguments comes across through design, navigation and style, how you interacted with the project site, what you learned, what you still want to know, how this project helps you think or re-think your own work, how the project makes an intervention into standard narrative formats, how the project imagines and enacts collaboration, how the project team engages with normative practices, categories, and classifications systems or structures, etc.  Make sure you read and incorporate the Author’s Statement, Designer’s Statement, Producer’s Statement, View Peer Response + Discuss, and Project Credits into your post and engage with at least two readings from the week as part of your exploration. Make sure to reflect on the comments and discussion from your in-class presentation in your post.

BLOG PROMPT – DUE Friday 02.02

Digital humanities scholars use the visual field to make interventions and grapple with theoretical questions. We’ve see this week that mapping, timelines, data visualization, the “spatial turn,” are all methods, strategies and theoretical trajectories for creating projects that highlight collaboration, engaging diverse voices, re-telling histories, refiguring data and knowledge creation. In this post, reflect on the use of these methods as they relate to the overarching debates in DH we have seen so far. That is, do these methods, tools, and practices inform new ways of theorizing DH? Do they upend normative models? Do they help us see the epistemological structures we are trying to create/recreate or undo? How can digital visualization (in its many forms) help create avenues for more structurally diverse DH projects and practices? Use at least two of the readings from the last 4 weeks in your response.

BLOG PROMPT – DUE Tuesday 02.06

Now that we are wrapping up the first section of the course and you have had a chance to get your hands into Scalar, in this blog post reflect on the affordances of the Scalar platform that will enable you to create a project that reflects some of the theories, methods and practices of DH that we have been discussing. This post will kick off your reflections on your use of the platform as a mechanism for iterative scholarship. Think of it more as a journal type post and one you will build upon as you dig into Scalar and your final project.


Using the readings thus far in this first unit concerning the definitions, contours, themes, and concepts within DH, create a 10-minute presentation (using any tool of your choice) that walks through your exploration of the main issues in relation to the theories, methods, and practices of DH. You won’t cover them all, you will, however, chart a path that highlights your take on these issues and their relation to DH as a field of study and in relation to your own intellectual interests. You may want to discuss: representational logics, historical contexts, decolonial and postcolonial interventions, race and gender, design choices, iterative thinking, attribution and citation, tool and platform choices and affordances, collaboration systems and structures, documentation, sustainability, categories and taxonomies, cultural protocols and software protocols, etc.

Remember this is an oral presentation–you should not ask you audience to read!

You will post your initial and refined presentations to your blogs and a summary and reflection statement about the revisions you made after your peer review in class. Your final post is due Monday 02.12

BLOG PROMPT – DUE Thursday 02.15

Reflect on and summarize the chapter you were assigned in Chan’s Networking Peripheries and provide 2-3 questions for group discussion on your blog.

BLOG PROMPT – DUE Monday 02.26

In Network Sovereignty Marisa Duarte challenges normative studies of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and specifically examines the creation of the Internet across Indian Country. She argues that, “histories of ICTs are inevitably intertwined with histories of colonization, sovereignty and self-determination” (105) and thus as scholars we must challenge the erasure of histories, places, relationships and local cultural systems from studies of digital technologies and the Internet specifically. Throughout the book she employs a “reframing” methodology in order to reorient her reader to the specificities of Native histories and current lives as they are manifest through and within ongoing colonial structures. For Duarte, “reframing means deciding what historical factors shape the background of a problem. And what conditions shape Indigenous possibility within the contemporary moment” (89). By moving us not just to see differently, but to see in very specific ways, she challenges the “epistemic blindness” (91) that is prevalent in technology studies as well as in the digital humanities. In your blog post use Duarte’s methodology of reframing and theoretical shifts to uncover epistemic blindness and epistemic injustice to discuss possibilities for both studies of technology and the digital humanities. You should engage both with Duarte as well as the DH scholars we read in the first third of the class.

Final Project Outline *draft – DUE Thursday 03.01

After your third formal Scalar workshop session you should have a better idea of where you want your projects to go (as always though this is an iterative and generative process, so go where it takes you). Update your blog with a “drafty-draft” outline of your project. Include the main research questions, the content, the theorists and methodologies fro DH and elsewhere you will engage with and start thinking of a title for the project, even if it is a list of words at this point. Your post and outline can take any format you’d like.

BLOG PROMPT – DUE Friday 03.02

In her book, Feminist in a Software Lab, Tara McPherson lays out a critique of the visual logics and theories that have dominated the digital humanities. Building on her earlier work she extends her theorization of difference, relationality and materiality as key nodes in our engagement with digital technologies, platforms, tools and software. She moves back and forth between theory and method grounding her analysis in both the productions in and from Vectors and the development and use of Scalar. She notes that moving to Scalar the team wanted to “build a system that respected the research methodologies of the scholars with whom we work” (216) Further she sees Scalar as a platform that allows for more “nimble” and at the same time robust engagement with all forms of content. She argues that as scholars we need,  “to think both fixity and movement, node and network, the break and the flow, the thing and the social” (97). Further she uses feminist theory to build a relational framework for engagement that moves us to see form and content, interface and database, objects and people, in order to “privilege systemic modes of thinking that can understand relation and honor complexity, even while valuing precision and specificity” (231). In your blog post, reflect back your own understanding of DH and other theories, methods and practices and engage with McPherson’s theorizations in terms of difference(s), materiality and relationality in relation to your own work, your Scalar project and larger DH projects. Your post can move between the specifics of work in Vector and Scalar as well as broad themes of cultural theory.

BLOG PROMPT – DUE Friday 03.09

In the Undersea Network, Nicole Starosielski puts forward a methodology she calls “network archaeology”– to “historicize the movements and connections enabled by distribution systems and to reveal the environments that shape media circulation.”  Her approach “draws on archives and historical narratives to shed light on emerging practices and, in light of these practices, to offer new vantage points on the past” (15). This approach puts forward “material geographies” in order to emphasize the placedness, sociality, and materiality of these histories and the present day digital networks that follow from them. Through this methodology she offers an “environmental consciousness” that extends both our notions of the environment and our perceptions of digital networks that move, stop, start, and reconfigure spaces, places, people, objects and politics. By providing us with a methodology for studying networks she provides a new vantage point for imagining networks. In your post discuss this methodology in relation to other methods we have engaged with in this section of the class and discuss what type of lens “network archaeology” provides for understanding networks in the frame of the digital humanities.

BLOG PROMPT – DUE Friday 03.23

In Algorithms of Oppression, Safiya Noble brings together the social and technological through a Black feminist theoretical framework in order to demonstrate how “algorithmic oppression” functions–online and offline in tandem to produce and reproduce inequities. She argues explicitly that scholars need to denaturalize the narratives around search and information valuing, specifically calling for “counternarratives” that question the naturalization of ideals of objectivity and neutrality. In your post create a counternarrative that speaks “back” to the broadly held ideas that search is neutral, factual, objective and or true. You may use a combination of written and graphic elements in your post ensuring that you have a holistic argument and that you use Noble’s work to build from in your post.

Scalar Project 

Your Scalar project should engage with the theme of “networks” as broadly or narrowly as you choose as long as you engage with the readings from the course. You may use outside sources as well. Your project should: 1) have a title, 2) be driven by a set of research questions, 3) have a clearly defined methodology and 4)  consider the varied ways in which networks are created, sustained, and maintained. As part of the Scalar project you must also keep a “Scalar blog” that charts your project work, details questions along the way, highlights your work and research process and provides self-reflection about the project as it relates to the course. Your final blog post should clearly show how the methods, theories, and practices in DH (conceived through the readings of the course) function in the Scalar project– in how you devised your research questions, in the methodologies you used and in the very practices of creating, revising and sharing your project.

Project dates to keep in mind:

  • March 27 – partner critiques and workshopping
  • March 29 – in class presentation: work in progress
  • April 26 – Scalar presentations at DTC Showcase (3:30-6:00)
  • May 4 – Final project and blog due


General Information

DTC/ENGL 560 – Spring 2018

3 credits
T/Th 10:35- 11:50
Professor Kim Christen
Holland 474 | 335-4177
Office Hours: by appointment
Office: CDSC 474
Twitter: @mukurtu


DTC/ENGL 560 - Spring 2018

Networking: Peripheries and Sovereignty

Networking Peripheries and Network Sovereignty Both Chan and Duarte emphasize new possibilities / futures that can be imagined by understanding cultural, social and political aspects of networks: how they function and work to create, manage and define systems of power...

Networking Peripheries

There are strands in the DH theories, methods and practices that we have read thus far that you all circled back to in your presentations last week that are evident in Chan’s work: Values collaboration that acknowledges the varied inputs to production of knowledge and...

week one: the contours of digital humanities

As noted in most of the readings this week (and you will see in the following weeks), there is no shortage of definitions for the digital humanities. Check out this site for a endless supply of definitions of digital humanities. Keep refreshing the page and you get a...