Critical Theories, Methods, and Practice in Digital Humanities

DTC/ENGL 595/560




This class examines the history, theory, and practice of digital humanities, paying special attention to the ways in which digital humanities are transforming research, disciplines, and access to knowledge across disciplines. Topics include contrasts and continuities between traditional and digital humanities scholarship; tools and techniques used by digital humanists; the ethics of digital circulation; the politics of open access and diverse scholarship; and the crossover between critical theory and digital humanities methods. This course begins with a survey of the emergent field of Digital Humanities and its intersection with traditional disciplines. From here we will examine how critical cultural theories have influenced the field paying special attention to how the field interrogate the construction, use and practice of digitality. While students will not be 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.


student learning outcomes

  • Illustrate a working knowledge and understanding of Digital Humanities literature, theory, practices and tools through critical reading, analysis and engagement of varied types of texts.
  • Apply a critical literacy of Digital Humanities literature through placing texts and scholars in conversation with one another and with themes of the course by creating multiple types of texts (digital and analog).
  • Successfully create texts in varied formats using both digital and analog tools to construct theoretically engaging arguments.

required materials

  • Books
    • Digital Humanities Pedagogy edited by Brett D. Hirsch, Open Book Publishers 2012
    • Debates in the Digital Humanities, edited by Matthew K. Gold, Univ of Minnesota Press, 2012
    • Hacking the Academy, Dan Cohen and Tom Scheinfeldt, editors, Universiy of Michigan Press. 2013.
    • Comparative Textual Media: Transforming the Humanities in the Postprint Era. University of Minnesota Press, N. Katherine Hayles 2014.
    • Mobile Interface Theory: Embodied Space and Locative Media. Routledge, Jason Farman 2011.
    • Welcome to the Journal of Digital Humanities inaugural issue, vol 1, issue 1, 2011
  • PDFs, websites, online tools to view, play with and browse will be assigned on the course schedule page
  • A Twitter account. Remember to use #dtcp560
  • A blog


  • 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.
  • Grading: Final grades will be based on the assignments as well as participation. The breakdown is as follows: forthcoming. 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. 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.
  • 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 will be responsible for weekly blog entries on their own course blog. The topics/prompts will be directed by the readings and the weekly discussion questions. Everyone will be expected to join in the discussion with thoughtful remarks during the week prior to the in-class meeting. Students must have blogs posted by the assigned date/time.


Each week students will turn in a two-three page analysis of the reading. These  papers should 1) concisely and clearly define the author’s main argument and one or two sub-points, 2) offer an analysis and critique of the argument in relation to the main themes of the class and 3) ask 1-2 discussion oriented questions. Each student’s questions will be used to guide class discussion.


Students will have several opportunities throughout the semester to present their work in various ways. Students will present using various technologies and on topics related to the readings and overall seminar topic. Presentation modes will be diverse and students will be encouraged to use various presentation tools and techniques.


We will discuss several types of digital tools during the course of the semester. Students will be asked to use these tools to construct digital texts, critiques, presentations, etc. for weekly class assignments. There will be two final projects for the course, both are iterative: a final project proposal and a DTC 101 syllabus.

  • The final research project proposal must engage the themes of the class, present a literature review, develop research questions, a methodological framework, define a list of digital tools necessary to complete the project and a theoretical and methodological reflection on the Digital Humanities purpose of the project in relation to DH.  The proposal will take the form of a digital humanities project, using the tools, theories and methods we have discussed and analyzed during the course of the semester. Students will present stages of their project over the course of the semester and meet at least once one-one-one to discuss.
  • The DTC 101 syllabus must be a complete syllabus with assignments, readings, activities and a list of tools and digital techniques for the course. The syllabus must have student learning outcomes and at least 3 themes that act as overarching frames to divide the semester. The syllabus must have a reading/viewing/listening list and a statement course objectives and goals. Students will develop assignments over the course of the semester and present their syllabus in stages during the semester.


Students are expected to do all course readings prior to class and come prepared to discuss the readings in depth. Class will be run in a seminar-style with the expectation that students will actively engage in and drive the discussions. This class requires you to have and maintain an active Twitter stream for #dtcp560. At times I will ask you tweet responses to specific questions, but for the most part this task is up to you. You may tweet during class and at times we will use Twitter in class. Post interesting links, talk to each other about class topics, summarize readings, do what you can to learn your own best practices for engaging with Twitter for a professional purpose.

Evaluation Breakdown:

  • Participating 15%
  • Blogging 15%
  • Writing 25%
  • Making 45%

This schedule is subject to change. it is your responsibility to visit regularly.

unit 1: digital humanities then and now…


wk1 in-class due by classtime
1/12 introduction to class: what is … READ this article
 wk2  in-class  due by classtime
 1/19 no class MLK holiday READ:“Does Information Really Want to Be Free”
wk3 in-class due by classtime
1/26 discussion READ:Debates in the Digital Humanities sections 1 & 2
wk4 in-class due by classtime
2/2 discussion READ:Debates in the Digital Humanities sections 3 & 6
wk5 in-class due by classtime
2/9 Presentations:what is the digital humanities?what is at stake?how does DH redefine your project? group presentations / meeting notespre and final presentations posted to blogs

unit 2: DH and pedagogy

wk6 in-class due by classtime
2/16 NO CLASS: President’s Day holiday  READ:Digital Humanities Pedagogy (part 1)
wk7 in-class due by classtime
 2/23 DH pedagogy discussion READ:Digital Humanities Pedagogy (finish)
wk8 in-class due by classtime
 3/2 pedagogy presentations-DTC 101 syllabusDH tools in the classroom Read:Blog Posts in Debates in DH, section 5, 402-409
wk9 in-class due by classtime
3/9 discussion READ:Hacking the Academy
wk10 in-class due by classtime
3/16 no class no class


unit 3: Mobile, Maps and More in DH environments

wk11 in-class due by classtime
3/23  presentation: what is your hack? presentation posted to your blogRead:Comparative Textual Media: Parts 1-2
wk12 in-class due by classtime
 3/30  discussion ALL read: Comparative Textual Media: Part 3
wk13 in-class due by classtime
 4/6 Guest: Leeann Hunter: DTC 101 discussionpresent examples of mobile apps for your DTC 101 syllabus activity/assignment DTC 101 syllabus updates to your blog
wk14 in-class due by classtime
 4/13  mobile discussion read: Mobile Interface Theory
wk15 in-class due by classtime
 4/20 project proposal presentations: 20 min each  project proposal presentations uploaded to blogs
wk16 in-class due by classtime
 4/27  no class: project workshopping  no class

2-3 page weekly response papers due by 9:00 a.m. Monday for each class session.

BLOG POST DUE Monday 01.19

Prompt: After reading Tervor 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. After answering the questions follow up with general thoughts on what you want to gain from this class that will aid in your research.

BLOG POST DUE Friday 01.23 

Prompt: Pick one example online (website, project, archive, etc.) of the information wants to be free meme and critique or unpack its assumptions using the article’s main argument.

BLOG POST DUE Friday 01.30

Prompt: As we saw in this week’s readings the question of what is/what are the digital humanities has several threads. Pick two authors and three points from each and create a slideshow–(using prezi, haiku deck or others see: this article for more options if you need) showing how they define DH…this should be no more than 12 slides and the last slide should be a foreshadowing of your own definition of DH.

BLOG POST DUE Friday 02.06

Prompt: The Vectors Journal, started in 2005, proposes a new way of imagining and producing scholarship–that is making arguments in a multimodal fashion. View and interact with the projects in Volume 2, issue 1: Ephemera and issue 2: Perception. Once you have played around, viewed, interacted, etc, choose one project and narrate your experience with the project–what you thought going in, how you interacted with the project, what you learned, what you still want to know, how this project helps you think or re-think about your own work.

In class Presentation Monday 02.09

Prompt: Using your initial project idea that you hashed out using Owens’ article and the many definitions of and concepts within DH we have read in the first three weeks of the course, you will create a presentation to be given in class on Monday Feb 9. The prsentation should address three main points:

1. what is the digital humanities?

2. what is at stake for humanities scholars using DH methods and practices?

3. how does DH redefine your project?

Prior to this in class presentation you will meet as a group to run through and critique each others presentation for clarity, style, and content. Your in class presentation may include slides–however no slide may contain more than SIX WORDS. Remember this is an oral presentation–you should not ask you audience to read! Your presentation will be no longer than 12 minutes and have no more than 6 slides.

You will post your initial and refined presentations to your blogs and a summary of the comments and changes you made after your peer review.

BLOG POST DUE Friday 02.13

Prompt: Last  week you worked on reframing your final projects in light of the DH readings on various theories, methods and practices in the field. Now it’s time to start thinking about the tools! Check out the Bamboo DiRT site and pick two tools that may aid you in 1) doing your project and 2) presenting your data. Examine the tools, play around a bit to familiarize yourself with them and then write your post about how you may use them, what challenges they may pose for you, and how they may push the project in ways you haven’t thought about yet.

BLOG POST DUE Friday 02.27

Prompt: As we round out week 6 of class, it is a good time to circle back to week one! With 5 weeks of readings about DH theories, methods and practices behind you,  your task this week is to

1. Re-read Trevor Owens’ blog post about where to start research questions in the digital humanities, paying special attention to Joe Maxwell’s 5 components of research design.

2. Then go back to your diagram and answers. Review them, take some time, look at what you wrote and think about your answers. Really. Do this step!

3. Next,  answer all 5 questions again– leave the first set as is–make a NEW diagram answering the prompts.

4. Finally, begin a literature review bibliography based on your newly fleshed out and more focused project. By now you should be collecting readings that relate to your project, for this assignment you should have at least 10 listed.

In Class Presentation: DTC 101 Syllabus & DH in the classroom: Monday 03.02

Your assignment is to create a syllabus for DTC 101. The syllabus must include:

  1.  a course overview
  2.  sections/themes/units that divide the course over the semester [generally 3-6, but it is up to you]
  3. course goals
  4. student learning outcomes
  5. reading list
  6. at least TWO fully developed DH course assignments with guidelines and clear expectations.

Your syllabus can take any formate: online or paper–in either case, you will present your full syllabus to the class with the main focus on the two assignments you have created for the class. You should walk us through the assignments, the expected outcomes and learning goals met.

Think of this as your DTC syllabus 1.0, you will continue to enhance the syllabus over the remaining weeks of the course.

BLOG POST DUE Friday 03.06

Prompt: Pick ONE of the assignments you created for your DTC 101 syllabus and 1) update and revise the assignment based on the feedback from your in-class presentation 2) create a follow up assignment to this one and add that to your updated DTC 101 syllabus and 3) post both (updated assignment and follow up assignment) to your blog for comments this week.

BLOG POST DUE Friday 03.013

Prompt: In Mark Sample and Kelly Schrum’s chapter, “What’s Wrong with Writing Essays” they take on the traditional essay in relation to both a wider set of literacy skills and pedagogical aims. In your blog post take the standpoint of a student in a ENG 101 composition class and write a note back to Sample and Schrum with questions, concerns, excitement, about the ensuing course and its emphasis away from traditional essays.

What’s Your Hack: Presentation DUE Monday 03.23

In Hacking the Academy the editors divided the bulk of the “hacks” into three areas: institution, scholarship, and teaching. For your presentation, pick one of these areas and either come up with your own hack or use one of the threads in the discussion (open access publishing, tenure and promotion, peer review, etc) and elaborate on how you would hack that particular area and issue. Your presentation should have a clear introduction framing the issue and during the presentation you should make an argument about what your hack a) does b) disrupts c) redefines d) elaborates on or e) extends in new directions. Your presentation should not rely to heavily on any one form of “writing”–engage with various types of media and you may pull content from any sources (not just class materials). Remember part of the hacker spirit is playful! Play a little, experiment! Post your presentations to your blog or provide a url to where they may be viewed/heard etc. 

BLOG POST DUE Monday 03.30

Prompt: Before our one-on-one meetings next week to discuss your projects, this week’s blog assignment is to answer the final question in your project proposal outline (see final assignment below).

  1. Prepare a clear statement on how your project grows out of the concerns, readings, and topics of this class–this is the why DH question! How does framing this project as a Digital Humanities project matter? Does it change the methodology? Framing questions? Does it alter your engagement with certain literature? Does it open new avenues for data collection and interpretation? etc…

BLOG POST DUE Saturday 04.04

Prompt: In the “Theories” section of Comparative Textual Media, both Raley and de Souza e Silva examine the potentials of mobile applications and GPS technologies to extend notions of writing and reading in public spaces. In fact, both make key arguments about the potentials for these technologies/processes and practices to inform new “fields of inquiry” for “reading and writing practices that are sited yet virtual, computational and live, distributed and social…” (Raley, 14). Over the course of the week pick ONE mobile app that centers around storytelling, digital curation, mapping, etc download it to your phone and use it for three days (at least) continuously. After the third (or fourth) day:  1) sketch out the possibilities the app affords for understanding, encouraging, developing or defining reading and writing practices, 2) post these reflections to your blog, 3) include screen shots from the app, 4) make sure to include your “user experience” with the app, from download to use, to navigation, interface, workflow, etc. and finally 5) brainstorm an idea for how to use this app in your DTC 101 syllabus as an in-class or out of class activity, assignment etc.

BLOG POST DUE Friday 04.10

Prompt: DIY week. Surprise me.

BLOG POST DUE Friday 04.17

Prompt: We have spent the last few weeks looking critically at the uses of mobile technologies, in the classroom, in public spaces, in those in-between spaces that undo an easy public/private split and in relation to theories of embodiment and place-making. In this blog post, integrate some of the theoretical insights offered by Jason Farman into your project proposal. You can use the blog post as chance to frame the issue of mobile technologies, or locative media more generally, and its impact on your project, it’s methods, and the why DH question. Your blog post should include visual as well as textual elements.

Project Proposal Presentation–in class Monday 04.20

You will have 20 minutes to present your project proposal to the class. The presentation should touch on all aspects of the project proposal (see project proposal guidelines below too): 1. research questions and your main goals, concerns and desired outcomes 2. methodologies you will engage with, use, or extend 3. literature review (select) 4. the why DH question (s)–how is this a DH project?  5. stakes for this project–who, how, what, why?

Test your technology before the presentation–it is your responsibility to make sure it is all working, that you have the right cables, etc.

BLOG POST DUE Friday 05.01

Prompt: Reflect on the semester and chronicle your own digital humanities literacy. You may decide on the medium or format you wish to use for this task.

Final Project Proposal and DTC 101 Syllabus DUE Monday 05.11 by NOON

Your proposal should include:

  1.  your research question/s
  2.  the method/s by which you will examine your topic
  3. the argument you are pursuing in this line of research
  4. a list of relevant literature and a short  literature review by subject groupings
  5. what is at stake in pursuing this project– what are your main goals, concerns, desired outcomes?
  6. a clear statement on how this project grows out of the concerns, readings, and topics of this class–this is the why DH question! How does framing this project as a Digital Humanities project matter? Does it change the methodology? Framing questions? Does it alter your engagement with certain literature? Does it open new avenues for data collection and interpretation?

Your syllabus should include:

  1. a course overview
  2. sections/themes/units that divide the course over the semester [generally 3-6, but it is up to you] these do not need to be week by week, but should break up the semester into “chunks” 3-4 weeks each.
  3. course goals
  4. student learning outcomes
  5. reading list
  6. digital tools/platforms list/requirements (will they need to have a Twitter account or use WordPress?)
  7. at least one fully developed course assignment for each unit with guidelines and clear expectations.

The syllabus may be posted to your blog as an embedded post or linked to as a separate page.

General Information

DTC/ENGL 595/560
Spring 2015
M 3:10-6:00

Professor Kim Christen
Office Hours: Tu: 9:00-10:00 or by appointment
Office: Avery 339


DTC/ENGL 595/560 - Spring 2015

Digital tools and poetry

New DH project out of Princeton, check it out! "The field of digital humanities has evolved rapidly and there are a lot of different opinions about what the term means," said Clifford Wulfman, digital initiatives coordinator at the Princeton University Library. "I...

books / readings of interest…

from my Digital Cultures | Digital Divides grad seminar Martin Lister ed. 2009. New Media: a Critical Introduction Armand Mttelart. 2000. Networking the World, 1794-2000 Mark Poster. 2006. Information Please: Culture and Politics in the Age of Digital Machines Joe...

Updates: readings and blog post

Quick clarification: No extra reading this week, focus on sections 3 & 6 from the  Debates in the DH text. For blog post assignment #3 due this Friday, by "this week'd readings" I meant readings from sections 1 & 2 from the DH reader--as we discussed in class...



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