If we’re going to spend the semester conducting digital humanities research and working on projects, it might be useful for us to see some finished projects ahead of time. Looking at examples like this can provide us with inspiration for what we try to do.
But we can do more than just look: we can do some research and reflection, considering what works and what doesn’t. Asking and answering the same question Miriam Posner will pose (when we read her next week)—“how did they make that?”—will prepare us to be thoughtful about what we want to accomplish as we work on Peanuts.
In this assignment, you will do a deep dive into two digital humanities projects. You will become an expert on your projects and in particular look to understand what questions they seek to answer, how they are organized, and what technologies and methods they use. This assignment has two parts: a presentation and a paper.
On Tuesday, 31 January, you will be prepared to deliver a 15-minute presentation on your two projects, using a PowerPoint-style slideshow. (Here is an [amazing] example slideshow from a former student.) You will cover most of the same points that you will write about in your paper (see below). You should walk us through portions of the sites to help demonstrate your points. The bulk of the presentation should be explanatory rather than evaluative. You should conclude the presentation by summarizing what you’ve learned by investigating these two projects.
This is not something that you should just wing. Feel free to bring in notes or a script to use as you present.
Using 12-point Times New Roman font and 1-inch margins, you will write a paper with a minimum of six and a maximum of nine double-spaced pages.
For each project, you will write a minimum of two pages and a maximum of three pages. In these pages, you should do your best to answer the following:
- Who made the project?
- What are the goals of the project?
- Does the project have an argument (in Scheinfeldt’s sense)?
- Who is the project’s intended audience(s)?
- What are the project’s sources (Posner’s term)?
- How were the sources processed (Posner’s term, again)? In other words, what specific methods or technologies were used to change the data?
- How was the project presented (Posner’s final term)? What tools were used to bring the project online in a human-readable object?
- What are the project’s conclusions? In other words, what did the researchers learn after all their hard work?
- How long did the project take from start to finish?
- Which “scholarly primitives” does the project employ and/or enable?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of the project?
For the page that follows your report on each project, you will compare and contrast the two projects along any axes that seem relevant to you.
For the final one or two pages, you will write a reflection on this assignment. Some questions to consider in your reflections are:
- What did I learn about research from this assignment?
- What did I learn about digital humanities from this assignment?
- What would I change about this assignment to make it more relevant, informative, enjoyable, challenging, or interesting?
Although I’m asking you to tackle some very specific questions, the paper should not be written in bullet points. With that said, there are distinct parts of the paper and you should not feel like you have to create perfect and seamless transitions between them. Instead, you should think of this as two reports and a conclusion, the latter of which includes the compare/contrast and your reflection.
The paper must be submitted as PDFs on Learning Suite by 11:59pm on Tuesday, 7 February.
Below is a list of projects that you could evaluate. If you find another that you would like to choose instead, please email me first. Each project can only be claimed by one person, so when you know what you want to work on, send me an email to claim your projects!
- African American AIDS History Project
American Religious Sounds(Rachel)
- The Battle of Atlanta
- Belfast Group Poetry|Networks
- Cambodian Oral History Project
- The Colored Conventions Project
- Civil War Washington
- Decima: A New Way to Study Florence
- Digital Harlem
- Enslaved: People of the Historical Slave Trade
Furnace and Fugue(Lillian)
- The Grand Tour Project
- Hestia: Herodotus’s Histories
- Infinite Ulysses
- The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh
- The Map of Early Modern London
- Mapping the Catalogue of Ships
- Mapping the Republic of Letters
- Monet Paintings and Drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago
- The New York Crystal Palace
Networking the New American Poetry(Winthrop)
- Our Marathon: The Boston Bombing Digital Archive
ORBIS: The Standford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World(Winthrop)
- Pietro Mellini’s Inventory in Verse
- Princeton Prosody Archive
Quantifying Kissinger(William) Robots Reading Vogue(Rachel) Shakespeare and Company(Lillian)
- Shelley-Godwin Archive
- Six Degrees of Francis Bacon
- Venice Time Machine
- Walker Living Collections Catalogues
- Witches in Scotland
Your grade for this project will be based 60% on your paper and 40% on your presentation.
Your presentation will be evaluated on its clarity, organization, discussion of what you’ve learned, and how well it adheres to the time limits.
Your paper will be graded on how well it meets the requirements outlined above, as well as clarity, organization, and attention to detail. I’m persnickety about spelling, grammar, and punctuation. You probably know this by now.
This assignment is an update of one that I created in 2011. That assignment benefited from interactions with Ryan Cordell and then drew on language and ideas from Jason B. Jones and Mark Sample. The 2018 update relied heavily on concepts from Miriam Posner’s “How Did They Make That?” The 2019 update was inspired by Tom Scheinfeldt’s “Where’s the Beef?” The work my 2021 students did led directly to the 2022 update.